I'm still bad with sharpening...but why?

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Dan In MI
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I'm still bad with sharpening...but why?

Post by Dan In MI » Thu May 19, 2022 4:13 pm

Y'all might want to grab a snack and a beverage...I have a feeling this will be a long post.

My first adventure in sharpening was taking a Victorinox Rally (already dull and ugly) to a pull-through Victorinox sharpener. When I started, it struggled to cut paper. I got it to the point that it would cut paracord in two passes and kept at it. Now it's back to square one, but with a much uglier edge.

I've also tried sharpening utility knife blades. Shortly before posting this, I cut up some cardboard. Two passes were needed, and the cuts were not clean. I gave the blade a few whacks on my small DMT stones, and it seemed better with one cut...then back to the previous result. Now that blade requires three passes to make messy cuts in cardboard.

I get the same results with the pull-through sharpener, the tri-hone oil stone, and the diamond stones. I know what I'm doing right: using a knife that can be sent in for warranty work or a replaceable blade. But where am I going wrong? I have considered a few possibilities:
  • Too heavy a hand
  • Wrong angle
  • Not enough oil on the tri-hone
  • Not enough passes on each grit of stone
  • I'm the sort of person who inspired the invention of guided systems
I'd like to get this down pat, or at least consistently better, before I try to sharpen a knife that is no longer under warranty. Any and all feedback, suggestions, comments, etc. are much appreciated.
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Re: I'm still bad with sharpening...but why?

Post by Mumbleypeg » Thu May 19, 2022 4:50 pm

This is a topic that has been beaten to death on this forum. ::dead_horse:: I’m sure you’ll get a lot of opinions, but unless someone who knows what they’re doing can observe in person what you’re doing, and show you how to correctly sharpen, I doubt anyone can tell you “why” you aren’t getting good results.

However from what you have written, my advice is to throw your pull-through sharpener in the trash. Or at least retire it to the collected relics shelf. This subforum is filled with great tips, so start by reading the posts already here. Everything anyone can tell you is already written there.

One common theme among the frustrated would-be sharpeners is using a stone that is too small. Get a stone at least 6 x 1.5 inches - bigger is better. Do not try to hand-hold both the stone and the knife - lay the stone on a sturdy, flat surface. Other tips like using an ink marker to mark the edge and a magnifying glass to view your results are good. Count the number of strokes you make on each side of the blade - they should be equal or nearly so. Stainless steel is IMHO more difficult to sharpen - learn using a good carbon steel blade - even older knives from inexpensive brands like Imperial, etc have good quality steel and make good blades to learn on. Be patient - another common fail is expecting quick success. Unless you have a competent teacher in person it’s likely to take a while to learn by trial and error.

I could go on but I’m already repeating what’s already been said in other posts here. Free-hand sharpening is like riding a bicycle- once you have learned you have a useful skill for life. But if all else fails, by a “guided” system. JMO

Good luck.

Ken
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Re: I'm still bad with sharpening...but why?

Post by Steve Warden » Thu May 19, 2022 4:58 pm

Some people can play drums, some can't. I can't.
That said, some people can freehand and keep a perfect 22.5 degree angle going both ways with a knife edge. I can't.
I've tried and failed at freehand sharpening. And, no, I don't have the inclination or desire to spend the time practicing, but that's me.
Now I use a Lansky Turnbox D2-C2.
Drop the rods into the 20 degree holes for pocket knives, 25 degree holes for kitchen knives.
I keep the knife straight and let the rods worry about the angle.
I'm very pleased with the results.
Take care and God bless,

Steve
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Re: I'm still bad with sharpening...but why?

Post by CluelessNick » Thu May 19, 2022 5:43 pm

Welcome to the club Dan. I can get a fair edge using my set of stones but somewhere along the way I always seem to screw up the angle and the knife ends up no sharper than when I started. Been using a Lansky turnbox with good results if the edge is already set on the blade. Recently bought a Lansky system to set the bevel on a couple of unsharpened blades and it seems to work very well. Still learning how to use it though.
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Re: I'm still bad with sharpening...but why?

Post by 1967redrider » Thu May 19, 2022 5:50 pm

Dan, post a vid on your YouTube channel of what you're using and how you're using it. Then maybe we can help. Just a thought. 😉
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Dan In MI
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Re: I'm still bad with sharpening...but why?

Post by Dan In MI » Thu May 19, 2022 5:58 pm

I know that horse became a carcass long ago... but I thank you all very much for your posts!

The pull-through is going to be demoted to "collected relic" status. My tri-hone is larger than the minimum Ken suggested, but the DMTs are small. Holding the stone in one hand was one thing I hadn't considered, so I'll not do that in the future.

I'll see about getting some Imperials with under 75% blade remaining. I have a couple of Old Timers that have never been sharpened, but are dull as all get-out. Until my skills improve, I'm extremely hesitant to try to sharpen those Old Timers.

Once I get used to round rather than flat abrasives, the Lansky Turnbox could work well for me. I'll get a video posted up as soon as possible.

Thanks again to all!
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Re: I'm still bad with sharpening...but why?

Post by Mumbleypeg » Thu May 19, 2022 6:19 pm

Dan In MI wrote:
Thu May 19, 2022 5:58 pm
Holding the stone in one hand was one thing I hadn't considered, so I'll not do that in the future.
Simplify. Holding the stone in one hand and the knife in the other - two independent variables. Put the stone on a solid sturdy flat surface (a table or countertop) eliminates one variable. Now you just have to concentrate on holding the knife blade at the preferred angle.

The Worksharp Guided Sharpening System is a good “hybrid” solution IMHO. It has angle guides and diamond plates, with angles and grits interchangeable and retained in place by the magnetic base. Angle guides are optional - use if you want but can also use the diamond stones totally freehand if you choose. And there are no cumbersome, limiting clamps! There are several YouTube videos/reviews of it available if interested.

If for whatever reason you cannot hold the blade steady by hand, you’re probably better off with a system requiring clamps to hold the blade.

Ken
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Re: I'm still bad with sharpening...but why?

Post by Maddogfl » Thu May 19, 2022 6:53 pm

Dan In MI wrote:
Thu May 19, 2022 4:13 pm
Y'all might want to grab a snack and a beverage...I have a feeling this will be a long post.

My first adventure in sharpening was taking a Victorinox Rally (already dull and ugly) to a pull-through Victorinox sharpener. When I started, it struggled to cut paper. I got it to the point that it would cut paracord in two passes and kept at it. Now it's back to square one, but with a much uglier edge.

I've also tried sharpening utility knife blades. Shortly before posting this, I cut up some cardboard. Two passes were needed, and the cuts were not clean. I gave the blade a few whacks on my small DMT stones, and it seemed better with one cut...then back to the previous result. Now that blade requires three passes to make messy cuts in cardboard.

I get the same results with the pull-through sharpener, the tri-hone oil stone, and the diamond stones. I know what I'm doing right: using a knife that can be sent in for warranty work or a replaceable blade. But where am I going wrong? I have considered a few possibilities:
  • Too heavy a hand
  • Wrong angle
  • Not enough oil on the tri-hone
  • Not enough passes on each grit of stone
  • I'm the sort of person who inspired the invention of guided systems
I'd like to get this down pat, or at least consistently better, before I try to sharpen a knife that is no longer under warranty. Any and all feedback, suggestions, comments, etc. are much appreciated.
All I can tell you is that your certainly aren't alone. I apparently have lousy eye-hand coordination and am a horrible judge of angles.
After struggling for a long time using all of the latest gimmicks, I settled on a gimmick that works for me. I produce nice edges that will peel the hair off my arm and that are easy to touch up when needed. I don't use oil or water when sharpening, when the stones start to load up, I toss them in the ultrasonic cleaner or just scrub them at the kitchen sink. When the stones start to wear, I pry them out, flip them over, re-glue them in and keep going. When the second side wears out, I just buy a new set instead of buying individual replacement stones. They last a long time... It is not expensive but it may not work for you. It is a Smith system but others make the same kind of thing. It is a long way from perfect but, like I say, it works for me. I made my own base to keep it really steady. It was still on my computer desk from just sharpening a couple of knives, just waiting for a photo.

If you don't know about "the burr" research it, it will be a life-changing experience.
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Re: I'm still bad with sharpening...but why?

Post by kootenay joe » Thu May 19, 2022 9:34 pm

I need to confess: I am the worst sharpener on AAPK. I make dull edges duller about 4 out of 5 times.
I have at least 5 books on knife sharpening. I have expensive Japanese water stones from Murray Carter as well as his long demonstration on his CD.
I have an EdgePro.
I have a SpyderCo Sharpmaker
I have a large DMT stone.
I use a sharpie on the edges and use a soft grip and apply light pressure. I use a 9x loupe to look at my edges. They look sharp and there is no burr, but 4 out of 5 times the edge is still dull.
This has been going on for about 20 years.
I still hope for magic, that one day the 'sharpness genie' will visit and from then one my efforts will always create a sharp edge.
kj

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Re: I'm still bad with sharpening...but why?

Post by Samb » Thu May 19, 2022 10:40 pm

Join the club, takes alot of practice. Don't give up and eventually you'll get the hang of it.

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Re: I'm still bad with sharpening...but why?

Post by Dinadan » Thu May 19, 2022 11:03 pm

I am not in the elite club of knife sharpeners. But here are a couple of comments.

1) Perfection is the enemy of good. Forget shaving sharp.

2) Forget about expensive or complicated stones and systems. Just get a cheap dual grit stone and start with that. Six inches is a good starter size.

3) Realize that sharpening is not rocket science. Pretty much every soldier, farmer, and servant for the last three thousand years had to sharpen their tools and weapons. If they did it then you can do it. And they did not have any fancy diamond stones or devices to make sure the angle was perfect.

4) Get a dual grit hardware store stone and just practice. Did you ever teach a kid to ride a bicycle? Training wheels just keep them from learning. Devices that are supposed to help you sharpen are the same.

5) Just my opinion. And yes. I made five comments, not a couple!
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Re: I'm still bad with sharpening...but why?

Post by edge213 » Fri May 20, 2022 12:00 am

Dinadan wrote:
Thu May 19, 2022 11:03 pm
I am not in the elite club of knife sharpeners. But here are a couple of comments.

1) Perfection is the enemy of good. Forget shaving sharp.

2) Forget about expensive or complicated stones and systems. Just get a cheap dual grit stone and start with that. Six inches is a good starter size.

3) Realize that sharpening is not rocket science. Pretty much every soldier, farmer, and servant for the last three thousand years had to sharpen their tools and weapons. If they did it then you can do it. And they did not have any fancy diamond stones or devices to make sure the angle was perfect.

4) Get a dual grit hardware store stone and just practice. Did you ever teach a kid to ride a bicycle? Training wheels just keep them from learning. Devices that are supposed to help you sharpen are the same.

5) Just my opinion. And yes. I made five comments, not a couple!


::tu:: ::tu::
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Re: I'm still bad with sharpening...but why?

Post by FRJ » Fri May 20, 2022 12:09 am

Dinadan wrote:
Thu May 19, 2022 11:03 pm
I am not in the elite club of knife sharpeners. But here are a couple of comments.

1) Perfection is the enemy of good. Forget shaving sharp.

2) Forget about expensive or complicated stones and systems. Just get a cheap dual grit stone and start with that. Six inches is a good starter size.

3) Realize that sharpening is not rocket science. Pretty much every soldier, farmer, and servant for the last three thousand years had to sharpen their tools and weapons. If they did it then you can do it. And they did not have any fancy diamond stones or devices to make sure the angle was perfect.

4) Get a dual grit hardware store stone and just practice. Did you ever teach a kid to ride a bicycle? Training wheels just keep them from learning. Devices that are supposed to help you sharpen are the same.

5) Just my opinion. And yes. I made five comments, not a couple!
::tu:: ::tu::
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Dan In MI
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Re: I'm still bad with sharpening...but why?

Post by Dan In MI » Fri May 20, 2022 4:41 pm

Dinadan wrote:
Thu May 19, 2022 11:03 pm
Perfection is the enemy of good.
Indeed. If this journey was a road trip, perfection would be in Miami...and some of my knives would be starting in Los Angeles. I'd be happy if they made it to Phoenix, and ecstatic if they made it to San Antonio!

I wasn't able to get a video up last night, so will try to do so today. But I did give my OMOR a few whacks on the little DMT stones (both were right in front of me at the time). I went from coarse directly to extra fine, then went from fine to extra fine. Despite that blunder, and having to hold those small stones with my non-dominant hand, the OMOR got a little better. It's probably worth noting that I usually have a pretty steady hand.

It may also be worth noting that my usage is typically pretty light, and I've had factory edges on knives that I purchased new last for a dozen years. Those knives I have that are incredibly dull all came to me secondhand.

I can now say with a little more certainty why I was so bad: the poor little Victorinox Rally had its goose cooked the instant I took it to the pull-through sharpener. Never again! It may be useful for setting angles, but not actual sharpening. I will be ordering up a Lansky Turnbox as well, primarily because I believe it's better suited for kitchen cutlery than an oil stone would be.

And no need to find some Imperials to practice on. I remembered that I have two 104OTs. Both have obvious signs of wear, so I gave the less attractive of the two a quick test. It could use some work, and I won't feel too guilty about using it as a test mule. And it's starting somewhere in Arizona and only trying to get to San Antonio. :mrgreen:
Ugly 104OT.jpg
Thanks again to all. The continued feedback and assistance is greatly appreciated!
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Re: I'm still bad with sharpening...but why?

Post by kootenay joe » Fri May 20, 2022 4:53 pm

When using stones there are 2 basic methods: The trying to take off a thin slice method and the going around in small circles method.
Is there any advantage of one over the other ?
I was surprised to see that Murray Carter uses the small circles method.
kj

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Re: I'm still bad with sharpening...but why?

Post by Mumbleypeg » Fri May 20, 2022 6:56 pm

I've used both methods in the past and my opinion is it depends on which you're comfortable with and can get the desired results. I ultimately settled on the "cutting a slice" technique which is what I learned from my grandpa.

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Re: I'm still bad with sharpening...but why?

Post by Dinadan » Fri May 20, 2022 9:25 pm

I use the circles method with the stone in my left hand. Because that is the way my father taught me over sixty years ago, not because I think it is better. If I am sharpening long blades like kitchen knives I tend to use the slice method.

I like a six inch stone in a box: the box gives me a bit more space to keep my finger tips out of the edge zone.
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Re: I'm still bad with sharpening...but why?

Post by Dan In MI » Sat May 21, 2022 2:41 am

A bit late, but I managed to get the video up. It'll be embedded below.

I'm pretty sure I know why the utility knife blade didn't improve during its last whacks across the stones: way too much angle. The angle I used in the video seems to work much better. There's still improvement to be made, so I'll keep at it. I can only get better with practice!

Thanks to all for the continued feedback, advice, and suggestions! ::handshake::

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Re: I'm still bad with sharpening...but why?

Post by Reverand » Sat May 21, 2022 3:35 am

Dinadan wrote:
Thu May 19, 2022 11:03 pm
I am not in the elite club of knife sharpeners. But here are a couple of comments.

1) Perfection is the enemy of good. Forget shaving sharp.

2) Forget about expensive or complicated stones and systems. Just get a cheap dual grit stone and start with that. Six inches is a good starter size.

3) Realize that sharpening is not rocket science. Pretty much every soldier, farmer, and servant for the last three thousand years had to sharpen their tools and weapons. If they did it then you can do it. And they did not have any fancy diamond stones or devices to make sure the angle was perfect.

4) Get a dual grit hardware store stone and just practice. Did you ever teach a kid to ride a bicycle? Training wheels just keep them from learning. Devices that are supposed to help you sharpen are the same.

5) Just my opinion. And yes. I made five comments, not a couple!
I agree. I watched my Dad sharpen a knife, then practiced with a cheap Pakistan knife and an inexpensive dusl-sided stone until I got the hang of it.
I think I was better at sharpening when I was a teen - I get 'em all sharp now, but not shaving sharp. On the other hand, I wore my knives out by sharpening them back then, while now my edges and my knives last longer.

I bought these for my son-in-law this Christmas, but I don't know if he ever used them. I am considering getting a set for myself: Wedgek Angle Guides 10 to 20 degrees for Sharpening Knives on Stone, Blue https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N4QMO7U/re ... S3Z9DVW0S4
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Re: I'm still bad with sharpening...but why?

Post by catspa » Sun May 22, 2022 2:27 am

Mumbleypeg wrote:
Fri May 20, 2022 6:56 pm
I ultimately settled on the "cutting a slice" technique which is what I learned from my grandpa.

Ken
Same here. I’ll go you one goofier - I think about him sometimes when I sharpen and imagine my hands copying the movements of his hands…

I like stones, and mine are bigger than most (that didn’t come out quite right). But lately I’ve been finishing stainless knives on a ceramic rod.

Parker

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Re: I'm still bad with sharpening...but why?

Post by Colonel26 » Sun May 22, 2022 2:32 am

Dinadan wrote:
Thu May 19, 2022 11:03 pm
I am not in the elite club of knife sharpeners. But here are a couple of comments.

1) Perfection is the enemy of good. Forget shaving sharp.

2) Forget about expensive or complicated stones and systems. Just get a cheap dual grit stone and start with that. Six inches is a good starter size.

3) Realize that sharpening is not rocket science. Pretty much every soldier, farmer, and servant for the last three thousand years had to sharpen their tools and weapons. If they did it then you can do it. And they did not have any fancy diamond stones or devices to make sure the angle was perfect.

4) Get a dual grit hardware store stone and just practice. Did you ever teach a kid to ride a bicycle? Training wheels just keep them from learning. Devices that are supposed to help you sharpen are the same.

5) Just my opinion. And yes. I made five comments, not a couple!
We’ll said!

While I love a shaving sharp blade for bragging rights so to speak, a good toothy edge works much better imo.
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Re: I'm still bad with sharpening...but why?

Post by philco » Sun May 22, 2022 11:13 am

I watched your video from start to finish. I see two glaring errors that are keeping you from getting a sharp blade.

First, you are placing the blade edge against the stone at far too steep of an angle. Visualize you're trying to SLICE a very thin layer off the stone with each pass. Throw that little pocket sharpener away because it's just throwing you off track. You need to lower the spine (back side ) of the blade to where it's much closer to the surface of the stone but NOT touching the stone.

Second, you are not holding a consistent angle as you pass the blade across the stone. You are scraping the blade over the stone rather than gliding the edge across the stone in a slicing manner. The two keys to sharpening a blade are to establish a proper angle and then apply it repeatedly with each pass.

Review: Use a much more acute angle of blade against stone and focus on maintaining that same angle for the entirety of each stroke. I'd suggest taking about five passes in one direction then switching over to the other side of the blade for an equal number of passes and rotating back and forth like that. It should help as far as maintaining a more consistent angle.
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Re: I'm still bad with sharpening...but why?

Post by catspa » Sun May 22, 2022 8:52 pm

Phil offers good advice. I would add one thing that works for me: orient the tri-hone so it’s end on to you. That way your strokes will be pushing and pulling rather than lateral. It’ll be easier to hold a uniform angle, easier to use your other hand to steady, and later on when you want to convex (intermediate technique) it’ll be a fire and aft wrist roll.

This is my personal muscle memory, try it and see if it’s easier for you. If not, ignore.

Parker

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Re: I'm still bad with sharpening...but why?

Post by Mumbleypeg » Mon May 23, 2022 1:26 am

Ditto what Phil said. ::tu:: In your video, you’re definitely using an angle that is too vertical. I’m linking a video from a guy demonstrating the Work Sharp Guided Sharpening System, using the 17 degree guide which is one of the angle guides that comes with it. Hopefully it will help you see what a better angle is and what it will do.

Also have to say yours is the first time I’ve ever seen anyone spread oil on a stone with their fingers. Although I’m sure it doesn’t hurt anything, it’s not necessary. I just squirt some oil on the stone, and start sharpening. The blade will spread it with each stroke. In fact a little oil being “pushed” along ahead of the blade on the stone’s surface is a good thing IMHO. It makes a slurry of oil and scarf (the steel particles removed during sharpening). When the oil becomes saturated into your stone it’s time to add a little more oil.

However as you’ll see in the video this sharpener comes with diamond stones so no liquid is needed. BTW this system is the first time I used diamond stones, and made a firm believer of me. ::tu:: Later in the video when he uses the leather “strop” plate, which comes with the upgrade kit, he uses Vaseline which he spreads with fingers. I assume that’s due to it being leather instead of a grit. ::shrug:: To be honest although I have tried the leather for stropping blades I’ve not used any of the Vaseline or compound. I can get a shaving edge simply by using the extra fine diamond plate and finishing using the ceramic rod. But I’m not big on shaving edges either so I’ve only done it just to see if it would provide a shaving edge and if so how much extra work will it take. Yes it will, and without much extra effort.

Ken

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Re: I'm still bad with sharpening...but why?

Post by philco » Mon May 23, 2022 2:18 am

catspa wrote:
Sun May 22, 2022 8:52 pm
Phil offers good advice. I would add one thing that works for me: orient the tri-hone so it’s end on to you. That way your strokes will be pushing and pulling rather than lateral. It’ll be easier to hold a uniform angle, easier to use your other hand to steady, and later on when you want to convex (intermediate technique) it’ll be a fire and aft wrist roll.

This is my personal muscle memory, try it and see if it’s easier for you. If not, ignore.

Parker
Parker is spot on regarding orienting the Tri-hone. I like to have it at approximately 45 degrees from the plane across my chest. If you imaging a line running from shoulder to shoulder as you sit facing the hone, hold the stone at a 45 degree angle to that. It will go a long way toward making the process more ergonomic and will greatly enhance your ability to maintain a consistent angle of blade against stone.

Below is a youtube video link showing a guy using the Smith's Tri-Hone system. Please take note of both the angle at which he holds the blade as he slices it across the stone, and also the angle of the Tri-Hone relative to his body.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jCUNgQTHhec
Phil
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