For many, sharpening a chef’s knife stands anywhere between going to the dentist and taking care of the lawn. It is a thankless chore unless you’re one of those who like to see if they are able to shave the hair off of their arm with their favorite knife. It doesn’t have to be that way. Today sharpening mediums such as diamond and ceramic make placing an edge on your blade much smoother and speedier, plus methods to enhance preciseness.
The boom in tactical knives of the past 20 years brought with it changes to all areas of the cutlery market, including sharpening products. A perfect example of this is the increase of super steels designed to be indigenous to the knife community. These exotic steels are more durable and more durable than the ones many of us knew growing up–so resilient in fact they can’t be sharpened on a typical whetstone. They require grits tougher than the steel they are meant to sharpen, hence the prosperity in diamond and ceramic mediums.
With so many opportunities at the sharpening consumers fingertips, we supposed it would be enjoyable exploring what’s out there to show you how to choose the perfect medium for your needs. We hope you’ll be able to find the sharpening tool that works best for you!
Although there are numerous great systems, which will make your sharpening job better and much faster, I highly encourage anyone who may be in a scenario where their knife could be necessary to their survival learn the fundamentals of hand sharpening. There’s absolutely no electricity in the wild. Fancy electric honing systems will not help you in the center of the wilderness or even in your own home during an long power outage. You need to learn the basics.
Knife grinds range between concave to convex to fiat, but the overwhelming most have a secondary bevel along the edge, and which is the part you sharpen. (The exception to this is the Bushcraft Scandi or Zero Grind, which sharpens all the way to the edge.) The typical secondary bevel commonly falls into the range of a 15- to 22-degree angle. Learn to hold your knife at the angle you desire as you slide it over the surface of a stone on a consistent basis and you’re home free. This takes practice but one you’ve mastered it, sharpening a knife becomes a breeze and the whole process can be done quickly.
Absolutely nothing is more basic–and pleasing once you master it–than sharpening upon a benchstone. Rule number one is: It is necessary to choose a benchstone capable of processing the edge of the blade steel. Softer high-carbon steels–1095, Ol and A2 are common types–are definitely sharpened on a natural Arkansas whetstone and their manufactured aluminum oxide and carborundum (silicon carbide) relatives plus any of the more aggressive mediums such as diamond or ceramic.
In a endurance pinch, these steels may be sharpened on a rock, which is one of the reasons there has been a fashionable revival of high-carbon varieties in the past few years. A number of older stainless steels such as the ubiquitous 440 series is sharpened on a whetstone as well.
Modern-day stainless steels–such as state-of-the-art proprietary offerings by Crucible Industries, Carpenter Steel and Bohler-Uddeholm–are a whole different animal. Here diamond and ceramic sharpeners are a must. If you use knives with high-end exotic steels, it’s approved you sharpen your knife before you leave for your outing and carry a small field sharpener in case of emergency. The most predominant of the aggressive sharpeners on the market today use diamond as a medium. The coarse grits are bit of overkill unless you have a knife with an atrociously damaged edge.
I will suggest a medium grit for all those edges in need of extra persuasion and a fine for an edge you need a touch-up. Very fine or “super fine” grits work well so you can get a hair-shaving edge. Using water on the surface of the diamond stone during sharpening helps to keep the surface from clogging and results in easier cleanup. There are 2 kinds of diamond honing surfaces: continuous (1 flat surface) and interrupted (with tiny round holes). The interrupted surfaces tend to cut faster than continuous ones. I use continuous i’m also content with the speed and results.
Ceramic benchstones aren’t as prevalent, but just as effective.
Maybe you are asking, what size benchstone is right for you? A 2-inch by 6-inch stone can handle most folding knives and small fixed-blades. A 2.5 to 3-inch by 10-inch benchstone can easily handle those chef knives plus larger fixed blades. Starting out, I recommended buying a medium and fine grit stone and adding coarser or finer grits as you regard as necessary. Some benchstones are available mounted to wooden or plastic bases and some are available with different grits on two sides, so check out your options.
Being able to maintain a blade edge in the field is important and happily there are many choices. From simple Arkansas Stones to diamond and ceramic methods, the gang’s all here. Some of the old leather fixed-blade sheaths of yesteryear had front pockets for carrying a whetstone and that tradition has carried on today with ballistic nylon fare. It’s a great way to keep a sharpener ready in the wild and know specifically where it is when it is needed by you. Small sharpening stones are available in all the main mediums from natural stone to diamond and ceramic.
Folding diamond sharpeners are increasingly popular, and rightfully so. These handy edgers fold out of a plastic handle like a Balisong knife and are also offered in a variety of grits. Some give you a choice of grits on each side and others are fitted with tapered rods geared for honing serrations.
To select the sharpener that’s ideal for your purposes consider the length of time you want to spend sharpening a knife and how finicky you are regarding your edge. Also determine where you’ll use the knife as field sharpening on the go has a different sort of set of parameters than that of the comfort of your own workspace. It’s very possible you want a variety of sharpeners to cover your needs!