Written by Maria Zarah

Sharpening your knife.

Our clients often ask for recommendations on sharpening knives; here is some beneficial information with hot links.

Many think they know how to sharpen a knife. Some do; most don’t really understand the science. If you want a good edge that will last, you must consider certain things. Most important in this deliberation is how you intend to use the knife. Purpose sets the angle of the grind. The chart below will help you determine the angle you want based on how you use your knife.

grind-angle-chart-copy

Grind-angle-chart-copy

Armed with the correct information, you can grind the knife at the appropriate angle for its job. Let me just say that a stone and free hand is not the way to go. If you free hand sharpen on a stone, good luck. As a human being, you cannot maintain the consistency needed. Your grind angle will inevitably differ from side to side and point to bolster. You can make it sharp enough but never as sharp as it should get. This performance gap comes from that human-induced variable angle. Frankly, your lifetime heirloom will always fall short of its true potential. At Bliss Knife Works we recommend a knife sharpening kit from Edge Pro. This simple system allows you to set the bevel you need and sharpen precisely with ease. A home use model costs around $165.00; use it once and you will never use anything else. Folks tell us that using this equipment helped them find true love, peace, and contentment–maybe even eternal salvation. That may be a stretch–we cannot verify how their love lives are going–but the knife sharpening kit from Edge Pro is definitely game changer.

A couple more tips to help you.

First, a knife steel is not supposed to sharpen a knife edge. Its purpose is to knock off the dings on the edge of a junk steel knife and make it relatively straight again. If you have a knife made of good steel you won’t need one. Most knives are made from soft junk steel. Do your homework and get a good set of knives. Remember, your decisions not only affect you but all the people around you. Please, for the sake of those around you who you love, buy good knives.

Have you ever seen someone spit on a sharpening stone and then start grinding away? Don’t be that guy. If you are sharpening a Damascus or high carbon steel knife use a cutting oil that is either petroleum based or one that contains rust inhibitors. Water–and that includes spit–will cause corrosion and rust.

The best way to see if you are getting your bevel correct or sharpening the bevel to the edge is to mark the bevel edge with a sharpie marker. This way you can see what areas are actually being removed when you are sharpening. When you grind the marker off completely you are done.

marker-edge

 

 

Also, on a traditional 50/50 bevel you should count how many time you run the stone over the edge per side. Be sure to apply the same pressure and do equal passes per side. If you are really serious, you should use an eye magnifier so you can truly see what you are doing to the edge. For about $10.00 you can add professional precision to your sharpening work.

If you take our advice your life will forever be changed for the better. Remember, a knife that isn’t sharp is dangerous!

Cut on friends!

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Written by Maria Zarah

Care & Sharpening

Damascus Care

In our estimation, Damascus and Carbon steel knives are better than stainless steel knives, but do require a little care. Here are some tips to help you care for your knife.

  1. Never store your knives for long periods in the leather sheath. Leather can absorb water, which will rust the knife.
  2. After use, wash the blade, dry it, and use Flitz, WD-40, vegetable oil, or Vaseline on the blade to prevent rust. Kitchen knives can be washed and dried without oiling. Carbon steel will change colors with time but will still perform well.

*Clean the brass and handle metal with Flitz or other brass cleaner. Johnson’s paste wax can be used on the blade handle and sheath to protect it.  Birchwood Casey gunstock wax is another alternative for the sheath, metal parts and the knife blade.

*Damascus is very easy to clean up if rusted but seems to be rust resistant. Sometimes Damascus gets dark with age. To brighten up the blade, sand it lengthwise with a worn piece of 600 grit sand paper. This just hits the raised portions of the etched pattern and makes the blade look brighter.

  1. If your sheath gets wet, don’t store the knife in it if you can help it. If my sheath gets wet and I still need to carry my knife in it, I liberally use WD-40, Vaseline or vegetable oil. Vaseline is handy because you can use it on chapped lips, dry hands, rifles, etc.

Sharpening Damascus

When the Damascus is put into the acid it is sharpened first. After the acid etching the blade is re-sharpened with 320 grit sanding belt on a 1 x 42 inch belt sander. Then it is sharpened on a 600 to 1100 grit worn belt. The cutting edge is placed so that it is facing the belt – the belt is moving towards the cutting edge. After several passes the blade is stropped on leather, re-sharpened, stropped again until it has an edge sharper than a scalpel. Stropping breaks off any wire edge that is developed on the edge from the sharpening.

This is the state you should receive your Damascus knife. As the mild steel wears away faster than the other two high carbon components, a miniature saw is created at the cutting edge. After a while the minute saw teeth become misaligned a bit. Now, with two gentle strokes per side on the ceramic rod the knife will be shaving sharp again. This is done by holding the ceramic rod in the left hand. Put the heel, near the guard, of the blade on the rod at about a 20-degree angle. Draw the blade from heel to tip gently and slowly with very little pressure. Do not try to remove metal, just use a light pressure from heel to tip. Do the other side, and then repeat once more.  The edge on your Damascus when you receive it has a uniform angle the whole length of the blade. So sharpening should be easy.

Serrated edges are another story. These should be sharpened on a triangle cross-section set of ceramic rods supplied by Spyderco Company. The knife blade should be held vertically and drawn from heel to tip down the ceramic rod, alternating each side. Each individual serration does not need to be filed or worked with a stone.

Occasionally, the Damascus blade and the brass fittings should be cleaned. To clean the blade use a piece of worn 600 grit sandpaper and sand lightly lengthwise on the blade. This will polish the raised portions of the pattern and make the blade look brighter. I use Flitz metal cleaner on the blade after it is sanded and also on the brass and handle tang metal that is exposed. This cleaner will clean all metals. Any brass cleaner should work on the brass pieces. WD-40, Birchwood Casey gunstock wax, Johnson’s paste wax, Vaseline, or vegetable oil will also work on the blade.

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Written by Maria Zarah

Care for Damascus Steel

Damascus and Carbon steel knives are better than stainless steel knives but they do require a little care. Here are some tips to help you care for your knife.

Given Damascus is a high carbon steel they need to be cared for and considered unlike the disposable stainless knives most have in their drawers.  You will want to keep your knives stored in a dry space.  Long term storage in leather sheaths could result in the blade rusting due to the absorbent nature of leather.  We recommend preparing your knives for storage if you do not plan on using them for extended time periods.  Coating the blade in Vaseline or a light oil (such as WD 40 or olive oil) will keep the moisture from staining the blade. If you are going to store them in leather we recommend you prep the blade, wrap it in plastic wrap then insert the knife in the sheath. The plastic wrap will act as a protective barrier between the steel and the leather.  Once removed after storage simply clean off the blade and use.

If the blade does develop some rust or corrosion we recommend wet sanding the blade using WD40 with 1500 wet/dry sandpaper or 0000 or 000 steel wool. The WD40 acts as a cutting agent. This usually will restore the blade to its original state with little effort.

 

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