Free hand sharpening techniques

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TkoK83Spy
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Free hand sharpening techniques

Postby TkoK83Spy » Thu Jan 17, 2019 7:32 pm

I was curious how those of you that primarily use bench stones for sharpening, achieve your sharpest edges?

Obviously hitting the apex or reprofiling when necessary is key, but I was wondering how you go about sharpening.

I've watched numerous videos where the person will work one side of the blade in circular motions for a bit before flipping over to the other side. Some videos they will work one side with edge leading followed by edge trailing and do so 5-10 times before checking their edge. Then there's videos where they will make one pass and switch to the other side and do so over and over again.

I'm guessing these methods are a different strokes for different folks type of thing. I was just wondering how those of you that don't primarily use the Sharpmaker or a guided system, go about sharpening on your stones?
Currently have 18 :spyder: 's in 14 different steels.

-Rick

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Re: Free hand sharpening techniques

Postby yablanowitz » Thu Jan 17, 2019 8:04 pm

I've always sharpened edge leading alternating sides. That's the way I learned and it has always worked for me.

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Deadboxhero
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Re: Free hand sharpening techniques

Postby Deadboxhero » Thu Jan 17, 2019 8:56 pm

Back and forth until burr each side, deburr. Done.
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Vivi
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Re: Free hand sharpening techniques

Postby Vivi » Thu Jan 17, 2019 9:36 pm

Here's some general tips. If there's interest, I could put together an instructional video explaining these points by demonstration.

1. Use light pressure. Using heavy pressure can ruin your stones. It creates a larger burr. It weakens the edge. It gives you a duller finish. Use less than the weight of your knife when doing your finishing strokes. Use the lightest touch you can while maintaining consistent contact with your sharpening medium. This will give you a more refined apex, regardless of what grit and sharpening material you use.

2. Never intentionally raise a burr when sharpening / honing, only when reprofiling. Raising a bur, IMO, is a waste of time & steel, and weakens the edge. Paper clips get weaker when you bend them back and forth. So do knife edges.

3. Going on what I said above about steel being weaker when it's worked back and forth, do not use strops or steels to debur. Debur on a stone, which is cutting the steel more than steels and strops do. Get your edge to the point you can't detect a bur, then strop, if you're going to.

4. Do not rely on high polishes or strops for shaving sharpness. If you can't get shaving sharpness under 800 grit, you have issues in your technique you need to iron out.

5. IMO, certain pieces of sharpening equipment aren't worth using. I think stones that dish and require flattening are not worth the time. Stones that stay flat for years are commonplace these days. You can find them in a variety of grits and materials. They ensure a more consistent apex and require less maintenance. I feel the same way about steels. If you want to use a rod (They can be convenient for chef knives in food production environments), ceramic rods give superior results across the board. The only advantage steel rods have in my experience is being more likely to survive being dropped.

6. Use a microbevel. Sharpen the apex a few degrees more obtuse than the rest of the bevel. It is nonsensical sharpening an entire bevel every time you want to refresh your edge. It takes 10x as long to perform a touch-up. It forces you to run thicker bevel geometries than if you used a microbevel. Lastly, by requiring so many more strokes to refresh the apex, you're reducing the precision of your edge. It is easier to control the angle during 8-14 strokes than 50+.

7. Alternate strokes with a 1:1 ratio during any sharpening or honing, unless you are sharpening a chisel ground edge. This reduces the chances of developing a burr unnecessarily and maintains a more even bevel than using a different amount of strokes and relying on the burr to indicate that you should switch sides. On chisel grinds I use a 5:1 ratio, doing 5 strokes on the ground side then a near flat to the stone stroke on the unground side, whether SE or PE.

8. Experiment with different sharpening mediums. I prefer diamond bench stones for reprofiling and ceramics for working my apex. Neither require flattening, they can be used dry, and they last for decades.

9. Experiment with different grit finishes. Use all sorts of finishes extensively. I ran the most polished edges my equipment allowed for a long time. After experimenting I found finishing with lower grits gave me superior cutting performance for an EDC knife, and better edge retention as well. As the edge dulls, the microserrations lower grit finishes still bite into materials. If I run my fingernail down the edge and it feels smooth, that is too polished. It should feel slightly bumpy...not like when it's chipped though.

10. Experiment with different edge geometry. Buy a beater knife like a Byrd Meadowlark. Cut different things on top of a bathroom scale and record how much force it takes. Let's say 8lbs of force to cut an apple in half. 6lbs of force to push cut the thickest part of a carrot. etc. Drop the edge to 10 degrees per side, repeat the tests, record the numbers, then check for edge damage. Do the same at 8 DPS, ETC. When the edge starts to fail during your normal cutting tasks, keep the edge bevel at that angle then add a microbevel. Your edge is now optimized for maximum cutting performance. Rough use knives should be left a few degrees thicker per side than the failure point.

11. Have a standardized way to test sharpness. It also helps having a variety of test methods. Just because a knife can shave arm hair does not mean it will slice a ripe tomato well. I cut a V notch in a piece of wood, hammered nails in the side, and put a spool of thread on one nail. I can loop thread around the other nail then push cut into the V notch with the wood block resting on a postal scale and measure in grams of force how much effort it takes to split the thread. Few production knives can do it with less than 100g of force. Most Spydercos of mine scored around 75-90g. I've gotten scores as low as the mid 20's using a sharpmaker and no strop or UF rods.

12. Use edge leading strokes. They minimize burring. On some mediums you'll need to use edge trailing though. Strops, sandpaper, etc.

13. I always get a better edge on a knife after removing all traces of the factory edge. Even if I keep the same edge angle. It doesn't have to be polished either. I encourage you to try this out. Instead of touching up the apex and trying to preserve a factory edge look, grind it off.

14. Find a consistent way to detect burrs. This makes it much easier to eliminate them. Running the pad of your fingers from towards the spine to off the edge works better than a finger nail at detecting small burrs. You have to have a pretty large burr to have a nail catch. Magnification lenses are very good for this too, and checking out your edge work in general.

15. Sharpen sooner than later. If you touch up the apex when your knife stops shaving, the process can be finished in a minute or two. If you wait until it stops cutting, you'll require a lot more work and have had carried a less safe tool in the meantime.

16. Practice, practice, practice. Holding a consistent angle comes by developing muscle memory.

17. Don't take my word for it. There is a lot of good sharpening advice online. There is also a lot of absolutely terrible advice that will give you dramatically worse results. Some people will suggest raising a burr on both sides when you sharpen. Some will recommend waterstones that require frequent flattening. Some will suggest edge trailing strokes. Try out the different suggestions and find what works for you. Put all advice to the test, and even if a technique doesn't work for you the first time, be open to trying it again after you acquire more experience. Sift through the advice and separate the good from the bad.

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Re: Free hand sharpening techniques

Postby Eli Chaps » Thu Jan 17, 2019 10:01 pm

Deadboxhero wrote:
Thu Jan 17, 2019 8:56 pm
Back and forth until burr each side, deburr. Done.
This.

Angle matters.

Use a marker.

Match your media to your steel.

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Re: Free hand sharpening techniques

Postby zhyla » Thu Jan 17, 2019 11:46 pm

Deadboxhero wrote:
Thu Jan 17, 2019 8:56 pm
Back and forth until burr each side, deburr. Done.
I hate seeing this burr thing repeated over and over. No. Burrs are the devil of sharpening.

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Vivi
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Re: Free hand sharpening techniques

Postby Vivi » Fri Jan 18, 2019 12:32 am

zhyla wrote:
Thu Jan 17, 2019 11:46 pm
I hate seeing this burr thing repeated over and over. No. Burrs are the devil of sharpening.
I'm with you. The only time I intentionally raise a burr is when I reprofile.

There are much more efficient ways of determining whether or not you've hit the apex.

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Re: Free hand sharpening techniques

Postby razorsharp » Fri Jan 18, 2019 1:29 am

I got back and forward till I raise a burr, do the same to the other side, deburr, repeat on any other stones I want- Done- Usually I go further and polish with Diamond pastes oon "delicate" painters tape.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lIbpdZznqrE
Last edited by razorsharp on Fri Jan 18, 2019 1:36 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Free hand sharpening techniques

Postby razorsharp » Fri Jan 18, 2019 1:30 am

To add with the burr thing, It really is the easiest way to know you've hit the apex. Alternating strokes takes too long so I dont do them until I am finishing on a given grit. :p
Image

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Re: Free hand sharpening techniques

Postby razorsharp » Fri Jan 18, 2019 1:41 am

Vivi wrote:
Thu Jan 17, 2019 9:36 pm
\

17. Don't take my word for it. There is a lot of good sharpening advice online. There is also a lot of absolutely terrible advice that will give you dramatically worse results. Some people will suggest raising a burr on both sides when you sharpen. Some will recommend waterstones that require frequent flattening. Some will suggest edge trailing strokes. Try out the different suggestions and find what works for you. Put all advice to the test, and even if a technique doesn't work for you the first time, be open to trying it again after you acquire more experience. Sift through the advice and separate the good from the bad.
This x1000000 - Do what works, use some trial and error

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Deadboxhero
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Re: Free hand sharpening techniques

Postby Deadboxhero » Fri Jan 18, 2019 6:15 am

I made a burr and removed it. Works great

https://youtu.be/0V_Zj3IvB68

zhyla wrote:
Thu Jan 17, 2019 11:46 pm
Deadboxhero wrote:
Thu Jan 17, 2019 8:56 pm
Back and forth until burr each side, deburr. Done.
I hate seeing this burr thing repeated over and over. No. Burrs are the devil of sharpening.
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Re: Free hand sharpening techniques

Postby Pelagic » Fri Jan 18, 2019 6:47 am

I've achieved many great edges without forming a burr, but forming a slight one and removing it is much faster and easier for me.

I only have 4 stones. DMT 220, 325, 600, and 1200. At some point they'll wear out, and I plan on getting better stuff (atoma 400 plate, venev 800 diamond waterstone, spyderco bench stones) but for now I can do basically anything I want with what I have.

I also have a worksharp pocket sharpener (325 grit CBN and ceramic rod) and DMT sharpening rods in 600 and 1200.

I have several strops (both wood and leather) and use diamond powder in addition to diamond compounds and Tormek PA-70. The cutting aggression is unreal when using diamond powder on wood. Eliminating a burr is never an issue, and I can go from my 1200 grit stone straight to 3 micron and completely remove the scratch pattern on minutes. I have 6 and 9 micron powder as well, but that just shows you how well it cuts. I experimented with this a year ago just to save money and it works better than I had hoped. I also generally like wood over leather, as I can use the exact same angle that I use on my stones and apply more pressure when desired without compromising my apex. But I generally use leather for finishing, be it at 3, 1, 0.25, or 0.1 micron.

With all that said, I usually limit my stropping to ensuring burr removal. With high carbide steels I like the edge straight off the stones. I do enjoy taking my Cruwear pm2 to a fine edge though.
Last edited by Pelagic on Sat Jan 19, 2019 7:00 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Free hand sharpening techniques

Postby TkoK83Spy » Fri Jan 18, 2019 7:02 am

Thanks for all that info Vivi! Really appreciate it. Though it seems like nobody can agree on forming a burr or not :p
Currently have 18 :spyder: 's in 14 different steels.

-Rick

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anagarika
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Re: Free hand sharpening techniques

Postby anagarika » Fri Jan 18, 2019 8:08 am

I’m too lazy to type long, Vivi has shared some insights ;).
When technique improves, the parameters change, so something that didn’t work could change to become key factor.

The subforum where these are posted is great resource too, even with the debate on raising burr or not (not on these threads):
https://www.bladeforums.com/threads/the ... x.1628756/
https://www.bladeforums.com/threads/wha ... s.1014274/

I believe if you apexed the edge, there will be burr, only the dimension is different (microscopic or HUGE one :D), which is why agreement is hard to be achieved.
Chris :spyder:

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Re: Free hand sharpening techniques

Postby cycleguy » Fri Jan 18, 2019 9:30 am

Thanks guys!!! Working on it and getting better!

The more better I become, the more I get pulled into it.

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Re: Free hand sharpening techniques

Postby p_atrick » Fri Jan 18, 2019 10:12 am

Sharpening, like most everything else in the knife world, is all about preferences. What you like and what works for you may not align with people here or with other prominent people in the knife community. I think the worst thing would be to become dogmatic about your approach. Like Vivi said, be open and experiment. Personally, I use the Murray Carter method (I bought his video on sharpening) as my base. As I get more comfortable (and develop better technique), I start to experiment with different methods I have seen mentioned here and on YouTube.

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Re: Free hand sharpening techniques

Postby GarageBoy » Fri Jan 18, 2019 10:37 am

Any tips for how to hold the knife and the stone? I'm having difficulty hitting the Apex every stroke, and sharpening away from me, I can't see the bevel

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Vivi
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Re: Free hand sharpening techniques

Postby Vivi » Fri Jan 18, 2019 12:03 pm

GarageBoy wrote:
Fri Jan 18, 2019 10:37 am
Any tips for how to hold the knife and the stone? I'm having difficulty hitting the Apex every stroke, and sharpening away from me, I can't see the bevel
With experience you can tell if you're hitting the apex by the sound and feel during the stroke. Catching the apex induces greater drag, while using too acute of an angle has the knife sliding around more.

When I sharpen the presentation side, my right hand basically grips the handle like I would if I were using the knife, while my left index and middle finger rest on the flat of the blade near the tip, with my left thumb on the spine.

When I switch to sharpening the back side, I use more of a pinch style grip with my right hand, left index and middle finger on the spine near the tip, with my left thumb on the flat of the blade.

Regarding burrs:

How you sharpen will influence how you feel about forming and removing burrs.

For example, razorsharps pics shows a wide, highly polished bevel.

In contrast, my knives get the bevel formed on an extra course DMT stone, then I don't touch anything else besides the apex. (Sometimes on knvies with corrosion prone steels I take the bevel to a DMT fine polish).

I'm of the opinion that polishing an entire bevel is a big waste of time. Polish the apex if that's the edge type you want, but polishing steel behind the apex is just for show and has basically zero influence on cutting ability.

I reprofiled and sharpened up some knives last night. My entire procedure involved exactly two sharpening mediums...a DMT XX Coarse bench stone, and a Spyderco medium bench stone.

I form the bevel on the DMT. I eliminate the burr as best I can, expecting shaving sharpness right off that course stone.

From there I grind only the apex on my medium Spyderco ceramics, until it's sharp enough to pop off individual pieces of stubble by merely touching them.

Someone that does not utilize microbevels, or goes through a more complex grit progression, may find more value in intentionally raising a burr.

Likewise, someone that sharpens a knife when it is dull might also find more value in raising a burr on purpose.

If you're like me and you touch up a knife when it stops shaving and utilize microbevels, I think raising a burr is a waste of time and steel. It only takes 4-5 strokes per side to refresh the edge in this case. It'd take longer to deburr than it would to simply use alternating strokes a few times per side.

Like they say, there's more than one way to skin a cat.

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Zatx
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Re: Free hand sharpening techniques

Postby Zatx » Fri Jan 18, 2019 12:19 pm

GarageBoy wrote:
Fri Jan 18, 2019 10:37 am
Any tips for how to hold the knife and the stone? I'm having difficulty hitting the Apex every stroke, and sharpening away from me, I can't see the bevel

Looking forward to seeing an answer to this one. I can make one edge look amazing because I'm pulling the knife towards me, but the side that faces away from me is terrible.

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Re: Free hand sharpening techniques

Postby Pelagic » Fri Jan 18, 2019 1:13 pm

I actually look on the other side and check my angle (on the side I can't see) before I start. I may pause and double check frequently on blades with a large belly. I'm also training myself to use my left hand so that I can constantly observe the apex making contact.

I like stone in hand just as much as using a table.
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