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Noob needs guidance sharpening knives

Discussion in 'Slicers, Grinders, Tools, Equipment' started by rohfan2112, Dec 18, 2013.

  1. I recently bought a Smith's Tri-Hone sharpener, which is 3 stones--coarse, medium and fine. Using them, I was able to sharpen a dull knife with the tri-hone and I figured a higher grit and a strop would make my knife even sharper. I was wrong, and now I'm in the process of trying to figure out what it is that I'm doing wrong. Suffice to say I'm very discouraged at this point and am considering something like a Lansky system or similar but I want to get this right.

    When I use the new stones, the 1000, then the 6000, the edge of the knife seems extremely smooth but it barely cuts paper. I used a homemade strop loaded with green compound and the edge of the knife gets nice and shiny but I'm missing something somewhere. The edge almost feels rounded. Is that what is called a "layover?"

    I'm doing one (or a combo) of the following wrong:
    1--too much pressure
    2--angle not steady enough
    3--knife edge terrible to begin with
    4--strop is rounding off the edge

    Has anyone been where I'm at and have found a solution? I'm very interested if anyone would like to share their sharpening journey. Thanks!
  2. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Epic Pitmaster Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Yep, I have been where you are at. Below is the fix I used. Four years old and knives you can shave with...JJ

  3. wade

    wade Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I have used a similar model of Chefs Choice sharpener too for several years and find it sharpens very well. You should not need to use the coarse setting too often though.
  4. chipotleq

    chipotleq Smoke Blower

    Sharpening is an art. As of now I am still trying to learn to sharpen a carbon steel straight razor and been doing it for a couple of years. Sharpening a large knife is much easier. Few questions I have for you;

    1- what type of steel are you working with

    2- how damaged is your edge

    3. are your stones flat, meaning they have to be completely flat to do a good job.

    Dont get discouraged, sharpening is a learning process and once you get the hang of it, you will be able to sharpen anything. Really skilled sharpeners can put an edge on a blade with concrete and newspaper.
  5. foamheart

    foamheart Epic Pitmaster OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    First unless you are cutting newspaper with the knife, there is no sense using it as a gauge. Knives' edges need to be constantly re-set, not a major sharpening, that's what a steel is for. Its readjusts the edge so its not literally bent out of shape. Having an edge you can shave with is good if you are shaving, not so good for cutting meat. A thin edged blade (small angle of attack) is sharp but doesn't hold its edge. You give up some of the sharpness for a greater durability by increasing the sharpening angle.

    The sharpening device is a great tool until you become more proficient at sharpening. I started sharpening as a kid. Long before Boy Scouts taught me more. My Pop's favorite phrase was "A dull knife is like and unloaded gun, dangerous and useless!"

    Practice first with your stone, then use the device when you get too frustrated. One day the light comes on and you just know. Then you'll forget again....LOL Sometimes ya push, sometimes ya pull, and some steel you pull backwards. Then you think you know, and decide to finish with a ceramic stone and have to start all over again...LOL

    Don't let it bother you. Everyone gets snake bite sometimes. Biggest thing to remember is that a really good knife isn't a good investment until you can find a way to sharpen it. My experience is the better the knife the harder it is to sharpen because of the steel. Low carbon steel are best to learn on, I actually prefer mild steel as a pocket knife. My first Buck knife nearly drove me crazy trying to sharpen it till a friend showed me a better way.
  6. chipotleq

    chipotleq Smoke Blower

    The newspaper would be used as a finishing strop, given the abrasive microns particles found on ink are well suited for stropping carbon steel
  7. foamheart

    foamheart Epic Pitmaster OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I was referring to his statement that his "barely cuts paper", with his sharpened blade. I have some leather strops around here but only used them long ago with a straight razor. Never attempted to maintain that fine an edge upon a cutting/ slicing blade and definitely not a chopping knife.

    But its just my opinion. And we all know what opinions are like.

    No offense was meant.
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2013
  8. I have a Chefs Choice sharpener like Chef Jimmy J's, it works very well. I also agree with Wade that the coarse grit is seldom needed.. I use a round ceramic rod similar to a steel to touch up once in a while. A sharp knife is a pleasure to use and it's well worth while to learn how to get your knives sharp and keep them that way.
  9. 1-I assume you mean what kind of knife? They're mostly the run of the mill knives that cost under $50. They're all stainless, don't know how much carbon content. If you mean the actual steel, it's metal and has grooves in it top to bottom. Don't know the name brand.

    2-They're nicely damaged.

    3-No idea. I guess I have to check that out. What do you recommend?
  10. chipotleq

    chipotleq Smoke Blower

    By steel i meant the knife steel. So if you have a cheap stainless, you have a nice setup to sharpen those. Just keep in mind that freehand sharpening takes practice since it is important to manually grind down the edge at consistent angles on both sides. If you have a steady wrist, it should be no problem and eventually youll get it. If you dont havr steady hands than any of the auto guided systems will work fine or even the electrical grinder too. But if you can sharpen free hand with stones, then youll get a better edge on your knifes.

    First you must apply medium pressure on the cheap stainless blades. The weight of the blade against the stones plus a bit pressure is all you need. You must use the coarse and tackle the knife aggresively on one side only until you feel you have developed a burr on the other side of the edge. Give it a good minute of agressive grinding on one side and feel with your nail or thumb the burr. Once you have developed a good burr, them grind it off by sharpening the other side until you develop yet another burr but on the opposite side. Do that until you have a nice cutting edge and then do single strikes at the stones on each side until that burr turns into a fine edge. You should have a nice cutting edge on your knife already and good good enough to cut meat. The serrartions will be rough but sharp.

    Second you can continue the even strokes on each side with the medium grit if tou want a smoother edge. The medium is good for overall prep work. Only finish with the fine if you want to shave with your knife, but for meat prep medium is all you need.

    Stainless will not keep a keen edge you must regring every other month or so if you use every weekend. Also remember to hone with a grooved steel before every use, just a few light strokes
  11. mdboatbum

    mdboatbum Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    The 2 most important things I've found with sharpening have been keeping a consistent angle and raising a burr. You will just get a feel for the angle, but at first you might try holding your thumb under the back of the knife as a guide. That will give you a pretty steep edge depending on your thumb, but it'll give you a consistent one. As for the burr, keep feeling the edge opposite the one you're sharpening (IE: the top when you're sharpening the bottom on the stone) with your fingernail until you just feel a burr all along the edge. You'll be running your nail in the direction of the edge from the spine and off the edge. If you're not getting a burr, you're just getting a pretty, polished edge but not actually sharpening the knife. My guess is that if you're getting a polished edge but a dull knife, you're at too shallow of an angle.

    Once you get a burr on one side, do the other side until you raise a burr and then proceed to the next finer stone and start all over again. On the last stone (or strop) you really are just polishing, so you can alternate sides with each stroke to keep things even and polish off any remaining burr.

    The Lansky system works ok, but it's tricky for blades over 7" or so and also for flexible blades. Also the included stones are not great for hard stainless steel. With a tri-hone you should be able to get a shaving sharp edge. Then maintain it with a honing steel and you should only have to sharpen once a year.

    The Chef's choice 130 is what it is. It'll give you a sharp knife but it removes a LOT of metal, so just be careful. There is a learning curve with it too, so plan on sacrificing an old or cheap knife while you're getting the hang of it. I didn't realize how destructive it was until I'd ruined my Henckel's chef knife.
  12. gamehawg

    gamehawg Newbie

    The worksharp knife sharpening system is superb.  

    They have a new 'Ken Onion' version that is highly rated, I have the regular one and am quite pleased with it.  
  13. jirodriguez

    jirodriguez Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I used to hand sharpen my knives with a stone, but am now lazy and use a Chef's Choice electic sharpener similar to the one Chef Jimmy showes above. I run my knives over the rough stone only once or twice a year, but I run them over the medium and fine settings once a month. That combined with using a sharpening steel before each use keeps my knives very sharp and ready to use all the time.

    If you need a good decent knife that won't break the bank I suggest the Victorinox Forschner knives. They have a decent enough steel to hold and edge and be sharpened repeatedly, but they don't look as fancy as some of the "big name" block sets.
  14. handymanstan

    handymanstan Smoking Fanatic Group Lead

    I have used a whetstone for at least the last 25 years and I keep it in the toilet tank to keep it wet and save water. I have several sharpeners but I can grab this and do a knife faster then setting up a sharpener.  I can not convince my wife that using my Knifes on the glass cutting board is not a good thing. 

  15. timberjet

    timberjet Master of the Pit

    Oh man stan that sends chills up my spine just thinking about that sound of metal on glass cutting boards. yuk.
  16. timberjet

    timberjet Master of the Pit

    I worked in a restaurant when I was younger and there was a very fussy chef there who schooled me on how not to dull a kitchen knife so quickly. Never scrape whatever you are cutting up off the board with the edge of that knife. Never use a glass cutting board. Always use a steel or ceramic to buff up the edge before and after use. That is about all I remember though. Last year I butchered a ton of game for friends and really learned how to use a stone. One more note is watch your local thrift stores and yard sales for good carbon steel knives. You know the ones with the wood handles and are not shiny. Those suckers really get sharp and are easy to maintain. My grandmother passed away last year and I got some good old knives that have probably been in the family since the old country. Man they are sharp.
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2013
  17. X2 on the WorkSharp.  I love it for sharpening up the knives around the house plus the machete and many other edged tools, including scissors and yard tools.

    However, for my hunting/skinning knives I like to keep a very precise angle.  I use a Smith, much like the Lansky, for those knives.  The WorkSharp doesn't put an "angle" like we are all used to.  It kind of rounds the angle down to the edge of the knife.  Works great and comes with a couple of different guides to get different angles depending on what you plan on using the knife/tool for.
  18. Thanks for the above. I'll give it a shot and report back on this thread. In the meantime I think I have to get some better knives.
  19. daveomak

    daveomak Epic Pitmaster OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I like the belt sander in my shop for sharpening knives.... then a few strokes with the steel.... Crude, very crude....... but it works for me......
  20. glocksrock

    glocksrock Smoking Fanatic

    I use a Spyderco sharpmaker to sharpen all of my knives, it's really easy to use and get's them razor sharp. It's about $50 last time I looked, but it's worth every penny.