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, February 06, 2010

Why I Do It

You may wonder why I sharpen so many of my knives so soon after receiving them.

Some of you may also put your own edge on a knife as soon as you receive it.

I finally ran out to Home Depot this morning and picked up a few supplies to speed up and finish the sharpening job on my Edmondson chopper and I'm about to head out the door to go test this new edge.

I only took it to 320 grit and then polished on a loaded strop. If the geometry is good then I'll polish it up to 600, 1500, and 2000 grit to really make it sing.

Now, WHY do I sharpen a new knife?

Because my body mechanics and muscle memory are set. I know how I sharpen a knife both at home and in the field. I can make minute adjustments to thicken an edge if needed but for the most part all my knives are sharpened to the same edge. Thicker ones will inherently be thicker because of the blade stock and the inability to lay it down as far as I'd like and thinner knives are more acute because of the thin blade.

Once I have my edge on a knife then it's easy for me to maintain going forward without too much extra effort.

Are my edges better than those of the maker? Probably not. I don't buy my knives based on which makers can sharpen the best. I'm not going to send the knife back every time I need the edge touched up (except maybe the Fehrman 3V which has yet to need anything but a stropping) so I might as well set them up the way I'm going to be able to maintain them.

When I buy a knife I'm looking at materials, design, geometry, and heat treat. A maker who can make a good design with good heat treat and good geometry is going to make a knife that will perform at a higher level. The maker's ability to sharpen just isn't that important to me.

There might be a bit of OCD involved in my desire to sharpen a brand new knife too but I'm going to go with the biomechanical argument. :)

Thanks for reading,



At 2:22 AM, Blogger tjbbpgobIII said...

Do you use anything on your strop and if so what? I just aquired an old strop that even has a white backing that is loose and attached at the top of the swivel.

At 8:26 AM, Blogger American Bushman said...

The strop I'm using is actually not a barber strop (like you're describing) but homemade version with a piece of leather cut and glued to a wood block.

I use my barber strop with a straight (cut throat) razor when I shave and the homemade strop I load with black compound. I think it's about 600 grit and does a fantastic job of taking off the wire edge and leaving me with a bit of "tooth" for slicing.

The strop you've got can be clipped to an eye hook or loop on the wall and you pull on the handle end to give it some tension before lightly pulling your blade along the leather.

Let me know if you want some tips on using that barber strop. They take a bit of time to get right but once you've got the mechanics down you'll find it to be a fun part of your sharpening routine.



At 7:48 PM, Blogger Brian said...

I'm glad I read this. I've thought that I was too OCD about sharpening new knives to how I like them, but now I feel like I'm "somewhat" more normal. Either that or we're both nut jobs.

So do you use mostly fine grit paper (wet&dry) or whetstones for sharpening. I have both and prefer the Japanese whetstones but find the wet&dry paper works faster.

At 10:54 PM, Blogger tjbbpgobIII said...

I just use a whetstone with a little water or oil. The oil works best for me. I also have an E-Z LAP my wife got me for Christmas because I gave my old one to my uncle. They are very good for scissors and knives that have one of those rope cutting edges. I forget what that is called off the top of my head. The whet stones I have are just black Arkansaw stones but I have tried everything you can think of but those little
1" x 1/2" x 4" long stones are the best I've found. I just can't find them anymore everyone sells those special v-shaped rods and I just don't like them.

At 4:00 AM, Blogger tjbbpgobIII said...

I just read the last post I added and although I thought I had indeed ask you for some pointers, I now see I failed to. So, if you would I'd really like some pointers or tips, can't have enough knowledge even if you're old and grey.

At 9:29 AM, Blogger Tim Noble said...

I use a Schrade Old Timer Hone steel and find I don't need a strop to 'touch up' blades. You can get them off Ebay second hand for around $60.


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