There are hundreds of types of knife steel, all of them are built for specific purposes. Some steel types are specifically built for inexpensive mass production, 420C or 440C are examples of these. Others are built for custom beauty, for instance 3V steel is a combination that is almost indestructible by humans and retains an amazing edge though because it is so hard it has to be cryo treated. Regardless it is the final result that makes the difference.
How a blade is heat or cryo treated is what makes the difference between a knife that will hold an edge and will retain flexibility as well. This however, has had hundreds of books written on it and is not the reason for the article.
Sharpening a knife is an essential part of owning and using a knife. There are dozens of different easy methods to sharpening a knife. You can take it to someone who has a belt driven sharpener or you can purchase a nice set of pre angled diamond hones that allow a much easier approach. The last and least appreciated version of sharpening is doing it completely by hand using either oil stones or wet stones finally you can use fine diamond hones to bring an edge to shaving sharp when needed. What you are going to want as well is a set of strops, I prefer to have between 3-5 strops because I use a variety of chromium based compound when stropping.
Obviously, I prefer hand sharpening over machine sharpening and the reasons are quite honestly simple. With some of of my more favorite knives the steels are middle of the range in quality, providing a sharp strong blade without the excessive cost of the super steels that I would have on everything if I could afford it. Using a machine to sharpen the middle and low end knife steels can quite easily screw up your temper which will effectively make your knife a worthless piece of junk. Besides, I have yet to see a machine sharpen a knife to the same level I can with good Arkansas and Japanese water stones, diamond hones and strops. It is my strict opinion that there are 5 simple stages to sharpening ANY knife to a fine edge, the knife keeping the edge has more to do with the steel and temper of the blade than the actual sharpening of the blade itself.
- Good sharpening stones, three main grits and one strop are a MUST, 400 grit, 800 grit and 1000 grit can easily put a knife in shaving condition and keep it there. The strop that should ALWAYS be apart of any kit should use a medium to fine chromium based buffing compound on one side and should be bare and clean on the other side.
- The angle that the blade should meet the surface of the stone should be between 20-25 degrees. This allows for a multitude of uses. Obviously axes and chopping tools should be between 30-45 degrees and shaving razors MUST be less than 20 degrees.
- Anything can be sharpened, if you take the time to work the knife gently over the stone regardless the hardness of the steel itself. The only time you should need to use force is if the blade has nicks or is completely without an edge and is in need of re-profiling the edge itself. I would suggest practicing with an inexpensive knife and wedges of plastic or wood to the degrees needed.
- In my opinion, use water stones, these are far easier to use and allow the use of grey water to ensure your tools stay sharp.
- Finally, dont use a knife for purposes outside of the reasons it was designed. Every knife has a purpose, when sharpened properly any knife will work quite effectively. DO NOT USE OR ALLOW A MACHINE sharpening tool ANY WHERE around your knives. Only sharpen by hand, the longevity of your knives is essential to the overall survival of you and your loved ones.
Sharpening a knife is difficult, time consuming and absolutely necessary. If you think you may need further assistance in learning to sharpen your knives, ask, I can and will gladly teach you how to do this using skype. I charge $20 per half hour.
Free the mind and the body will follow