There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to process food items or just cut something for a job around the house and having to exert tremendous force to get the job done. Dull knives produce sloppy, time-consuming work and can also result in accidents due to the extra force it takes to cut through whatever material you’re working with. Having your blades razor-sharp is safer, faster, and makes whatever work you’re doing much more enjoyable. Keeping a good edge on your knives, however, requires routine maintenance in the way of proper sharpening. There are many different ways to sharpen your knives and there are many tools and devices on the market these days that will help you do so relatively fast and with good consistency. What follows is a general overview and the pros and cons of each method, but keep in mind too that a blade made from quality material such as high carbon steel will be much easier to sharpen and will hold an edge much longer than a blade made from low-grade cheap stainless steel. You really do get what you pay for when it comes to quality knives. I’ve done some past blogs and videos on this topic if you’d like to learn more and you can also shop online here at Wild Revelation Outdoors for some of my most recommend knives and sharpeners.
Whetstones or oil stones have been used to sharpen blades for centuries and remain a top choice for professional bladesmiths as well as just everyday folks who love their knives, as they will indeed produce a razor edge when used properly. The newer diamond stones are also a popular choice for this style of sharpening. Sharpening on stones is sort of a meditative art form. As you slide a blade across a sharpening stone and listen to the hypnotic song of oiled steel coming to life, all kinds of thoughts come to mind. You think of all the places you’ve been with those blades, all the adventures they’ve been on, and what lies in store for them next. Even the stones themselves can become a source of cherished memories and family tradition as sharpening stones are often passed down from generation to generation, as they have been in my family.
You really do develop an intimate bond with your blades when sharpening on traditional stones, as they become an expression and an extension of both your will and creativity. In fact, even the precise angle of an edge that’s being formed and sharpened becomes an act of self-expression, as each person uses a slightly different combination of grip, angle, and pressure while sharpening a blade on a stone. All these points are definitely “pros” for sharpening with stones.
Some of the major “cons” for this method though is that it can be rather time-consuming and it does take a fair amount of practice to develop the needed muscle memory in your hands to keep a consistent angle while sharpening. However, once you do develop the necessary muscle memory and the basic techniques you can get a razor’s edge very quickly and efficiently. If you’re starting with an extremely dull blade, you’ll have to use a variety of stones and materials working your way down from a coarse grit stone and finishing up on a very smooth stone and even a slab of leather to finely polish the edge, which can make a world of difference between being sharp and truly razor sharp.
Fixed Positioned/ Angle Sharpeners
If you don’t have the time or patience for developing the muscle memory needed for traditional stone sharpening, then a fixed position or fixed angle sharpener may be for you. There are many different styles and models on the market these days, some using stones and some using carbide and ceramic groves to run your blade through. The “pros” for devices such as these are that you can get a razor edge on your knives fairly quickly if starting with a significantly dull blade and very quickly if touching up a blade that’s already pretty sharp to start with. Again, you don’t need tremendous muscle memory with these devices, but you do need to be able to operate the device in a consistent manner.
Speaking of consistency, that’s also the major “con” of these kinds of sharpening devices. Since they’re specifically designed to put a very consistent fixed edge profile on your blade, you have to keep using the same device from then on if you want to be able to sharpen your knife quickly. For example, if you or the factory initially sharpened your knife on traditional stones or a belt sharpener and then you switch over to one of these devices, it’ll take a long time to get it razor sharp again…at least the first time you use it…because you’ll have to totally reshape your edge profile to match the device. So again, if you choose to use one of these sharpening devices and want it to work as fast and effectively as possible, then you’ll have to plan on using it for the long haul. But, that’s not such a bad thing. I use one of these devices on one of my favorite knives for just that purpose…so I can consistently sharpen it very quickly anywhere at any time.
There are many different electric knife sharpeners on the market these days that use either grinding stones or small sanding belts…which is what many knives are initially sharpened with at the factory. One such sharpener that’s very popular these days, which I also did a past video on, is the Ken Onion Work Sharp knife and tool sharpener. Sharpeners such as these use different grit sharpening or sanding belts and can be adjusted to sharpen at a variety of angles for different cutting needs. Like any other method of sharpening, electric sharpeners do take a little practice to get the hang of at first. The “pros” of devices such as these is that you can sharpen a lot of different knives of different sizes and shapes very quickly and consistently with little effort. Like the other devices we just looked at though, electric sharpeners do take a little muscle memory to use effectively, but not nearly as much as sharpening on traditional stones.
The “cons” on these sharpeners is that they’re rather large and do need electricity, so they not practical for use in the field. They can also be a little messy if you have blades that need a lot of work, as you’ll have a fair amount of metal dust to clean up afterward, and of course, the belts do wear out and need to be replaced from time to time.
To wrap things up, no matter what method or devices you use to sharpen your knives, it will take a little practice, and the key is consistency. Once you find a sharpening method or device that you like and that produces the kind of results you’re after, stick with it for the long haul, as doing so will ensure that you can get your knives sharpened up fast and efficiently and you can quickly get back to work on whatever your cutting. Check out the video below to see more…