history of knife sharpening

Discussion in 'Knives & Edged Items' started by johnlives4christ, Oct 30, 2010.

  1. johnlives4christ

    johnlives4christ Former Guest

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    im interested in the history of knife sharpening from about 1800 through 1950s.

    i have always used an arkansas whetstone since i was a kid, is this traditional?

    whats the difference between the uses of soft and hard arkansas stones.

    i have no interest in any new fangled sharpening devices or machines.

    heres some of my current stones.

    the little one is a case hard arkansas, the big one and the medium one are both smith's i think the middle one is medium and the small is soft. although i am not 10o% sure cause i cant remember. i've had all the stones for over a decade.

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    Last edited: Oct 31, 2010
  2. jack404

    jack404 Former Guest

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    America started to develop its own semi unique knife style in the mid to late 1700's

    so while the UK and europe stuck with steels as the be all and end all to blades you folks went back to stone , because you had way better stuff that whats commonly found in europe i think mainly, Arkansas stone is know around the world

    traditionally a hard stone was for finer work , final sharpenings , more dainty blades etc
    a soft stone is for facing ( nick removal) shapeing and rough work removing more metal

    thanks to jestor for fixing my goof ( had the stones reversed ... sorry tired.... try climbing a comm tower at midnight in 40 miles winds.. errr i'll explain after monday here)

    some folks only like hard stones some folks like the draw edge a soft stone can make

    i have a small soft stone and steel for my knives i carry

    nothing new there

    the stones 100+ years old and the steel is a wilkinson sword meant for chef's knives and 50+ years old

    and am looking for a large bench set of soft and hard stones for the new shed

    and i can shave with 2 of the 4 i carry , the third is the Kbar and sharp enough , but a draw edge is a tad blunt to shave with , i use that to go through joints on game

    the fourth is a kershaw system blade set ie GP, boner and a saw
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2010
  3. jack404

    jack404 Former Guest

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    theres a lot of historical stuff online some of the bigger US knifemakers have them on their sites ..
  4. Alpo

    Alpo Well-Known Member

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    John, the softer the stone is, the larger the grain size. Works just like sandpaper. Soft stone - large grain size - like one of them cheap carborundum stones you see at flea markets for a buck - take a lot of metal off quickly, but leave gouges in your blade edge. Think of them like 60-grit. Puts a sorta-edge on a really dull knife, fairly quickly.

    Then you got your medium stones - like a soft Arkansas. Think of it like 240-grit. You can take that same really dull knife and put an edge on it, but it takes a lot longer since you are removing less metal with each pass. But if you have a knife with any kind of an edge already on it, it will make that edge better.

    Hard Arkansas is like a 600-grit. Very fine grain. Very smooth to the touch. If you took your dull knife and tried to sharpen it with that, it'd take you a week or so, but you would eventually get there. If, however, you have a sharp knife already, this stone will polish the edge and make it sharper.

    The last one is a Black Arkansas. 1200-grit. Takes that fine edge you got off your Hard Arkansas and polishes it even finer. You're getting up there into straight-razor sharpness.

    Normally, the coarser the stone, the bigger it is. You might get a set with a soft stone that's 6" x 2" x 1/2" thick, a hard stone that's 2 1/2" x 1 1/4" x 3/8" thick, and a black stone that's 1 1/2" x 3/4" x 1/4" thick. Since you use the coarser stone more, they make it bigger. Also the finer stones are rarer, and they cost more, so you don't get as big a piece.
  5. carver

    carver Moderator

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    John, as you know, man's first blade was stone, flaked and shaped for use. As it dulled it was simply re-flaked to sharpen it. Then along came the bronze age, and man began to look for ways to sharpen these tools. And different kinds of stone were found to do the job. Man already knew this, as he had been sharpening sticks for thousands of years by rubbing them on rocks. Bows, and arrows were also shaped, polished, and hardened by this same method, along with the use of fire. When steal was invented we already knew how to sharpen it as a tool. And as man kind spread across the planet he began to find better, and better kinds of rock to get the edge he wanted. Although man kind didn't have a microscope to see the edge of his blade, he knew something was going on, and soon began to explore the use of softer materials, such as leather, and paste to get the sharpest edges possible. My dad was a barber, and I started to learn how to sharpen a straight razor when I was 13. Give me a decent piece of steel, and I can put an edge on it that you can shave with. I use the term blade because man had many different blades to do his work. Chisels, knives for all sorts of use, including battle, axes, and many other types of blades, and man usually liked them sharp!
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2010
  6. old semperfi

    old semperfi Active Member

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    i live in southern indiana,old country boy at hear
    you can sharpen a knife on a piece of flat wood with fine sand embedded in it.i use only a fine arkansas stone.if i need anything rougher a butcher friend showed me a trick that works well,i put ajax clenser on my stone after i sprinkle a little water on it.i work it for a few strokes to set the edge then wash it off and use the stone by itself.i then use a leather strop to finish edge. old semperfi
  7. johnlives4christ

    johnlives4christ Former Guest

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    ajax huh, thats cool i never heard of that one man. does it seem to wear the stone any? i might just give it a try. what consistency do you use?
  8. johnlives4christ

    johnlives4christ Former Guest

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    just bought a new case soft arkansas stone and bottle of oil.

    also have a DMT coarse diamond stone that i use a lot for rough work

    a large arkansas stone. i believe it's medium. the grain is coarser then the hard stone, and finer then the new soft stone.

    then i have a couple small hard stones

    and an ultra fine polishing stone i dont use much, although i do use it some

    the folder was a birthday present

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  9. johnlives4christ

    johnlives4christ Former Guest

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  10. old semperfi

    old semperfi Active Member

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    i live in southern indiana,old country boy at hear
    the amount of ajax i use depends on how dull the knife or ax is.if it has been butchered by somebody else then ill use it pretty heavy.i will pull across stone ten times on one side then ten on the other.i then alternate back and forth until i start to feel an edge.now its time to use the stone by itself.this method has never failed me,if you try it i hope it works for you as well as it does me. old semperfi
  11. johnlives4christ

    johnlives4christ Former Guest

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    im probably going to try it at some point, i certainly wont forget it. thanks
  12. johnlives4christ

    johnlives4christ Former Guest

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    any books on the subject? not how to sharpen knives, but the history of it
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