Sharpening knives

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Sharpening knives

Post by Admin on Tue Jul 22, 2014 1:15 pm

Never something I was that great at. Tried old whetstone inherited from my parents and bought couple of those gadgets supposedly containing diamond dust or something. The whetstone was fine grit for honing only really. Only worked on antique carbon steel blades, not on the cheap stainless stuff. Or maybe only didnt work cause i wasnt going to spend half a day trying to sharpen one knife. And I've not had high end stainless to comment on that. I gotta wonder about anybody spending $150 for one kitchen knife. The gadgets tend to be about equivalent of using a bastard file, maybe not even that good. And if they do impart any improved sharpness, it doesnt last long.

Well I read about using the $36 Harbor Freight 1x30 belt sander to sharpen. You have to buy the special fine grit belts from elsewhere. So ordered one and some belts. See if it works. They say it can sharpen about anything that somebody at least attempted to temper. (I ran across a knife once that I swear wasnt even tempered) Better steel will hold edge longer of course. Try it on some of my el crappo cheapo knives and see.

Also been looking on ebay and Amazon for something bit better in way of kitchen knives but cheap. Already ordered a new $6 Dexter paring knife like restaurants use. See how sharp it is and how long edge lasts. And if one can sharpen it when it gets dull. I think probably end up with some antique carbon steel knife that holds edge. I have an old round bottom "ulu" carbon steel chopper knife that holds edge incredibly well. Had a Taiwan carbon steel butcher knife that didnt. Pretty sure any antique carbon steel knife made in USA, Germany, or France would be fine. Just avoid anything more modern from east asia. Tools that survive from way back tend to be good ones and kept for a reason. For my needs long as I have sharp paring knife and chef's knife for daily use, that would be enough. But nice to be able to easily maintain their sharpness, plus sharpen pocket knife and various other edge tools.

I will post about results, good or bad.

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Re: Sharpening knives

Post by Admin on Thu Jul 24, 2014 6:25 pm

The Dexter paring knife is sharp. Small narrow flexible blade, great for peeling potato or apple or such. Not great for substitute slicer dicer, though any truly sharp knife is better than any dull knife.

Sander to get here Friday and belts Monday. So will see what it can do. Sure there is a learning curve just like anything else.

Been looking on ebay for a cheap used chefs knife made good metal. I dont know, they all get bid up usually and you can get a new Dexter chefs knife much like the paring knife. New, sharp and $22.. But I have few bids in on what I think are good knives cheap. Most likely get sniped at last minute, but thats ok. Like say if my el cheapo 'Aldi' chefs knife wont sharpen, then get one of those $22 Dexter knives. No idea how easy to sharpen them, thin blade. I really prefer a thicker heftier blade, but whatever does the job at reasonable price. When I was kid Mom had paring knife that was a "gift" from seed corn dealer, said Pioneer (Pioneer Seed Corn) on side of it and small narrow thin flexible blade much like the Dexter paring knife. But when it dulled, no easy way to sharpen it that we could figure.

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Re: Sharpening knives

Post by Admin on Sat Jul 26, 2014 3:21 pm

Got the HF sander yesterday evening. Opened box to try it out. Seemed to work ok. Came with some cheap medium coarse loop made for wood.

But hey what the heck. Tried first a cheap ceramic paring knife. Lot sparks but no progress to sharper knife. Think ceramic knife probably requires diamond belt or hone to sharpen. Then tried the Aldi paring knife. Hey, light touch and I got it much sharper. Though its a rough sharp edge since this is pretty coarse grit. The finer grit aluminum oxide belts should smooth it out. Same results with the Aldi chefs knife and an old Chicago Cutlery paring knife. Cool. Light touch, dont force and metal doesnt heat up. I am impressed. Looks like I found decent knife sharpener.

Got ahead of myself on ebay and won bid for nice looking USA made Chicago Cutlery 8" chefs knife, says professionally sharpened whatever that means. $8 shipped seems reasonable. Also won an old 6 piece set plus wood holder of Ecko Flint Vanadium knives, think made in 50s for $14 shipped.. Info I found said chromed vanadium carbon steel made from at least late 1940s up into 60s in USA when they switched to stainless and made them in first Japan then Taiwan. Supposed to hold an edge pretty well. They arent in prettiest shape, but only the fillet knife looked worn. Everything however had neglected rough look like it had been hung in some unheated farm outbuilding for many years. Well it will either clean up and sharpen or it wont.

Lucky for me got outbid on other couple knives. My cheap gene is alive and well and saving me trouble and expense at every turn. Sure dont need more knives, this is probably a lifetime supply as long as I continue to have good way sharpening them.

Am thinking at this point probably my current Aldi knives will hone down nicely now that they have sharp edge, and do what I want. They are well balanced and have very comfortable handles. But suppose nice to have spares. Also dont know how long edge will last on any of the knives. The Aldi stuff never truly been sharp before, even new out of pkg. Pretty much rule of thumb, anything can theoretically be sharpened to an edge, but how long that edge lasts is the trick. Depends on the metal and how well it was tempered.

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Re: Sharpening knives

Post by Admin on Sat Jul 26, 2014 3:53 pm

Oh forgot to mention, I liked the Dexter restaurant grade knife made with stamped X50CrMoV15 steel. Well Americas Test Kitchen (PBS cooking show by Cooks Country Magazine) liked Vitorinox 8 inch chefs knife for $35, said the Dexter was essentially same knife but commercially sold only and without the warranty. So they recommended the Vitorinox with warranty. Like I mentioned you can get the Dexter as cheap as $22 shipped so not sure how much extra the warranty is worth in initial cost. Well there is a third similar X50CrMoV15 knife called the Update International KP-09. Ok weird brand name, but here it is: http://www.amazon.com/Update-International-KP-09-Stainless-10-Inch/dp/B005V23HYS/ref=psdc100_t3_B0080S79EO_B005V23HYS for $10.69, free shipping with $35 Amazon order.

Dont like the cheap hard plastic handle compared to softer plastic handles on the Dexter and Vitorinox, but suppose if it disintegrated, one could make own wooden handle to replace it. Or use a premade file handle. Anyway the price is unbelievable. Heck at that price if you didnt want to ever sharpen your knife, toss it when its dull, and buy another.

Saying that, I rather see knives be considered lifetime with regular sharpening until there isnt enough metal left to be useful. But think few knives ever get kept that long, even high end ones. Humans really like new and shiny...... unless economics of it force them to be frugal and actually use something up.

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Re: Sharpening knives

Post by Admin on Thu Jul 31, 2014 8:13 pm

Ok, anti-climax, got the fine grit aluminum oxide belts. Going progressively from 400 grit to 2000 grit gave perfect edge, didnt even need to be stropped though one might want to do that anyway, just plain strop without compound to take any tiny remnants of wire edge off. The 2000 grit makes need for this marginal. Anyway: SHARP knives. I would have to say this is cheapest fastest way to sharpen modern stainless knives. Will see how long edge lasts, but have to say probably any high carbon stainless steel knife would sharpen and keep edge for reasonable amount time. I cant imagine some high dollar knife keeping its edge significantly longer. Maybe one of those pre-WWII carbon steel blades might.

If you really want to avoid the high price specialty fine grit belts, might use finest standard belt you can find, get an edge, then use fine whetstone and strop with the polishing compound. The specialty belts are much easier, but set of four cost nearly as much shipped as the sander itself.

As to sharpening process, I just finally removed little tilt table and guards from the HF belt sander as they got in way more than they helped. Leave the plastic side panel off too as you go through the 4 belts, this makes belt changing trivial, then snap it back in place when through. The plastic knob on end of bolt that tensions the belt is poorly engineered, it twisted but bolt didnt. I pulled it off and loosened/tightened bolt with pair pliers. That kinda sucked. One of these days either find all metal knob with setscrew or remove bolt and weld a bit of metal to head for leverage. Probably do the second, found after ebay search that even old fashion kind door knobs now go close to $10.... I dont get it, this sort thing used to be give-me type thing, maybe see bag of them at some farm auction for buck. Plastic world we live in and metal items have gotten progressively more expensive. I might have one somewhere around but imagine the setscrew is rusted into uselessness. Luckily small bits of scrap plus welding wire/rod necessary still quite affordable.

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Re: Sharpening knives

Post by Admin on Tue Aug 05, 2014 10:07 am

Finding few more knives around my place as I keep eye out for them. Like most people, before the sander, I tended to just get another semi-sharp knife rather than do the homework to figure out how to actually sharpen cheap stainless knives.

And somehow was reading some comments people posted on Amazon regarding some particular el cheapo crappo knife set. One person said people should use the included knife steel (the round file looking thing in knife sets) and spend 10 minutes sharpening the knives instead of complaining. Ok a steel is only to realign the edge, not sharpen. There are ceramic tools looking like a steel that are supposed to sharpen, but at best they would get you back to semi sharp with an unpolished edge.

Another person suggested even dollar store knives are better than these. Ok that was interesting. Never thought of knives still being sold for $1. But Dollar Tree still says it sells stuff for $1, so looked on their website. Sure enough they have an 8 inch chef's knife for $1 (well actually listed as 7.5 inch), though on website you would have to order a case of them. Assume the retail stores sell individual knives as few retail customers would have any use for 24 cheap chef's knives. Only a reseller would. Edge of knife looked odd in pic. I zoomed it and dang, think the thing had whats referred to as micro-serration edge. Much finer than traditional serrated bread knife. Its way to give a throw away knife at least some semblance of usability without a proper sharpening. Guess somebody figured out people werent buying cheap knives cause they were not very sharp fresh out of package and are very hard to properly hand sharpen in a home environment without at least a $50 set of quality stones and a strop. The serrations were cheapest way to make the knife usable out of package without proper sharpening at factory I guess. One has to wonder what the wholesale price is on a knife that can retail for $1. Or indeed what manufacturing cost is..... Those folk are working on a very slim profit margin however you figure it.

I never go there cause they rarely have anything I want, but there is a Dollar Tree on same street I do my monthly grocery shopping. Will stop and if they have this $1 wonder knife sold individually, will get one and report. First as it comes out of pkg and then after a proper sharpening on the sander. See if I can get a usable traditional knife edge on it and how long it lasts if I do. Whats funny is that these same knives are sold for $5 and up on ebay. Well in pics, it looks like it should at least sell for $5 to $8 retail. Have to imagine in real life they are not very impressive. One person on Dollar Tree website, in review said this wasnt greatest stainless steel, that it did rust. I have seen low end Chinese stainless steel items rust quickly exposed to moisture, so can easily believe that. But suppose if you treated it with care like you have to with traditional carbon steel knives (dry and oil it after use), it would do ok. The question is whether its of sufficient grade and temper steel to take and hold an edge. For a $1 chef's knife, thats a serious question. But the three reviewers said it was usable out of pkg and for some time afterwards so assume it is some kind of tempered steel. Course nobody mentioned trying to sharpen it when it did dull.

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Re: Sharpening knives

Post by Admin on Fri Aug 08, 2014 6:34 pm

Ok, got to Dollar Tree this morning. Where everything is a dollar! Finally found the knife section kinda hidden back in a corner. Got three knives, $1 each to experiment with. Still think thats cool that somebody still sells knives for dollar in todays inflated world. A chefs knife, a Japanese chefs knife, and a paring knife. The paring knife literally has blunt edge, but it feels balanced and comfortable to hold. The other two are half sharp like most cheapo kitchen knives. In other words you can cut hot butter with them and maybe a potato or something... if you put some muscle into it. And I was wrong, none are micro serrated. So be interesting to see how they sharpen on the sander.

Can never have too many paring knives as they are always getting lost, but not sure what I will do with the other two knives after the sharpening experiment.

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Re: Sharpening knives

Post by Admin on Sat Aug 09, 2014 1:13 pm

Sharpened the cheapies. They all took a reasonably sharp edge. But only really played with the paring knife after sharpening. Paring knife has this weird hollow metal handle filled with some kind of epoxy or hot glue or something. Anyway after just bit use, the handle is loosening up. I imagine for long term use it would have to be replaced by homemade wood handle. The other two seem to have riveted bakelite handles, meaning rivets probably decorative only. Those handles probably last the life of the knife. Anyway for the cheapest of the cheap in way of kitchen knives, proved these can be made functional. Just that most people going for cheapest of cheap probably arent going to have even a cheap belt sander.... And even with belt sander, these put up somewhat of a fight to get them sharpened. Not best quality of knife making steels.

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Re: Sharpening knives

Post by Admin on Mon Aug 18, 2014 10:07 pm

Interesting, the vintage USA-made Chicago Cutlery Metropolitan 502 has become my favorite. That sucker with relatively narrow blade took an incredible edge (very dull when I got it from seller on ebay) and its holding its edge very well. Also has a bit of heft to it, more so than many wood handle paring knives, and easy to control. That old Ecko Flint carbon steel (not stainless) is only other paring knife that took and kept such sharp edge, but it has a very light weight wood handle and whole knife just feels too light. I suppose I could get used to it, but dont much want to. Almost rather shorten a filet knife and use that for paring knife.

Silly since I really dont use knives all that much, but my success at sharpening has gotten me interested in looking at various vintage pocket knives and kitchen knives on ebay. The misc knife lots are most interesting. Basically sellers go to local estate sales/auctions, buy a box full somebody dumped out of the dead guys kitchen cutlery drawer that he collected over a lifetime, and resell the better knives individually and then sell the worn out and junk knives in a single auction. Those old ones with lot wear are most interesting, can tell which was cooks favorites and used most often. Which that was so unpleasant to use, it never got used. Rarely see a really worn down stainless knife unless it was retired from restaurant use, probably cause they are lot more difficult to sharpen by hand. See lot of the old carbon steel knives worn down to a nub. They were very friendly to home sharpening, even using a file or grindstone, if nothing else. At least most people could get a usable edge if not a properly honed one.

This rough edge seemingly initially sharp, quickly dulls and requires frequent re-sharpening. Thus the nub syndrome. Or of course the more usual modern households where knives are never really sharpened and they just buy more and more cheap knives hoping for a usable sharp one. Few cheap knives ever come properly sharpened from factory, not only to save money in manufacture, but also to inspire those not able to sharpen a knife to buy yet more new cheap knives. Dont make money if a knife lasts two or three generations... And even sharpened the cheap knives tend to have a light weight feel and not a good balanced feel.

If I had actual use for it, think I would upgrade that $1 Chef's knife from Dollar Tree to a homemade hardwood handle to replace the OEM plastic one. Something to give it bit more heft. Its blade is thinner than the USA Chicago Cutlery chefs knife, but it did take a sharp edge and is usable. I think a heavier wood handle would improve balance of it considerably. I know, silk purse from sows ear syndrome....

Probably better to just homemake a carbon steel knife from saw blade. Just being careful to keep existing temper of the saw blade.

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Re: Sharpening knives

Post by Admin on Mon Aug 25, 2014 9:21 pm

Still learning. Never was super happy with the $1 knives though they were sharper than when I started. And now ran into couple more abused knives where I wasnt happy with results. Read some more and hit a post unlike others that said if you are starting from scratch on a poor condition knife, start with a coarse grit and use it until you see the wire forming where the bevels meet. Ok, been starting with 400 grit aluminum oxide which apparently too fine grit for knife in bad shape.

So ordered some 120 grit aluminum oxide belts and some 220 grit belts. Coarse grit belts lot cheaper off ebay than that wood worker catalog place. Got them today.. Wheee, with coarse belt, its lot faster cutting, and makes a lot more impressive initial edge to work from. And those people saying really coarse grit belt could easily destroy a knife obviously never tried it. I mean simple common sense says you dont force the knife into the belt, you just hold knife up gently to belt and let belt do the work. Nice even edge even if bit rough. And interestingly, contrary to what would seem common sense, one should hold edge of knife up into the moving belt when shaping the initial edge rather than holding it down towards direction belt is moving. Once edge is shaped, then hold it down when using finer grits to "polish".

By time I had worked my way up through 2000 grit belt, I had a much better edge than before and vastly superior than how it came fresh out of package. I cut up a carrot with knife as a test. Wow, what a difference, lot easier to cut, and lot easier to control. You would think this was much nicer knife than it is. How long that edge stays very sharp, have no idea. If this knife is treated well, edge should last considerable time. But then it may not. I think even the cheap knives are made from 420 or 440 steel. No reason they should dull any quicker than a medium quality knife made from same steel. But steel in cheap knives maybe tempered to different degree. Or it might be cheapened version. I mean as an example, there is 440A, 440B, and 440C, the last being best. And some larger manufacturers can get custom blend since they order in such large quantity.

Like I am trying to point out, cheapo knives and badly abused/neglected knives can take lot of work to get truly sharp in first place. The cheapo knives arent anywhere close to sharp out of the package fresh from the store.

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Re: Sharpening knives

Post by Admin on Sat Aug 30, 2014 4:25 pm

Ah got my little "boy scout" type hatchet that I gave $7 shipped off ebay. Its an oldie, handle loose but still servicable. Somebody had rough sort of sharp edge on hatchet head. They obviously used some sort of powered grindstone.

I was curious so first I sanded the rough part of handle so wouldnt get splinters. Then went after the edge. Wanted to see if a smooth refined edge cut better than a rough sharp edge. Took bit time since this involved lot more metal removal than a knife. But got it sharp with convex edge (kind of edge you get using belt sander), then refined and polished it.

Took it outside and tried hacking a bit at a chunk of dry firewood. Ok, color me impressed. A nice sharp even polished edge does cut lot faster and easier and allows more control. I now need to figure someway to hang up hatchet so edge stays nice and make a new wedge for handle so handle stays on tight. Lot like the hatchet I had as a kid only this one cuts way better. Frankly I had never used or seen hatchet/ax that somebody went to this kind of trouble. Just seen them sell highly polished axes and hatchets for lumberjack competitions and such, not on an everyday tool. Its not that big of a deal using belt sander, but would be kind of a pain to do this with hand hones and strop. And I wouldnt bother on some ax used around rocks or to cut stuff at soil level. Good edge wouldnt last long like that. Be like putting a fine edge on a spade, rather pointless. But great to cut dead branches for kindling.

Gotta watch myself dragging home more junk knives. This sharpening thing is bit addictive, just cause its so fast and easy to put nice edge on cast off junk. Still rather amazes me, since I've struggled sharpening knives for most of my life. I mean I basically just need one big knife and one little knife for kitchen and maybe one pocket knife to open packages or letters. Not much I actually use pocket knife for anymore beyond that. I use razor blade utility knife to cut off grass that winds around lawn mower deck spindle when I mow tall stuff. Hey could try sharpening those disposable blades it uses.... Probably could do it holding blade in pair vise grips, though not sure worth the effort. At least with those, wouldnt have more stuff in the way.

Hopefully I soon move on to more productive efforts since I seem to have conquered this one, short of this becoming some serious hobby.

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Re: Sharpening knives

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