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How to Sharpen a Knife

Whether it’s used for cooking or precision woodworking, a knife is one tool you’ll want to keep sharp. Some tips:

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1. Begin with a sharpening stone — a 1,000/6,000-grit combination is a good starter stone. One side works to “set” the edge, the other to refine it.

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2. Sharpen the blade at a 10°–15° angle — essentially the slope of a matchbook.

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3. The pressure required is 4–6lbs. Using a slicing action across the coarser side of the stone, make 5 passes away from you, then flip the knife over and make 5 passes toward you.

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4. As the two planes that form the edge come together and intersect they will form a wire edge, also known as a burr. If you don’t feel one, make 5 more passes on each side and check again. You should feel this wire edge from the heel of the knife to the tip.

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5. Once you create the wire edge, move on to a finishing stone to refine it. Use the same angle and pressure as you did on the first stone. This stone will only require 10 strokes on each side.

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6. For a high-polished edge, place the knife edge on a leather strop and stroke the knife backward, using the same angle and pressure as with the stones. You should be able to slice printer paper easily.

You can see what happens when you sharpen a knife by looking through a microscope.

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Bob Kramer

Bob Kramer has been hand forging custom knives for 25 years. After working in professional kitchens, Bob became fascinated with sharpening knives which then led him to the world of making knives from scratch.

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