6 Sharpening Abrasives You Should Know
June 28, 2021
There are various sharpening abrasives available today and they each have their own strengths and weaknesses. Which abrasive you choose will ultimately depend on your personal preference.
Let’s take a look at the six main categories.
Tungsten Carbide is typically found in pull-through sharpeners. It is a dense abrasive that is harder than steel and removes material quickly. Tungsten Carbide sharpeners are aggressive abrasives. They are great for quickly restoring a working edge on a blade. Because carbide is such an aggressive material, tungsten carbide sharpeners can leave a rough micro-serrated blade edge. After using a carbide sharpener, make sure to hone with finer stones to achieve a sharp, polished edge.
Novaculite (Natural Arkansas Stone) is a type of stone that can only be found in North America in the limited geographical region of Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas. It is one of the more popular natural stones. Novaculite is generally used with water or oil when sharpening in order to move metal filings away from the abrasive surface. Because of its hardness, the Natural Arkansas stone (novaculite) is great for putting razor sharp edges on already sharp knives, but isn’t the best choice for profile work or for fixing damaged edges.
Diamond is the hardest naturally occurring material, which makes it great for sharpening. Diamond sharpeners are made by using a metal plate/rod and adhering diamond abrasive to the plate/rod. Diamond abrasives are aggressive, fast cutting, and long-lasting. They can be used without any lubrication, like oil or water. The only disadvantage of diamond abrasives is that they are so aggressive; it can become easier to ruin or damage an edge.
Ceramic Stones make great finishing stones. Because of their hardness, these stones can last a life time and are easy to maintain and clean. Ceramic stones can be used dry or with oil or water, and come in a variety of grits. The finer stones will leave an unparalleled polished edge to your blade and the coarser stones will remove material at an acceptable pace. Coarse ceramic stones can become glazed over when not used with lubrication, but when maintained properly, these stones can last generations.
Japanese water stones can put a nice cutting edge on just about any knife. They are generally soaked in water for about 15 minutes before being used. The small particles that do the cutting are loosely bound together in the stone. During sharpening, the surface particles are washed out, allowing new, sharp, particles to start working on the blade. The disadvantage of water stones is that because of their soft constitution, they wear down quickly and need to be flattened using a special flattening stone. Water stones are also very fragile and need to be stored properly. They will also need to be replaced periodically.
Alumina Oxide stones are among the most common sharpening stones found today. They cut fast, and as progressively finer stones are used, will leave a nice polish. Traditionally Alumina Oxide stones have been used with lubrication, but lubrication is not necessarily needed when sharpening. The use of oil is, however, recommended to clean the metal filings from the stone. Alumina Oxide stones are one of the most versatile abrasives available and are ideal for both removing material quickly, as well as polishing.
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