Sharpening a knife
There are a few different ways of keeping your blade sharp, the best way is with a stone. Sharpening stones come in different forms but essentially they are either water stones or oil stones with a rough side and a smooth side.
The rough side is used to remove lots of metal from the edge, if you have dents, kinks, burs and other such damage, use the rough side to remove those before moving onto the smooth side.
The “Oil” and “Water” in the name of the stones indicates which type of lubricant you need to apply to the stone before and sometimes during sharpening. We need to keep the stone lubricated at all times in order to keep the temperature of the steel down due to the friction that is generated during the sharpening process. If the steel heats up too much and it can do during sharpening, the temper of the steel is affected and it can become difficult or impossible to sharpen.
Use a generous amount of water or oil and keep it lubricated.
The added advantage of this is that as you sharpen, the removed metal will form slurry with the lubricant and this helps to sharpen and polish the blade.
To sharpen the blade,
- Place the blade down on the stone and tilt it forward until you find the optimal angle. The angle can be found by imagining that you are trying to shave the thinnest, very top layer of the stone off.
- Push the knife away from you starting at the base and working towards the tip in one smooth action; applying firm and even downward pressure. Do this 8 times
- Turn the knife toward you now and start at the top of the stone. Find the angle and bring the knife toward you applying the same equal pressure as before. Do this 8 times.
- Next repeat the process but this time do 8 alternating stroke, one in each direction, away and towards, 8 times.
This is to remove the bur that forms on the edge of the knife during the sharpening process. As you sharpen you push metal to the edge of the blade and it builds up there forming a kind of wire edge that might feel sharp at first but will fold over and make the edge blunt shortly after you start using it. So remove it with 8 alternating strokes.
By now you should have a pretty sharp edge, clean any rust or staining off of the blade by either rubbing on the stone or by making use of some of that slurry that has formed on the stone. Dab some slurry onto your finger and rub it on the remove the rust and staining.
Next, to fine tune the edge and really make it razor sharp we “Strop” the blade on a piece of leather, a leather belt will work very well and this is a good reason to wear a leather belt all of the time.
Find the rough side of the leather, usually the back of it and begin to strop the knife like an old fashioned razor. This time the knife is drawn towards you with the edge facing away, the opposite to when sharpening on a stone. Repeat this for about 25 strokes on either side and again we need to remove the bur that will have built up on the edge. You may not see the bur but it is there so don’t cut corners here, always follow through with as many alternating strokes as you did sharpening strokes.
25 strops is the minimum that I would use, in the field I would normally go for 50 but at home I will do 200 strops to give me a really sharp, keen edge that stays sharp for longer.