What a Proper Knife Sharpening Technique Actually Looks Like

One of the most intimidating issues (it was for me) that keeps some from buying a good-quality (and sometimes very pricey) knife is the maintenance.  Specifically, the sharpening part.  I mean, what good is a great knife if and when it eventually dulls?  Surely you won’t be able to restore a sharp edge to the same level as when it was new right?  Well, there are ways around that!  In the short term, you can rely on a sharpener, but as you become a veteran of knife ownership, you’ll want to finesse your sharpening and maintenance of your investments.  Sharpening a knife means using any one or a couple of techniques for the purpose of keeping the sharpest edge that is dent or ding free. The most basic of knife sharpening techniques is grinding the edge against a hard and rough surface. This is usually a whetstone or sharpening stone.

However, most experts will tell you that there is more to knife sharpening than just grinding away! You can also use the best electric knife sharpener instead. You need to know the type of steel you are using. This determines the type of grinding surface you use. In fact, some of the best knife sharpening techniques use several stones and or surfaces from rough to fine.

The Why

The simple answer is knife sharpening techniques are meant to give you a fine edge at all times. Remember, a knife does not just get dull. It also acquires a few dents and dings on the cutting surface. This will greatly reduce the cutting ability of the unit. There are several disadvantages to the same. To name a few:

  • A knife is meant to cut. You do this by applying your own force and letting the knife do its work. The sharper the knife, the less strain you put on yourself. The duller the knife, the more effort you need to exert in order to perform the same task. This means you get tired easily. And in the kitchen, the outdoors, the jungle, or any situation, you want to exert as little effort as possible.
  • A sharp knife cuts clean. The strokes are beautiful. The meat, the right size. A dull knife creates a jagged edge. It will also require you to exert more force. This will result in uneven cuts that are not pleasing to the eyes. This is especially true for fine or thin cuts.
  • A sharp knife requires you to use more force. This is not the proper way to use a knife. As a result, you will be more prone to injury.
  • In the most extreme of circumstances, a sharp knife can mean the difference between life and death. Every extreme outdoorsman knows this.

The How

Let’s get to the meat of things (pardon the pun). First, you need to assess your knife. Are there chips, dents, dings, or do you only need to sharpen the edge? What type of blade is it? How extensive is the damage?  Let’s assume the worst case scenario, which means you do not have the luxury of buying another knife.

Dents and Dings.

This requires less side force. You will need to use a grinding stone. Concentrate on removing the ding and then minimize or totally grind off the chipped area by going thru the entire length of the blade. This way, the chip is made less visible. For the smallest of chips, it is possible to remove it completely by grinding off the entirety of the cutting edge. But you do not do this often because it will eventually result in a thinner blade.

Sharpen

This requires you to use more side force. As a rule of thumb, you want to have the smallest or tightest angle between the blade and the stone. You make a sliding motion form base to tip. Most experts tell you to use only one uniform motion. But some prefer to use a forward and backward motion.

Polish

To finish things off, you want to maximize the cutting edge and minimize the visible scratches on the surface. This is usually known as a stropping. The same is commonly used for razors; but there is nothing wrong with using a stropping leather for knives, even swords for that matter.

In Closing

Central to proper sharpening is the right tools. In this regard, the author believes in using high quality stones in different grits. By the way, if you have a ceramic blade, you can sharpen it yourself, BUT it is recommended you send it to the manufacturer or a professional. This is because ceramics break easily when you apply too much sideways force. Not to mention they are expensive. Read KnifeUp’s guide to machetes, balisongs, balisong trainers, and pocket knives.

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3 thoughts on “What a Proper Knife Sharpening Technique Actually Looks Like”

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