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[nafex] Knife Edges

A few thoughts on knife sharpening, which I have pursued since the days
when I was a young bumpkin in the navy.  We would while away odd moments
sharpening the pocket knives we used to work on aircraft electrical
systems, first with a fine grade stone, then polishing the edges on the
leather of our boots.

1.  The best sharpening stone on the market used to be the soft Arkansas
stone, but that was before the introduction of stones with imbedded
diamond bits.  They usually come in three grades, from coarse (400 grit)
to fine (1200 grit), and they are expensive.  I don't know of anything
that will put an edge on a knife faster than these diamond stones.

2.  It is not necessary to use a coarse stone unless the knife edge is
extremely dull or is chipped.  Use of a motorized grinder on any good
knife is not advised because it removes material too quickly, and will
overheat the edge and remove the temper from the steel.  If you must use
a stone, use the fine side, and save the coarse stones for the mower

3.  Around here, I use only a steel rod sharpener from Chicago Cutlery,
run the knife along toward the edge rather than away from it, and try to
hold an angle of about 25-30 degrees.  Unless the knives are chipped or
severely dulled, the steel rod keeps all the knives very sharp, while
removing very little steel from the knife itself.  I have heard that the
steel sharpener helps to align the molecules of the edge of the knife,
in the same way that Japanese swordmakers did by pounding on their
blades while hot, but I can't really vouch for this since I can't see a
molecule.  I believe that the ceramic rod sharpeners would do about as
well as steel.

4.  If I were doing a lot of grafting, and wanted to sharpen my knife in
the field, I would carry a little 1200 grit diamond stone.  Quick, easy,
and very effective.

5.  Use of water or oil on stones supposedly helps to "float" away
particles of steel to prevent clogging the stone.  I never believed
that.  I think it just makes a mess.  Water or oil might also have been
thought to keep the knife edge cool, but that doesn't make much sense if
you are sharpening your knife manually.

6.  If, after sharpening your knife, you want to shave with it, and are
wearing natural leather boots, spend some time polishing the edge, but
this time draw the edge away from the surface.  This does not apply to
the ladies.

Best Regards, Don Yellman, Great Falls, VA

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