Tools and Stuff forum: Sharpening knives, hoes etc.

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Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
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RickCorey
Sep 12, 2014 11:29 AM CST
These photos of the whole family cutting up beef made me think of asking: how do you all sharpen knives (and also hoes, shovels, hatchets, axes and lawn mower blades?

http://garden.org/thread/view_post/697320/

KNIVES:

I have some "diamond bench stones" for knives. Two big 8" stones (500 grit and 700 grit, I think) and three cheapo things from Harbor Freight (180 grit, 240 and 550?).

I used to use a plastic clamp-on guide to hold the angle constant, but now I only use that if I'm coarse-grinding a bevel. Once I have the main bevel, I can sharpen by feel and keep a constant-enough angle.

Probably re-sharpening free-hand is putting a more obtuse "micro-bevel" on the edge of the original acute bevel, but I don't try for that deliberately. I try to follow the original bevel, removing as little metal as possible while still renewing the edge.

That's a little tricky, because light sharpening with a 550 or 700 grit stone doesn't usually make enough of a burr for me to feel with a finger, or even by brushing it with tissue paper. I keep checking the edge by slicing a piece of paper. When it slices cleanly, I know I've removed all the nicks and dents, so I take just 10-20 more strokes, even lighter and slower.

All my kitchen knives come from Goodwill and Salvation Army "used" bins. Most of them cost me 69 cents. So most are cheap stainless and won't hold an edge long, if they take a good edge at all. I don't mind: it gives me an excuse to keep a bench stone on the kitchen table and touch them up very frequently.

I used to use a fine steel or a big ceramic rod like a steel, and the "Vee-style" plastic thingy that holds two fine ceramic rods at a fixed angle. They make an edge smooth, but I think that grinding along the edge doesn't give as much "bite" as grinding at 90 degrees to the edge.
Name: Dave Whitinger
Jacksonville, Texas (Zone 8b)
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dave
Sep 12, 2014 12:09 PM CST

Garden.org Admin

Sharpening stainless steel knives (the typical kitchen knife) is very challenging for me, and frankly I just use my belt sander and be done with it. I know it's not the best but it works fine. I can never get the kind of edge on SS so I don't bother with those knives when doing "real work."

My butchering knives are high carbon steel, and they can and do rust if they are allowed to remain wet for even an hour. So I take very good care of them. They are easy to sharpen and can be sharpened to a razor's edge very easily.

Several years ago Trish bought me this exact sharpening stone:

http://www.amazon.com/Smiths-TRI-6-Arkansas-TRI-HONE-Sharpen...

It has 3 sides - rough, medium and fine. I don't know the grit. This is what I use for most of my sharpening and it works very well. The only downside is that it's fairly thin and not as long as I'd like. When I replace it, I will probably try to find longer and wider stones.

After sharpening, I always hone the knife with a steel! Never forget that step.
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
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RickCorey
Sep 12, 2014 12:16 PM CST
I agree about the quality of SS vs carbon steel. 440-C stainless is pretty good, but I have no carbon steel in the kitchen to compare it with.

>> After sharpening, I always hone the knife with a steel! Never forget that step.

I use the "Vee-angle ceramic rods" to 'steel' carbon steel sheath knives and they seem to benefit from it.

My theory is that stainless edges are so soft they aren't really 'sharp' for more than 1-2 cuts, so they rely on the "bite" or "teeth" left by sharpening. In effect, tiny serrations! But I can push-cut with my better stainless kitchen knives if I touch them up every few days.
Name: Dave Whitinger
Jacksonville, Texas (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Region: Texas Master Gardener: Texas Permaculture Raises cows I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
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dave
Sep 12, 2014 12:19 PM CST

Garden.org Admin

Yeah those tiny serrations are gone as soon as you even mention cutting something. In fact, the honing cleans away those burrs and straightens out the edge.
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
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RickCorey
Sep 12, 2014 12:27 PM CST
The fine stone, natural Arkansas, is much finer than I use. 1100 grit. Nice! I have a Japanese 'water stone that's 1200 or 1400 grit, but it's wasted on stainless.

One reason I went over to diamond stones is that they do well with water instead of oil, so there's less mess. And they are perfectly flat forever. And the big ones are affordable enough for a once-per-lifetime purchase.

I guess you do all your sharpening free-hand? The ad spoke of a "Sharpening angle guide to teach basic correct angle for first-time user", but it seemed to be for illustration, not guidance.

P.S. For each stainless knife, with its different heat treatment and hardness, I learn how fine an angle it will support. The harder ones will hold a more acute angle longer. The softer ones last longer if I put a less acute angle on them.

The small paring knife I use when I'm going to be "clanging" it on a ceramic or Melamine plate has such soft stainless steel that I give it a very blunt edge and still touch it up daily. I use it because the handle fits my hand "just right", and it is such pathetic steel that I don't mind abusing it against a hard surface and grinding it down rather fast.
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
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RickCorey
Sep 12, 2014 12:45 PM CST
I try to eliminate the bur and wavering edge with my last dozen passes over a 700-grit stone. VERY light pressure, barely touching, and slow.

I'll bring out my smoothest steel and use it for comparison on a variety of stainless knives. Maybe the hardest of them will support a better edge than I think. With most of my stainless knives, I'm sure that the "little-Vee-ceramic" smooths the edge but takes away too much of the "bite". Maybe the smooth steel "steel" will do a better job.

Back when I was using a steel more often, I found that a cheap ceramic rod I found at a Dollar Store left a "better" stainless edge than the expensive steel "steel". I figured that I might as well use a dead flat 700 grit stone as a cheap ceramic rod.

Certainly EVERY knife-sharpening book and website including those for chefs advises strongly that you use a steel frequently. My guess is that they are tlaking about carbon steel knives or VERY expensive stainless ones.

I've also read that the main problem with the better stainless steel alloys is not that their ultimate possible hardness is terrible, but rather that it is difficult and complicated to heat treat them the right way to bring OUT their ultimate hardness. So reasonably-priced stainless knives use indifferent alloys that are easier to heat-treat to an indifferent hardness.

Too bad the only 440-C kitchen knives I have are very long slicers. The smaller a knife is, the more often I have a use for it. I think that surgical scalpels are usually made from 440 or 420 series stainless alloys, despite many scalpels having replaceable blades. I bet they get careful heat treatment!


Name: Dave Whitinger
Jacksonville, Texas (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Region: Texas Master Gardener: Texas Permaculture Raises cows I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
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dave
Sep 12, 2014 2:18 PM CST

Garden.org Admin

I have a little ceramic stone I use sometimes that works pretty well as a "steel." It's called an "American stone" I think and is white.

Anyway, yep, I do the sharpening free hand. I doubt my angles are exactly 22 degrees but I think they are pretty close. On my cleaver I give it a steeper angle and on my filet knives a much flatter angle.

Good information above - thanks Rick!
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
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RickCorey
Sep 12, 2014 3:21 PM CST
Thanks very much!

I agree about cleavers - I never understood how they last even with a pretty broad angle. "BANG" - especially going through bone. It's only steel, after all. But they do work somehow.

I mainly use cleavers on fruit stand rejects going into the compost heap, or back when I had a fireplace, for tinder. I'll also use flimsy "toy cleavers" to cut cheese or apples just becuase it's fun.

My best Chinese cleaver had a thin blade and carbon steel so I gave it a fine edge. It made tinder thinner than toothpicks back then! I never needed a "chemical log" to burn creosote out of the chimney!

I have one old boning knife that has a hard edge. I'm not sure whether it's stainless layered over carbon steel, or very old expensive stainless (from back when they thought every knife needed to be hard and sharp). That one takes and holds an edge, and gets used more often than anything else for serious cutting. I sharpen that one (and one of Becky's knives) to a sharper, more acute angle than the others.

I don't know what it is in degrees, but when I sharpen, the spine is "barely" lifted off the sotne.

Years ago I tired to do something with a laser pointer projecting the edge onto a protractor, then trying to find the reflecting angle when it hit the edge ... then I found a huge discarded magnifying glass ... and finally gave up on that "science" approach when I learned how to hold a "good enough" angle by hand and by eye.

I use the plastic "angle guide" for fast rough work so I can grind away with a heavy hand while watching TV. After that creates a burr on the 180 grit stone, I use the angle guide to polish it up to 700 grit, going slower and lighter at each grit.. Then I turn off the TV, take a deep breath and polish the bevel carefully at 700 grit by removing one pad from under the bench stone. That drops it a mm or two, which increases the angle by some fraction of a degree, and I make a micro-bevel with a few very gentle passes.

After that, it's freehand for several years until I want to refresh the whole bevel.

P.S. The best thing about steeling a blade? If it's good hard steel, it will "sing" as you steel it. That adds a lot to the "Please cut up this turkey at the table, Rick" song and dance.
Name: Dave Whitinger
Jacksonville, Texas (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Region: Texas Master Gardener: Texas Permaculture Raises cows I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
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dave
Sep 12, 2014 3:36 PM CST

Garden.org Admin

You clearly know your knives!! Thumbs up
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
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RickCorey
Sep 12, 2014 4:57 PM CST
Thank you! But it's a little like gardening - I have more reading than real experience, at least with GOOD knives. But I have been collecting and sharpening cheap ones since I was a kid. Love 'em.

Some of the Goodwill knives have beat-up handles and, of course, NO edge. Then I feel that I'm "rescuing" the knives.

I have a fantasy about going back in time to some Neolithic tribe with my entire knife collection, where they would worship me as the Bringer Of The Metal Knives. But probably some flint-napper would check out my cheap soft stainless and complain that it wasn't as hard OR as sharp as HIS flint knives. Oh, well.

Worse yet, they might prefer serrated saw-knives over edged knives and that would be even more humiliating.

[Last edited by RickCorey - Sep 25, 2014 3:02 PM (+)]
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Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
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RickCorey
Sep 25, 2014 3:12 PM CST
dave said:After sharpening, I always hone the knife with a steel! Never forget that step.


I got out my smoothest "steel" and used it on a few dozen "sharp" stainless steel knives, sometimes touching them up on a 550 grit bench stone first.

That did improve a FEW of the edges, maybe 20-30% of them. Only the hardest knives with the best edges actually benefited.

When the knife just wouldn't take a very good edge from the bench stone, usually because the metal seemed soft, steeling the knife made the edge worse. My guess is that the edge was so poor that only the 550 grit "micro-serrations" was giving it much bite. Steeling made the edge "more slippery", which made me think that the steeling had somehow smoothed out the "micro-teeth".

Now that I think more about it, how would that work? I don't know, only that it made bad edges worse, and good edges better.

Most carbon steel knives will take a better edge than most of my stainless ones! And any good chef has good knives, even if they are carefully heat-treated stainless.

So the rule that one should "always" steel an edge after sharpening or using it heavily is a good rule - assuming your knives are good ones.

My equivalent action with soft stainless edges is to keep a 550 grit stone handy, and give each side 2-3 very light sharpening passes if I want that knife to be at it's best sharpness for some job.

Name: Frank Richards
Clinton, Michigan

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frankrichards16
Sep 25, 2014 4:45 PM CST
I have one ceramic knife that I bought several years ago. It is still fairly sharp.

Not sure how to sharpen it?

Any suggestions.
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
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RickCorey
Sep 25, 2014 5:56 PM CST
Maybe return to the factory and pay a fee?

Or Kyocera sells this battery-powered sharpener, so presumably they think it works.
http://www.knifecenter.com/kc_new/store_detail.html?s=KCDS50

But I don't know - hard AND brittle? If you have a fine-grit diamond bench stone, you could TRY with very light pressure. But I don't know ...
Name: woofie
NE WA (Zone 5a)
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woofie
Sep 29, 2014 9:22 AM CST
Amazon sells that same sharpener for considerably less, and the reviews are fairly positive.
http://www.amazon.com/Kyocera-Electric-Diamond-Sharpener-Cer...
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