Choose Your Sharpener

March 27, 2013

Choose Your Sharpener

Recently, I’ve been asked a lot about how to choose the right sharpener for specific blade steels. Choosing a sharpener is really going to boil down to personal choice, but I may be able to help point you in the right direction.

First, you need to decide what type of sharpening technique or system would you like to choose. We can boil this down to 3 basic categories:

  • Controlled Angle Sharpening Systems

  • Crock Stick Systems

  • Free Hand Sharpening

Controlled Angle Sharpening System


The Lansky Controlled Angle Sharpening System is the original “anybody can do it” controlled angle (clamping) sharpening system. Invented by Arthur Lansky Levine in 1979, over the last 35 years, this system has been adapted by several companies but the original model remains unaltered. The system features a clamp to fix the knife steady, while having a guided hone to hold a consistent angle over the entire edge and both bevels. For people that would like to learn sharpening but have no experience, I always suggest starting with a Controlled Angle System. Sharpening for me is more about touch and sound than vision. Using the Controlled Angle System lets you get a feel for the motion, sound and feel of a stone set properly to an edge. For a “no-fuss” sharp edge every time, a Controlled Angle System is a must have.


 Crock Stick Systems


The Crock Stick System is another “anybody can use it” system. This system works by replicating the angle for horizontal bench stone sharpening, in an easy to use vertical fashion. The Crock Stick system generally uses 2-4 rods of different grits and material (generally ceramics). The rods are set vertically in the base at common sharpening angles. This allows the user to simply run his edge down the rods and sharpen a blade. The motion is similar to slicing bread. These systems are effective, compact and incredibly easy to use for people you don’t have the skill to sharpen on a benchstone.


Free Hand Sharpening


Classic sharpening is done free hand. More commonly associated with benchstones, freehand sharpening can use a variety of different sharpeners, from pocket stone and benchstones to rods and steels. Freehand sharpening is accomplished by having a steady hand, some basic sharpening knowledge and lots of practice. This method is difficult though, because you must be able to keep a consistent angle while sharpening to achieve a proper edge. This involves building up muscle memory and experience with sharpening and blade care. I often like to compare it to learning an instrument; it’s both a skill and an art. Practicing is what makes the difference.


Choosing Your Abrasive

After you choose what type of sharpening system/technique you’d like to use, you have to select what type of abrasive/stone you’d like to use. Generally I use multiple stones for sharpening any blade, but the stone I start with can be influenced by the type of steel. Harder steels, such as steels in the High Carbon Family of steels (1095, 01 W1) have a high wear resistance. That means a more aggressive abrasive such as Diamond or Carbide would be ideal for sharpening and profiling the edge on High Carbon steel blades. Now once the blade is sharp, progressive polishing can be done with ceramics or natural stones. Softer Stainless steels are less wear resistant and may need the softer touch of a Natural Arkansas Stone and different grit ceramic stones.

You’ll find that the abrasive grit of a particular stone is more important than specific types of stone. I enjoy using diamond products because of the low maintenance involved and how portable they are without any fuss. That being said, I tend to use ceramics and natural stones on very soft stainless steels such as 440 or 8 Cr 13 Mov. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, choosing your sharpening stone is about personal preference but hopefully some of the information in this and my previous blog post can help you make an educated decision.  Be Smart, Be Safe and Stay an Edge Above the Rest!



Category: Edge Knowledge


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