Knife Sharpening by Papa J

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Sharpening at the kitchen sink.

I had heard the adage “a blunt knife is a dangerous knife” many times so a while ago I set out on the journey to discover how to get a knife scary sharp. At the heart of this quest was a simple matter of safety. Knives that require a lot of force to cut = higher risk of loss of control and increased injury.

We were given a set of knives and ceramic sharpening jig for our wedding and for those years it did the job. But as I looked online there were knives that were actually sharp and I knew that our knives were no comparison.
As with any new skill I want to learn I check out YouTube. Why? Because free information is preferable to paid information. Also, I am somewhat skeptical of ‘quality’ workmanship nowadays, so if I can do it myself I can guarantee a high level of quality. But despite the searching and trying to model the most popular techniques I was unable to get the same level of scariness.
That is until I came across Murray Carter’s YouTube Channel which made a strong case that this guy knew how to sharpen knives. Reading his bio at Carter Cutlery reveals he is a 17th generation Yoshimoto bladesmith and rated a Mastersmith by the American Bladesmith Society. His hand forged knives are truly works of art and a testament to the above credentials.
I decided to purchase the digital download “Blade Sharpening Fundamentals” and a 1000/6000 grit combination water stone.
Without a doubt, it is one of the most useful purchases I have ever made. The video is close to 3 hours in length, covers his 7 step procedure and includes real time sharpening on a variety of knives. The video ends with him shaving his arm with a knife he sharpened on a cinder block and cardboard!
On my first attempt I was able to get a better edge than ever before and since then have become more proficient and efficient.

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A sliver of paper cut with a freshly sharpened knife.

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Setup – 2 boards of ply glued and screwed together. The top board is about 20mm longer than the sink at both ends. The bottom board fits snugly into the sink. When they are fastened together they wedge snugly into the sink and the longer board stops it falling into the sink. A tea towel to reduce the stone moving. And the 1000/6000 grit combination water stone on top.

My wish is not to outline the technique, rather give credit where it is due and recommend you purchase the digital download for yourself. It is currently $25US. However, this video does outline the process but does not go into detail or have the same production value as the download. And there’s this more in depth article by Murray that explains all the steps and techniques.

Here’s 3 key things to consider:

1: How do you know if your knife is sharp?
Murray uses the 3 finger test of edge sharpness. It is the best test I have ever tried. It allows you to find individual spots on the edge that are dull or sharp. And it’s free! I will say I was apprehensive the first time but it has proven accurate and safe every time. The key is keeping your thumb on the spine as a ‘safety.’

2: Why not just use a jig?
A jig assumes it knows the best sharpening angle for you, but most importantly, jigs do not grind the secondary edge.
Below is a picture of a blade and as your can see, if the secondary edge does not get a grind, the the primary edge becomes more obtuse as the blade gets thicker. This means a blunter knife for each progressive sharpen.
By regularly grinding the secondary edge you can maintain the same blade geometry indefinitely.

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3: Why use a water stone?
Firstly they are relatively cheap. My combination stone cost about $50. Second, unlike an oilstone that uses oil to flush the stone, water stones use water. Last time I checked water was significantly cheaper and more readily available at home than oil.
The last reason is that they are easier to unclog than ceramic and some diamond stones. Just a rub with your hand and they are flushed clean.

Here’s some other links that were most useful before the purchase:

Getting a knife scary sharp! – Murray Carter
How to Sharpen a Knife on a Wet Stone  – How to Get an Extremely Sharp Knife
Ray Mears – How to sharpen a knife at camp, Bushcraft Survival

If you do purchase Murray’s download let us know how you go.

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