Razor Sharp Edgemaking System

Kevin Zito

KNIFE MAKER
I understand you can sharpen a knife on many tools some of which are very cheap. Of course you can use a concrete footpath, coffee cup, car window, mouse pad etc etc. For me sharpening has been one of the most frustrating parts of knife making. Spending many hours finishing a knife to the best I can get it and then putting that blade back to a belt sander and/or paper wheels caused me much angst. I’d often finish a knife and not sharpen for some time bacause I was fairly sure the bevel I would put on was going to be less than perfect visually. I also see a lot of people posting pictures of their finished knives with the comment - all finished, just needs an edge put on it. Makes me think I am not the only one who feels that level of nervousness.

Knifemaking like a lot of things is so great because there are many ways and costs to get to a final product. Sharpening is no different.
I hit it very lightly on 220 belts. Then I go to diamond croc sticks, then finer and finer sticks. I then move to the buffer very very lightly. I also use a strop sometimes. However, it will shave and look pretty good off the 220 belt.
 

Smallshop

KNIFE MAKER
I see from reading some of these links that there is a lot more science to a "perfect" edge than I realized. I suspect that some of my edges are "toothier" than I want. Thanks to Izafireman's links I feel like someone just hung up a dartboard...now I have a target.
 

izafireman

Well-Known Member
I see from reading some of these links that there is a lot more science to a "perfect" edge than I realized. I suspect that some of my edges are "toothier" than I want. Thanks to Izafireman's links I feel like someone just hung up a dartboard...now I have a target.
I know what you mean Ted. I also sharpen knives like Kevin with the belt method as above and again keeping the knives cool. I found that with some knives though for some reason I couldn't get them to a good level of sharpness, most likely something I was doing during the process maybe?

Bought the Wicked Edge which gets steel so sharp it is unbelievable.....but on fully hardened Elmax it is a nightmare, I am talking hours to sharpen a blade .75-..5mm edge to razor sharp.

Then I saw the method with water cooled wheels although it does the same sharpness as the Wicked Edge it is just so much faster and I don't get the odd cut which I tended to do with the Wicked Edge through loss of concentration as it took me so long.

My method once I get the hang of the Tormek and paper wheels will be to use that method for knife that have come off the belts at .75 to 1mm. Reason being I know the edges will be kept cool by the water, both bevels are even and it will in the long run save me on belts. But I will still be using both the belt method and the Wicked Edge for knives that need a touch up .

I note you comment about 'toothier' edge and concur with that as several months ago before I explored different sharpening routes I know my edges were toothier.
 

Smallshop

KNIFE MAKER
I know what you mean Ted. I also sharpen knives like Kevin with the belt method as above and again keeping the knives cool. I found that with some knives though for some reason I couldn't get them to a good level of sharpness, most likely something I was doing during the process maybe?

Bought the Wicked Edge which gets steel so sharp it is unbelievable.....but on fully hardened Elmax it is a nightmare, I am talking hours to sharpen a blade .75-..5mm edge to razor sharp.

Then I saw the method with water cooled wheels although it does the same sharpness as the Wicked Edge it is just so much faster and I don't get the odd cut which I tended to do with the Wicked Edge through loss of concentration as it took me so long.

My method once I get the hang of the Tormek and paper wheels will be to use that method for knife that have come off the belts at .75 to 1mm. Reason being I know the edges will be kept cool by the water, both bevels are even and it will in the long run save me on belts. But I will still be using both the belt method and the Wicked Edge for knives that need a touch up .

I note you comment about 'toothier' edge and concur with that as several months ago before I explored different sharpening routes I know my edges were toothier.
I think steel selection/blade geometry play a big part? I am using A-2 for my blades and LOVE it...seems to be the sweet spot (for me) of toughness/hardness at 61rc...but I struggle on the sharpening a bit.
I am going to get a bess tester...I really don't want to hear what it has to say...lol.

Between that and paper testing I will be able to develop a sharpening system.

You know how we all love researching steels....I read up a bit on Elmax and thought...this is the perfect steel...then I thought...Ted, If you can barely get A-2 sharp, what'll you do with Elmax....lol!

My goal of eventual semi-production knives does not allow for a 45 minute sharp job. I have much to learn....
 

John Wilson

Well-Known Member
I think it’s worth drawing a distinction between sharpening in general versus putting the initial edge on a new knife. In my experience they are different.

Trying to put the first edge on a knife can be maddening, regardless of which steel it is. My least favorite part of knife making. My experience is that this is a geometry/ edge thickness issue at its root, not so much a sharpening process problem.
 

izafireman

Well-Known Member
I think it’s worth drawing a distinction between sharpening in general versus putting the initial edge on a new knife. In my experience they are different.

Trying to put the first edge on a knife can be maddening, regardless of which steel it is. My least favorite part of knife making. My experience is that this is a geometry/ edge thickness issue at its root, not so much a sharpening process problem.
I agree completely with what you are saying. When I first started making knives I was leaving the edge to thick when off the belts and couldn't sharpen the knives to how I wanted. I then built up my confidence and went thinner, maybe 1mm thick edges, now I am doing edges as thin as I dare off the belts. The other issue which you state with geometry was also a weakness of mine and it wasn't until I sat down, did the research and looked into other sharpening methods and what I might be doing wrong. Now it has all clicked into place and with the help of people such as Vadim who sent me the lots of information, much of it in the links I added earlier, what I thought was sharp before is nothing like I am achieving now.

I sent out a knife a few months back that was Rizla paper sharp and yesterday it was sent back to me as the new owner put a nick in the edge which was no more than .5 mm. So I put the blade back in the Wicked Edge and a knife that took me a couple of hours to sharpen by hand on the W.E the first time was done extremely fast, which goes to show what you say about the first edge is very true.
 

izafireman

Well-Known Member
I think steel selection/blade geometry play a big part? I am using A-2 for my blades and LOVE it...seems to be the sweet spot (for me) of toughness/hardness at 61rc...but I struggle on the sharpening a bit.
I am going to get a bess tester...I really don't want to hear what it has to say...lol.

Between that and paper testing I will be able to develop a sharpening system.

You know how we all love researching steels....I read up a bit on Elmax and thought...this is the perfect steel...then I thought...Ted, If you can barely get A-2 sharp, what'll you do with Elmax....lol!

My goal of eventual semi-production knives does not allow for a 45 minute sharp job. I have much to learn....

Ted, before you spend cash on a BESS tester take a look at the pages of Vadim the guy who I added the links from. On his website he has a chart of sharpness using different paper types and hair etc. such as A4, Yellow pages and Rizla etc and what the equate to a number on the BESS scale. This is what I went by as I progressed in sharpening. So if I couldn't cut A4 consistently there is no point trying to cut the next level of paper which was Yellow pages and so on. I found the different papers gave me something to aim for and built my confidence up.

I would still try and do an Elmax knife if I were you, its a great steel, just remember it is designed to be extremely wear resistant and so when you make a blade take the edge down thin off the belts and keep it cool by constant water dipping. That way when you come to sharpen it your life will be so much easier ))
 

John Wilson

Well-Known Member
When I first started making knives I was leaving the edge to thick when off the belts and couldn't sharpen the knives to how I wanted. I then built up my confidence and went thinner, maybe 1mm thick edges, now I am doing edges as thin as I dare off the belts.
My experience has been exactly the same. In fact, it much better in my opinion to come off the belts TOO thin. You know when you've gotten to a zero-grind when the edge comes off a little ratty and obviously brittle. I used to be afraid of that, but no more. I came to realize that when this occurs, all you have to do is run the edge vertically on the belt for a single, very light pass and remove the edge. You end up with a perfectly uniform and straight edge which is just on the thin side of 1mm, just as you said.

Trying to put a sharp cutting edge on a blade when you've left a thick edge from the belts is an exercise in frustration. It seems like you sharpen endlessly only to end up with razor sharp areas and other spots that have no cutting edge at all. This is because during sharpening it is very easy to remove steel unevenly. Under magnification and strong light, you can actually see shiny spots in places along the edge. Wishful thinking leads a person to believe these are the burr, but in reality they are flat spots. There is no cutting edge at all in that area. The only real solution at that point is to go back to the grinder and regrind the edge again. If you don't, you'll try to sharpen your way to a good edge and you'll still be there an hour from now.

Sharpening a thick edge from the start is counterproductive to a knife's performance. The edge geometry will always be too thick, and it will only get thicker every time the knife is sharpened- unless you make a secondary bevel that goes 5mm up the bevel. It's that or regrind the whole primary bevel to thin the knife out. Conversely, an edge which begins too thin will get gradually thicker with each sharpening and get stronger as a result. A knife that begins life too sharp and a tiny bit too fragile will settle in very nicely with one or two sharpenings.

Keep in mind that I am referring to slicers and slicing performance. Camp choppers are a poor man's axe and fall outside of this discussion.
 

Smallshop

KNIFE MAKER
Ted, before you spend cash on a BESS tester take a look at the pages of Vadim the guy who I added the links from. On his website he has a chart of sharpness using different paper types and hair etc. such as A4, Yellow pages and Rizla etc and what the equate to a number on the BESS scale. This is what I went by as I progressed in sharpening. So if I couldn't cut A4 consistently there is no point trying to cut the next level of paper which was Yellow pages and so on. I found the different papers gave me something to aim for and built my confidence up.

I would still try and do an Elmax knife if I were you, its a great steel, just remember it is designed to be extremely wear resistant and so when you make a blade take the edge down thin off the belts and keep it cool by constant water dipping. That way when you come to sharpen it your life will be so much easier ))
good thinking. A tester would be nice...especially for adding a cert to any knife you sell. Yet, a scientific approach to papers will yield the same.

on grinding I am at the spot J Wilson is describing....going thinner on each blade....easier to sharpen...easier to burn getting there.

my kith knife was my thinnest grind yet....and was the easiest to sharpen. I had it shaving hair in minutes...a big step up for me.

i plan on reading and applying Vadim's info.
with knifemaking the learning curve....or curves is constant. The plateaus are longer this year...but here's the next uphill...lol.
 

Smallshop

KNIFE MAKER
I did order one...after looking at taxes it made sense for a write off...I think that a tester is less indicative of the overall sharpness than paper tests? With paper you can tell if an area of the blade doesn't cut as well. When it's nice and even on paper, then the bess tester allows you to give a cert....Am I correct in my thinking here?

I plan on making a small holding fixture to square up the blade for the test...to maximize accuracy.

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