Anyone who enjoys the outdoors will likely find a knife the handiest instrument. Sharpening a knife is a crucial skill that will take practice to master. But anyone can learn to keep their blades sharp and prepared for the next cutting activity with a little effort and focus. I’ve created a strategy for swiftly obtaining a sharp edge via years of experience in my knife-sharpening business, and I’ll share it with you in this post. I’ll walk you through two techniques for sharpening knives step by step: Initially, using a conventional sharpening stone. Secondly, use a mousepad and sandpaper. Yes, you read that right—a sharpener for mouse pads.
On the market, there are numerous excellent, simple-to-use knife sharpeners. However, everyone should be able to sharpen a knife using a stone. There are now various options available for stones, ranging from low-priced synthetic stones that last only a few uses to expensive Japanese water stones that cost hundreds per grit. For this knife sharpening instruction, I’ll use a cheap yet efficient medium natural Arkansas stone that I’ve owned for a long time.
I like to use water on my stones, so I start by soaking them in a Tupperware container of water while I get the rest of the ingredients ready. Using a stone dry is not recommended since the metal shavings will “clog up” the stone and render it useless. You can rinse and soak the stone once more after sharpening it. It won’t be a problem if the stone receives too much water throughout the process, but not enough can be. Throughout the process, make sure your stone has enough water on it.
The sharpening angle can be colored using your marker. To avoid going too shallow or too deep, you will be able to see where the stone is striking the edge, thanks to this. You’ll know you’ve arrived at the edge when the marker disappears.
3. Find Angle
Lay your knife on the stone with the edge facing you while holding it close to the blade. Put your free hand’s fingers on the knife’s spine (back/unsharpened), letting the tips hangover and rest on the stone. Up until you get the hang of it, you may maintain a steady angle by keeping your fingers in the same location and letting them barely dredge across the stone.
Hold the knife’s spine at a 20-degree angle away from the stone. When making a light pass across the stone, start at the knife’s tip and go across and away from the stone until the heel of the knife contacts the surface. Only the edge should make contact.
Next, look for areas where the marker has faded. Your Angle was too steep; thus, you must put the blade slightly lower to the stone if only a thin line is worn off at the extreme edge. You were too shallow and should raise the blade slightly off the stone if the marking is only worn on the other side of the bevel. Once you’ve located the sweet spot where the full edge is making contact with the stone, make a few passes before moving on to Step 4.
Tip: The hardest part of sharpening with a stone is getting and keeping a constant angle. It’s a good idea to purchase an angle guide along with your sharpening stone. As you get acclimated to sharpening freehand, the guide will maintain your angle consistency and serve as a set of training wheels.
4. Raise a Burr
Once you’ve established your Angle, work the stone until you feel a burr on edge. Use your thumb or finger to “wash” the edge gently and carefully. Aim to move perpendicularly to the edge rather than parallel to it. One will likely slice you, while the other will let you feel the burr.
Going in one way should feel “rough,” while coming in the other should feel smoother. Sometimes the burr is visible. It could only appear to be a tiny “flap” of metal that has been folded over the edge, but it’s a micro-bevel that will catch the light.
When the entire edge is burred, return to Step 3 and repeat the process on the opposite side. (When you elevate the burr on the opposite side, the burr can start to separate from the edge and resemble a very fine bit of wire.) The part of this process that most people find most difficult is changing hands with the knife. Your non-dominant hand may need some time to become trained. The knife can be flipped around, so the edge is facing away from you and kept in the same hand if you find it difficult to swap hands. You’ll need to learn the motion backward for this, though. Both approaches are acceptable as long as the Angle is constant.
You should refine the edge after raising a burr on both sides of the bevel. Alternate your passes over the stone, keeping the blade’s edge always following the spine. I typically make ten passes on the left, then passes on the right, five passes on each side, three passes, two passes, and one pass. I’ll then cut a piece of paper to test the sharpness. You’re done if it passes through it without any issues. It might require further reworking, or you might not have raised the burr correctly if there are some sticking issues or it won’t slice well.
Sharpening with a stone will require practice, and you will make mistakes along the way. However, this is a fantastic ability to acquire and will unquestionably be worth the effort it takes to learn. One more thing about using stones: Some folks move through multiple stones to get progressively finer. Raise a burr on both sides of each stone up to your last one if you choose to do that. You can raise your burrs and further polish the edge once you’ve reached the last grit. Avoid refinishing on any stones besides your final grit.
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