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Old 05-02-2017, 06:45 PM
Higgins909 Higgins909 is offline
Join Date: Jul 2016
Posts: 3
Whetstone, am I doing it wrong?

Recently bough a new cheap knife. They always seem to have a very poor edge put onto the very leading edge of the knife. Something like the knife is very thin on the edge but they still put a tiny 45 deg angle on it.

I've bought a whetstone 1000/6000 grit and used it on one of my other knifes to change the angle of the edge. (Poor terminology here) Was a poor idea to use that fine of grit as I only got it about half way after 3 hours and giving up. But with that same stone I decided to use on my new knife.

I put the knife at a 20~ deg angle and started on one end of the stone with the base of the blade and slid to the other end of the whetstone, while also moving the tip of the blade. I did it a few times on each side, went to the 6000 after 10 or so passes on each side, maybe 10 more passes on each side on the 6000... The knife no longer cuts paper. It cut paper before, not the best, but it did. Now it takes some effort and the right spot of the blade.

I've noticed that the angle of the blade has changed slightly, but I didn't think this would dull the blade? Do I need to keep going or what am I doing wrong? The blade had something like a 30-45 deg angle on each side, I'm taking it down to 20~ to fit the blade better. It's a 8" chefs knife. Think it was 2.5mm thick at the spine, then tapers down to a pretty fine edge. I was thinking the sharpened edge should fit the edge better. (here's that poor terminology I have for knifes again)

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Old 05-02-2017, 07:35 PM
jmccustomknives jmccustomknives is offline
Join Date: Mar 2012
Location: Alabama
Posts: 554
Sounds like you might have developed a wire edge. Keep in mind, most commercial kitchen knives are pretty soft by knife makers standards. That's what your steel rod is for, to work that wire edge strait.

A test (don't cut yourself) to check for the wire edge is to run you thumbnail like your scratching the blade off the edge. If you feel your thumbnail hand coming off the edge, that is a bent wire edge.

Basically what happens is as you sharpen a flap of steel forms. It bends back and forth as you sharpen so it doesn't come of, just gets longer. This kind of edge, when it strait, it wicked on meats and veggies but it doesn't hold up to well. Hence the need for the steel.
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Old 05-03-2017, 07:15 AM
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Crex Crex is offline
Join Date: Sep 2002
Location: Acworth, GA and/or Hanging Dog, NC
Posts: 3,424
Try stropping it on an old belt. If the wire edge/burr is thin it will pull it off and leave a razor sharp edge. The finger nail test is used by most of us to check for "flat spots". You can also see these with good lighting by looking directly down the cutting edge.
There are definitely different blade and edge geometries for different task. Most folks that work a knife hard day in day out prefer what most of us refer to as "butcher's grind" - pretty much what Jim is referring to by using the steel to take the burr off. You wind up with a slightly coarser edge that will hold up to more rigorus use.
Another thing is to not expect a cheaper blade to hold an edge as well as well heat-treated blade. Most of the lower cost factory blades are left a bit "softer" so the average person can resharpen more easily - they also get dull faster. I'd invest in a cheap coarser stone to knock the primary bevel down to where you want it then follow up with the finer stone you've been using. Things will go faster and much easier.

Carl Rechsteiner, Bladesmith
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Old 05-03-2017, 09:18 AM
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Ed Caffrey Ed Caffrey is offline
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Keep in mind, most commercial kitchen knives are pretty soft by knife makers standards
I suspect therein lies your answer. If the edge is thinned down on most commercial knives (like going from a 35-40 degree angle to a 20 degree angle), you create a very thin "edge", and if the blade is somewhat soft, there isn't enough material there to keep the edge from "curling" or "bending" when you attempt to cut something.

If there is a "wire edge" present, and you strop it, and it makes a couple of cuts that seem good, then it suddenly doesn't cut anymore, that's proof that the steel is too soft for the shallow angle you applied.....that means you need to apply a steeper angle to the edge, so there is enough material/mass to keep the edge from "rolling over" or "bending" when you attempt to cut something.
Creating a steeper edge angle brings it's own issues in that the steeper the angle, the more of a "wedge" effect occurs when cutting.... that means as the edge bevels get steeper, more force is required to make the edge actually cut, because the peak of the edge bevels are "wedging" in whatever material you're cutting. With kitchen knives this is most noticeable when cutting "hard" veggies like carrots....the edge starts to cut in, then the as you press harder, the piece you're cutting off shoots across the counter.... because of the larger edge bevels, the knife acts more like a wood splitting wedge.

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Last edited by Ed Caffrey; 05-03-2017 at 11:04 AM.
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Old 05-04-2017, 04:56 PM
jimmontg jimmontg is offline
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Ed has it down pretty good Mr. Higgins. I don't have much to add to it except maybe the stones themselves. I really dislike soft kitchen blades, or most soft knives for that matter. I like my kitchen knives to be around RC 58+, but not too hard as most folks think they "cannot be sharpened" when the problem is possibly the stone they may be using might take all day to sharpen a knife. I have a wonderful old Buck stone from Buck Knives and it is basically a hard Arkansas stone and very fine grit as well. It will sharpen any knife, it's hard enough for that, but it might take two hours for a nice hardened blade. Invest in a medium grit diamond sharpener if you can't afford a set of coarse, medium and fine. They are expensive, but last a lifetime. I have an old EZE Lap medium diamond mounted on a wooden block that has smoothed out a little with time, but it sharpens even S30V fairly quickly. The myth about how diamond pulls the carbides out of the steel is sheer nonsense started by folks who sell stone sharpening systems btw.

If a blade is really terrible I use my 1x42 belt grinder to set the edge and finish by hand. For most kitchen knives I just finish with the EZE Lap as it leaves a really nice working edge for slicing meat or veggies. Some call it a "butcher's edge". A buffed razor edge may shave hair, but will be too sharp for some tasks like skinning fish as they will just cut through the skin or skinning an animal for that matter, I used to hunt fur animals and you don't want to accidently cut through their skin either. (Whatever happened to $40 for a prime winter coyote pelt Ed?) Now if you want to whittle wood or cut leather then go for the razor edge. Even how sharp a knife is has its own purposes. A medium edge with a few swipes across my Buck stone works for just about everything though. Remember to slice into the stone like slicing an apple and you won't leave a burr with the final stone. That is the precise instructions I was told on how to sharpen a knife by hand. Slice like slicing an apple, but nobody told me to leave the stone on the table so I sharpen holding the stone in my left hand. Yes I've cut my fingers a time or two.LOL
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Old 05-05-2017, 09:26 AM
WNC Goater WNC Goater is offline
Join Date: Dec 2015
Location: NC Mountains
Posts: 469
I won't add anything to the discussion as far as what stone, grits, blade hardness, etc. It's all been covered and everyone has their pet methods and stones. I will say, I believe a big mistake many make is "adding' bevels to the secondary bevel you already have, that being, the cutting edge/bevel.

There is a feel to sharpening by hand on a stone. If you slice your blade into the stone with the bevel flat, you will feel little resistance. In fact, with a fine stone, it will almost feel as if you're not accomplishing anything.

If you tilt your blade at too high of an angle, i.e. the spine lifted too much above the stone, the fine edge will be sliding across the stone and it will sharpen, but you have added another bevel and the sharp edge will be short lived. (The knife that won't hold an edge)

If you tilt you blade at too low of an angle, i.e. the spine is too low to the stone, you will be sharpening that edge between the primary and secondary bevel and again, adding another bevel and you won't be sharpening the edge, just adding a bevel further back. (The hard to sharpen knife)

Point is, you keep adding these little bevels and before long your secondary bevel is all rounded and it seems difficult to get the knife sharp and if you do get any kind of sharpness it won't last long.

I believe this is why so many people have knives that are "difficult to sharpen" or "won't hold an edge". The reason is, that nice flat secondary bevel that forms the cutting edge is all rounded or has multiple sharpening angles and bevels and it is just a mess.

And so, I can feel it I have the blade tilted too high or too low by feeling resistance against the stone. Oh it feels good, like I'm really sharpening nicely but what is happening is I am, in essence, grinding another bevel. It's when I feel almost no resistance that I know I have my cutting edge (bevel) flat on the stone. You feel like nothing is happening yet you can see the dark steel building up in the honing oil.

Anyway, that's what I focus on. Some people have a knack for just getting it right and they can go at it full speed. I have to concentrate and once I hit "the sweet spot" I'll stroke it 30-50 times then turn the blade over and concentrate on the feel and get it right then add the same number of swipes on that side of the blade holding at the same angle.
It is a learning process to get the right feel. Do it on a table top or holding the stone in your left hand (my preference) but either way, concentrate on feeling that blade almost skating across the stone. One last note, the finer the stone the easier it is too feel the slight difference. With course stones it is difficult to differentiate between the very slight differences in the feel.

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