Knife Sharpening: Sometimes overcomplicated works.

I have carried a secret shame throughout my life – I never was very good at sharpening knives. Couldn’t tell you how many stones and gizmos I went through in my youth, hoping to cut through (heh) a basic lack of knowledge and skill.

My move to the boonies at this particular time in history provided a combination of a serious need and an overabundance of information. Having spent more hours than I care to recall going through (oh, I’m going to go with hundreds of) YouTube videos on the subject, I finally distilled it all down to a knife-sharpening infrastructure that really does work for me. By which I mean that when I’m done, my knives are dangerous to be near rather than just barely sharp enough to not be embarrassing.

It’s probably more complex than it needs to be, but at this late stage in my life anything that works well is quite welcome. Basically, I gave up on all the stones and rods and gadgets. My knife-sharpening kit consists of…

A whole bunch of 1000-grit paper. A length of smooth stovewood. Some masking tape, a plastic cup, and an old syringe.

Yeah, I know all the old traditional methods would work as well, given what I have finally figured out about technique. Probably with passing years I’ll get back to them. But this works, and I’m so delighted to have finally landed on something that works that I’m reluctant to move away from it.

Finally – FINALLY! – after all these many years I can just frickin’ sharpen a knife.

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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12 Responses to Knife Sharpening: Sometimes overcomplicated works.

  1. Zelda says:

    12 Fruit Trees that Thrive in the Desert with Little Care

  2. Zelda says:

    I messed up the fruit tree advice above – Joel please delete that video and just leave the link. Thanks

  3. doubletrouble says:

    Be nice to see the procedure as well as the components! Do you use oil or water?
    BTW, I find regular use of a knife steel keeps things sharp between actual stone work.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Ditto to double trouble

  5. Michael says:

    I can empathize. I’m partway down the “stones and rods and gadgets” route myself, and still haven’t had the success I’d like. Does anyone have a book/website/video on sharpening that they’d recommend?

  6. Mike says:

    I’m with you in thinking how sharpening knives has always been a pain. And yes, I’ve tried many the gadget. The issue has been getting the right angle. These days, I use a sanding block with 1000 grit wet & dry paper and a little gun oil. As for the angle, I use the TLAR method. That Looks About Right works for me.

  7. The Neon Madman says:

    Maybe I’m missing something? How is using a wood block and sandpaper substantially different from using a 1000 grit waterstone?

  8. Rhodie says:

    Lol, I only learned today as well. Multitool is finally useful again!

  9. Joel says:

    Maybe I’m missing something? How is using a wood block and sandpaper substantially different from using a 1000 grit waterstone?

    😀 Oh, I’m sure it’s not. I wasn’t very clear. The point I meant but wholly failed to make is that in order to succeed after a long lifetime of failure I had to abandon everything I had previously used or thought I knew about sharpening and start new with all different everything, carefully and slowly following along with some YouTube rando who claimed to have achieved the success I sought. He used a sanding block so I used a sanding block. He squirted water on the paper with a syringe so I did. And (probably the only relevant bit) he held the knife in such a way as to ensure a consistent blade angle on the abrasive, and when I copied that it worked for me.

    Rather than lazily focusing on pictures of stuff, I should have said that I only succeeded after like five decades of failure by forgetting absolutely everything I thought I knew and going full cargo cult on the process.

  10. Mike says:

    The Neon Madman…

    Some people swear by Waterstones. Others use the grinding wheels in their can openers or steel sharpeners. Some, like me, use 1000 grit Wet&Dry sandpaper. The overall truth is that there no 100% best sharpening technique. The best knife sharpening technique is whatever works for you.

  11. B says:

    thousand grit paper

    Paint stick from Big Box store or your locak hardware store that sells paint.

    Elmers glue

    Some assembly required.

    Great for touchups.

  12. Milo says:

    Blade edges are important. Cooking, skinning, gutting, rope cutting, whittling, medical use, shaving bark off a tree, and cutting heavy stemmed crop plants and more have a blade edge that work best for each. If you cut lots of thick rope, a toothier edge from a course grit sharpener will bite in more aggressively than a properly sharpened capping knife will. A Sharpening Steel needs to be harder steel than the knives that you are honing on it. Ceramic does not have that problem. Ceramic does need to be scrubbed with cleanser on a scotch bright as the blade metal collects on it, fills in the pores, and covers over the sharpening surface.
    A leather strop/ old belt with polished leather on one side with suede on the opposite side and some stropping treatment/very fine metal polish will keep the very fine edged blades like a surgeon’s scalpel or a Barbers razor
    I add a little Nye oil to my Diamond hones just so the blades move a little smoother down the schaft

To the stake with the heretic!