The Roger Squirrel
Knife Sharpening Technique
 
 

I learned something from a friend of mine a few years ago just prior to a bow hunt we were on for Elk. He taught me how to sharpen a knife. I had sharpened many knives before - but I had never done it like he did - and his way isn't the kind of thing you read about or - at least I have never seen a sharpening kit that works this way. When he got done with my knife it was scary how sharp it was. Having lost that knife a few years ago, I bought a new knife recently, a Kershaw, and remembering how he taught me, I sharpened it. Man is it sharp. So I thought I would share what he taught me. It takes a little faith, but here is how it works.

You have to start with a good knife. A good knife to my friend is a hollow ground blade. For the uninitiated, that means the blade has a dished out area between the meaty part and the factory edge. Your job, he told me, is to get rid of that damned factory edge - which has way too little real edge and is good for nothing. The typical factory edge is a big angle - like 20 to 40 degrees - no good. To make sure you truly get rid of the factory edge, before you begin the process below you will want to run the knife lightly on a stone as though you are cutting it - two to three light strokes is enough. You merely want to dull the knife slightly so you can be sure later your new edge is all yours and not factory.

Next, take a man made sharpening stone (the kind they sell for a buck in a basket next to the register of most gun stores).  I am not talking about an Arkansas stone - or real stone - what I mean is a block made out of grey grinding material.  I like to use the small ones about four inches long and an inch wide. Holding the knife still on a table, with the blade resting on the table, you lay the stone on the knife. Not on the edge - on the blade - FLAT. You begin to move the stone in small circular movements, moving the entire stone over the blade in much bigger and slower movements. That's right - you are grinding part of your shiny new blade away. That cant be right - you say. Keep going. If it takes a lot of meat away fast your stone is too rough. This whole operation takes about 45 minutes to an hour to do when done right - so keep that in mind.

Now this will help a little - you can hold a little more pressure on the edge side of the stone than the meaty ridge on the knife while making these circular movements. The reason being is that you want to take down the factory edge bevel faster and make it much wider and more shallow. You WONT hurt anything if you put even pressure on the stone, but it will take you longer because you are then also taking the same mount of meat off the shoulder as well. You will quickly see your pretty new knife get ugly scratches on the surface. Oh...God...I have ruined it you will think. Keep going. Periodically take a look at your work. You should see a light flattened area on the meaty shoulder, and also see two separate bevels on the edge, the factory bevel and the new one you are making that is much bigger. As you work, you should start to see the factory bevel shrink, as you take the metal down. When you overtake the factory bevel, with just a sliver of it left showing, go to the other side and repeat the process.

Now take your stone and begin to stroke it PARALLEL (in the same direction) to the edge, holding LIGHT even pressure on the stone. Run it back and forth like you are buffing the knife - until all of the circular marks are removed. You will see the knife pretty up, and it will have two parallel shiny bands that are all perfectly smooth. It is amazing how once you stop moving in a circular direction the scratches disappear - the stone almost does act like a buffer. Switch to the other side and repeat. This step is really cosmetic, and you don't have to do it - he doesn't on his own knife. But I like it because the knife takes on a new appearance again.

The knife will now feel like it is semi sharp at this point, and you should see only the slight trace of a factory edge. That is not really the factory edge that is left, it is just the metal that springs away from the stone and never gets shiny. Now take an ordinary kitchen steel and run both side of the blade up it ten or so times. Apply the knife gently to your fingernail in a scraping motion - not a cutting motion. It should 'stick', just like a sharp fishing hook will if sharp. It will not slide down your fingernail. If not, you need to take more metal down, and you still have the factory edge.

Now you have a knife that will resharpen in the field very easily, a few laps with a pocket stone, a quick pass over a small steel, and you are ready for more butchering. It isn't a knife for cutting timber, chopping away at bone, or prying - it is now a damn sharp skinning and butchering knife that will hold an edge for a good long while. Hope it works for you as well as it does for me.

 Click here for an artist rendition of the edge..