Take Care of Your Tools With Knife Sharpening

Ray L. Walberg asked:

Ever since the very first tool was made it was seen just how important it was to sharpen knives. In colonial times when a new settlement was created a grist mill was normally the very first building to be built. These were used to sharpen tools, without sharp tools the speed of development will slow down dramatically.

Modern sharpening tools work in the same way as these old mills and whet stones. Modern equivalents are however much more powerful. Grinding wheels used to be powered by water, however they are now powered by electricity.

What to Look for in a Knife Sharpener

A knife sharpener is an extremely useful tool which will last for a number of years. There are various different types of knife sharpeners which all serve the same basic purpose. A table top grinder is very useful for sharpening the blades of gardening tools and axe blades.

You will commonly need to sharpen your chain saw blades on a regular basis to make sure that everything is cut evenly. To sharpen these chain saws you need specialist equipment. A drill bit style attachment is placed into the drill and rotates as the chain saw blade moves against it. When you are choosing a chain saw sharpener to buy you should find one that has multiple tips, these will wear down quickly.

A very high quality knife sharpener is the Tormek, this is mounted on the top of a bench and uses water to prevent any friction which would wear the machine out quickly. This grinder comes with a leather strop, however some other people suggest using a paper wheel to strop the edges of the knife.

When choosing a knife sharpener the most important thing is to consider the versatility. You should choose a device which can sharpen as many different types of blades possible, find out if it can sharpen longer blades, and make sure that it can strop the edges well. Also check how long the machine will last for, and find out how easy it is to get any spare parts. Some knife sharpening equipment can cost a lot of money.

Sharpeners for Everyday Uses

Heavy duty sharpening tools are probably only really needed for serious woodworkers or anyone that uses a chainsaw on a regular basis. For the general consumer you can get cheaper and more portable models.

You would find a basic handheld knife sharpener in a butchers shop, this is a very simple tool which does not need electricity. There are many other variations, including machines where you pass the blade of the knife between two sharpening wheels. A knife is sharpened when the knife is drawn at a 30 degree angle on an abrasive material.

You don’t need to use electric tools if you don’t want to, you can get good results using hand sharpeners. The skill is getting the angle right so that you can sharpen your blades as best as possible. There are plenty of classes which you can go to so you can learn more about knife sharpening.

The Truth About a Ceramic Knife Sharpener

Brad D. Vannote asked:

Ceramic knife sharpeners are made from a very dense type of ceramic material instead of stone. They are a very special sharpener and most people use them especially for sharpening very hard knives that need it.

The ceramic material that is used in there construction is a much harder material than other sharpening stones, and it is used only because it will not wear out as quickly as a stone material might. Plus they are also a great option because they are resistant to rust as well.

The Ceramic

You will find this type of sharpener is as hard as glass, yet still is an extremely abrasive material. That is one reason why they are a superior machine. One negative of using this substance is that they will become darker as they remove layers of steel from your other knives that they sharpen.

However, it is a small problem because it is extremely easy to return this knife sharpener to its original white color. All you have to do is clean it with a type of cleanser and some water and it turns back to white. If you are cleaning it before using it always make sure that it is dry when you use it.

How it Works

Most of these machines come in the form of a rod or bar. To use them all you need to do is set one end on your work surface, or if you would rather you can hold the handle in your left hand with the knife in your right hand.

Then while you are holding the knife at an angle of 20-25 degrees from the rod, you will slice downwards and draw the knife along the blade as you do that. To make things easier some models will come as a pull-through or angled type, which then can be extremely useful in maintaining a consistent angle as you work on sharpening the knife.

Honing a Knife Blade

Steve Efren asked:

For those who are new to the world of knife sharpening, often the most challenging part is knowing when to stop. How do you know when the knife is sharp enough? How do you get it to that point?

When sharpening a knife, sharpen until you see burrs. Then, turn the knife over, and sharpen the other side. The honing process will remove these burs, but they are important. Burrs are the only way to know that you have removed enough of the metal to sharpen the blade.

Once the blade has been sharpened using the rougher grit of your sharpener, stone, or file, then you will need to refine the blade. This is usually done with the opposite side of the sharpener, which has a smoother grit. Honing the blade can also be done with a leather strop. Simply repeat the process of sharpening the knife with this finer grit.

Some experienced knife sharpeners test the sharpness of the blade against an object. These may range from cutting across a nylon paint brush, to shaving the hair on your arm, to testing it on your thumb. If testing against your thumb, hold your thumb parallel or perpendicular to the blade and carefully slide the pad of your thumb across – not down – the blade. It can take quite some time to get a feel for this method, however, and you should not try it as a beginning knife sharpener. If you do it incorrectly, it is possible to slice your finger open. Another test is to hold the edge lightly against your fingernail, at about a 30 degree angle. Press down lightly. If it begins to cut into your nail, it is sharp. If it slips, the blade is dull. This can also be done using a pencil, a plastic pen, or another relatively soft solid object.

These tests, however, will not determine whether the edge has a burr or other imperfection. Burrs are naturally caused by the sharpening process. They are thin projections on the very edge of the knife. Usually, they are pushed left or right due to pressure in the sharpening process. Sometimes they point directly off the edge of the knife; this is called a “wire edge.” Because the burrs are very thin, this may seem like a very sharp edge. However, it is too thin, and the first use of the blade will break it off, leaving you with a very dull knife. If you seem to be getting very sharp knives after you use your knife sharpener, but they become dull within just one or two uses, this may be the culprit.

The easiest way for beginners to see burrs on the knife edge is to hold the blade up to the light. The light should bounce off the blade uniformly, except for where there is a burr. It can also be felt using your fingernail, although again, you should avoid using your fingers to test the blade of the knife unless you know you will not cut yourself.