Whetting steel

This is a quick pictorial of some of the tools we use to sharpen our knives.  It's not intended to be a tutorial, just a few pictures I took while sharpening a blade, and a look at some of the tools we use every day to make our own fine, hand crafted tools. Enjoy!


First, the edge bevel is set with a coarse stone.  This one happens to be my current favorite: a Shapton Professional 320 grit ceramic.  Up to this point, our knives have been ground thin, but do not have actual edges on them.

This 8.5" chef is getting it's first edge bevel set.  Right now the true edge of the knife is about 0.006" thick, so slightly thicker than a sheet of paper.  We'll use stones to abrade away steel until we're left with something that's about 0.5 microns thick (too thin to see) and nearly mirror polished.  This stone, a 320 grit ceramic, is the first in a series. It will set the bevel that the other, successively finer grit stones will refine.

This 8.5" chef is getting it's first edge bevel set.  Right now the true edge of the knife is about 0.006" thick, so slightly thicker than a sheet of paper.  We'll use stones to abrade away steel until we're left with something that's about 0.5 microns thick (too thin to see) and nearly mirror polished.  This stone, a 320 grit ceramic, is the first in a series. It will set the bevel that the other, successively finer grit stones will refine.

Another view of the first stone in the series I use: a Shapton pro 320 grit ceramic.

Another view of the first stone in the series I use: a Shapton pro 320 grit ceramic.

Once a proper bevel is set and I've removed most of the burr (maybe I'll post a how-to later explaining all this), I move onto a 1000 grit stone made by Naniwa, out of their Professional series. This is considered a medium grit stone, and I absolutely love it.  It has the best tactile feel of all my stones and I love the sound it makes.  

The green stone you see in the picture below is the 1000, then I move onto a 3000, which is a grey stone soaking under the white on in the picture.  A 3000 grit stone is right on the border between medium and polishing stone.  it doesn't remove a lot of metal, but it also doesn't quite shine the edge up.

 

The first real polishing stone I use, a 5000 grit (the wine colored stone, also a Shapton Pro) is very hard and smooth.  It doesn't provide a lot of feedback, but refines the scratches from the 3000 grit stone quickly, which I like.  

I could easily stop here, but I prefer to go a little further, and that's onto an 8000 grit white stone you see soaking in the water bath below.  Each of these stones refines the scratches made by the previous stone such that, as the knife is progressed, the edge gets more and more polished as it gets progressively thinner.  Finally at the 8000 grit stone, the edge bevel is nearly mirror polished and will slice most food with but a whisper.

This is by no means the "best" set up.  There are dozens of manufacturers making hundreds of different grits that can be mixed and matched as you please.  They key is that you're always refining, to whatever end you see fit.  Never leave your edge coarse.  That's a recipe for a rough and soon-to-dull edge.   I've built this set over a few years and have come to like each of these stones for their part in my sharpening regimen, but undoubtedly I'll add others in the mix eventually.

This is by no means the "best" set up.  There are dozens of manufacturers making hundreds of different grits that can be mixed and matched as you please.  They key is that you're always refining, to whatever end you see fit.  Never leave your edge coarse.  That's a recipe for a rough and soon-to-dull edge.   I've built this set over a few years and have come to like each of these stones for their part in my sharpening regimen, but undoubtedly I'll add others in the mix eventually.

Once the edge is properly and thoroughly sharpened on these stones, it gets honed on a leather strop loaded with 0.5 micron polishing compound to help remove any little bits of burr that might be left and leave an even higher polish on the edge.

Using a strop backed by wood helps keep the edge from rolling - a common problem when using flexible strops on thin edges.

Using a strop backed by wood helps keep the edge from rolling - a common problem when using flexible strops on thin edges.

The end of all the work: a mirror polished edge that slices and cuts with incredible ease.

The end of all the work: a mirror polished edge that slices and cuts with incredible ease.

The key to sharpening any knife is to understand it's use, and adjust the edge accordingly.  Once can easily get lost in trying to achieve specific angles, chasing down specific stones and arguing over particular grits. But in the end, we typically find edges with a good bit of refinement cut more efficiently and last longer than rougher, toothier edges like the ones most factories put on their knives.  And as long as a knife was thin behind the edge, the angle doesn't matter too terribly much.  If you've ever been cut by a piece of paper, you understand that thin will cut, no matter what.    In simple terms, a knife is a wedge, and it's primary function is to push its way through material.  Having a sharp knife means you have to put less effort into doing that.  

 

Hope you enjoyed the pics! Stay tuned for more!

When repair is more than just a repair

A member of our community brought, along with a number of old yard tools, her father's carpenter's hatchet to us at the farmer's market a few weeks back.  She has had it for years and loves the feel of it but in recent years the head has come loose and the neck eventually cracked.  Her husband tried to tape it together, but to no avail.  So she brought it to us, hoping we'd have a solution, which indeed we had!  Instead of throwing it away and buying a new one, we told her we could remove the rust, put a new edge on and replace the handle.  She was thrilled, so we set to work bringing this tool back to life.

Rusty, dull, chipped edge and a broken handle.  It was a sad sight.

Rusty, dull, chipped edge and a broken handle.  It was a sad sight.

First, we set about getting a new handle.  We sand it smooth, and trim down the neck so that it fits inside the head at the cheek; snug, but not too tight.

We like American hickory for it's feel and toughness.

We like American hickory for it's feel and toughness.

Next, we clean up the head, but a fresh edge on and shine up the hammer poll.  Then we mount the head on the handle, and drive in a wooden wedge, which expands the neck to fit the head.

A dab of wood glue on the wedge helps keep it in place while it cures inside the neck once in place.  

A dab of wood glue on the wedge helps keep it in place while it cures inside the neck once in place.  

The final step is to sand the excess neck down flush with the head, drive in a metal wedge to help keep every thing in place, then put a fresh coat of 100% pure tung oil on the handle.

Works like new, but keeps it's wonderful patina

Works like new, but keeps it's wonderful patina

Edge clean, sharp and polished.  All nicks and scratches removed for a nice, clean cut.

Edge clean, sharp and polished.  All nicks and scratches removed for a nice, clean cut.

Cleaned up the hammer poll as well.  I like how it looks.

Cleaned up the hammer poll as well.  I like how it looks.

In the end, we were able to save save this much loved tool, so it can be used for another perhaps another generation.  

First things first

In a lot of ways, this is a first.  Not only is it our first blog post, but its the first entry for our first website, and indeed the first small business either of us have ever been involved in.  We participated in a local farmer's market this summer, sharpening knives for our community as well as selling our handmade knives.  That was also a first, and a wonderful experience for us.  Seldom have we felt such appreciation and excitement in our current careers as we do when we sharpen someone's Grandmother's kitchen knife, making it useable again.  So we would like to thank our family and friends for supporting us through this season of firsts.  Truly, thank you.  We could not do this without your love, support, and belief in us.

Aric & Eric