How I Sharpen Knives
Knife Sharpening Service Near You
Why Choose Professional Knife Sharpening?
Done correctly and with precision, knife sharpening can correct flaws in your knife that were ignored at the factory or appeared after extensive use. Thickness behind the edge is what I'm talking about, and it is the elephant in the room that most sharpeners avoid addressing, or don't know how. This measurement needs to be appropriate to the use of the knife. Addressing this and measuring the sharpness of the edge guarantees quality!
Let's talk about how I sharpen your custom heirloom knife, or any other blade you might bring to me for service. Whether you've purchased any one of the knives I make, or dropped your knives off for sharpening, the process is the same! Let's talk about what that means and how it happens.
Thin edges slice. Thick edges bludgeon!
Imagine an axe and a razor blade. Each of those cutting tools can be sharpened to hair shaving sharp. The real difference between the two edges is the thinness of the edge just behind the actual cutting apex. The axe is thick and heavy to support its edge in the high impact tasks of felling trees. The razor blade is only a few thousandths thick, with a very acute edge to effortlessly part through hair as we groom ourselves. Somewhere in between the thick axe and the fragile this razor is where we want our blades to be. So "thinning the knife edge", and then measuring the final thickness gives us an idea of the knife's capabilities!
No act of maintaining custom or store bought kitchen knives is more important to the user than edge maintenance, edge geometry, and sharpening. If you lack the practice or training to sharpen your own knives, hire a pro for the hand sharpened edges you want! I've written several posts in this site about the tools and techniques used to sharpen knives. I've written a maintenance and care article describing how YOU can make your sharp edges last longer! I've written about how your choice of cutting boards can destroy your keen edge, or improve their longevity. We've discussed various devices to assure the angle of the bevel is the same on both sides of the blade, different types and grit progressions of stones(sharpening grit progression), strops and the polishing compounds applied to them, and honing steels.
The first thing I do is an assessment of your knife, whether it's a kitchen blade, a hunting or camping knife, or the myriad of other jobs people use their knives for. I always measure behind the edge to within .001"over the length of the blade, to be sure that dimension is suitable for the knife's intended use. The illustration up and to the left helps explain how thickness behind the edge gets greater with repeated sharpenings. When that happens, even though the knife could be "hair shaving" sharp, it still requires extra effort to push through what you're cutting. So I take a measurement of this dimension. This will determine what happens next.
Preparation of the Blade-
Usually step one after assessment is a visit to the belt sander to set a bevel angle and edge thickness appropriate for the knife I'm sharpening. For kitchen knives this angle is usually 10-12 degrees per side, and higher for hard use knives. (Contrary to what some "sharpeners" will tell you, properly utilized variable speed belt sander will NOT ruin your knife. Uneducated people ruin knives!) At this initial angle, I bring the edge just to the apex (a sharp edge) on kitchen knives. I use the Knife Sharpening Attachment from Reeder Products to achieve a very precise angle, and an angle cube to measure this to .5 degrees, instead of the more time consuming trigonometric process. After setting up I use exclusively 3M Trizact structured abrasive belts to rebevel your knife. Trizact belts and slow belt speeds run much cooler than normal abrasives and greatly reduce heat transfer to your blade. I may shape your blade with up to five belts of progressively finer grit to polish and refine the bevel. This thinner edge bevel will now pass through your food more like a razor and less like an axe!
HAND Sharpened Edges-
After the bevel is set and thinned I go to the Hapstone fixed angle hand sharpening station, where I set and refine a secondary bevel (micro bevel) on your knife. This micro bevel is usually 2-3 degrees steeper that the primary just set on the Reeder. While only a few thousandths of an inch tall, it significantly strengthens the edge and apex of your knife. Here, if I set a 12 degree bevel per side on the Reeder, we'll do the final sharpening at 14-15 degrees per side for fine kitchen knives, and 17.5 to 20 for good hunting knives. The sharpening grit progression comes in to play here.
The Grit Progression-
As with sandpaper, sharpening grits are larger the smaller number here in the US. So a 100 grit stone is FAR coarser than a 3000 grit. Coarser grit stones remove material faster, finer grits refine the edge and remove scratches of the previous coarse grot stones. This is why your final edge is shaped with a progression of up to nine different bonded diamond sharpening stones, from as low as 80 grit, through 100, 150, 240, 400, 800, 1200, 2000, to a final grit, a ceramic 3000 grit for polishing and deburr. Each progressively finer sharpening stone polishes and refines the edge of your knife, removing the scratches from the previous stone until it is hair shaving, phone book paper slicing sharp.
As a final treatment I have a selection of six homemade strops, one denim and five leather. Each is treated with progressively finer polishing compounds, down to 1 micron diamond spray(roughly 40 millionths of an inch!). Just a few strokes removes the burr, burnishes, and polishes the edge to smoothness. And even though I have bevy of strops, I've found through that same testing that two will do the same work as well or better than all six. I start with a denim strop loaded with Flitz Chrome polish, and finish with the smooth leather loaded with 1 micron diamond spray.
After final stropping of your blade on 1 micron diamond loaded leather, I'll MEASURE the sharpness on the Edge On Up BESS sharpness tester to make sure it meets my specifications. If your knife doesn't fall below 170 on the BESS "C" scale, it gets resharpened. My target sharpness on the BESS C scale (see picture in this article) is 140-170 grams. Considering that HIGH end factory knives measure between 250 and 350, we make SHARP Edges!! Read more about the Edge on Up sharpness testing instrument HERE!
I've refined my process to be able to sharpen and polish your knife relatively quickly, with a high degree of accuracy, sharpness, keenness, and polish. We want you to experience the RAZOR sharp knife edge that is becoming a part of our reputation!
Keeping my prices low for quality hand sharpening is second only to your complete satisfaction. Keith Nix Knives sharpening services are available to individuals and businesses in Asheville, Weaverville, Swannanoa, Black Mountain, Marion, and greater Western NC.
Make An Appointment With Keith To Sharpen Your Knives Now! Click to Call or Text!
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