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Knife Sharpening

 

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The Value of a Truly Sharp Blade

Everyone remarks that they wish they had sharp knives even when they often don't know all the important reasons for having them sharp. Let's examine a few of the many advantages of sharp knives.

The most obvious reason for sharp knives is so that you can cut things with them that one would normally cut. A dull knife can cause frustration beyond imagination when it won't do what you think it is supposed to do. However, what is not often realized (or remembered!) is that dull knives are much more dangerous than sharp ones because in an effort to cut with them, exponential more force must be applied to accomplish the task. With exerted pressure considerably less control is available to guide the cutting edge of the blade and the common result is that the blade slips and a nasty injury results.

In the case of an injury with a blade, a dull blade cuts by brute force, ripping and tearing flesh until it comes to a stop. These wounds take a long time to heal as the body has to cope with removing considerable amounts of crushed dead cells from the wound channel. On the other hand, in the more unlikely case of a sharp blade cut, if cleaned and attached together right away, the wound can start healing immediately. I have cut myself with a very sharp blade that may have required a few stitches, but I carefully taped the cut together, rested for the rest of the working day, and it was solidly joined together after only 24 hours. This is why surgeons use only the sharpest scalpels for surgery.

Preserving food freshness and nutritional content is a huge bonus resulting from using razor sharp blades. The sharper a blade is when used to prepare food, the less cells are crushed or damaged during the cut. The cleaner the cuts, the longer it will take the produce to turn an unappetizing color, and more nutrition is retained. Sharp blades will allow more onion cutting before your eyes get irritated from sulfuric acid.

Precision is another reason for keeping blades super sharp. Among many tasks that benefit from a truly sharp blade, two come to mind. One is removing those annoying labels from the collar of t-shirts (couldn't they make labels from soft cotton or something?). To remove those pesky things, I hold the shirt between my knees and I gently pull the label away from the shirt. I just touch the sharp edge, angled towards the label on the stitching between it and shirt, and off it comes. Anything less than a scary sharp edge will usually result in a nicked shirt. Another example is when I need to trim little hang nails. A dull blade tears at them and causes bleeding, but a thin sharp edge cuts them off precisely and helps prevent another hang nail from forming in the same place.

Razor sharp edges result in smoothness of the cut surface. When trimming the stems of vase flowers, a sharp blade will result in a smooth cut that will allow the flowers to draw more water, keeping them fresh longer. When wrapping presents, wrapping paper can be easily cut with a sharp blade without tearing or ripping and is way faster than using scissors. Braided cord or string won't unravel when cut by a sharp blade.

So we can see that there are more reasons than most people think of that justify super sharp edges. I trust that by now, you desire to have sharp knives, and in the following tips, I'll help you accomplish that goal.

Blade Tip 1: What Dulls Knives? How to Extend the Performance of Your Blades

You might be surprised to find out that knives go dull for reasons that most people don't even know about! Knowing what causes blades to get dull, outside of legitimate use, will help you get more performance out of a blade between sharpening. Be sure to read my generous offer at the end of this essay to sharpen your knives for you, so you too can experience sharpness like you have never experienced before.

Let's examine the three most common types of blades: 1) kitchen cutlery, 2) pocket folding knives and 3) hunting/camp knives.

The most common cause of blade dulling in the kitchen is knife abuse. By abuse I mean putting the knife in a dishwasher (where the edge bangs against other silverware), storing the knife loose in a drawer with other cutlery and utensils, laying the knife on a cluttered counter top (where the edge will bang against ceramic plates etc.) and dropping the knife into the kitchen sink when done using it. Other abuses are cutting food on a ceramic plate, opening UPS packages with your fine kitchen blade (Yes, I admit to have done this once or twice...) and prying frozen food out of it's container with the tip of the blade. No doubt, abuse comes in other forms as well.

Even before you learn to properly sharpen blades, you can help keep your knives sharp by avoiding the above abuse to your blades. Just remember, anything hard will dull a blade.

Common causes for a folding knife to dull include many of the above, but usually the biggest culprit is overtaxing the design parameters of the knife. What I mean is that most folding knives are designed for light and precise cutting chores, not for heavy duty chopping and slashing, despite what many advertisers claim! Sure, you can use a folder for hard use (putting undue 'wear and tear' on the knife that will ultimately shorten the usefulness of your knife) but you can clearly see that the blade will get dull the first time you use it for chopping and slashing. Same goes for digging in the dirt, scraping gasket material off of engine blocks, and using the blade tip as a screwdriver.

Most of the above is obvious, but your folding blade can get dull as a result of getting dirty and dusty in your pocket! Wiping the dirt and dust off the blade results in some of the dirt and dust (which is often very hard) rubbing against the edge of the blade, thus wearing at the edge and contributing to it's dullness. This is an incremental contributor. Keep it from getting dirty, or leave it dirty!

Carbon steel blades and carbon core laminated blades can get dull without use just by oxidation of the edge. Keeping the blades lightly oiled with either modern chemical oil or non-toxic natural oil is the answer. Some chemical oils preserve the blade longer (not "better") but prevent you from enjoying a slice of apple (or cheese etc.) because your blade was covered in WD-40!

Hunting/Camp knives can dull for all or some of the above reasons, but most hunting knives fall victim to something altogether different; neglect due to pre-conceived notions as to the purpose of the knife. Hunting/Camp knife owners often subconsciously assume that the larger blade has more cutting power, and wrongfully conclude that the larger blades don't need the cautious care that smaller, thinner blades do. Remember, this topic is about how you can keep your blades from getting dull prematurely.

My ultimate goal is to encourage you to learn how to sharpen blades yourself (Hey, you will see that it's not as difficult as you think!), but keeping your blades as sharp as possible for as long as possible is a great skill to know.

Blade Tip 2: The Three-Finger Test for Blade Sharpness 

In your first FREE Knife Maintenance tip, I discussed some reasons why knives get dull, and what to do to prevent edges from getting dull prematurely. In your second FREE tip you'll discover the quickest and most accurate way to see if a blade is as sharp as possible. At the end of the essay, read my incredible offer to you to get set up for hand sharpening with the best equipment available anywhere in the world for a whopping discount.

There are many conventional methods of testing blade sharpness.  One of the most common is to scrape the thumb of the left hand from right to left over the edge of an upward pointed blade. Another test is to see if a blade will shave hairs off of the forearm or slice newspaper. Herein lies a problem as a dull knife with a burr can pass the first test, and a buffed knife (using a motorized buffing machine) can pass the second test of shaving. However, the buffed knife can usually be much sharper.  Buffing of the blade results in an edge that resembles the tip of a ballpoint pen microscopically; the edge is round where a hand-sharpened blade will have a completely triangular cross-section.

Another thing that deserves mentioning is the controversial debate between what experts call a "smooth edge" vs. a "toothed edge." The usual conclusion to this debate is that each type of edge will perform a certain cutting task better. I claim that the ideal "scary sharp" edge is one which is triangular in cross section, has microscopic teeth which give the blade "bite" and will also shave hair and slice newspaper with abandon. This kind of "scary sharpness" can easily be detected with the human fingers.

The technique used is as follows: 

• The blade's handle is held in the right hand of a right-handed person, close to the body, with the tip of the blade pointed to the left and the edge facing downwards.

• The thumb of the left hand is placed on the spine (or back) of the blade for safety and the first 3 fingers of the hand are pressed together side by side.  This adds an element of safety, as surface pressure from the blade will be distributed over a larger area.  Additionally, there are more nerve endings available to send messages to the brain. (Consider the sensitivity of the nerves of 3 fingers compared to the thumb.)

• The 3 fingertips are brought into contact with the blade's edge, and ever so gently, you attempt to slide the fingers not across, but along the edge of the blade. The blade is tested this way along all parts of the edge.

• A totally dull edge will allow the fingertips to slide back and forth. No sense of danger will be perceived. A buffed blade that shaves will also allow the fingertips to slide, albeit the fingers will sense that the edge has a thin cross-section and the brain will receive the message "don't push too hard."

• At a certain point of applied pressure, the round buffed edge would break the surface tension of the skin, resulting in a cut; but the brain will tell you to stop before that happens.

Blade Tip 3: The Six-Step Sharpening Procedure

All cutting tools known to man work more efficiently as tools when they are as sharp as they can be. Most professionals who use cutting tools understand the importance of this statement. However, it is an unfortunate fact that at the domestic level, this simple statement of truth, that which our great-grandparents took for granted, has been mostly forgotten. The blades we use at home for food preparation (kitchen knives) and for hobby (pocketknives, hunting knives) remain dangerously dull resulting in inefficient tools which often lead to frustration for the user.

The good news is that this situation can be remedied if the blade user is committed to acquiring the skills needed to keep their domestic blades sharp. The information presented here is intended not only to provide the technical information on how to sharpen "working knives" but more importantly to provide some inspiration and motivation to do it, the elements which when lacking keep us from doing something that we think we would like to do.

I trust that all audiences will benefit from my efforts because it is these last two elements, inspiration and motivation, which I have really focused on in my presentation of material.

How to sharpen a blade

When we understand that no blade is as sharp as a freshly sharpened blade, and that a blade used even once is duller then when it was freshly sharpened, then we can assume that all blades which have been used will benefit from proper sharpening. Other methods that can be used to determine whether a blade needs sharpening are

1. The blade doesn't cut like is used to or should do.

2. It feels dull using the 3-finger edge test. 

3. Light reflects off the edge when the edge is viewed under a good light source.

Once you have determined that a blade needs sharpening, the following procedures are recommended to obtain a sharp blade.

Rust removal, cleaning

With use or with neglect, blades and their handles can become dirty, soiled, stained, food ridden or rusty. The first step is to clean the whole tool so as to a) improve its overall condition and b) enable the owner to examine the blade better so as to make more accurate assessments necessary for following steps.

Cleaning can be accomplished with hot water and soap on the handle, if any, and a soft abrasive cleanser on the blade. The blade is placed flat on a stable surface, then cleanser is applied and rubbed back and forth with a rag until clean. Special attention is taken not to cut oneself during this operation. The cleanser will dull a sharpened blade. Therefore, this step must be done before sharpening the edge of the blade (step 5, 6)

Straightening

One must check to see if the blade is straight. There is no such thing as a "perfectly straight" blade, however, any good quality blade, one worth sharpening that is, should "look" straight when examined by an educated eye. The proper way to examine a blade is to view the blade from the tip of the blade by holding the handle away from you. In this manner the whole of the blade is in view. . If the blade's handle is held close to the examiner with the blade pointing away, some parts of the blade are hidden from view.

The blade is first examined edge down, then edge up. Lastly, the handle is held in the right hand, blade is pointed to the left and the cutting edge is angled towards the viewer's eyes. This enables the examiner to see whether the blade is twisted at all, like a propeller. A minor twisted blade should be repaired or replaced. Likewise, with a bent blade.

Blade profile and adjustments

Blades are occasionally abused or pushed beyond the limitations of their edge geometry (refer to step 4) and the results are broken blade tips or chipped edges. These need to be assessed. If the damage is minor, i.e., less than 1-2mm (1/16") or so, then usually it can be left the way it is to be eventually corrected due to repeated sharpening sessions.

If the damage is major however, it will most likely hamper the blade's performance unless corrected. Such a blade needs to be re-ground before continuing. Major repair is best done by a professional who has water-cooled grinding equipment.

Blade thickness, blade geometry (Secondary edge)

As a rule of thumb, all blades should be as thin as possible and have as acute an edge as possible but be able to withstand repeated use.

With the exception of axes and bone chopping cleavers, most blades are too thick in cross-section and have edges which are too obtuse. This is why they don't cut well even with a "shaving sharp" honed edge. Poorly designed blades, under the pretense of being built "tough" are delivered to the consumer this way from the start. However, even properly made blades with appropriate thickness and good edge geometry will become too thick and the edge too obtuse after repeated primary edge grinding and honing alone. The edge progresses up into thicker metal as the thin metal is eventually ground away. If a blade has the proper thickness and edge geometry for the task at hand, the goal is to maintain these characteristics through proper sharpening methods.

There are two ways to determine if the blade is too thick or not. (Actually, you could just assume it to be so, and you would be correct 99 percent of the time!) The first method is to use the blade to cut something after the edge is sharpened and honed. Does it cut its intended material easily, or does it tend to "stick" in the cut. Does a kitchen knife slice easily to the bottom of the carrot or potato, or do they split while the blade is only half way through? General observation is the first method.

The second method is to hold the handle in one hand while carefully pinching the back of the blade with the thumb and forefinger of the other hand. The thumb and forefinger are then gently slid down to the cutting edge slowly. After doing this repeatedly with several blades, the fingers accurately transmit messages to the brain of relative thickness and edge graduations. Blades considered to cut well and efficiently can be used as a gauge to compare to other blades. This is a highly accurate method of determining blade thickness and edge geometry once the skill is acquired.

If the blade needs to be thinned, this can be accomplished by laying the secondary edge, (the part of the blade directly behind the primary edge, or cutting edge) flat on a coarse sharpening medium (i.e., 600~1000 grit water stone), moving the blade back and forth to remove metal from the thick areas. All areas of the blade are worked in a systematic order until the desired geometry is accomplished on both sides of the blade. Mentally dividing the length of both sides of the blade into overlapping sections, and then grinding each section in succession usually helps. Each section is ground 5 times back and forth and then visually examined before moving on to the next section. In this way, the blade is not likely to be "over sharpened "as only those sections needing more metal removal will be re-worked.

In general, metal will be removed the quickest in areas where the greatest pressure is applied. Thus, applying pressure towards the primary edge removes more metal just behind the primary edge and pressure applied more towards the spine of the blade tends to improve the secondary edge geometry significantly by removing metal where it is the thickest.

The scratches in the blade, due to the coarse grinding, can be polished out by repeating the same procedure as above with a finer grinding medium (i.e. a 2000 ~ 8000 grit water stone). Often this polishing step improves rust resistance and reduces cutting friction of the blade.

5 Grinding an edge (primary edge)

This is the phenomenon that most people associate with sharpening.

While some specialized blades are sharpened down to an edge in the above step #4, (i.e., the secondary edge and the primary edge are one in the same) most blades have a primary edge ground on them so that the blade will "withstand repeated use."

Grinding the primary edge is accomplished by repeating the same procedures as in step 4, but with the difference being to raise the secondary edge of the blade off of the sharpening medium slightly.

Many authorities on sharpening offer suggestions as to what angle is best in terms of degrees (i.e. 5° or 10°) or an inclusive angle for both sides of the blade (i.e. 10° or 20°). While not bad advice if used as a guideline only, there are two pitfalls to this way of thinking. First, most people who endeavor to sharpen blades have no adequate way to measure such angles while sharpening, let alone maintain such angles while the blade is in motion against the sharpening medium. Secondly, these angles do not take into account the huge influence of metallurgy and the requirements of different cutting tasks. Namely, a blade of superior steel, which has been heat treated properly, can be sharpened at a lower angle for a given task than a blade of lesser quality.

Therefore, let experience be your guide. Raise the secondary edge from the sharpening medium just enough so that as you grind a primary edge, you can just barely see a new bevel being formed when examined in the light. The advice "raise it just a hair" holds true here. Placing a coin on the sharpening medium and then placing the blade spine on the edge of the coin is one expedient reference that can also be used as a guide. For wide blades, or for a more "beefy" primary edge, 2 or 3 coins could be stacked together for reference. The coins are removed from the medium before the blade is set in motion.

The concept here is to have as thin as a primary edge as possible and then observe the edge occasionally as it is used to monitor its performance. If the edge shows the signs of damage, such as miniature chips or curls at the edge, it can be immediately reground at a slightly steeper angle. (Which is why we always keep a sharpening medium handy when possible.)

The blade's primary edge is ground in sections on both sides until the bevels meet in the center along the whole length of the blade. The edge is then tested using the 3-finger technique.

Invariably, as you sharpen a blade, free hand without the use of stabilizing devices, there will be minor rocking of the wrist despite the best efforts to hold the blade at a constant angle to the sharpening medium. By keeping angles low to begin with, your achieved angle will be low or "just right" versus just right and "too high" (obtuse) an angle.

The object of learning to sharpen free hand is so that a) you will not be dependant on a device for your results, enabling you to sharpen anywhere anytime and b) there is no artificial "skill eliminator" keeping you from directly experiencing the mechanics of sharpening thus enabling you to acquire a skill and pursue mastery of sharpening.

6 Honing the primary edge

I also refer to this step as "stropping the edge." First the primary edge will be stropped with the coarse medium and then with the finer medium.

While the grinding procedures in steps 4 and 5 have been a back and forth motion (note: for steps 4 and 5 any grinding motion such as circular or left to right can be used so log as metal is being removed from where you intend) it is very important that all grinding in this last step be done with the primary edge moving away from the grinding medium rather than moving into it. Although barely visible to the eye, the surface of the sharpening medium is covered in metal particles, particles of the medium and surface imperfections that you want your blade riding over rather than the edge bumping into, which would detract from your desired sharpening results.

Imagine trying to shave a postal stamp off of the sharpening medium. Now, move the blade in exactly the opposite manner, keeping the same angle as in step 5. Start with the tip on one corner of the stone and move the blade backwards and sideways at the same time so that you end up with the heel of the blade at the opposite corner of the stone on the same side.

Five such "stropping" strokes are drawn on either side of the blade. Small metal particles that remain on the edge are called the "burr." The burr is removed by drawing the edge, from the heel of the blade to the tip, through a soft piece of wood, twice, under the weight of the blade only. No pressure is applied. Then each side is stropped alternatively twice using less pressure.

This procedure is then repeated using a finer sharpening medium (i.e. 2000 - 8000 grit stone).

Blade Tip 4: Why Some Blades Perform Better Than Others

Those essays help the blade aficionado understand what makes certain blades perform so well in their designed task, namely, cutting. By examining blade sharpening, and practicing the six-step sharpening procedure, we can understand the criteria that determine great blades through a process of reverse engineering. For example, when we encounter a blade that has a primary edge that is very thick and sharpened at a very obtuse angle, or when the secondary edge doesn't extend very far up the sides of a knife that is made from very thick bar stock, we can surmise that it won't cut very keenly.

The cutlery industry seems to follow the notion that a knife has to be thick enough, and strong enough to withstand the worse abuse, at a sacrifice of cutting performance.

My philosophy is that a blade should be designed for cutting

My rule of thumb is that all blades should be as thin as possible, but still hold up to repeated normal use.

So by now you will have gathered that the geometry of the blade is very important to cutting performance. The other criteria for high performance cutlery, in order of importance, is as follows:

1. Blade geometry

2. Ease of maintenance

3. Durability

4. Edge sharpness

5. Edge holding ability

The ease at which a blade can be maintained at top performance is vitally important and thus is second on our list, ahead of sharpness and edge retention, which may come as a surprise to some. Namely, we want to be able to re-sharpen a blade easily. If two different blades were equal in edge retention, and the same technique for sharpening was used, the blade that sharpened the quickest is better.

Durability means that the knife, both handle and blade, must not fail or break during normal use.

Please note that while not listed in the criteria above, it is assumed that ergonomics of a knife are the most important consideration of high performance cutlery. Good ergonomics are achieved when the handle and blade are designed to effectively and efficiently transfer the power and control of the users hand to the edge of the blade.

Blade Tip 5: Is That Blade an Asset or a Liability?

All of us buy and acquire things for various reasons. Sometimes we genuinely need something for our day to day activities, such as a toothbrush to brush our teeth, and other times we purchase items simply because we desire to have them.

I think that either motivation to purchase is legitimate if the buyer stops to consider the Asset/Liability concept. Considering the following questions will help you determine the value of each knife you have.

1. Is this for day-to-day use?

2. Is this for an investment?

If you spend X amount of money on a knife purchase, and you use the knife several times a week, or even daily, then the cost-per-use of that knife is less and less the more you use it. For example, if you buy a $100 knife, and use it 100 times per year, for ten years, then your cost is 10 cents or $0.10 each time you use it. On the other hand, if you use that same knife just a couple of times during ownership, it could cost you upwards of $50 per use.

Keep in mind that a knife that is used even just once is no longer in mint condition, thus subtracting greatly from its value on the second hand market. This brings us to the second question, is the knife purchased for an investment?

Some knives, especially those made by prolific and highly sought after custom knife makers, can be sold on the second hand market for more than the knives were bought for. Usually the price difference corresponds to the passage of time. Wouldn't it be great to receive 20% interest on a knife investment over a couple of years! Let's say that your $100 knife, never used, is sold for $120. You made $20 profit&ldots;or did you? You see, every time you moved that knife around your home from one storage spot to the next, every time you took it out and cleaned, it cost you time and effort. Surely your time and effort are worth something in terms of dollars and cents. I'd argue that your profit in this case was much less than the $20 you thought you made.

So where does that leave us?

Is your knife working for you, or are you working for it? 

Knives that are constantly being used, pay for themselves, and are an asset to you. Knives that are carefully chosen for investment purposes might prove to be an asset over time. But the knife that is bought on impulse and then rarely used, it is clearly a liability to you&ldots;unless you are able to positively answer the following question in the affirmative.

3. Do I just have to have it regardless of the cost to me?

If you answered yes to that question, that's OK too, so long as you realize you are paying to pursue your hobby. By the way, having a hobby is one of the greatest expressions of freedom, and freedom is never free!

Blade Tip 6: Storing Your Cutlery Long Term

Even in the best of times, sometimes a person can't avoid the necessity of storing his personal belongings for a prolonged period of time. Perhaps he is off to study away from home, sent away on an out of town work assignment or simply is between permanent living accommodations. Whatever the cause, cardboard boxes are procured, and the belongings packed away in them. Some of the packed things will likely remain in the exact same condition months or years later (books, pottery) and some might not (wool clothes, devices including batteries, etc.).

This brings us to the question for the owner of more knives than he can take with him: What is going to happen to my knives if I store them, and what can I do to protect them?

There is both good news and bad news for the person asking this question.

The good news is that, short of a natural disaster or high moisture, the knives will still be there when the boxes are reopened, more or less in the same shape as when they were packed away. Knives are fairly permanent things, and it takes a lot to make a knife "perish."

The bad news is that thanks to the second law of thermodynamics, commonly known as entropy, all materials on earth are constantly breaking down into their most basic elements. As complicated as that sounds, it simply means that steel will rust, brass and nickel silver will tarnish, and handle materials will age. How much aging will happen while the knives are packed away is anybody's guess, but one thing is certain, it will be more than if the knives were being looked at and tended to every couple of weeks or so.

So, in conclusion, try to avoid packing your knife collection in storage if you can; maybe you have a dear trusted friend or family member who likes knives as much as you and who would be willing to baby-sit them while you are gone. Have them give them a "once over" every month or so until you come back. Ideally, the knives would remain in better condition that packing them away.

If that solution isn't feasible in your case, then here are some suggestions on how to pack your knives away and still feel like you can sleep soundly at night:

1. Always remove knives from leather sheathes

2. Treat leather sheathes with a leather-preserving product and store in a separate box from knives

3. Clean the blades of knives with acetone, being careful to not get acetone on any non-metal part of the knife

4. Oil or wax the blades with favorite product, applying product with a clean towel or tissue and NOT with fingers

5. Wrap the blades in a clean piece of glossy color newsprint (not black ink pages)

6. Tape newsprint in place, but not directly to the steel

7. Holding the wrapped blade, wipe the rest of the knife with preferred oil or wax product, taking special care to reach all the 'nooks and crannies'. Use a cotton swab in the tight places if necessary

8. Wrap the whole knife in something soft of your choice; clean towel, newsprint, bubble wrap, etc.

9. Place carefully into a box, and mark the box on all sides indicating there are knives in it.

10. Try not to lose any sleep while you are gone.

Blade Tip 7: How to Sharpen Anywhere, With Anything

I have explained in detail how to achieve razor sharp cutlery using simple sharpening stones. The technique I use is proven and very effective. What, though, are we to do if we do not have our stones handy and need to sharpen a knife?

The first thing you need to do when you find yourself in this situation of peril is sit down, relax and don't panic! Just kidding. All you have to do is look around for something that is harder than tempered steel.  How about the rocks under your feet, or the curb in the driveway, or a cement foundation? Some other things to consider are the backsides of pottery and ceramics, sandpaper, the diamond file on your Leatherman Tool or a carbide bit from another cutting tool.

I once refurbished the edge on my neck knife using an old 2" x 4" that had been trampled into the ground for years. The dirt that was imbedded into the wood made a great abrasive. The long flat surface made it easy to make long sharpening strokes and sped up the job to under a minute.

Once you have found your "sharpening system," the trick is to only sharpen by using the 'stropping' technique as explained earlier. Here it is again:

• Stropping the Edge

 It is very important that all grinding in this technique be done with the edge moving away from the grinding medium rather than moving into it.

 Imagine trying to shave a postal stamp off of the sharpening medium.  Now, move the blade in exactly the opposite manner.  If the sharpener is too small to move the blade against it, it will be necessary to immobilize the blade and move the sharpener.   

Strop both sides of the blade. Small metal particles that remain on the edge are called the "burr." The burr is removed by drawing the edge, from the heel of the blade to the tip, through a soft piece of wood, twice, under the weight of the blade only. No pressure is applied. Then each side is stropped alternatively twice using less pressure.

If you are satisfied with the new edge according to the three-finger test of blade sharpness, you can try further refinement using a piece of cardboard or newspaper. Several backward passes on the paper should give you a hair shaving sharp edge.

Blade Tip 8: Storing Your Cutlery Long Term

 Even in the best of times, sometimes a person can't avoid the necessity of storing his personal belongings for a prolonged period of time. Perhaps he is off to study away from home, sent away on an out-of-town work assignment, or is simply between permanent living accommodations. Whatever the cause, cardboard boxes are procured and the belongings packed away in them. Some of the packed things will likely remain in the exact same condition months or years later (books, pottery), and some might not (wool clothes, devices including batteries, etc.).

This brings us to the question for the owner of more knives than he can take with him: What is going to happen to my knives if I store them, and what can I do to protect them?

There is both good news and bad news for the person asking this question.

The good news is that, short of a natural disaster or high moisture, the knives will still be there when the boxes are reopened, more or less in the same shape as when they were packed away. Knives are fairly permanent things and it takes a lot to make a knife "perish."

The bad news is that thanks to the second law of thermodynamics, commonly known as entropy, all materials on earth are constantly breaking down into their most basic elements. As complicated as that sounds, it simply means that steel will rust, brass and nickel silver will tarnish, and handle materials will age. How much aging will happen while the knives are packed away is anybody's guess, but one thing is certain, it will be more than if the knives were being looked at and tended to every couple of weeks or so.

So, in conclusion, try to avoid packing your knife collection in storage if you can. Maybe you have a dear trusted friend or family member who likes knives as much as you and who would be willing to baby-sit them while you are gone. Have them give them a "once over" every month or so until you come back. Ideally, the knives would remain in better condition than packing them away.

If that solution isn't feasible in your case, then here are some suggestions on how to pack your knives away and still feel like you can sleep soundly at night:

Always remove knives from leather sheaths. 

Treat leather sheaths with a leather-preserving product and store in a separate box from knives. 

Clean the blades of knives with acetone, being careful to not get acetone on any non-metal part of the knife.

Oil or wax the blades with your favorite product, applying product with a clean towel or tissue and NOT with fingers.

Wrap the blades in a clean piece of glossy color newsprint (not black ink pages). 

Tape newsprint in place, but not directly to the steel. 

Holding the wrapped blade, wipe the rest of the knife with preferred oil or wax product, taking special care to reach all the "nooks and crannies." Use a cotton swab in the tight places, if necessary.

Wrap the whole knife in something soft of your choice -- clean towel, newsprint, bubble wrap, etc. 

Place carefully into a box and mark the box on all sides indicating there are knives in it. 

Our 5 most popular YouTube videos:

Knife Sharpening – Getting a knife scary sharp!
Shaving with a Japanese Machete
Sharpening a knife on a concrete block... and cardboard!
World Record Kuro-uchi Speed Forging
Skill, not Tools

For a list of available instructional videos, contact: 

Carter Cutlery
PO Box 307
981 Fairway Lane
Vernonia, OR 97064
503/429-0447
murray@cartercutlery.com
http://www.cartercutlery.com


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