American Bushman

"If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write things worth reading or do things worth writing." —Benjamin Franklin

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Black Magic

When working on your edges there are two tools that will go a very long way to getting you to sharp.

1. A sharpie for marking the edge
2. Black Magic stropping compound loaded on a leather strop

I often use a Hoodoo Hone (a piece of wood with loaded leather on one side and mousepad-backed abrasive on the other) to convex the edges but mine are all a bit bulky to take with me into the woods. The DMT folding diamond stone works very well and they make one with different grits on each side in several flavors (Extra Coarse/Coarse, Coarse/Fine, Fine/Extra Fine, and Extra Fine/Ceramic) so you can have a wide range of grits in a very small package.

The leather I carry is just a piece of scrap I grabbed on a visit to JRE Industries (the stuff they call scrap is still just about the highest quality leather I've found and makes a fantastic strop.) I sanded off the surface on the smooth side after learning the trick from Dan and loaded it with the Black Magic compound they use. This isn't the finest grade of stropping compound but I really, really like the edge it puts on my knives. They're toothy and slice very well while still holding up.

When convexing, the angle at which you sharpen isn't so terribly important (i.e. 11° versus 14° would be a wash with the soft-backed abrasive) but the super-flat diamond plates are a little less forgiving so the Sharpie, used to color the existing edge, is very helpful in determining the sharpening angle that will maintain the factory edge or give you a visual cue that you're hitting the edge when making adjustments to the factory edge.

If, like me, you find yourself taking different knives into the woods with you it might be beneficial to take a Sharpie with you in case you need to sharpen/maintain your edge. I think the person who uses one knife all the time probably doesn't need any visual reminders of the angle.

The strop, loaded with Black Magic, is the essential finish to a freshly sharpened blade. It knocks off the burr, smoothes out the scratches left by sharpening, and gives the edge a bit of "tooth" which helps with slicing.

I'm speaking with Abe Elias of Diving Sparrow Knife Works this morning and he's recommended I use white compound on a piece of leather for finishing so I'm going to look into some "White Magic" this morning.

Getting an edge like Abe or MBHanzo does by hand is my new goal and I'll take whatever tips I can get. I can pop hairs with my edge using Black Magic but my knives still aren't as sharp as what I get from these two maestros.

Sharpening by hand is really rewarding and relaxing and I'd heartily recommend it if you haven't tried it.

Thanks for reading,



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