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One of the most common questions that we are asked at Kizlyar is: "What is the best way to sharpen my knife?" and to be quiet frank there is no easy answer when it comes to knife sharpening as there are a multitude of factors that play a role in how quick and how well you can sharpen your knife.
Firstly, buying a properly heat treated knife made from decent quality steel does make life a lot easier. Please do not be put off, by the words "Stainless Steel". There is a huge miss-conception in the market these days about stainless steel and we often speak to people who think a stainless steel is one particular "rather poor" type of steel. This is a totally wrong and miss-informed belief. The reality is that any steel that is rust resistant, hence contains elements like Chromium, nickel and Vanadium, is classed as "Stainless Steel". There are many types of stainless steels, e.g. 440C, 440B, AUS8, AUS6, Z60, 1410, 50x14MF etc. and they all have there advantages if heat-treated and worked properly. On the same token there are certain types of Stainless Steels, which are not very good for making a good blade, for instance, 420J. The 440 series on the other hand, can be worked to produce some very nice blades, both in appearance and characteristics. So it pays to do a bit of research when buying a knife and find out exactly what type of steel is the blade made from.
Secondly, it is important to know the hardness of the steel in the cutting edge of your blade. This will help you when choosing the right grid and type of stone and other tools to use. For instance most kitchen and utility knives made from 440C or similar steels are hardened to between 55-58 HRC. This is considered fairly mild and good working hardness, which is easily maintained. Therefore you do not need to start from really rough stones and a #1000 grit stone will give you a very good result. On the other hand if you have a knife made from D2 or similar high carbon tool steels, then the hardness is will be fairly high, at around 58-62 HRC. Hence, you may need to start with a much coarser #220 grit stone or a diamond sharpener to put a new shoulder "bevel" on and then gradually move to finer grid stones.
Next in line is quality of your sharpening tool/stone. Avoid buying cheap garbage. A $5-10 oil stone from your local hardware store will not do you much good, apart from rough sharpening a shovel or an axe. Remember, we the retailers, have to make a buck, when selling goods, hence when you buy a $5 stone, you are really most probably only buying a $2 worth stone! It is important to buy good quality as it will save you time and you will not damage your expensive knife. At Kizlyar we use a variety of water stones and that is what we recommend. Water stones are easier to use than oil stones and they give a much better result. The Japanese water stones are by far the best quality water stones in the market, but be careful when buying a Japanese water stone as there are copies in the market that are not exactly Japanese! If you would like to buy a decent quality Japanese Water stone and do not know where to get them, then check our range of True Japanese Water Stones here... Also do not right off the quick sharp pull-through type sharpeners. Over the years they have come a long way and if you buy a good quality one with nice tungsten carbide blades, they can come quite usefull when out in the field. They do not sharpen the knife properly, but are good enough to get a destroyed blunt edge into a decent working condition to get you by. But please be aware that they are not very good for knives with very thick blades and wide angled bevels.
Ceramic rods, diamond sharpeners and steel rods are also very useful sharpening tools, but they are only for ongoing maintenance of your blade and should be used on regular basis. You will however, still need a flat stone, to periodically properly resharpen your edge.
Finally, when it comes to getting that razor-sharp edge, it really depends on your individual skill and patience. Note that buying expensive sharpening equipment will not save you if you are not patient. In order to assist you in finding the best way for you to sharpen your knife I did a bit of research and picked out a few of the better videos and website links that I could find on the net. Please note that I am not the Guru when it comes to knife sharpning, so please feel free to disagree.
Have fun, and remember to always stroke away from your body and please do not try any fancy tricks that you see in the videos at home, and if you do so it will be at your own risk!