A PRIMER ON KNIFE SHARPENING Chapter 1

by Steve Bottorff, Member: Ohio Knifemakers Association color photographs by Carol Butz

CONTENTS
Introduction Testing Sharpness EQUIPMENT Sharpening Stones Guides Rod-Guided Systems Recommended Books on Knife Sharpening

Sharpening Made Easy Knife Sharpening Business INTRODUCTION

How to Start Your Own

I really admired my grandfather, who was a doctor, pharmacist, hunter and gardener. I especially admired two of his nonprofessional skills - even when he was in his nineties he could put a razor edge on a knife, then use that knife to put a perfect point on a pencil. I learned to sharpen with hand stones at Grandpa's knee, but I always had trouble with certain knives. For years I searched for the ultimate knife sharpening method. I realized that I might not have the skills required so I was willing to use whatever gadgets and machines I could find. Testing over 30 different knife sharpeners taught me what works and what doesn't, and I decided to write this article and share the information. BTW: I gave up on sharpening a pencil with a knife and bought a pencil sharpener.

The instructions that come with sharpening equipment is often inadequate. Some give no instruction at all. I note in this article when equipment comes with good instructions. There are two schools of knife sharpening - those who like a knife to keep some roughness from the stone and those who believe that it should be as smooth as possible. Both approaches have their benefits. Blades with a rough edge can be aggressive cutters, especially when the blade is thin. They have micro-serrations that act like a microscopic saw. These micro-saws are very well suited for slicing fibrous material, such as a rope. This edge is easy to produce because you just stop sharpening after a medium stone (200 to 300 grit). Blades sharpened this way do become dull faster as the points wear or bend, so frequent touchups are needed. Smooth edges are best for cutting with a straight push and are preferred by barbers, surgeons and woodworkers. Research done by John Juranitch of Razor Edge Systems (1) shows that butchers can cut more meat per shift and tire less when using a smooth edge. Analysis with an electron microscope (2) has confirmed that wood cutting ability is correlated to edge smoothness. Sharpening a smooth edge requires more work, but the results are worth it. TESTING SHARPNESS To be sure you are improving your sharpening; you need an objective way to test the results. Tests evaluating sharpness range from cutting silk to chopping trees. What you need is a test method that are useful in your workshop as you are sharpening. A major knife maker tests sharpness on nylon paint brushes.

Most people test an edge by rubbing their thumb lightly across the edge and feeling how the edge grabs as it tries to cut into the thumb pad. To keep your thumb calibrated, test a known sharp edge like a new razor blade periodically. Shaving hair on your hand or arm is another common sharpness test. Shaving sharpness can be achieved even on heavy hunting knives or an axe. I own a hunting knife that will shave even though the edge angle is a rather blunt 30 degrees. I use the term shaving sharp to describe this degree of sharpness and razor sharp to describe even greater sharpness. Razor sharpness is comparable to a razor blade and will literally pop the hairs off your hand or arm. Razor sharpness is only possible with both a polished edge and a small edge angle. Testing by shaving can be misleading if the blade has a burr or wire edge. Steel naturally forms a burr - a thin bendable projection on the edge - during the sharpening process. A blade with a burr will shave but will not stand up to hard use. To test for a burr, slide your fingertips lightly from the side of the blade over the edge. You will feel the burr drag against your fingers. Test from both sides, because burrs are usually bent over one way or the other. As your sharpening improves you will be looking for smaller and smaller burrs.

The glint along this edge means a dull blade. Many good sharpeners, including my grandfather, have learned to see a dull edge. Hold the blade in front of you with the edge in line with a bright light. Move the blade around a bit. A dull edge will reflect a glint. Nicks and burrs will also cause glints. When the blade is sharp these glints will be gone. Another test for sharpness is to press the edge lightly on your thumbnail at about a 30degree angle. If it cuts into your nail it is sharp. If it slips it is dull. The sharper the blade, the smaller you can make the angle before it slips. Try this with a new razor blade to see how a really sharp blade feels. The down side of thumbnail testing is that the little cuts in your nail get dirty and look bad until the nail grows out. For this reason some people do this test using a plastic pen or pencil.

5 on Mohs scale. Spyderco and others offer ceramic stones in a wide variety of sizes and grits. Silicon carbide has a hardness of 9. Eze-Lap and others. Smaller stones are handy for field use. preferably two or more of different grits. Natural abrasives work well on carbon steel knives. Diamond hones are made by DMT. Large tool suppliers such as MSC or McMaster-Carr and restaurant suppliers are good sources for sharpening stones.anagosharp. check out http://www. Polycrystalline diamond is less expensive. Ceramic stones are made from alumina (aluminum oxide) or silicon carbide in a ceramic bond. Aluminum oxide. For modern steels I recommend stones made with manufactured abrasives and industrial diamonds. Industrial diamonds are made into hones by bonding them to steel and are therefore also called diamond files. Remember that Momma probably owns the really big knives around the house. EdgeCraft's unique answer to bench stones is the Chef'sChoice 400 series diamond file system. but they struggle with harder tool steels and tougher wear-resistant and stainless steels.5 and will sharpen anything except carbide tipped tool bits. get an Edge Tester. The principle is similar to the thumbnail test. but the Edge Tester has a special material and shape for repeatable testing. and you will be expected to sharpen her 8 or 10 inch butcher knives. The original Washita and Arkansas stones were quarried natural stones. The relative hardness of novaculite is 6. If you are interested in the sharpness testers used by industry. The Edge Tester evaluates edges on a 100 point scale for sharpness and smoothness.The only affordable tool I know of for edge testing is the Edge Tester from Razor Edge Systems. Monocrystalline diamond hones last longer because the diamonds do not fracture readily. Stones for shop use should be as long as the longest knife you plan to sharpen. is also bonded to form reconstructed stones. including modern Japanese water stones (resin bond) and India stones (vitrified bond).catra. just a bit harder than file steel. It consists of rather thin diamond hones that fit on a magnetic .com/ THE EQUIPMENT SHARPENING STONES No shop is complete without at least one bench stone. but manufactured abrasives have dominated since the early 1900s. but now many stones sold by these names are reconstructed. Natural sharpening stones include both stones found in nature and reconstructed stones. Two very different types of diamonds are used in diamond hones. The abrasive material is novaculite. DMT uses monocrystalline diamonds. a mineral related to flint and quartz containing mainly silicon dioxide. which has a relative hardness of 9. Originally this material was from natural sources (emery and corundum). The original Japanese and Greek waterstones were also from natural sources.org/ or http://www.2. Diamond has a relative hardness of 10. I recommend you buy the largest sharpening stones you can afford. If you're serious about sharp knives.

If you mount your stone flush with your work surface. and for flattening the sole of planes. so you would need a longer stone. you can utilize the full stone length. .holder. EdgeCraft has a good pamphlet on sharpening which you can request from the address at the end of this article. Also I managed to grind away some of this guide when I tried it on diamond hones. It is a good guide but no longer made. The Razor Edge Guide The Razor Edge guide clamps on the blade with four Allen screws and I find it inconvenient to use. GUIDES You will also need a guide to control the sharpening angle. Guides are available for knives. If you find a Buck HoneMaster. This method is called Scary Sharp by those who promote it. An inexpensive alternative to stones is silicon carbide sandpaper. Wet or dry sandpaper on plate glass is popular with woodworkers for sharpening plane irons and chisels. buy it. chisels and plane irons. It is a very good value. A piece of silicon carbide (also called wet or dry) sandpaper glued to a wooden block will work as well as a stone. The drawback of most guides is that they waste about 3 inches of stone.

Unknown. Buck HoneMaster and Razor Edge guides. ROD-GUIDED STONE SYSTEMS .

a smaller stone is needed. including ones for serrated blades. They will sharpen up to a 4 inch blade before you have to move the guide to a new position. A variety of stones are available. This controls the angle and also prevents scratching the blade with the stone. depending on the number and type of stones.The Lansky rod-guided sharpening system has been the industry standard for years. Rod-guided systems sell in the $30 to $50 range. with good reasons. Rod-guided systems have a rod on each stone that slides through a hole in the guide. . Since the guide slides on the rod and not on the stone.

GATCO and DMT rod guided systems. which are not marked. With DMT hones. GATCO. which I do not have. and goes from 12 to 35 degrees in 7 steps. DMT and others. the Aligner would be the pick of the litter for this size of system. I prefer the GATCO to the Lansky because of the GATCO's larger stones and selection of angles. . The Lansky has an aluminum guide that goes from 13 to 25 degrees in 4 steps. each angle is 3 to 5 degrees lower than indicated.Lansky. each step is about 6 degrees greater than indicated. The DMT Aligner guide is all plastic. Rod-guided systems are available from Lansky. The GATCO guide is aluminum and reinforced plastic and goes from 17 to 34 degrees in 6 steps.

The Apex comes with a good instruction book. The angle guide is continuously adjustable for any angle from 10 degrees to 35 degrees. the owner of EdgePro. 15. My measurements confirmed that the marks were accurate.The EdgePro Apex Sharpening System The class act in rod-guided systems is the EdgePro Apex Sharpening System. Ben Dale. Footnotes: (1) The Razor Edge Book of Sharpening by John Juranitch (2) The Complete Guide to Sharpening by Leonard Lee A PRIMER ON KNIFE SHARPENING Chapter 2 by Steve Bottorff. has spared no expense in his pursuit of excellence in hand sharpening. Member: Ohio Knifemakers Association color photographs by Carol Butz CONTENTS Crock Sticks Slot Gadgets Electric Sharpening Machines For Home Use . 18. with marks at 10. 21 and 25 degrees. The Apex is rugged and uses relatively large 1 x 6 inch aluminum oxide waterstones.

and a pair of medium diamond sleeves for pre-sharpening. Unfortunately most of these sharpeners come with only one grade of rods so they have limited use. also known as crock sticks. Their deluxe set comes with two pairs of ceramic rods. The Tri-angle Sharpmaker comes with a good instruction book. A fishhook groove. An exception is the Tri-angle Sharpmaker from Spyderco. and the blade is brought down against them in a slicing motion.Recommended Books on Knife Sharpening SUPPLIERS OF SHARPENING EQUIPMENT CROCK STICKS Ceramic rod sharpeners. The rods are held in a vee at a predetermined angle. are completely different than bench stones. . a scissors position and a flat position extend the Tri-angle Sharpmaker for special uses. medium and fine. You can manually make deviations from the set angle by tilting the blade.

I have tried a lot of them in my quest. The TwinSharp is handy for touch-ups and I used it between regular sharpenings until I gave it to a friend. A variation uses a set of overlapping carbide wheels. I bought one and it ended up in my junk box. The most primitive type of slot gadgets uses a pair of tungsten carbide tool inserts set at an angle. and leave a sharp. . SLOT GADGETS There are a whole lot of gadgets on the market that promise easy sharpening. A. Theoretically with slot-type gadgets you just draw the knife through a slot a few times and it will be sharp. but somewhat ragged. Knowing this. More refined slot gadgets use two sets of ceramic wheels or rods. but in practice I found that changing your hand position changes which set of wheels contacts the blade. one medium and one fine. This type shapes the initial bevel but provides no way to hone or steel the edge. Henckels these wheels are in the same slot. These literally scrape metal away from the edge. This type hones well but is limited in its ability to sharpen. but some are worth considering. In the TwinSharp from J. In theory you might use both in one pass. edge.Lansky makes a handy folding ceramic rod sharpener called Fold-A-Vee. Benefit from my experience and save your money. It folds for easy carrying and features two angle settings for fillet and hunting knives. Many are worthless gimmicks. you can sharpen and hone separately.

The FireStone 1302 Knife Sharpener from McGowan Manufacturing is also a two stage setup. and they wobble. These feature additional tools like a broadhead wrench. The Firestone would be especially handy if you own their electric sharpener. these tools are indispensable when you need one. If you are going to benefit from a slot gadget. it must hone at an equal or greater angle than your sharpening. This is a single stage sharpener with only medium grit ceramic wheels. but with sets of four interleaved medium and fine wheels. each set in its own slot. This makes it more convenient if the knife needs more sharpening than honing or vice versa. . Like golf spike tools and shotgun choke removers that are often featured on specialty knives. reviewed below. In my opinion the ceramic wheels are too coarse for a good edge. I picked up a FireStone SharpPocket because it was winner of a product design competition. It has joined my junk sharpener collection. The Chef'sChoice Model 450 uses diamond stones at the same angles (22. fishhook sharpener and line cutter. I keep one in a kitchen drawer for use between regular sharpenings on my Chef'sChoice Model 110. McGowan also makes a variety of other manual sharpeners marketed to fishermen and bow-and-arrow hunters.5 and 25 degrees) as the final two stages of their electric sharpeners. Instructions say to go light on the last few strokes to polish the edge.

I have used it to restore a slightly dull blade to shaving sharpness. .For about $2. It costs about $2. so it surely is the Best Buy. It has two sets of ceramic rods set at 20 degrees. The Normark's 20 degrees is perfect for touching up a fillet knife where the initial edge was 17 or 18 degrees. The medium gray rods sharpen and the fine white rods hone. the Normark sharpener is a best buy. The Normark knife sharpener is an inexpensive slot gadget that can be found at a sporting goods store next to Normark's fillet knives.

Since it is assembled with tamperproof screws. This manufacturer suggests measuring the average angle of the entire bevel. . It is so compact when closed that it can be carried in the watch pocket of your jeans. I've seen many knives ruined by them and they have given electric sharpeners a bad reputation. the Sharpen-It can be used equally well left-handed. Unlike other slot devices. The18-degree hollow ground edge would be another reason for the aggressive cutting. but that varies with blade thickness. will slice right through a ripe tomato while a fine edge may not. I could not measure the bevel angles. With this combination. and shapes them so that they sharpen one side of the blade at a time. right from the machine. Note: there is no generally accepted method for measuring bevel angle of hollow ground blades. Drawing the knife through at an angle decreases the bevel angle and gives a more razor-like edge. the Sharpen-It adds a third wheel to each set. giving two slots. ELECTRIC SHARPENING MACHINES FOR HOME USE Cheap electric knife sharpeners such as those found on can openers grind aggressively but with little control of angle or depth. The FireStone manual sharpener would hone it to a longer-lasting angle. but this information is less important because you won't have to use it with another sharpener to get complete results. A less expensive model is available without the tapered hone. and my higher number is the average angle for a blade with 0. But this edge. The instructions don't say so. The ceramic is so hard and fine-grained that it is more like using a steel. Designed by Blackie Collins to be so simple that it could be used on horseback. I like to measure the wheel diameters and spacing and calculate the angle at the edge by trigonometry. I prefer a more refined edge and the Firestone manual sharpener reviewed above is just the tool to refine it. The FireStone Diamond Electric sharpener from McGowan is a fast machine that produces a toothy. but I measured 18 to 19 degrees on the electric sharpener and 21 to 22 degrees on the manual sharpeners. and features a tapered hone for serrated blades. typical of a hunting knife. effectively using it as a manual sharpener. The unit well built and sturdy. Here are two electric sharpeners worth considering for household use. Also unlike others. This setup allows you to vary the bevel angle somewhat.There is one class act in every category. the Sharpen-It features tungsten carbide wheels for the first stage and fine ceramic wheels for the second. My low number is the angle at the edge. aggressive edge with just a hint of a burr. the Sharpen-It performs well at both sharpening and honing. and the Meyerco Sharpen-It is it for slot gadgets.020 thickness at the back of the bevel. The manufacturer specifies 23-degree bevels on all their FireStone sharpeners. but the designer recommends pulling the knife through the wheels a few times with the machine turned off to align the edge.

grinding even faster than the FireStone. but without the adjustable angles that make the commercial machines so expensive. but it is only used once to pre-shape the bevel. but I found that every blade I tried was sharpened in a single pass and begin to show loss after only 3 passes. The Chef'sChoice 110 features three sets of diamond hones. I would prefer that this sharpener used finer stones and a slower speed. The instructions say you might need up to 10 passes on a new blade. The wheels are 220 grit diamond-impregnated ceramic. you cannot play around much without grinding a swale into the blade.The FireStone design features four interleaved. From then on you use the . because it grinds so fast. The first stage is very aggressive. and does a great job of sharpening. I suspect that repeated use of this sharpener would reduce knife life or require professional sharpening to re-shape the blade. I found it difficult to sharpen close to the bolster with the FireStone electric sharpener and. EdgeCraft's Chef'sChoice Model 110 uses 3 sets of diamond hones and each sharpens at a different angle. counter-rotating wheels like commercial machines.

electric. NEW REVIEW .htm#chefschoice A PRIMER ON KNIFE SHARPENING Chapter 3 by Steve Bottorff. with one caution . Member: Ohio Knifemakers Association photographs by Carol Butz CONTENTS THE SHARPENING PROCESS The Common Mistakes The Conventional Method A Multi-Bevel Method Multi-bevel with a Lansky Honing Using Oils And Water On Stones Recommended Books on Knife Sharpening THE SHARPENING PROCESS THE COMMON MISTAKES . but it is great for working knives.) The Chef'sChoice is my recommendation in this class.second and third stages (sharpening and honing) only. The final honing is at a very sturdy 25 degrees. but with only the final two stages. so I can't recommend it for collectible knives. which will give very long edge life.it has a tendency to scratch the sides of a blade. I have not used one. (The Model 310 is similar.

The keys to success are: 1) Use an angle guide to control the edge angle. The same thing happens when sharpening by hand. and here's why: most people won't hold a constant angle this way. fast cutting stone. and you can benefit most from using a power sharpener. This creates larger edge angles as time goes on and the results gradually deteriorate. If it is at the edge. failure to establish a new edge. The following methods address each of these mistakes. THE CONVENTIONAL METHOD For fast removal of the old edge. You can then remove the burr in the honing process and have a sharp edge every time. and leaving the edge too rough. You instinctively raise the blade until you detect the edge working. The duller the blade becomes the more you raise it more before you can sense the edge working against the stone.The mistakes commonly made in sharpening are uncontrolled edge angles. you are lowering the angle. Skill and practice will overcome this problem. A final honing and polishing will bring the edge to perfection. Every different edge requires that you hold the blade at a different angle when slicing a thin layer. and 3) Hone or polish the edge smooth. with Japanese waterstones second. 2) Sharpen until you raise a burr. Some instructions refer to the sharpening motion as trying to slice a thin layer or a decal off the stone. you will leave some of the dull edge in place. When the scratch pattern is centered on the bevel you are duplicating the original angle. start with a coarse. Check the angle against the old bevel. This is bad advice. Steel will naturally form a burr when one bevel is ground until it meets another. Diamond stones are the fastest cutting manual stones. the angle is being increased. If you do not remove enough metal to create a new edge. Keeping the original angle is a safe strategy until you gain more knowledge. but the sure-fire way is to use a guide to maintain edge angle. . If the new scratch pattern is on the back edge of the old bevel. The first step is where most of the work is. Set the guide and take a light stroke with the stone. involving both feeling and hearing. The easiest way to determine that you have removed enough metal is to grind until you have raised a burr. This is almost a sixth sense.

When the angle is set correctly. then stroke the stone again. Grind until you have raised a burr.Black marker helps show the honing angle. If you are not sure. here with a rod-guided system. The burr will appear on the side opposite the one you are grinding. With experience you will learn how to stop with just a small burr in this step. The scratch pattern will stand out against the dark marking. . try darkening the old bevel with a black felt tip marker. grind one side of the blade until you have removed the old edge. grind until you can feel the burr. Then turn the blade over and grind an equal amount off the second side. If you can't see the scratch pattern.

Then do an equal amount of grinding on the second side. When I was learning I would show my work to my grandfather. any of the three is okay. . and he would often show me that I had a burr. you can use 320 or 360 now. then hone it away. I tried to avoid ever raising a burr for years after that. but the burr would eventually bend over and become dull. although sliding the stone off the edge makes a larger burr. which in turn makes it easier to detect. Its purpose is not so much to remove material as to grind away the scratches made by the first stone. It seemed sharp. For the next step use a medium stone. As a result I never got anything quite sharp. If you started with a 180 grit stone. A burr is a natural occurrence in steel when one bevel is ground until it meets another. The medium stone should be about twice as fine as the first. There are three basic strokes when you sharpen . At the first stage. Here again experience will tell you when you have ground enough. sliding it off the edge. Ceramic knives and some very hard steel will not raise a burr. or circular strokes. Use circular strokes until the old scratch pattern is gone. Now I know that one of the secrets of sharpening is to raise a burr.Feeling the burr.sliding the stone onto the edge.

repeat the medium and fine stones. If there is roughness. This will help prevent forming a new burr. go back to the medium stone. continue with the fine stone. Continue to the next step if you want a longer lasting edge. which is good enough for many uses. and hone using only strokes going onto the edge. The edge now has 320 or 360 grit micro-serrations. The micro-serrations are providing some of the apparent sharpness now but they will wear and bend. The blade should now be sharp with no burr. Your edge should now shave. This method can be adapted to many types of sharpening equipment.You might still be able to detect a small burr at this stage. Finish with a few light strokes sliding onto the edge to remove the burr. This is where slicing a decal off the stone is an accurate description. If there is no roughness but the edge doesn't have enough bite. Test it as described above. For the third step use a fine stone. The multi-bevel edge that results is similar to the convex edge found on Moran and BlackJack knives and the Trizor edge on Chef'sChoice knives. A steel or a touch-up stone will straighten them and bring back the sharpness. A MULTI-BEVEL METHOD This variation will give you a longer lasting edge than the conventional method described above. Only when the blade becomes nicked or damaged will you need to go back to the coarse stone. . 600 or 800 grit. Alternate sides with every stroke. When the blade becomes dull.

This increases the angle by a degree or so. Push the rod into the coarse stone as far as it will go and still have the screw tighten against the flat. but you will save some work later. . Other systems have different ways to adjust the angle. Do the ultra-fine the same if you have one. it usually takes quite a bit of work to remove the previous step's scratches. Grind until the old edge is removed. Now change to a medium stone and set your guide for a few degrees greater angle. See the section below for a method using the Lansky sharpener. Hone with strokes going onto the edge and alternate sides with every stroke. the proof is that you have raised a burr. 2. removing the burr and the scratches from the medium stone. By increasing the angle by a couple of degrees when you change stones. You are now grinding only a small area right at the edge. you focus this work on a smaller area near the edge and reduce the work needed MULTI-BEVEL WITH A LANSKY SHARPENER A multi-bevel edge can be accomplished with a Lansky Sharpener by fixing the rod at different positions with each stone.The first step is to grind an initial edge bevel about 5 degrees less than you want your final angle. 3. On a clamp-on type guide you increase the angle by moving the guide closer to the edge. Push the rod into the fine stone only far enough to tighten the screw against the flat. This decreases the angle by a degree or so. Here is an easy way to do a multi-bevel with the Lansky: 1. Since a finer stone cuts more slowly. This is sometimes referred to as pre-sharpening or thinning the blade. Do extra-coarse stones the same if used. As described above. When you get to the fine stone increase the angle again another couple of degrees. You will put a little more work into this step. On a rod type systems you can easily select another angle. Mount the rod on the medium stones in the center of the flat per the instructions.

Use and clean Japanese waterstones only with water. Clean them with water and scouring powder when necessary. Tip: replacing the thumb screws with flat head screws will give you another 1/2 inch or so of useful stone. If you have used water on a stone and want to change to oil. with the following guidance. I'll leave this up to your personal preference. I prefer ceramic and diamond stones used dry. Maintain the same angle as the final step above. However. and then oil it. Washita and natural Arkansas stones can be used with oil. when using these stones you will automatically create a three bevel edge. water or dry. 1000 grit or better. in the rest of the world they use water. HONING You can further improve the edge by honing the edge on an ultra fine Japanese. Arkansas or ceramic stone. but store them dry and soak them before using. Member: Ohio Knifemakers Association Contents Knife Steels Sharpening Theory Stropping Using Steels Power Sharpening Machines . Clean them with paint thinner. USING OILS AND WATER ON STONES In North America we usually use oil on sharpening stones.Now. and cleaned accordingly. Tests by John Juranitch show that because oil carries the dross against the edge. better results are obtained with a dry stone. it is difficult to change back A PRIMER ON KNIFE SHARPENING Chapter 4 by Steve Bottorff.continued Paper Wheels Sharpening ceramic knives TABLES Mohs hardness scale . Ceramic and diamond stones can be used dry or with water. and my second choice is Japanese waterstones. Once you have used oil on a stone. let it dry thoroughly. With India and bonded Arkansas stones you can use oil or use them dry. natural stones tend to clog without oil.

Powdered metal technology makes it possible to incorporate higher percentages of alloying elements than will stay in solution in molten steel. Because of this. High carbon steel takes an excellent edge. and CPM is the pioneer in this area. It is a little harder to work with and sharpen. but it has the advantage of corrosion resistance. nickel and vanadium. The steels used in knives are called high carbon steels and typically have a carbon content of 0.5 to 1%. ATS-34 is used by custom makers and by a few production makers. 440C is an excellent compromise of price and performance and is used by many custom and production makers. but it is difficult to sharpen. but has better edge retention. 440C is slightly more difficult to sharpen than the others. Most knives today are made from some form of stainless steel. manganese. BG-42 challenges CPM-440V in edge retention. CPM stands for Crucible Particle Metallurgy.Abrasive grits Suppliers To Read Further BOOKS KNIFE STEELS Traditionally knife blades are made from steel. Only a few custom makers are using CPM-440V and BG-42 at this time. The most popular stainless steels in use today are the 420 and 440 families. Look for new knives to be produced with steels that start with CPM and end with a V. CPM-440V is the edge retention champion. but it has no corrosion resistance. Among steels. an alloy of iron with carbon and other elements. because there is more than one stainless steel used for surgical instruments. Increasing desirable elements like carbon and vanadium has created a whole new family of steels like CPM440V mentioned above. They are easy to sharpen and have moderately good edge retention. A typical kitchen knife will be made from one of these steels or a close relative. molybdenum. toughness and wear resistance are cobalt. It can then be heat-treated to hardnesses suitable for knives. The term surgical stainless steel is meaningless. This steel in its unhardened or tempered state is easy to shape by forging or grinding. Stainless steel is made by adding 12% or more chromium to the alloy. . it will hold an edge longer in wet conditions. notably Benchmade. If you buy specialty cutlery or a custom made knife you will have more steels to choose from. Other elements added to steel to improve hardness. and is as easy to sharpen as 440C.

high-strength fasteners for aerospace use. It is used in industrial knives subject to high wear. The search for edge retention led knifemakers to try the wear resistant materials like Vascowear. is used to quickly complete any further transitions in the steel that would normally take place over time. Knife blades may vary from about 55 to 62 on the Rockwell C scale. freezing with liquid nitrogen. Damascus steel has the layers at various angles. creating a more stable blade. Stellite tests at a low Rockwell C hardness. His knives are made from cast stainless steel. Blades over 60 Rc are difficult to sharpen and chip easily.Steel is heat treated to control its hardness. His steel has a matrix of carbide dendrites that are exposed to form a micro-saw when sharpened. and application of these materials to only one side can result in a blade that is self sharpening like a beaver’s tooth. Using combinations of tempering and annealing. a cobalt alloy with about 30% chromium. Laminated steel is different than Damascus steel. This can dramatically improve edge retention. A cobalt-chromium-tungsten alloy named Talonite is similar to Stellite. In the future expect to see surface coatings take a greater role in blade technology. Another wear resistant material is Stellite. The samurai sword is a well-known example of both differential heat treatment and mechanical layering. Cryogenic treatment. Mechanical methods can be used to create this same effect. Titanium is favored for salt water diving because of its excellent corrosion resistance. Laminated steel has all the layers parallel to the edge for strength and hardness. And don’t think the underlying material will always be steel. and is often chosen for decorative effect. Another approach to knife steels has been taken by knifemaker David Boye. Since it contains so little iron. but it is very difficult to sharpen. Stellite will tie or beat CPM-440V for edge-retention. Kyocera and others make knives with ceramic blades. Carbon and . 3% or less iron and 1 to 3% of other elements. These carbides are highly wear resistant. Boker. titanium has a low Rockwell C hardness. but it contains harder carbides that do the cutting and retain the edge. Laminated steel with a hard core that becomes the edge and tough outer layers is available in both regular and stainless. nitrides ceramics and even diamond onto steel. Titanium is known mainly for making lightweight. Sometimes differential heat-treating is used to combine a hard edge with a tough spine. but it is also used for knife blades. Vascowear is a high vanadium steel that has great wear resistance. Like Stellite and Talonite. it is technically not steel but a cobalt-chromium alloy. but it has good wear resistance and requires diamond hones to sharpen. Both alloys cannot be heat-treated and are non-magnetic. It is now possible to coat extremely hard materials like carbides. Titanium is also non-magnetic. about 38 to 40. Ceramic materials exhibit very high hardness and wear resistance. You want enough hardness for wear resistance without being brittle. Steel hardness is measured on a Rockwell hardness tester. the maker tries to get the perfect balance between hardness and strength.

Because the Mohs and Rockwell scales use different methods they cannot be compared exactly. edge angle.ceramic fibers have some superior characteristics that I would love to see incorporated into knife blades. no matter what you do to the edge. but it never caught on. Your hunting knife will never slice like a fillet knife or a kitchen knife. but that can make a big difference in cutting ability. Blade thickness is set by the manufacturer and has a great effect of slicing ability.blade thickness. but knife steel is roughly 5. SHARPENING THEORY A knife edge Several things . determine cutting ability. blade shape. It is called Mohs' scale after its inventor. The materials used for grinding are measured on another scale intended for minerals. Friedrich Mohs. . It is possible to change blade thickness a little near the edge. The original Mohs' scale runs from 1 for talc to 10 for diamond. A chart at the end of this article compares these scales and the new Mohs' scale.5 on Mohs' scale and files are roughly 6. Scientists introduced a new Mohs' scale that spreads out the scale between silica and diamond to make it more closely equal to physical hardness. edge thickness and edge smoothness.

Edge angle is difficult to measure after the fact. while a reverse curve is needed on a linoleum knife. That is why sashimi knifes seem so sharp. All other tasks are done as well or better with a plain edge (sometimes called a fine edge). always slicing the material a different point. The grit of the cutting stone determines scratch pattern or smoothness. Asian knives and woodworking tools are single bevel. and twenty five degrees gives a long lasting edge to a camp knife. Good edge smoothness requires careful work with your finest stone. Edge angle is measured between the center of the blade and the bevel or flat cut by the stone. more belly or curve helps skinning and fillet knives slice. and the resulting smaller angle can make them aggressive cutters. In my opinion serrated edges are desirable for three common cutting tasks slicing tomatoes. Blade shapes like serrations and reverse curves give an aggressive look to fantasy knives. but is fairly easy to control when sharpening by controlling the angle between the stone and the blade. You can't have a 1/10. Rescue workers like them for cutting rubber and Kevlar. Paper is about 2 to 3 thousands thick and will cut you if conditions are right. Serrations help with some cutting chores by letting the edge attack repeatedly from different angles. What's suitable in the kitchen will not do for camping. The force of your hand with a stone or steel can move enough steel to create or smooth a burr. A plain edge is also easier to maintain. Edge thickness naturally increases with wear. but most are between 15 degrees (fillet knives) and 30 degrees (survival knives). STROPPING Stropping the edge to a mirror finish on a leather strop or a buffing wheel charged with a fine abrasive can improve an edge beyond where the hone leaves off. it takes only a fraction of an ounce to move it. edge thickness and edge smoothness. Sharpening is about the remaining three items . For instance. and cutting rope. so the total angle at the edge is twice this angle. First is malleability.000-inch edge if you have scratches 1/1000 inch deep. Edge angles can vary from 10 degrees to 40 degrees.edge angle. The second limit to edge thickness is edge smoothness. but as the edge thickness approaches zero. The yield strength of steel is thousands of pounds per square inch. Most Western knives are double bevel. twenty two degrees is good for pocket knives. Ideally the flats cut by the stone would come together to make a perfect edge with zero edge thickness. Twenty degrees is about right for kitchen knives. This lets you cut with less pressure. slicing bread. or the tendency for steel to move when it is pushed. A good starting point is to duplicate the angle the maker put on the blade.Blade shape likewise is set when the blade is made and is determined by the usage. Any edge thickness under a few thousandths of an inch may be considered sharp. Different angles are suited for different tasks. When stropping . but edge thickness is limited by several factors.

. where the steel rod is replaced by a ceramic one. The Raz-RSteel from Razor's Edge is marked for the proper angle. The secret of using a steel is to use an angle about 10 degrees larger than the final honed edge. I know a knife shop owner and knifemaker that disagrees. A variation on the steel is the ceramic steel. I prefer to use a steel in the vertical position as pictured. STEELS A butcher's steel is a round file with the teeth running the long way. I am not aware of any guide for use with steels. and use light force. but are not suitable for today's tougher and harder steels. A meat packer's steel is a smooth. Ceramic steels are available from many suppliers. Therefore they affect the metal in a knife when used with very little force. polished steel rod designed for straightening a turned edge. They are intended for mild steel knifes that are steeled several times a day. instead of the in-the-air method. Since ceramic is an abrasive. It is also useful for burnishing a newly finished edge. It's use is similar to crock sticks. Because steels have a small diameter they exert high local pressure. but in my opinion they belong in a knife museum along with natural stones. it can polish as well as burnish.or buffing you always stroke off the edge to prevent cutting into the strop or buff.

The Sears Home Sharpener rest is easy to adjust and can be set from about 10 degrees to 90 degrees. A wet wheel machine is very useful if you have to remove a lot of material. like regrinding a broken tip. AMT sells a version for about $100. There are several 10" wet wheels available for $150 to $400. They are popular with woodworkers. and are useful for sharpening serrated knives.continued While hand sharpening meets the needs of most of us. It is reversible so that you can grind on of off the edge from the same rest setting. Ceramic sticks without handles are available very cheaply at pottery shops if you want to make your own. The water prevents over heating the blade and ruining the temper. They are available in several grades.Small ceramic steels are sometimes called zip-zaps. Larger wet grinders for professional use cost from $400 to several thousand dollars. and are harder than natural stones. The advantage of these is the flat bevel they put on knives. POWER SHARPENING MACHINES . They are textured at about 500 grit. or carrying in the field for quick touchups. They are suitable for light use. Here are some power sharpeners worth considering if you do a lot of sharpening. . There are people that swear by burned out quartz lamps for sharpening rods. Delta and Makita sell horizontal waterstone grinders for about $200. Sears and Wen sell small wet wheel grinders for about $30. a machine is the way to get the work done.

The sharpening wheel raises a burr quickly. nylon and composite buffing wheels for sharpening. and are also available from knife making supply shops and woodworking tool stores. I also found a cheap 1/2" set made from gray composition board instead of laminated paper. These are usually sold industrially for deburring and polishing. They are often seen demonstrated at gun and knife shows.com. The instructions for paper wheels say to use this same rotation but sharpen on top. . look for the white or brown paper wheels. Using paper wheels requires a little skill. but once you get the hang of it. for safety. and grease is used to cool the blade.The wet wheel machines mentioned above have a limited number of guides or fixtures available. where debris is thrown toward you. Here is how to modify a grinder for safer use of paper wheels. and grinding is done on the front. mostly for planer and joiner knives and other woodworking tools. PAPER WHEELS If you are comfortable using power tools. but you still work with the wheels moving off the edge.sharpeningwheels. This seems inherently unsafe to me. The honing wheel polishes the burr off and leaves a mirror finish comparable to stropping by hand. I will review the Tormek in Part five. Most paper wheel sets are 3/4" wide. but I don't have a diamond stone fine enough for a shaving edge. Their 6" set is also 1" wide and sells for $20. plus another $30 to $50 if you have to buy a bench grinder. They were so hard that natural stones hardly touched them. I use the paper wheel set from Razor Sharp Edgemaking Systems www. Avoid it. Both operations are done with the wheels moving off the edge for safety. it is very fast. They require skill and practice. The most difficult knives I ever tried to sharpen was an old set of Gerber kitchen knives. Paper wheels is the only system that has ever brought these knives to a razor edge. I sharpen twenty knives at a time for my church's kitchen. Buffing compound is used on the other wheel for honing. and they are expensive. I've had good luck with this system. Cost is about $35 for the wheels. The sharpening wheel is coated with silicon carbide. These wheels mount on a grinder or buffer. where debris is thrown downward. Diamonds would grind them. Woodworking catalogs offer a variety of rubberized. The only wet wheel grinding system with guides and fixtures for all sharpening needs is the expensive Tormek. try a paper wheel system. and I can do them in less than 30 minutes with this system. Normally a grinder wheel turns toward the user. Koval Knives sells its 1" wide 8" paper wheel set for only $25. like stropping. I think paper wheels are the best choice for the home knife sharpener. Paper wheels are safer than buffing wheels and less likely to catch and throw a knife. I use paper wheels a little differently than recommended by the manufacturer.

This lets you see better. Ceramic blades will not raise a burr. Hold the blade level and work near the top for a small angle. When you buy a grinder make sure it has removable guards. 15. I put zero at the top and position the blade at the angle mark I want to grind before I start the motor. SHARPENING CERAMIC KNIVES Diamond stones will sharpen a ceramic knife. Since paper wheels use silicon carbide abrasive. SC wheels can also remove the scratches from sharpening with diamonds. Practice a little and you will learn to see the burr and where to hold the blade to get the proper angle. they too can sharpen ceramic knives. You have to use the other tests to determine if you have created a new edge. 20 and 25 degrees on my wheel. Silicon carbide wheels or stones can be used to sharpen ceramic knives.I recommend you buy a dedicated grinder motor for this purpose. and debris or anything caught by the wheel is thrown away from you. because you are going to take them off. think about this. When the blade is horizontal the angle between the blade and the wheel is equal to the angle between the point of contact and vertical (identical triangles). down the wheel closer to you for a larger angle. TABLES . Mount the grinder so the top of the wheels moves away from you. which are made of relatively softer aluminum oxide. Put a good light over the grinder so you can see the burr as it develops then polishes away. If you thought trigonometry was something you learned in school but never thought you'd use. and sharpen and hone on top of the wheel with the edge away from you. Then I turn it on and hold the angle steady as I move the knife lengthwise. Changing the wheels too often can introduce wobble in them. I've marked angles of 0. Scratches act as stress risers and can cause the brittle ceramic blade to fracture. but you must remove all scratches caused by the diamonds.

as well as manual sharpening and stropping. It has a chapter devoted to sharpening knives. PRIMER ON KNIFE SHARPENING Chapter 5 by Steve Bottorff. "Step by Step Knifemaking" by David Boye covers sharpening with a belt grinder and buffer. Click this link to jump to Mohs STONES AND ABRASIVE GRADES . Knife making catalogs are good sources of information. The best book on tool sharpening is "The Complete Guide to Sharpening" by Leonard Lee.com "The Gun Digest Book of Knifemaking" by Jack Lewis and Roger Combs has a good chapter on sharpening. but their information is on the WWW at www.engnath. "Sharpening Basics" by Patrick Spielman covers sharpening knives as well as tools. Click this link to jump to SUPPLIERS TO READ FURTHER Click this link to jump to BOOKS Woodworking catalogs have lots of sharpening equipment for hand and power tools. Member: Ohio Knifemakers Association CONTENTS SHARPENING METHODS I HAVE USED PROFESSIONAL KNIFE SHARPENERS Miscellaneous Technical information . is no longer in business since the death of Bob Engnath. Click this link to jump to GRITS SUPPLIERS This chart was moved to its own page. Blades N' Stuff. and most of it can be used for knives.FIVE DIFFERENT SYSTEMS COMPARED This chart was moved to its own page. whose catalog was an encyclopedia of knife making.MOHS HARDNESS SCALE This chart was moved to its own page.

htm PROFESSIONAL KNIFE SHARPENERS Although I think the Chef'sChoice 120 is as far upscale as I think any household would need. it does a great job of giving a toothy slicing edge to knives that have been sharpened on my wet grinder. and while I do not like it as a major sharpener because of the dry grind and the small wheels.aluminum oxide belt similar to a knifemaker's belt grinder creates a flat bevel. looks like the Chef'sChoice but works differently. Friedr. read Woodworking books and catalogs. Creates convex bevel.really just a grinder with flap wheel sander on one end and felt honing on the other. this is it: Woodworkers write and publish more about sharpening and have more sharpening toys than knife makers and collectors. requires skill and safety glasses. Variable angles.this machine produces a double bevel edge. create flat bevel. Counter-rotating honing wheels to remove burr. requires skill and safety glasses. $625 Heavy Duty $810 I now have a Tru-Hone. $225 Ekland . $1624 I have a SM-111. slow running wheels to avoid overheating.the scissor . $429 Tru-Hone . honing and polishing.The secret of sharpening If there is a "secret" in knife sharpening. and it is the closest I have ever seen to a complete sharpening system in one unit . To learn more about sharpening. $241 Chef'sChoice 2000 Commercial .special shaped water cooled wheels. unlike the triple bevel produced by their home machines.wet grinding. Adjustable angle allows a three angle bevel that offsets the fragility of the small wheel hollow grind. single angle. here is a listing of the professional knife sharpeners and their features: Hantover . $1493 SM111 adds adjustable honing wheels and a buffing wheel for a more refined edge. $340 Hook-Eye Belt grinder . It is only for knives .stainless steel knife guides. SHARPENING METHODS I HAVE USED: This section moved to systems.3" 220 grit counter-rotating wheels create a toothy hollow grind edge. one for each side. Dick SM-110 .

should provide the best edge holding and knife life...but can do 400 a day.. If I could charge $5 per sharpening I would have to sharpen 393 knives to break even. we can only quote from the article for teaching purposes. Miscellaneous Technical information Chef'sChoice The angles and grits on the Chef'sChoice 110 and 301 machines are as follows: Stage 1 20 degrees 100 grit Stage 2 22. No. Shear Sharpening booklet Knife Sharpening DVD The original article on the Razor Sharp system appeared in the February 1977 issue of Popular Science.5 degrees 200-300 grit Stage 3 25 degrees 500-700 grit Thanks to Sam Weiner of EdgeCraft for information and support. $1965 would buy almost 20 $100 chef's knives. So.attachment has limited use .wet honing on the inside surface of specially shaped wheels creates a strong convex edge. Many thanks to Gary Alpaugh for preserving and scanning the article. $1965 Let's see. Some other sharpener angles Normark 20 degrees Hunter Honer 21 degrees Byers #1 20 degrees Sharpening Made Easy Knife and Cutlery Sharpening Information and Equipment Sharpening Home Page Sharpening Made Easy Book Sharpening School Start Your Business booklet. . I don't think so. under the fair use principle for copyrighted material. Popular Science retains all rights to the article and has denied our request to reproduce it on the Internet. Great for a big shop or knife rental service. Manabo . variable angle.

if you understand the principles and follow a few simple rules. Today. Minn. "You find a man who has pulled a blade 10 hours a day for the last 20 years.You can get a razor edge on all of your tools and knives by following these simple steps By JOHN A. Juranitch claims that getting a nearly perfect edge isn't difficult . abrasives. "The real expert we have to please is the meat cutter." Despite all the misunderstandings and misinformation that produce so many improper sharpening methods. . . Many times when we're working a blade. honing. but he will tell you if a blade is sharp. JURANITCH * John Juranitch got interested in sharp edges as a barber in the Korean War. he runs a business called Razor Edge Systems in Ely.. because a sharp edge produces a painless cut. All he has to do is bury it about six inches in cold beef and pull .D. steeling and other subjects related to blades and sharpening. Read on to learn the sharpening secrets of a pro. He has no Ph." says Juranitch. . we will notice blood. But we have to hunt for the cut. Later he began a full-time study of blade design and composition.

5 degrees. Hold the blade at this angle or slightly less for your primary-edge face (right). leaving the curved tip until last. they're just highly overrated. That's not to say that natural hones are no good. Use a Razor Edge guide (photo above) to establish the proper angles for primary and secondary edges. concentrate on one section of blade at a time. When the edge will shave hairs from your arm. But we've learned the hard way. I'd like to puncture the biggest myth going . Before I get down to the secrets of sharpening. once you see that curl you'll learn to feel it with your fingernail. Considering how long people have been using sharpened edges. let me tell you some of the things we've learned that aren't true. Make alternate strokes on opposite sides of the blade. If you have trouble knowing when the burr forms (see diagram next page). I've seen men who have been sharpening knives for half a century and still have little idea of what they're doing.How to sharpen a knife: Keep your hone from moving by putting it on a soft piece of rubber or tacking small pieces of wood around it. You can save that oil and use it in your crankcase. It's as though you were trying to sharpen your blade by running it through a sand pile. This is the angle you should use with the coarse hone for the secondary edge.even professionals in the field don't. The very fine edge you're putting on the blade actually runs into the particles of hone suspended in the oil.and I can hear the howls already. back and forth or circular. But most people . stroke the knife into the hone as if you were trying to slice it. Fold the paper again and you get 11 degrees. Use whichever motion you prefer. You're better off with a dry hone. The basic problem with using oil for sharpening is that as you sharpen. you'd think we'd know a lot about them. I don't care what every sharpening book in the world says. If you wish. We're found that the largest meatpacking companies in the world don't know what to tell new employees when it comes to sharpening. or try this trick: Fold one 90-degree corner of a piece of paper in half. When you go to the fine hone to form the primary edge. First. despite what you hear to the contrary. Use only light pressure. . and you have 22. it is usable. check with a magnifying glass. fine manufactured hones are far superior to the natural ones. grit from the hone and steel particles from the blade become suspended in the oil and form slurry. Fold in half again. being very careful to hold the angle constant. as the edge is microscopic and pressure will distort it. And second.

leather. When you begin a sharpening job. just to see what would happen. So we used oil. dull finish on them and will not work properly until you wear through that surface. A blade with good relief will sharpen easily to a high quality edge. whether you're cutting whiskers. This produces blade relief. Sharp is sharp. A few years ago. and is the most important part of sharpening (the diagrams show why). First. set the primary cutting edges with your fine hone. the worlds largest. we were called into Iowa Beef. or meat. Minn. Box 604. vigorously slap coarse hones on your hand. It wasn't long before the reports started coming back from the lines that the quality of the edges had dropped. Ely. write Razor Edge Systems. As for sharpening itself. . If your hone is saturated with oil. it doesn't make any difference what kind of blade you have. So we cleaned all the oil off the hones and the reports suddenly got better. We explained situation. the blade wipes the steel edge at precisely the right angle. do a good job of tapering the edge back with the coarse hone. and you'll always be able to get a knife-edge that will shave the hair on your arms without touching your skin. One final tip: All new hones come with a smooth. With the wings set to the proper angle and the knife blade parallel to the center support. Keep your fine hones clean by wiping with a rag. Don't get too anxious. try the Razor Edge steel. wood. wash it thoroughly with hot water and soap before using it next time. and all the loose particles will fall out. remember the two critical steps. until one day management asked us why we didn't use oil. but they asked us to try anyway. The meat cutters thought our edges were great. pay attention to your angles. For true sharpness. Second. For further info.I've had this point proved to me many times.

A blade with good relief will sharpen quickly. For a knife designed to do everything from cutting rope to opening 55-gallon drums. Juranitch hollow-grinds the taper this way: The blade is 0.02 of an inch thick an eighth of an inch behind the cutting edge. and 0. hunting.’ and its importance cannot be overstressed. one with poor relief. taper back to C. Thus for a chisel. B is a good choice. and pocket knives.04 of an inch thick one-quarter inch back. But for a professional meat cutter and most of your kitchen. The tapering is called ‘relief. and is determined by what you plan to do with the edge. The rule is to taper it back just short of the point at which it will collapse when worked most severely. . A would be best.Edge design and sharpening Edge design starts with a decision on how much taper to build in. Only a blade with good relief will take a superior edge. For meat cutting. slowly.

switch to a fine hone and increase the angle. it will grind to shape B. for the primary edge. When it reaches this point. a small burr will rise as shown. since a good bit of metal might have had to be removed. Now turn the blade over and grind on the other side. making sure your burr comes up (C).Keep taper angle in mind as you begin sharpening a blade. Held at the proper angle during sharpening. The most important secret of sharpening : To this point. you must form the primary-edge faces that come together to form the actual cutting edge. it tells you that you have ground enough. but you can feel it by running your finger over the edge at a 45degree angle or by running a fingernail across the edge. The secondary faces were formed on a coarse hone. You may not be able to see the burr. the blade has been ground to form a secondary edge face. Now. But for a really sharp edge. a dull blade looks something like A. This is critical. This is called double edging and is the secret of a really fine edge . Chances are.

. of Metuchen. . Inc.. So John Juranitch sharpened a number of knives by different processes. We took them to Structure Probe. N.J._______________________________________________________________ ____________ What does an edge really look like? The editors of Popular Science were curious about what an edge looks like under high magnification. where the following pictures were made. then cut almost through the blades on a grinding wheel so that we could snap off one-inch-long sections and have them photographed under a scanning electron microscope.

The dry-honed edge (top) is somewhat rough. Juranitch suspects these chips were caused by particles of grit suspended in oil. These edges are shown at 3000X magnification. dry honing An edge made by a hone has some tooth pattern no matter how sharp. The smoother surface below is the primary edge. the secondary edge shaped with the coarse hone can be seen at top.Anatomy of an edge At 100X magnification. . Oil vs. But the one honed in oil (bottom) has several large chips taken out of it— something like an arrowhead that has been chipped away to produce an edge. claims this edge would not compare with a really sharp dry-honed edge.

. That ruins the edge and the blade has to be honed again. But be careful not to over steel. This is an edge no hone will ever equal. as though someone had wiped the frosting on a cake with the side of a knife. Notice that there are no primary furrows (caused by the hone) left in the steeled area. Bottom photo shows a more heavily steeled edge. The metal has actually flowed back as though it were molten. you can see a thin hair of metal peeling away from such an over steeled edge. In some microphotographs we've taken.Try steeling for a really superior edge The steeled edge has been smoothed out (top) into an even sharper cutting edge.