In this post I’ll be covering three easy tips to help you sharpen your knives. Lets face it, sharpening can be a challenge, especially if you are getting into freehand sharpening. These tips are great for the beginner to intermediate sharpener that is trying to get their sharpening game to the next level.
I mainly use these tips when I am freehand sharpening, but they work just as well for sharpening systems like the Sharpmaker and Lansky systems. Perhaps the best part about these tips is that you can put them into action immediately, and they won’t cost you a dime.
1. Use a Marker
This tip is pretty straightforward. Grab a marker and “paint” the edge of your knife before you start to sharpen it. The goal is to work the marker off your knife evenly during sharpening. A mistake a lot of people make when they first get into freehand sharpening is that they raise or lower the blade as they perform a sharpening stroke. When you do that you typically fail to sharpen the entire length of the edge. The marker trick makes it easy to confirm that you are sharpening the entire length of the edge, and also lets you know are holding the knife at the right angle as well.
This is is a great tip if you have temporarily lost your sharpening “mojo” or just want more feedback when sharpening your knife. In my opinion one of the biggest challenges to freehand sharpening is the lack of feedback – obviously you know whether the knife got sharp or not, but it can be hard to see exactly what is going on. The marker trick provides valuable feedback and ensures you are sharpening your entire edge.
2. Use a Lubricant
We already know that lube makes everything better, so it should come as no surprise that applying a lubricant to your sharpening stone will improve the sharpening experience as well. I typically use water and dish soap, or oil (WD-40 is fine) as my primary sharpening lubricants, and I’ve had good success with both. But don’t start slathering your stones in the slick stuff just yet – determine the right lubricant for your stone first. I’ve gone ahead and broken it down for you:
- Japanese Water Stones – Don’t use any lubricant. Just add water.
- Ceramic Stones – Water and a little dish soap
- Diamond Stones – Water and soap, or oil
- Arkansas Stones – Oil
Sometimes a lubricant can be messy and more trouble than it’s worth, but with stubborn steels going the extra mile and adding a lubricant first can really help you achieve better results. I find using a lubricant typically leaves a nicer finish on the edge as well.
3. Film Yourself Sharpening
This final tip is kind of geeky, but it’s one of my favorites and can really improve your sharpening skills. The tip is to film yourself sharpening. Much in the same way golfers film their swing to improve their drive, you can get better edges by recording a video of yourself and learning from the footage. I happen to film videos for YouTube so this was an easy one for me, but you don’t have to be Steven Spielburg to harness the power of film. Use a camcorder if you have one, or just rig your cell phone up to capture some footage. Break out the popcorn, enjoy the show, and prepare get a whole new perspective on your sharpening technique.
I like this tip a lot, and find that I learn something new almost every time I review my own sharpening footage. If you are really feeling frisky, upload the footage to YouTube for others to critique.
There you go, 3 easy ways to take your sharpening skills to the next level. These are tips I use myself and have generally had great success with them. Let me know what you think, and feel free to add your own tips and tricks in the comments section below.