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How to Sharpen Your Knife With a Sharpening Steel

Aug 17, 2007
There are many ways to sharpen a knife. This guide will show you the most common and basic method of knife sharpening. All blades are different and you will find that the steel used in the production of the knife makes a big difference in how it sharpens and maintains an edge.

Most knives grow dull from regular use rather quickly. The best way to freshen up a sharp blade is to hit it with a sharpening steel. You are not actually sharpening the blade but rather straitening it.

Blades tend to curl a little at a time after extended use. This curling effect is not visible to the eye but can be noticed by feeling the blade.

Take caution when running your finger against the blade as a cut won't be a pleasant experience. The idea is to run your thumb against the blade and not with it. A sharp blade will grip your flesh a bit as you rub it. A dulled blade will roll along your thumb.

To use the steel, you should hold the steel with your weak hand and the knife firmly with your strong hand. Point the steel away from your body as this is the direction in which you will sharpen the knife.

Begin by placing the knife against the steel at approximately a 30 to 45 degree angle. The blade should be placed on the steel closet to the hilt or the handle. Slide the knife down and pull it away from the steel. Once you get the hang of this action, you can increase your pace.

This action will begin the process of straightening the curled blade. After the first stroke, you will alternate the knife to the bottom of the steel hitting the opposite side of the blade. Again, with a 30 to 45 degree angle, you will move the blade down and pull it away from the steel.

Practice this action a few times lightly against the steel. Remember to alternate the blade from the top of the steel to the bottom on every stroke to keep the blade uncurling evenly. If you fail to do this, you will find that your blade will not sharpen at all.

As you practice this movement, begin to apply more pressure to every stroke. You should never use a lot of force; just enough to give the knife a firm push against the steel which you will hold steady in the opposite hand. The idea is to consistently use the same stroke without altering the angle. This takes a it of practice but the method is learned quickly.

Continue to do this movement repeatedly. With practice, you can teach yourself to steel sharpen a knife very rapidly. It does not take a lot of time to do this, just some training in coordination. If your knife is not dulled down severely, a few hundred strokes using this method should have your knife shaving hair.

Once you have completed this, lay your steel down as you will not need it again. The next step is quite simple and all that is needed is a piece of leather. Often times, a steel comes with a leather sheath which will work perfectly.

Take your knife, once again, firmly in your strong hand. Again, at a 30 to 45 degree angle, slide the blade along the leather surface using the same method above about ten times per side.

This finishing touch is actually just finely putting the razor edge on your blade. Leather is very slick and works perfectly for this. You will find that you can even use the sole of your shoe or boot if the leather is flat. Make sure that the sole is leather and not rubber.

This also removes any metal shavings from the blade that may still be clinging on. These metal shavings can prevent the knife from cutting smoothly. The blade will seem much duller than it actually is.

I would suggest putting a touch of lubricant on any joints that move if you use a folding knife. Also, put a little bit onto a rag and wipe it into the blade really well. This is best done by pinching the blade with the edge away from you using the lubricated cloth. Rub it in really well and leave a very fine coat.

That should get your knife serviceable again. It is always good to have a knife steel handy to hit the blade a few times every now and then. Keep practicing and you will be a professional in no time.
About the Author
William "Cole" Doggett is an expert in knives and owns a successful Internet based website, Knife & Supply Company, LLC at www.KnifeSupplyCompany.com. His website is devoted to all things tactical law enforcement, military, outdoors and of course, Knives.
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