Awoodsman was asked, “What would you do if you had five minutes to chop down a tree?” His response, “I’d spend the first three minutes sharpening my axe.” The time invested in sharpening the tool means less time and effort to achieve the goal. Having equipment that is properly maintained to do the job is only half the battle. More importantly, dull blades are more dangerous than a sharp blade because a dull blade requires more effort and pressure to use, which increases the chance of slippage. That’s why #SharpMatters. SHARP OR DULL? There are a few quick ways to safely determine if a blade is dull or sharp. First, perform an initial visual inspection by looking at the edge of the blade under a bright light. If you see any reflection, then the edge is dull and needs honing or sharpening. If you see just a black line, then the edge is sharp. A tried and true method is to cut paper. Take a sheet of copy
paper and hold the knife edge perpendicular to its edge. If it cuts with limited effort, the edge is sharp. If it leaves a ragged or uneven cut, the blade need to sharpened or honed. For kitchen knives, an onion is a great test because the skin is slippery and comes off very easily. A sharp knife will easily cut through the skin, gaining purchase on the first pass without the need to use a sawing motion. When testing wood-cutting tools, the edge should cut wood fibers cleanly without crushing the fibers. Fillet or skinning knives should quickly and cleanly penetrate with little to no resistance.
SHARPENING BASICS Grinding the steel along the entire length on each side of the blade (excluding serrated portion) creates a burr that is critical to creating a sharp edge. It is very important to use the same num- ber of strokes on each side of the blade to ensure a true burr is formed. Once a burr is created, with each stroke, alternate sides to refine the primary edge. A knife becomes sharp when the two sides are brought together as precisely as possible at the apex of the knife, the sharp part. This requires grad- uating from coarse to fine grits, and on to honing. It is crucial to decrease the pressure placed on the knife or tool so you finish using only the weight of the blade.
HAND VS. MECHANICAL
SHARPENING Each system has its pros and cons, and much of it is contingent on the individual’s experience, skill set and patience.
By Rob Foster