How to Choose Best Knife Sharpening System?

Hi everyone!,

Today I was at work and I was looking around, just looking around the display cases to see if I have missed something that I do not know about. I know that sounds funny, but believe me, I have knives in the display cases where I work that have been there so long that I have personal relationships with them. Anyway, I was just looking around and I finished a blog post about basic sharpening with bench stones today and I thought I have some extra time what else could I write about? So since I was already on the subject of sharpening I thought I would do a basic glossary of knife sharpening terms for you. Here it is! Just some terms that you might or might not be familiar with, but either way, I hope that you find this useful in your knife education.

So let’s get on with the show, shall we?

1. The Arkansas whetstone:

The venerable Arkansas whetstone or oil stone is one that most people are familiar with and is one of the more widely sold types of sharpening stone on the market today. It is dug out of the ground in rock quarries and is by it’s technical term called “Ozark Novaculite” It is just silicon quartz. Like any other type of quartz based stone it has it’s own extraordinary or unique crystalline structure to it. The cool thing about the properties of Arkansas stones is that they polish the steel as they sharpen the steel. Arkansas stones are known for producing a nice smooth, keen cutting surface. Of course when you go out to buy Arkansas sharpening stones you will need to be familiar with the different grits that they come in. I am going to list them here for you in order from the coarsest to the finest: The Washita stone is the coarsest followed by the soft Arkansas, the hard Arkansas and then the hard translucent Arkansas and the hard “Arkies” can be found in white translucent to put a razor sharp edge on your knife and it can also be found in the black Arkansas surgical tranlucent for the utmost in razor finish.

2. The Bench Stone:

The bench stone is the abrasive product that you have chosen to sharpen with and is usually found cut in a block style so that it can be used to sharpen knives, tools and other assorted cutting edges.

3. The Bevel:

The bevel is the angle or line of one side of a blade that meets/intersects another line or angle from the other side of the blade to meet at a mutual point at any angle except for at 90 degrees.

4. The Burnisher:

The burnisher is a tool that utilizes a round, smooth surface and is used turn over burrs on scrapers.

5. The Crystolon Stone:

A crystolon stone is a synthetic made with silicon carbide as the abrasives. (my favorite one’s are made in the USA by Norton) Crystolon stones are in my opinion the fastest cutting stones that you can get, so you need to be careful when using them and on what you are using them on. If you are looking to speed things up and bit and not pay to much attention the the final quality of the edge you want then a good quality Norton Crystolon Stone is right up your alley! Norton Crystolon are gray in color and of courses come in coarse, medium and fine grits.

6. The Diamond Stone:

A Diamond stone is a stone made by bonding small industrial diamonds to a plate of steel. These diamond stones are very effective in cutting steel and they have a very distinct advantage over natural stones in that they do not “gully” or warp with time as natural stones do. They cost a bit more but when you weigh the advantage of the fact that they do not wear as natural stones do then they are an excellent value. There are two types of diamonds on the market today and they are poly surfaced which under a microscope look like boulders and produce a jagged primary cutting edge as the way they cut is not uniform. The other type of diamond used today is called mono surfaced diamonds and is utilized in DMT Diamond Stones. These mono surfaced diamonds cut evenly and produce a more even edge quality on your blade than does the poly surfaced diamonds. These types of stones are also available in coarse, medium and fine grits or “meshes.”

7. The Edge:

The edge of a blade is the line of intersection between two surfaces. In other words an edge is the intersection of two sides of a blade that have been sharpened at the same angle to meet at a center point to create a cutting edge. In this case both sides of the edge are polished and micro beveled to the desired angle to form the edge.

8. The Grit:

The grit of a sharpening stone or abrasive is expressed as a numeric value used in describing the number of openings per linear inch on a bench stones surface. It is the numeric value of the measurement of abrasive grains. The lower grit numeric values are the coarser of the grits and the larger the numeric values the finer the grit. So look at it this way. The lower grits have larger pores in which to grab and cut metal as thus removes metal faster. The higher grit numeric values have a finer or tighter pore structure and thus take less metal and micro bevel the blade to the desired sharpness and polish.

9. The Hone:

The hone is used for just the purpose intended. To “hone” or “tune up” your knife. It is a fine grit/grained whetstone and is used for giving and nice smooth, keen edge to your knife or other cutting tool. Now, I do have argument with folks when it comes to “honing” a knife. yes, a finer grit/grained stone will hone your knife back to sharp and also another tool called a “sharpening steel” will also hone your blade back to sharp although it might not polish your blade, it will hone it back to sharp by re-aligning your blade. A steel also puts really nice micro serrations on your primary cutting edge making it nice and toothy. I tune up my pocket knives with a mini steel that was made in Sheffield, England and is no longer available on the market today and it works great. I can tune my blades for days before I need to go “to the stones.” Just thought I would share that little tidbit is all.

10. The India Stone:

This is a stone also manufactured by one of my faves, Norton and it is produced using aluminum oxide and the abrasive. It is a stone that is desired by many as it creates a nice durable and smooth cutting edge. This stone is orange/brown in color and of course as with anything else it is available in coarse, medium and fine grits.

11. Keen:

Keen is what you get when your knife is finely sharpened and tuned to your liking. Of course keen is also what you get when you read and learn here at Mister Sharpstuff and I love having you here!

12. The Oil Stone:

Oil stones are the most common stones there are for sharpening knives and they come in both natural and synthetic types. They are made up of three types of materials: Novaculite, which is your natural Arkansas whetstone variety. aluminum oxide, which is your Norton india stone variety, and silicon carbide, which is your Norton crystolon variety of sharpening stone. All of these varieties of sharpening stone use oil as the carrier in which to remove the “swarf” from the stone. In general terms if you are on a tight budget, then the modest price of either natural or synthetic stones and the overall performance and quality of the edge you get are well worth the price. In my opinion, I prefer the DMT diamond stones for the longevity and combined with a nice quality ceramic finishing stone like a Shapton Ceramic and man you got an edge that will just not quit!

13. The Serrated Edge:

This is an edge that incorporates a notched or scalloped grind on one side of a cutting blade and has the appearance of saw like teeth. This type of edge has taken the knife market by storm ever since Spyderco came into being. I do not use these types of blades in the knives that I carry daily, but they do employ a purpose for hard cutting chores if you are a first responder
of any type or soldier that needs to do hard core cutting chores.

14. Sharpening:

Well, this one is a give in! Sharpening is of course the process of removing metal from a surface(your knife blade) in order to create a cutting edge.

15. Sharpening Steel:

This a the steel rod that you see in home kitchen cutlery sets or you can buy them separately. They come in corrugated and smooth varieties and are made to hone and realign the edge of your knife. Some people feel that a steel is a knife sharpener, but it is not! It is a hone! It does however realign the edge and puts some really nice micro serrations on the primary cutting surface.

16. The Sharpening Strop:

There are many tools that carry the name of “strop” for sharpening. They are made from a piece of heavey gauge leather and can either be just the leather like a shaving strop that you hang on the wall and pull it taut to put the final polish on your knife edge. The most common type of strop is a piece of leather adhered to a piece of stud grade 2×4 when I make them and then
you go get some wax polish and you are good to go. Do not over strop, because over stropping means that you can over sharpen your knife.

17. Swarf:

The swarf is the filings of metal that come off of a knife blade as you are sharpening your blade using a bench stone, a cutting tool of some sort or any kind of abrasive that is used on your blade.

18. Carrier:

The carrier is what ever medium you use to make a seal between your sharpening stone and the blade you are sharpening. This medium will either be oil or water in most cases and is used to carry the swarf away so as not to clog the pores of your sharpening stone. I like to use water and liquid dish soap to create my carrier as I can make my carrier as thick or as thin as I want. I look at it this way. Using soap and water will give you a clean edge and a clean stone as well.

19. Water Stone:

Water stones come in both synthetic like Japanese Ceramic Water Stones and natural varieties and come in all grit varieties. The upside of a water stone whether natural or synthetic is that they create a really fine/keen edge that is very smooth. The downside to a water stone is that if improperly used can become misshapen and “gullied” in which case this type of stone will need to be re-surfaced or flattened. I use a DMT 600 mesh or a DMT 325 mesh to re-surface my water stones. Water stones generally come in the following grits: 220, 600, 1000, 4000, 6000, 8000.

20. Whetstone:

Any stone used for the sharpening of knives and tools and that are “whetted” with some type of medium.

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