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Easy knife sharpening tricks

Easy knife sharpening tricks


It is clear to every user and knife owner that a good sharp knife is not a luxury, but a necessity, convenience, and safety. When it comes to sharpening, however, many things are quite complicated and ambiguous, especially when there is a lot of unstructured inaccurate information around and everyone advises at their own discretion and based on their own experience.

Among all the complicated information, there are a number of easy tricks and tips, which after trying will seem to you easy for sharpening almost any knife, even if you do not have a sharpener.

1. A list of professional and folk ways and tricks

1.1. How to check for chips or rolled-over parts

  • Visual check
  • The visual check involves spotting the glare on the cutting edge. As a rule, the cutting edge forms a very thin line that does not reflect glare. This line is much thinner than human hair and may reflect light in some cases, but it is impossible to distinguish this with the naked eye. It is enough to look at the cutting edge of the knife at an angle to the light source to detect glare.

    A blunt blade made of soft steel will definitely have glare. These glares are most often the areas of wear or dulling of the cutting edge, also referred to as rolled-over parts. These areas of wear may be in some parts of the cutting edge or along the entire length of the blade. In this case, the blade should be sharpened or, in case of minor damage, honed.

  • Nail check
  • According to some sources, to perform this test, the cutting edge of the blade is placed perpendicular to the thumb nail, and if the knife "bites" the nail as it passes over the nail plane, then it is sharp. If the blade slips, then there are blunt areas.

    There is another opinion that the cutting edge can be checked by running the nail perpendicularly along the cutting edge itself. In some cases, there is a difference of opinion, and the test can be made either along the growth of the nail, or across.

    To check along the direction of nail growth, the nail should be trimmed but not polished. Then, after placing the cutting edge on the corner of the nail, it is possible with some experience to feel whether the edge bites the nail or not. Please also note that any imperfections of the cutting edge can be detected at the roughing or sharpening stage with this kind of test. If there are no such defects, the nail slides smoothly along the edge.

    At the finishing stage, you have to run the test across the growth of the nail. This is a similar process, almost like with paper. If, in the case of paper, the blade begins to tear the material, the rolled-over part of the edge will slip at the point of contact with the paper, whereas the nail will cling to the edge in chipped parts. With testing crosswise, if there are no defects, the cutting edge will sink into the fingernail.

    1.2. How to get the factory angle or an already existing angle formed earlier with the stone during manual sharpening

    This question comes up every so often because the manual sharpening way is still very popular due to its accessibility and relatively low cost.

    To get the best out of it, it is not enough to keep a specific angle, you need to keep the angle you have already shaped. It is quite simple, put the blade's secondary bevel on the surface of the abrasive bar so that the secondary bevel lies completely flat. To check that it sits properly, you can wiggle the blade along the secondary bevel, and you will feel the flats alternately touch the surface of the abrasive.

    After that, you can begin to make slow and not too wide forward and backward translational motions. You will need to follow the same instructions for the belly and the point of the blade, but you will need to raise your elbow slightly, as the angle will change relative to the abrasive as you progress to the point of the blade. Over time, your experience will increase and this will stop being an issue.

    1.3. How to get the angle on a sharpening system with a marker (without an angle finder)

    The way of finding the sharpening angle of a blade with a marker is quite simple. Most often a black marker is used on knives without black DLC or other dark coatings.

    • Use a regular black water-resistant marker with a beveled tip, because it transfers the paint better.
    • Never use a paint marker on metal
    • First of all, check to see if the marker can be washed out at an invisible place on the blade (under the scales or part of the knife blade that is hidden under the liners)
    • An even line can be drawn using the guide of a household sharpener. Just hold the marker parallel to the abrasive holder and draw a line by moving the holder with the marker sideways
    • To check, use abrasive bars that will not absorb the paint

    After painting the edge, place the abrasive on the secondary bevel so that the planes visually seem aligned. Then make a few gentle strokes on the secondary bevel.

    Depending on how closely the angle is set, the abrasive will begin to remove the paint over the entire secondary bevel plane. If the paint is removed closer to the cutting edge, the angle should be reduced by a fraction of an angle and checked again. Once you remove the paint in 2-3 places across the entire width of the secondary bevel, that means that you found the existing angle.

    All these detailed steps are not crucial if you are going to change the angle. You just have to know what you are doing.

    1.4. How to check the sharpening angle with scissors

    This way seems to be the fastest, because everyone has scissors at home, and a protractor is also a necessary thing in the workshop. If you do not have it, you can just get it in a store in the stationery section. You may also need a pencil or a fine marker.

    For convenience, you can fix the knife handle or the blade itself in a vise for easy measurement. It is up to you how you want it, horizontally or vertically. Then you take the scissors and bring the blades to the maximum contact with the planes of the blade's secondary bevel. Keep the position of the scissors and draw a strip on the inside of one of the blades to remember the exact position.

    Now you need to transfer that angle to the paper. You put the open scissors according to the mark left on the blade and transfer the angle to the paper. Use a protractor to measure and find out the value of the full sharpening angle.

    1.5. It is best to finish the blade on a fine stone and/or a leather strop after sharpening

    After any sharpening, the knife blade should always be finished with a fine synthetic or a natural whetstone, because this makes the surface of the secondary bevels more homogeneous and maximizes sharpness retention. After finishing with a fine synthetic or a natural whetstone, a small burr may still remain on the edge, which can be removed with a leather strop or with a leather belt with or without paste.

    1.6. How to get the angle with a sharpening steel using a marker

    To learn how to keep the angle and to be sure that you hit the cutting edge using sharpening steel, it is enough to put a black marker on the secondary bevel of the blade and slowly make several honing motions with the sharpening steel rod at the intended angle with each side of the blade.

    Then check the condition of the marks and you will know if you got the angle. If the marks are removed closer to the cutting edge, then the angle is too wide. If the marks are removed closer to the bevels, the angle is probably too small.

    Over time, you will develop motor skills, and you will be able to get into the angle without the marker. Afterward, you can simply wash off the marks with alcohol, rinse with water, and you can use a sharp knife without having to go through the whole sharpening.

    1.7. How to check the sharpness

  • Paper test
  • A paper test can be performed on paper of varying weights, depending on what is available or the need for a higher test result. The most common types of paper that can be used are office printing paper, newsprint, tissue, toilet paper, receipt paper, and even cigarette paper.

    The purpose of this test is to check the quality of the entire length of the cutting edge. Thus, if the cutting edge has rolled over or chipped parts, the blade will tear the paper. A blade in good condition can cut even, thin strips, both along and across the sheet. When cutting, the blade can be held either perpendicular or at a slight angle to the plane of the paper sheet. The thinner and softer the paper, and the better and cleaner the cut, the sharper the blade you are testing.

    Sometimes newsprint is folded into a semi-circle and the blade of the knife is drawn across the maximum convex part of the paper. The goal is to get the blade and the cutting edge itself at the same level with the convex part of the paper. If the cutting edge is sharp, the blade will pick up and cut off a layer of paper.

  • Tomato test
  • The tomato sharpness test is suitable for most knives, with the exception of those with a deliberately large sharpening angle, for which this test is simply inappropriate. This test can be considered most suitable for kitchen knives, as well as for thin fillet knives. To perform the test, simply put the tomato on a cutting board and try to cut a thin slice without pressure. If you succeed in doing this, then your knife can be considered to be sharp. As a rule, the cut is made perpendicular to the surface of the table.

    There is, however, a more sophisticated way that requires an even sharper blade than usual. To do this, you cut a tomato in half and place one half on a cutting board. Then you make a horizontal cut as thin as possible so that the tomato does not move. If you manage to make this cut, then your knife can be called very sharp.

  • Hanging Hair test (HHT)
  • The HHT test was invented a relatively long time ago and is used mostly to test the sharpness of dangerous razors, as objects that have arguably some of the thinnest cutting edges.

    Among the many questions related to this test, we are interested in one particular question: how useful is this test for checking the sharpness of the blades of different types of knives? Because achieving such sharpness on a knife is an almost impossible task and on the other hand such a degree of sharpness may simply be unnecessary. Such a test can be carried out if desired for knives that have blades with a very thin cutting edge.

    In the usual understanding of this test, all types of slices can be considered as HHT and are carried out according to some sources at a distance of 10 mm from the point of holding, and according to other sources at a distance of 15-20 mm from the point of holding.

    1.8. Emergency ways to sharpen knives if you do not have sharpening equipment

  • Honing a knife on the flower pot edge
  • The ceramic flower pot is made of a fairly fine and high-quality material that can be used to sharpen the blade of your knife. You will notice that after some time of sharpening with a flower pot's edge, your knife will become much sharper.

  • Honing a knife on the bottom of a ceramic cup
  • Honing a knife with the bottom of a ceramic dish is an old trick, inherited from previous generations. Often ceramic plates or cups have an uncoated bottom edge on which you can try to sharpen the blades. You can sharpen both dry and wet.

  • Using sandpaper for honing
  • As odd as it may sound, this way works. For coarse sharpening, we recommend using sandpaper of 200 to 300 grit. For a finer sharpening, it is better to use paper with grit between 600 and 1000. In order to get the cleanest result possible, the sandpaper should be mounted on a plate of glass. Some manufacturers have special blanks to which the sandpaper is glued.

  • Using a metal or glass nail file
  • When using a metal nail file, you should first be aware that the abrasive material is mounted on a steel plate with a galvanic bonding and can be a very aggressive abrasive.

    When using the glass equivalent, you must understand that the matte surface of the glass can also be uneven. There are files made of sandpaper, which can be used in the same way. Afterward, it is no longer recommended to use them as intended for personal hygiene reasons.

    Taking into account that nail tools are narrow and sometimes short, you can achieve certain results with them. However, this process is more likely to help with honing and minor finishing than to provide a complete sharpening.

  • Honing a knife on a natural rock
  • Sharpening knives with natural a whetstone is a well-known and classic method, of course, if these are specialized natural water stones. However, in real natural conditions, you can find stone rocks that are surprisingly suitable for sharpening due to their abrasive properties and grit size. This kind of sharpening will require a stone with a sufficiently flat surface. You may even be lucky enough to find a good piece of jasper, slate, or dolerite, in a river or in a mountain area. If you split the stone in half or chip off part of it, you may handle the sharpening task just as good as with a professional whetstone.

  • Sharpening a knife on a metal strip or a steel rod
  • You should understand that this method cannot be compared with the use of a steel honing rod, but it is possible to achieve a certain effect with this method. In the past, in large kitchens, knives were not sharpened, because a special steel strip with high hardness was attached to the table, which was used to hone the blades. This is not sharpening in the full sense, and this method gave birth to sharpening a knife against the blade of another knife.

    This makes sense when, the steel surface, which you use to hone the blade, has a higher hardness, as with the special metal strip on the kitchen table.

    For honing, you need to place the knife at an angle of about 15-20 degrees to the surface, and make about 10 motions per side.

  • Sharpening a knife with a regular file
  • According to some opinions, an ordinary metal file can serve for sharpening just as well as the use of sandpaper. You should understand that you need to use soft files, because rough files will destroy the edge of the blade and make the knife unusable.

  • Using bricks or tiles
  • Using the surface of bricks, oddly enough, can give a good result if its bonding agent is appropriate and there is a flat area of sufficient size. You can also use ceramic tiles, which are similar in structure to flower pots or homemade pottery. This method is certainly suitable for honing a very dull blade.

  • Sharpening with a car door glass edge
  • Car Glass Edge Blade Correction. This method is also suitable for honing knife blade - you need to lower the car window and you can hone the blade on the matte edge of the glass with a few strokes. The car glass edge is a rounded surface of a certain uniform roughness and will work just as well as a glass nail file.


    It is difficult to create a guide or manual for all occasions, the tips of which will always apply to all kinds of knives. However, all the tips described above can be very helpful and they are worth trying when needed.

    Remember that keeping your knife sharp is always easier than sharpening it from a scratch and you should take care of it beforehand to avoid getting into trouble and looking for ways to solve it.

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