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

Friday, October 16, 2009

Sharpening the Hard Way

So there I was this morning, coming up with the day's project and thinking I was a total genius...

I have dozens of sheets of wet/dry sandpaper that I use for sharpening and refinishing my knives and the idea struck me that I could take one of the many cardboard boxes I recycle every week and some spray glue I just happened to have out to help Laura finish a project for school and I could make some very compact sharpeners in every grit with very little effort and then I could glue down whole sheets and custom cut to suit. The cardboard has enough give to sharpen convex edges and, when placed on the counter or some other flat surface, has enough rigidity to keep you from a) cutting into your leg and b) rounding your edges.

Then it occurred to me that my frugal approach to sharpening wasn't actually all that cheap. Sure, I already owned the abrasive and the spray glue and the cardboard but building this kit from scratch would cost me some time and money because I haven't found a place yet that sells everything in one location (brick and mortar anyway...)

I also have one of these. The JRE Industries EMS Sharpening System and, for $35, don't think I can beat it. If I were feeling really frugal I could just purchase the full set of abrasives and leather for $15 and mount them to my recycled cardboard backing. That's a LOT of abrasive in lots and lots of grits. I can take a butter knife and make it razor sharp with this system and NOTHING else.

I've been on a Japanese Waterstone kick lately but cleaning up well-beaten edges with the EMS is fast and super easy. As a matter of fact, I was talking with Dan of JRE Industries in the woods last weekend (as you know if you've been reading this week) and he mentioned that he pulled out his EMS to clean up some edges and was amazed at how well it worked AND HE'S THE GUY WHO CAME UP WITH THE KIT!!! :) I think it's because he's got access to machinery (belt sander and buffer) to handle sharpening in the shop and doesn't have much need for a system that'll handle a knife that's been beaten up so badly. Maintenance of an edge ALWAYS takes less time than reestablishing a damaged edge.

The bottom line is this:

I can still make my cardboard/abrasive compact hones for fun but the EMS Sharpening System really will handle everything I could need and it contains all the pre-cut pieces of leather and sandpaper and switching from one grit to another is so simple I'm not sure why I don't just use it all the time.

As an aside, I find it pretty funny that the same guys who make sheaths to protect you from your knife's edge are also responsible for the sharpening equipment that'll put a scalpel edge on your cutting tools...

Thanks for reading,



At 12:29 PM, Blogger AJ said...

I've been meaning to ask, B, what are the specifics of how you care and maintain your F1? Mine stays pretty dang sharp even after batoning through wood - its main use, for me - but it still isn't shaving hair or making decent fuzz sticks.

Care to do a post on this?

At 2:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice post B!

For backpacking and my day pack, my "field kit" is a small piece of cardboard with 1000 grit glued on one side.

I rub compound right on the cardboard of the other side. I stick it in a ziplock so that it doesn't get anything messy.

It is so light you can not justify leaving it behind!

But, I agree, the kit is cool too. Just depends on the application and I wanted to toss another idea into the mix.


At 2:25 PM, Blogger American Bushman said...

AJ, that's a GREAT idea!

Maybe even a video. The rain has closed the soccer fields for the past couple of days with more in the forecast so maybe I'll have tomorrow morning "off" and I can take some time to work up a demo.

I'll start working on the meat of the post and then I can add the video and pics when I get them done.



At 2:27 PM, Blogger American Bushman said...


That's basically what I was going to do today was build up a handful of cardboard/compound/sandpaper sharpeners (and I still may) when it occurred to me that I've got this EMS sitting here and it does so much more than what I could do with the "kit" I shove in my pocket before heading to the woods.

I have a piece of leather loaded with JRE's "Black Magic" which is the only sharpener I take with me most of the time because I don't really need to regrind a knife in the field very often.




Post a Comment

<< Home