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Oso Grande's Knife Sharpening Tips

Knife Sharpening Tips & Techniques

This knife sharpening guide will show you how to sharpen your knife quickly and keep it that way. When you sharpen a knife properly it will be there for you when you need it. As with most things in life, there's a right way and a wrong way. These sharpening tips are presented compliments of Buck Knives and we thank them for their permission to reprint this material.

Sharpen your knife

KNIFE SHARPENING DO'S AND DON'TS. Never sharpen your knife on a power-driven grinding wheel. You could burn the temper from your blade making the edge brittle and prone to chips or cracks. This also voids the warranty.

A SHARPENING STONE IS THE KEY TO A SHARP KNIFE. To really sharpen a flat blade knife well, use a sharpening stone. Check out our excellent selection of fine and coarse grit sharpeners. Always sharpen with a wet stone. For touch-ups use a fine grit stone. If the blade is really dull, use the coarse grit stone first, then switch to a fine grit stone.

DIAMOND STONE SHARPENERS. Made of metal or a composite base, diamond stone sharpeners have an outer layer of micron-sized diamonds bonded to a metal surface. Many have special surface holes to prevent "filling build-up."

Diamond stones are fast, effective and come in different grits. You can use a diamond stone wet or dry, but we recommend wet. Use water or water-based honing oil, not petroleum-based oil.

NATURAL SHARPENING STONES. Arkansas Washita natural stones are genuine silica "Novaculite" from Arkansas. The different grits and abrasive qualities make excellent sharpening stones.

Natural sharpening stones can be used wet or dry. We recommend using them wet. Water, water-based honing oil or petroleum-based honing oil work best. Keep in mind using oil on a natural stone is a commitment. It's difficult if not impossible to switch back to water.

Don't be stingy with the honing fluid during sharpening. Use enough to keep a pool visible on the stone. Once murky, pat or lightly wipe away the fluid, then add more.

TAPERED AND POCKET SHARPENERS. Serrated blades, gut hooks and fishhooks require a different type of sharpener. Check out our selection of serrated sharpeners, fishhook sharpeners and pocket sharpeners. They are fully up to the job.

HOW TO CLEAN AND CARE FOR YOUR SHARPENING STONE. Use a little extra fluid to clean and dry the sharpener after every use. Store carefully. Glossy grey streaks are a good indicator of debris build-up. Clean the sharpener thoroughly.

  • If using water or water-based honing oil, clean with soapy water.
  • If using petroleum-based honing oil, use the same oil or kerosene.
  • To scrub clean, use your finger or an old toothbrush.
  • Do not drop your sharpener. Being made of stone, it may break or chip.

SHARPENING FLUID. Depending on the sharpening stone, you can use water, water-based honing oil and petroleum-based honing oil. Treat your choice of sharpening fluid as a permanent one; because of the porous nature of the stone itself, it is very difficult to switch from an oil-based lubricant.

We suggest sharpening on a wet stone because it cleans the pores of the sharpener dissipates frictional heat and facilitates smooth sharpening action.

Visit our sharpening Shop!

Sharpen Blades, Hooks and Tools

STRAIGHT, NON-SERRATED BLADES. You can inspect the condition of the blade by looking down the length of the edge. Look for nicks or flat spots reflected by light.

  • If the blade is nicked or extremely dull, start with Stage 1 (Use a Coarse Grit Stone).
  • If the blade is only somewhat dull or just needs a touch-up, start with Stage 2 or Stage 3.

STAGE 1: FOR NICKED, INCONSISTENT EDGES OR EXTREMELY DULL BLADES HEAVY SHARPENING = COARSE GRIT SHARPENER.

This stage is called the "rough cut." To remove inconsistencies in the blade edge and take it from very dull to sharp, but not finished; begin with a coarse grit sharpener. A Diamond Sharpening Stone will do the trick.

Diamond Sharpeners can be used dry or wet. Use water or water-based honing oil, not petroleum based oil as a lubricant.

Natural Sharpening Stones can be used dry or wet. We recommend wet. Use water, water-based honing oil or petroleum-based honing oil.

Hold the Correct Grind Angle.

Ideally, you want to follow the same grind and edge angle as when the blade was new. Typically, scratches are caused by incorrectly sharpening the blade. Use the scratches as a guide to determine whether you're angling the blade too high or too flat against the stone.

You may also be skipping off the edge of the stone. The angle on a knife is typically ground to 13-16 degrees per side. If you hold the knife against the stone to cut evenly across the edge grind, you will produce an edge with a similar angle. If the angle is too high, the resulting edge will lose some slicing ability, but will stand up better to chopping. A good rule of thumb is to hold the blade so the back of it is about one blade width up from flat on the stone.

Stroke the Blade Across the Sharpener with Even Control.

Too much pressure can crush or remove the grit from a diamond sharpener. It can also force a thicker burr on the edge, which is harder to remove and can even break off, creating new flat spots on the edge.

Your stroke can be straight or circular, from "hilt to tip" OR "tip to hilt," whichever is more comfortable. If you're using a portable sharpener, stroke the blade in a straight direction.

The blade edge should face in the same direction as you stroke. So, you're essentially moving the metal away from the edge. Stroking toward the edge will also create a thicker burr on the edge.

Maintain Contact with the Sharpener.

As you work the length of the edge (from hilt to tip), do not let the tip of the blade skip off the end of the sharpener. This can cause a rounded tip or sharpening scratches.

Alternate Blade Sides Equally.

Do the same number of strokes on each side of the blade. If you do 15-20 strokes on one side, do 15-20 on the other side. Don't alternate sides with each stroke, or you won't get a burr. As you feel a burr developing on one side, switch to the other side and check that the burr is making the same progress on the other side.

Circular Sharpening.

Keep the blade on the surface and use an easy, clockwise motion with the edge facing right, until the desired sharpness is achieved. It is ideal to achieve the original factory edge.

Turn the blade over. Use an easy, counter-clockwise motion with the edge facing left. Try to spend the same amount of time on each side.

Work the "Nicks" Separately.

If there is a nick on the edge, work the area around the nick evenly, side-to-side. Once the nick is gone, go back to working the entire length of the edge.

Inspect the "Evenness" of Your Edge.

You should have an even edge on both sides. Once you feel the burr from hilt to tip on one side and all nicks and dull spots are removed, move on to Stage 2.

STAGE 2: FOR DULL BLADES, QUICK TOUCH UPS AND FINAL SHARPENING. MEDIUM TO FINAL SHARPENING = FINE GRIT SHARPENER.

If you have just completed Stage 1, pat or wipe your knife dry. Be careful--the burr can cut just like a sharpened edge. Now you're ready to work the edge.

To simply sharpen dull blades and remove rough scratches begin here. A fine grit Diamond Sharpening Stone is suitable for Stage 2.

Sharpeners.

Diamond Sharpeners can be used dry or wet. Use water or water-based honing oil, not petroleum based oil as a lubricant.

Natural Sharpening Stones can be used dry or wet. We recommend wet. Use water, water-based honing oil or petroleum-based honing oil.

Sharpen the edge, following the same steps as in Stage 1.

You can achieve a good, sharp edge and finish at this stage without going on to Stage 3. Hone with light, single strokes, side-to-side, until you feel no burr on either side. To fine-tune the edge or smooth "sharpening scratches", skip this step and go directly to Stage 3.

STAGE 3: FINE SHARPENING FOR A SLIGHTLY DULL BLADE AND FINISHING TOUCHES. FINAL SHARPENING = NATURAL STONE

Stage 3 removes any remaining burr and puts a burnish on the blade edge. A fine 600 grit Arkansas Washita Honing Stone is suitable for Stage 3 sharpening.

Using sharpening fluid.

Natural Sharpening Stones can be used dry or wet. We recommend wet. Use water, water-based honing oil or petroleum-based honing oil. Sharpening will require some clean up, so be generous with the honing fluid.

Use the same stroking motion as described in Stage 1. Repeat until scratches from the previous grit stone are gone. You should still feel a burr, but it should be smaller and finer.

Once All Scratches are Cleaned off the Edge

Use light, single strokes side-to-side. Make one stroke from hilt to tip, then turn the knife to the other side and stroke once from hilt to tip.

Repeat Several Times.

You shouldn't feel any burr on either side of the edge, from hilt to tip. The knife should be razor sharp at this point. If the knife fails to cut as expected, you may need to go back to Stage 2. Don't apply too much pressure. You will raise a thick burr instead of removing it.

SERRATED BLADES

Do not use a flat sharpening stone on serrated blades. This type of blade requires a different technique and sharpener. Check out our Tapered Sharpeners made specifically for sharpening serrated blades. Both are up to the job.

Creating the "Initial Sharpness" on a serrated knife is difficult even if you use a tapered sharpener. But you can expect to get a "serviceable" edge. A serrated blade is more easily distorted through sharpening than a straight blade edge. So, don't sharpen unless dull spots are truly visible.

The Grind.

Serrated blades have a grind on one side of the blade. Only sharpen the grind side of the blade. Hold the sharpener at the angle that matches the original edge angle.

Put the pointed, narrow end of the sharpener up against the serration and stroke the sharpener into the serration--away from the edge of the blade, toward the spine.

Stop stroking when the width of the taper sharpener gets to the same width as the serration. In other words do not enlarge the width of the serration.

Rotate or spin the sharpener as you go for the most even, consistent sharpening.

Continue sharpening until you feel a very slight burr.

GUT HOOKS

Unlike a serrated blade, a gut hook is ground on both sides of the blade. Use a Diamond Taper Sharpener or a Diamond Pocket Sharpener. Both are excellent tools for sharpening gut hooks.

Gut Hooks Are Not Flat Blades.

Do not try to fill the entire width of the gut hook with the wide end of the sharpener. This will enlarge the gut hook curve and distort the cutting edge.

Put the pointed, narrow end of the sharpener up against the open end of the gut hook. The narrow, pointed end of the sharpener should face in toward the thickness of the blade, away from the edge of the gut hook.

Match the Angle of the Sharpener to the Original Edge Angle.

This will maintain the correct sharpening angle and prevent you from getting cut by the blade tip. Hold the same angle when sharpening each side of the gut hook.

Rotate

In a forward and sideways motion, stroke the sharpener from one side of the gut hook to the other. Spin the sharpener as you go. As with sharpening a blade edge, the objective is to start at the edge and stroke away from the edge.

Don't Overdue It.

Restrain from over-sharpening or putting too much pressure on the tool. Alternate sides and check your progress often.

Removing a Burr.

Once a burr is detected, stroke alternate sides until the burr is removed, just as you would finish a straight-edge blade.

FISHHOOKS AND OTHER SMALL POINTED OBJECTS

To sharpen fishhooks and other small, pointed objects, use a fishhook sharpener. They have a straight-line "fishhook groove." Do not use a flat sharpening stone.

Place the fishhook in the groove, with the point in the same direction you will stroke.

Keep Sharpening to a Minimum

Hold the fish hook in the groove and stroke it to the end of the groove. Being a small, thin object, you'll want to check progress frequently. A few strokes may be all you need. Do not use pressure when stroking.

You can use the fishhook groove to sharpen other fine point objects like darts and needles, too.

SHARPENING SMALL TOOLS

For very small tools, a sharpener with an uninterrupted surface works best. Most of our diamond sharpening stones have a Micro-Tool Sharpening Pad with a clear surface perfect for small objects.

You can also use a sharpening pad. Follow Stage 1, 2 or 3 instructions for flat-edge blades.

Don't Overdue It.

Restrain from over-sharpening or putting too much pressure on the tool. Alternate sides and check your progress often.

A Sharp Blade is Safer Than a Dull One

KEEPING YOUR BLADE SHARP

SHARPEN REGULARLY

If all you ever need to do is touch up the blade, your knife will be far easier to maintain.

Stainless steel knives store well and maintain their edge for a long time.

TIPS FOR MAINTAINING A SHARP KNIFE:

  • Keep your sharpener with your knives, so it's easy to find and use.
  • Use your knife the way it was intended.
  • If it's a chef's knife, only cut food on a non-dulling surface like a nylon cutting board.
  • Not even work knives are meant for cutting through fence wire or other hard materials. Don't try it.
  • Use common sense to avoid injury to yourself or damage to your knife. /li>
  • Do not throw, pound, hammer, twist, pry or use with electronics.
  • Store your knife with care.
  • Protect the edge by keeping your knife in its sheath.
  • KKeep kitchen knives in a storage block or magnet.
  • Throwing knives in a drawer or just leaving them around will dull the edges./li>

EDGE MAINTENANCE:

  • Dress or sharpen the edge as soon as you notice it's not working as well as it should. You should only need a few single strokes side-to-side to bring the edge back to its original sharpness. If however, you have changed the edge or the bevel, which happens over time, follow Stage 1 or Stage 2 sharpening instructions.
  • Using the right sharpener for the job.
  • If your blade needs a touch up, the Stage 3 fine grit stone should do the trick. However, if the edge has truly dulled, go back to Stage 2, still using a fine grit stone. If the edge has rounded, return to Stage 1 and a coarse grit stone.