The Fundamentals of Knife Sharpening
When somebody finds out that I make knives, indefinitely they will ask two different questions. The first is “have you seen that show on TV? It’s like ‘forged’ or something.” They are talking about Forged in Fire on the History channel, and, yes, I have seen it. The other common question I get, right after they see one of my knives shave their arm bald, is “how do you sharpen these?” That is what I am here to talk about in depth.
The simple answer to the question here is I use a SpyderCo TriAngle Sharpmaker. It works great and keeps the edge angle pretty consistent. But I am going to take you all the way back to when the edge it still some 1/16” thick.
The LAST step in making a knife is to sharpen it. Once I have everything else on the knife finished, I then put the relief edge in on the sander with 240 grit belt.
So I will sharpen it to a burr on the sander, and then take it in to the sharpener. On most knives I will use the SpyderCo, but if I want to change the angle, I will put it in my Smith’s sharpener, which has variable angles.
Different angles are more suitable to different tasks. 35 degrees on either side is basically for hatchet or machete. 30 on either side is for a hard working hatchet or large/chopping knife that’s gonna get a lot of wear and tear. Around 25 on either side is for a mid-sized belt knife. In the area of 20 degrees on either side is for skinning knives and EDC knives. Lastly, 15 on each side is usually for things like kitchen or fillet knives.
So once I know angle I need on my knife, I choose the sharpener, and, starting with coarse, work my way through the grits to fine. To make sure I have the angle right, I will mark just the primary bevel with sharpie between grits. This way when there is no sharpie left on the edge, I know I can move down to the next grit. After this, the knife should be fairly sharp. I will take a piece of leather, rub it with some white buffing compound, and strop the edge a few times. If after you are done stropping, the edge seems a little duller, go back to the
finest grit on the sharpener and re-sharpen and then strop again. Then go ahead and oil the blade down.
This entire process can take as many as thirty minutes and as little as five, depending on the knife.
So, that is the process that I use to sharpen my knives, I hope this has been helpful to you! One last note; if you are looking to buy a new sharpener, I recommend the SpyderCo over the Smith’s, simply because I have found it is faster with better results.
Thanks’ for reading!