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How do I get a REALLY sharp edge on a knife?
I have a Buck Pathfinder that, out of the box, was one of the sharpest knives I have ever held. The factory edge was absolutely insane. I completely broke down a mule deer with it and got many well-earned nicks along the way. However, I recently re-sharpened it to take out some of the minor dings it got near the tip and generally get it back into good cutting form, but I cannot, for the life of me get it back to that incredible factory edge level of sharpness. I have used an oiled medium stone to remove the minor blade damage and a fine stone to try and tighten it up even more, but it has not seen a strop nor a steel. What is the missing ingredient to get this thing ultra sharp again?
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I shave my arms easily.
Is this two separate subjects.........................just wondering?
CPJ made me fix it......
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I've tried, and can't do it, so I stick with the ceramic rods.
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BIL has one of those. He said the first night he had it, he sat watching TV and sharpened every knife in the house.....
If you are getting a "decent" edge with your medium stone, all you are missing are the two final steps....
Check out Hallsproedge.com online then give them a call. Though their online catalog doesn't show it, what you need is their item # BBK12. It's a 12" x 2" by 1/2" thick Arkansas Black Surgical benchstone. It runs $55.72 plus shipping but it's worth its weight in gold. The reason I say to give them a call is these stones are advertised as being mounted on a cedar block. Personally, I don't like "mounted" stones because you can use only one side of them. I called them and asked if they had any that were not glued to a block and they sent me one without the mount.
That stone finishes the edge to a pretty scary edge but for a final touch (aside from leather stropping), I use a yellow legal pad (I know it sounds strange, but trust me on this one) for the few final passes. I actually oil the paper. You can also use the cardboard side first, but the paper side finishes the process.
Another product that I've only recently discovered is Congress Stoning Oil. We use it in the toolroom where I work for the final polishing of mold interiors. It's the lightest oil I've ever seen and a pint of the stuff should last nearly a lifetime. Turns out, the lube you use on your stones makes a heckuva difference. Prior to discovering this oil, I used Kroil, and this stuff makes Kroil feel like engine sludge.
Anyway, finishing your edge on the Black Surgical stone followed by oiled paper honing should do the trick on any knife worth its salt. You can (and I occasionally do) final finish the edge on leather. Be sure to clean the edge (tap water works) of any leather residue after stropping. You can't usually see it, but it's there and you'd be surprised how leather filling the micro-serrations makes your blade feel dull when in actuality it's razor sharp.
The reason I don't always leather-strop anymore is that I've come to prefer a slightly "grippy" edge rather than a "slick as glass" ultra polished edge.
Anyway, that's my 2 cents. I've bought 2 benchstones from Hall's within the last 8 months, and they are a good company selling a great product. FWIW, I don't bother with anything smaller than benchstone size. It's a lot better to have more stone than you need than to be constantly worrying about slicing a finger by using a smaller stone.
Oh.........one other thing! (I discovered this by accident, and this is really neat).
I've always been frustrated with the stone, regardless of size, sliding on the table, which meant that I pretty much had to keep one hand on the stone and one hand on the knife. With longer blades, being able to hold the handle and the blade at the same time is a good thing. Well......check out McMaster or MSC and buy a piece of soft durometer silicone rubber. (I got a 12" x 12" square and that was way more than enough. The key is getting a piece that's at least as long as your stone.) Cut it to length and a tad wider than your stone. Put this on your table and your stone on top of the rubber. Press down slightly. Presto! Your stone is now one with your work surface. You can now use both hands on the knife.
I checked in to buying one of those once, but the deal breaker for me is that they are relatively soft. Having to reflatten the stone was pretty much a bi-annual thing according to most users. I like to sharpen knives, but I hate truing stones.
While the majority of your sharpening is done with your edge facing the direction of travel (sort of like cutting into the stone), your last few strokes should be with your edge facing the opposite direction, as if you were stropping it on leather.
This makes a huge difference in the finished edge.
Mike, thanks for the awesome tutorial. I'm going to get this kit built up a bit, it seems All of this said, I just realized part of the reason why this knife was so incredibly sharp out of the box: Buck hollow grinds them. That's going to be really tough to match.
Hollow ground doesn't mean what I think you believe it does. All hollow ground means is that the final sharpening of the blade was accomplished on a wheel, which gives a very, very slight radius to the blade just prior to the final edge. You cannot replicate a hollow grind with a flat stone, and there's no real need to. There really is no specific benefit to a hollow grind other than it lends itself well to mass manufacturing techniques. In fact, I prefer a flat ground edge, and I'm happiest when all my hollow ground blades have finally been sharpened enough that the hollow grind has gone away.
FWIW, I believe the reason you're having difficulty sharpening your Buck is simply because Buck steel is so darned hard. I've got a Buck 119 that I was given as a gift for making Eagle Scout back in 1972. It is, by far, my least favorite knife to sharpen. I enjoy sharpening knives, and consider it a hobby. But sharpening the only Buck I own is something I consider a drudge chore. While I'll attempt to sharpen anything, my favorite steel to work with is the chromevadium used by Case.
Oh, another useful tip. Honing steels are handy, but all they are intended to do is straighten the edge, not sharpen it. They are best used as a "touch up" during the course of your cutting task. That said, practically every steel on the market nowadays is touted as a "sharpening" steel and as a matter of course have way too much texture. They will actually dull a good edge rather than straighten it. I've got probably over half a dozen steels that I've bought (one of them a $50 Henkle), and I hate them all, with a single exception....
I found an old carving set consisting of a carving knife, fork, and steel at an antique store in Des Moines last summer. $2.89 for the set and I threw the knife and fork away. The steel, however, is an absolute work of art. It has a slight texture that would be a modern machinists nightmare to replicate, even with modern CNC machining. If you want a good quality steel, check out your local antique shops. Stay away from any that are pitted, but a little bit of rust can be cleaned off easily enough and shouldn't scare you off. Usually, they're so darn cheap that you can buy a dozen then find the one that cleans up best. Just remember....it's not supposed to sharpen. It's only used to straighten.
There's a metric ton of YouTube videos showing the "correct way" to use a steel. Don't waste your time. Ninja-fast slashing motions at a hardened bar of steel with your finely tuned blades is a sure way to triple your time at your stones.
Place the pointy end of the steel down on a towel covered surface. (This keeps the tip of the steel from slipping). Lay your blade, sharp edge up, flat against the steel. Then angle the back of the blade (most folks opine 22 degrees, but I say whatever angle matches the angle you sharpened the blade at....I'm not picky, it's more a matter of feel than measurement) away from the steel and draw your blade smoothly downward. Notice....the direction of the drawing motion is "strop-like", not "sharpening-like". You are trying to move the edge (realign) not remove it. 3-5 strokes on each side usually does the job.
Done correctly, steeling a knife removes no material from the blade, but the edge is almost as good as freshly sharpened. This is why a steel with a minimum of texture is preferable to most of the ones you commonly run across. To find a great steel......antique stores and estate sales.
faster is more gooder.....
"Slow is smooth, smooth is fast, and speed is the economy of motion" - Scott Jedlinski