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What is the Best Way to Sharpen a Knife

So here is the campfire question we have all asked at some point. “What is the best way to sharpen a knife?” We all know that dull knives can cause accidents as well as just plain frustration.

Every outdoor enthusiast, chef as well as weekend warrior can attest to that. That being said the majority of knife sharpening experts recommend the use of some sort of lubricant as the best way to sharpen a knife.
The lubricant used can range from oil to water; however, mineral oil is most frequently recommended for knife sharpening. Keeping knives sharp is not only convenient, it is safe as well but what is the best way to sharpen a knife?

Below is a step-by-step knife sharpening guide that will outline how to properly sharpen a knife using bench stones :

Choose the Proper Coarseness

Choosing the proper coarseness for the bench stone is an essential first step in sharpening a knife. Not all knives require starting at the coarsest stone available and a very blunt knife cannot be sharpened on just the finest stone. Beginning with the appropriate coarseness will ensure that the desired edge is achieved quickly.

If the knife is extremely blunt or the blade is nicked, use the coarsest stone to start. The coarse stone quickly removes material so that a poor edge can rapidly be refined. However, a finer stone must be used after the coarse stone to refine the edge. For knives that are only slightly dull and simply needs a fast touch up, you can save time by starting with a fine or medium stone. Using a fine stone to start requires fewer steps; however, it must be used only on an edge that requires little work.

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Choose the Correct Bevel Angle

The next step involves choosing the correct sharpening angle. This is very important if your looking for the best way to sharpen a knife. Irrespective of the technique used, selecting a bevel angle is ideal. This angle does not need to be precise but following a few general guidelines is wise.

An approximate 20 degree angle is recommended by most knife manufacturers. Depending on what the knife is used for, you will be able to move upward or downward from that angle. For example, a fillet knife is not used on anything hard; therefore, a sharper edge will be produced by an angle that is a few degrees less. On the other hand, survival knives and tactical knives with various uses could benefit from an angle a few degrees higher, for a durable edge.

Apply Oil or Water

There are stones that require water, while others require oil for floating away the small metal filings (the swarf) that occur when sharpening. Simply apply a few drops of water or oil straight to the stone. An inexpensive spray bottle can be used to apply the water.

The type of stone being used will determined the required lubricant. Diamond stones and water stones require water. While oil stone like the Arkansas Bench Stone , Norton Crystolon Combination Oilstone, Fine/Coarse, 1 x 2 x 8 and India use oil as a lubricant. Some people swear by the use of oil and some by water I suggest the use of a good quality oil as the best way to sharpen a knife .

Best Way To Sharpen A Knife

Beginning with the coarsest stone required for the knife, you will go through the finer stones until the desired level of sharpness has been reached.

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Rest the knife on the stone at the appropriate bevel angle. A simple technique that can determine the angle by eye is by visualizing a 45-degree angle and then taking half that amount. Doing this will provide an estimate of the angle and it can then be accordingly adjusted up or down

Use a slicing action to take the length of the knife crossways the stone; the motion should start with placing the heel of the knife onto the stone and culminate with the knife point. The motion should move across the stone in a sweeping arc pattern.

Special care must be taken to ensure that the angle of the knife remains on the stone. Additional challenges result from longer curved knives but as long as the angle is maintained, the knife will be very effectively sharpened. Repeat the process on the opposite side of the knife and keep on repeating until the knife has been sharpened though each stone grit.

Alternative Technique for an Extremely Dull Knife

A coarse stone is required for a dull knife and a longer time may have to be spent sharpening the knife. Given that many strokes may be required, it is recommended that as many as 10 strokes be taken before sides are alternated.

How to Know When Your Knife Is Sharp Enough …When To STOP !!

A crucial yet typically confusing aspect of sharpening is being aware of when to stop using one stone and move on to a finer grit. It is very easy to figure out on coarse stones. When one side is sharpened, there will be a noticeable formation of burr on the other side of the edge.

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It is difficult to see the burr but it can be easily felt. Gently run your hand along the spine to the edge to very cautiously feel for the burr. Never run your fingers from the heel to the tip of the night edge, that could end in disaster.

A formation of the burr occurs when the stone takes away material directly at the edge. This burr will go from one side of the knife to the next as sharpening of the sides are alternated. Ensure that the burr has jumped between the two sides before moving on to the finer stone. This will ensure that both sides have been effectively sharpened. The finer grits operate similarly but the burr is a lot smaller.

What Level of Sharpness is Required?

More often than not, ‘the sharper, the better’ is the way to go. The bevel determines the sharpness of the knife and also the fineness of the grit chosen for the final honing. Since the bevel angle has already been determined a few steps earlier, all that is now required is knowing the grit to stop at.

Again, this depends on how the knife is used. Typically, you can go straight to the finest stone for best edge. However, the only exception would be knives used to cut tomatoes and other soft vegetables, since a slightly coarser edge will provide a tooth pattern more suitable for easier cutting.

So It really depends on what your looking to accomplish with your knife . Do you need it to cut paper ? Slice tomatoes? Shave bark off a tree branch to make a smooth spear ?

Hopefully this simple guide on the best way to sharpen a knife will point you in the right direction.

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