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Picture of Knife Sharpening Tricks
There are many ways to sharpen a knife. This method produces a good general purpose edge.

Safety note: As my Granddad used to say: "Don't cut toward yourself, and you'll never get cut."

Excellent photos by Christy Canida the whale butcher.
See what she does with these knives at Skinning and Filleting Catfish

People have always cared about sharp tools. Some "Bog Man" remains from thousands of years ago have been found with sharpening stones worn as a pendant.

This first video shows how to make your own Bog Man stone from a regular sharpening stone, or any soft abrasive stone you happen to find.

First we will make a drill bit from a nail, drill a hole in the stone, saw the stone in half, and flatten it. Just like an ancient bog man would have if he had the battery drill we fixed last week.


This second video shows how to sharpen a knife for butchering and how to sharpen it for carving wood. I bought the knife in the video from a husband-and-wife team of blacksmiths in China. Blacksmithing seems to be a job for couples in many parts of the world.


Links to the ipod formated videos are at the bottom of this page.

 
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Step 1: Look at the Edge

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Get under a bright light such as the sun, and hold up the edge. You'll see reflections on flat spots and nicks.
On this blade the inch near the tip is pretty bad.

Step 2: Thumbnail test the edge

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Touch it to your thumbnail and see if it slides around or if it catches.
If it slides that means it's dull, as in not sharp, at least in this area.
Safety note: Don't chop your fricking thumb off.

Step 3: Flatten the Stone

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Buy yourself a sharpening stone for a dollar in Chinatown. If your city doesn't have a Chinatown, get one or move somewhere civilized.

This is a "water stone" which means you put water on it while using it to float the sharpening dust off it. Some prefer an "oil stone" which means you put oil on it. Some stones are born oily. Once the oil is in there water doesn't work well anymore.

This particular stone has had some use so it's dished out in the middle. That makes it hard to hold the knife at the right angle. So we'll need to flatten it.
Actually it doesn't really matter for knives, but when you start sharpening plane blades you'll make a religion of flattening your stone.

Step 4: Flatten Away

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Splash some water on the sidewalk and rub the stone on it til the stone is flat. Use plenty of pressure.
Listen to "The Great War for Civilization" by Robert Fisk while you work to understand what went wrong in the Middle East.

Step 5: Thin the Edge

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Rub the knife on the coarse side of the stone at a 5 degree angle as shown. It doesn't matter what stroke you use or what direction.
You're just thinning the area around the edge a bit to save you some labor later on.
In each of the following sharpening steps, you'll raise the angle just a bit.
That way you're always shaving the stone with fresh metal.

Commentators to this howto are rightly pointing out the merits of a 20 degree knife edge, (knife held at a 10 degree angle to the sharpening stone) or a 17.5 degree wedge. I think my homemade plane blade sharpening fixture is set at 27.5 or something nerdy like that.
Use your own numbers, not mine, and by all means get carried away with your own refinements.
The numbers I picked aren't too important, just that you raise them with each step.

Step 6: The Sharpening Finally Begins

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Flip the stone over and stroke the blade edge forward at a 6 degree angle. First one side of the knife, then the other. You are cutting toward the stone.

Step 7: Gilding the Lily

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You've already endangered your friends by putting on an edge on a knife they're expecting to be dull.
Now it's going to get even sharper. Get a piece of 600 grit emery paper and put it on a piece of glass.
Any other really flat thing will do, but glass is most popular. I've seen Klingit and Mayan woodcarvers use this method.
Stroke forward at a 7 degree angle, alternating sides. A couple of strokes is plenty, because you're taking off a miniscule amount of metal. If you're silly or special you could get finer grits up to 1200 and repeat.

Hats off to the commentators for true facts about edge angles. Unless you're into artillery in a big way, most of us will overestimate small angles. Your 7 will be more like 12 in reality. The important thing is to look at the edge, test it, and raise the angle til you're shaving just a little abrasive off with each step. Thick blades will naturally sharpen at the higher angles they were intended for. You'll never really thin a thick blade out that much.

Some things like plane irons and chisels benefit from a straight bevel. For that make a jig to set the angle. Plane irons seem to inspire the greatest nerdiness in people.

Step 8: Cut Your Leg Off

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Not.
This step is a totally unnecessary way to show off. You can impress people this way, especially if you rip your leg open, blood gushes everywhere, and they have to take you to the hospital.

Smear your leg with the abrasive paste you made by flattening your stone.
Then stroke the knife over this paste, sharp edge trailing.
This is called "Stropping". It takes the microscopic hairs off the edge to make it strong and extra sharp.
This is how you sharpen a razor, except sane people use a piece of leather called a "strop" rubbed with red garnet abrasive dust.

My Granddad used to beat his kids with his strop when they misbehaved. His son, my uncle "Bird Dog" tried to shave without proper instruction and cut a big gash in the strop. In the ensuing punishment the new sharp corner cut him, he started bleeding all over, and my Grandmother Nana came flying out of the house with strong new theories about corporal punishment. She was half my Granddad's size and twice as powerful. The kids were able to eat dinner sitting down for a while after that.

Step 9: Don Montague Tests the Edge

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His style of fingernail testing involves resting the edge on his nail to see if it slides off or catches.

Step 10: Improvised Sharpening Stones

There you are in your friend's kitchen trying to cut a tomato with a blunt knife.
You're mashing it and smearing the skin around and not feeling sexy at all.
You ransack the utensil drawer and find not an abrasive.
You get the urge to criticize your pal for being the wrong kind of tool-using ape.
Halt.
Use an improvised stone instead. Here's a short list of what can work:

The underside of the toilet tank lid.
The rough unglazed ring on the bottom of a plate or other ceramic item.
an emery board used for manicures
A brick.
A flowerpot.
Any aluminum item. It's covered with a layer of aluminum oxide, a good abrasive. This method is only good for final sharpening.
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swildman1 year ago
Stainless steel is an alloy of chrome and steel, thus making it weaker. High carbon steel is harder. I work with metal every day.

im 14 and a metalworking student and am attempting knife making and have done lots of research please email me with any tips that you have please

1426576@pnbhs.school.nz

KathyW24 months ago

Well, I know little about the hardness of a knife or its other characteristics, so my question may be perceived as rather inane. Even if so, I need confirmation (or denial) about a method for sharpening knives. I recently was told that the sharpness of my knives could be maintained by using a sheet of Bounce (for dryers). Has anyone tried or heard about this method?

hedonistic5 months ago

Another consideration when selecting the edge geometry is the hardness of the steel. In traditional european kitchen cutlery is softer about 56hrc than japanese at 61hrc and some sashimi knives in steels like ZDP-189 are around 67hrc. Most european cutlery is sharpened to an angle around 20-22.5 for an included angle of 40-45 degrees. Japanese knives around 17 degrees per side is common as are chisel and asymmetrical grinds some sashimi knives may be chisel ground (one side only) to 9 degrees. Softer steels ground too thin will roll an edge on a hard vegetable. Thinning a knife as hard as some of the specialty steels on a stone like the one used by the author is not going to work, specialty or diamond stones would be all but required. Not mentioned is that a thinner edge at a higher angle may usually be restored to sharpness by using a more obtuse angle. Search micro bevel if you are curious.

CaoA10 months ago

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dlc4411 months ago
thanks dude!
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NigelTac1 year ago

A Nice Article!

The key to remember is to always works with a material that is harder that that of the substance of your knife. A Ceramic Rod for example would be the best knife sharpener for your average stainless steel kitchen knife.

pcooper23 years ago
The Smith's CCKS 2-step sharpener is all I need. I picked up a couple of them from my local Ace Hardware. One is in the kitchen and the other is in my camping kit.
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jcbbnd pcooper23 years ago
These work ok for really dull knives, but they can also ruin your blade if you use them to much. Moreover, you can get your knife much sharper if you use a bench stone.
pcooper2 jcbbnd3 years ago
Not true. The ceramic rod side is equivalent to a butcher's steel. It doesn't remove material; it straightens out the curled metal on the edge. All manner of stones remove material through abrasion and will wear out an edge far faster than the Smith's CCK-2 and similar sharpening tools. The tungsten carbide side is for "really dull knives" that have gotten that way through abuse. Once I sharpen a blade, I rarely use anything but a ceramic or steel rod to keep it sharp for months on end.
jcbbnd pcooper23 years ago
Ok, If you role your edge its better to remove the edge and re-sharpen the knife. Once an edge is rolled the edge metal is weaker. Moreover, instead of straightening the metal the ceramic side will fold it over and eventually tear it out. Leaving your blade with pits and a weak/useless edge. Not to mention the cck only offers one angle of sharpening. The cck-2 (and similar sharpeners) is, in all honesty, an easy way out of learning how to use a bench stone. It just doesn't work. If you dont use your knife much, the ceramic side works ok for a quick, short lasting edge. The carbide works well for establishing an angle on a really dull knife. But neither work well for maintaining a strong sharp blade.
jcbbnd jcbbnd3 years ago
Oh, and butcher's steel is not a SHARPENING device, it is designed to realign the deformed edge. Thats why butchers and chefs use it. Its a quick honing technique, not the proper way to sharpen a knife. Outside the kitchen, one needs to take the time to learn how to use a stone and strop.
pcooper2 jcbbnd3 years ago
Whatever. Whether I use a butcher's steel or the ceramic rods of a Smith's CCK-2, the blade is sharp enough to slice through a piece of 18 lb bond paper held between two fingers in the air or the skin of a tomato as if it were soft butter, i.e., razor-sharp. That's all I care about.

If I understand correctly, you can achieve sufficient sharpness with a kitchen sharpener like this one, however a knife sharpened this way won't hold an edge as long as a knife sharpened properly with a sharpening stone. The key difference in sharpening technique is the direction you move the edge against a sharpening device - in a kitchen sharpener you pull the edge along the sharpener, with a sharpening stone the edge is perpendicular to the direction of movement (much like if you were trying to cut a thin slice off the top of the stone). If look at the edge under high magnification, you will see different patterns (micro "hills and valleys") depending on the way of sharpening. The pattern created by the sharpening stone will look like micro serrations, if I understand correctly this is more durable so the knife would keep it's sharpness for a longer time.

Kitchen sharpeners are definitely much faster in use and foolproof (no messing with angles etc.), also the things you cut in the kitchen are usually not that hard (compared to typical uses for an outdoor knife etc.), so it's more convenient for most people to resharpen their kitchen knives more often, but in an easier way. However, I know many knife fanatics who sharpen all of their knives (including the wife's kitchen knives) with various sharpening stones, strops, etc.

P.S. Not an knife/sharpening expert, just my understanding.

I have one of these. I like it, but it only works well with my folding knife with a /\ point, but not my one with the |\ blade. It also won't work with my survival knife, but it's probably been dull about as long as I've been alive.
Your suggestion would be totally what most people on this instruct.need,as I would never ruin my wet stones as well as knives doing some of the things they are doing,so good job to you.
swildman1 year ago
GREAT instructable Tim!
nafisaislam2 years ago
Best Knife Sharpening Center is an effective and quality sharpening section in US. We provide branded sharpening tools with reasonable price and some technical use of sharpening.
To know more click this link

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asmith1402 years ago
i had this same problem as "Schmidty16", i found a website called www.globalknifesharpener.co.uk which sells something called the anysharp, its brilliant! really fast and leaves a really sharp edge on the knife.
todbicks5 years ago
A comment to the author from a British citizen with blunt knives. Your Step 8 begins as follows: "Cut your leg off. Not" Why add the "Not" afterwards ? In the UK we would never do that. Your joke consists in the fact that you make it seem you mean it which would constitute a kind of irony (although a weak form of it)....and then you go ahead and spoil it with that "Not" thing? I'm gonna go away now and cut my wrists. NOT REALLY. I'M ONLY JOKING.
Americans love a lawsuit.  Fine print alleviates that danger.  Ergo, not.
ya know, i totally agree. some total idiot kidnapped a elderly couple and sued them for not helping him escape the police.
I heard a story, not sure if it's true, about a burglar who fell through a skylight during a break-in and landed on a knife that hadn't been put away, and he was able to sue the owners of the home.
very true
I had remembered the "...NOT!" phrase from Wayne's World, circa early 90's, which made it very popular at the time (and likely lost on international folks, as well as those under 25yo,) but when I geeked out on it a bit, I found this:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Not!

Apparently it goes back to 1893!
I approve of this message.
danlab todbicks5 years ago
You sound like someone that needs to watch Borat.
 my name-a borat
give me your tears gypsy or i shall take them.......
Schmidty162 years ago
how do u sharpen a scirated edge
gitm5 years ago
I use the pad of my finger. I run my finger over the edge perpendicular to the length of the blade and without pressure. I also polish the blade, which I've found can make a fresh razor even sharper. There is a dramatic difference in the performance of gouges once they've been polished.
how do you polish the edge?
You never need to polish the edge of the knife. Try cutting a tomato with a polished edge knife. It just won't cut it. There is a very tough thin layer on the skin of the tomato will prove it.
That really depends on the knife and its intended use, though in my experience a properly polished edge will cut almost anything, including tomatoes, like going through air. I've seen a lot of people who say that they polish the blades of their knives but actually change the angle of the blade right at the edge by squishing the blade down and that really messes with the knifes ability to cut. I do know that knives used for chopping stiff vegetables like carrots are better off with a polished edge, they chop just as good (if not better) and not having those scratches and micro-serrations reduces the chance of any water or other contaminants being left of the blade during storage. I've learned from experience that a polished blade will last longer than one that's not (simply in terms of storage time, the way in which the knife is used may change that).
mthomp1 gitm4 years ago
A fresh razor blade is never smooth or polished. Examine it under a strong magnifier, you will see what I mean.
OK , heres my story. I was going over my aunts house. she told me that if I find anything very , very interesting , that I could keep it. So I went right to my uncles garage (he just died.) and found this rusty, OLD imperial. So i kept it. Ive bean trying to get it all nice (Scrubbing it with steel wool , washing it , sharping it , ect.).
But i need some help. For one , it is still dirty and i need some help finding the right polish and stuff. For two, I need a way to sharpen it with Out using the Smith's CCKS 2 way sharpener! So if antbody can help me Please Reply!! ;)
nedward says
start with penetrating oil or spray take 600 grit sandpaper roll it around wine cork and sand the blade by hand the rust will come off just work hard it is gonna take time clean the blade take a finer grit 800 and you will see the shine
i am from southafrica in my country we dont have all the stones you have but you can start with a rough stone 220 grit go to medium 1000 and fine 5000 waterstones they will be alright there is a couple of american authors you can consult steve bottorf he is an expert the book is cheap in your country i grew up on a farm were we had to slaughter with sharp knives it is something you must learn a sharp knife is merciful to the animal it is like a well maintained tool get some theory it will help and persevere you can always write to me what is a smiths ccks 2 is it a benchstone? god bless
nedward3 years ago
a new knife the profile must be changed a ceramic benchstone 120 grit take the knife flat on the stone start on one side take the meat away dont worry about the scratches then the otherside you will see the blade thinning persevere in my country we call it elbow grease south africa then you lift the blade 15 degrees on the stone grit size medium 800 then rub it again as the yankeys say you will see the primary bevel come rub till you get a burr then change to 1200 grit to get rid of the burr now lift the blade to 20 degree rub again till you feel the burr
now you can work it on a 5000 stone after that you can remove that microscopic burr with a leather strop pasted with jewllers rouge now you can test that knife it will cut a4 printing paper take a wine cork roll 600 grit and you can get that scratch marks out you can use 800 and 1200 sandpaper
to polish your blade your knife will slaughter like a dream remember a knife is a tool it is designed to help man not always a showpiece okapi is also good
wim from south africa
Do you suggest any specific angle for cutting hard rubber?
That's best done with a serrate-edge knife or a saw. I use a steak knife or serrated bread knife for cutting rubber tubing, garden hose, and the like.
gizmo197 years ago
this is in no way revelant but putting a battery on concret will kill it
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