2005 Note before we start:  In talking with a man I call DL, who spent the first eighteen years of his life "living off the land,"  I found that he mainly sharpens with a file.  Recommendation is to use the round chain-saw file for sharpening.


More information is referenced in:

Knife Sharpening, retaining the "Slicing Edge."

Sharpening.   DL  Tips

Main Index to DL Tips

What the file does is give you a slightly serrated edge, and the file-sharpened edge retains its quality longer.  Now on to the original article:



Keeping a File in Your Kit for Knife Sharpening


(From my survival email files- how I used to communicate prior to starting http://www.survivalprimer.com) this is the source file for the recommendation sent out a while ago that you keep a file in your kit, for field sharpening.


I once bought a used knife, of stainless, and worked it initially with a file. It seemed to be sharper than my polished edge ones, but it would not cut paper or shave my arm.



author: Joe Talmadge jat@cup.hp.com

Last Updated: May 1998

************ IMPORTANT TIP ****************


Many treatises on sharpening tend to focus on getting a polished,  razor-like edge. This is partially the fault of the tests we use to see how good our sharpening skills are. Shaving hair off your arm, or cutting a thin slice out of a hanging piece of newspaper, both favor a razor polished edge. An edge ground with a coarser grit won't feel as sharp, but will outperform the razor polished edge on slicing type cuts, sometimes significantly. If most of your work involves slicing cuts (cutting rope, etc.) you should strongly consider backing off to the coarser stones, or even a file. This may be one of the most important decisions you make -- probably more important than finding the perfect sharpening system!


Recently, Mike Swaim (a contributor to rec.knives) has been running and documenting a number of knife tests. Mike's tests indicate that for certain uses, a coarse-ground blade will significantly outperform a razor polished blade. In fact, a razor polished blade which does extremely poor in Mike's tests will sometimes perform with the very  best knives when re-sharpened using a coarser grind. Mike's coarse grind was done on a file, so it is very coarse, but he's since begun favoring very coarse stones over files.

The tests seem to indicate that you should think carefully about your grit strategy. If you know you have one particular usage that you do often, it's worth a few minutes of your time to test out whether or not a dull-feeling 300-grit sharpened knife will outperform your razor-edged 1200-grit sharpened knife. The 300-grit knife may not  shave hair well, but if you need it to cut rope, it may be just the ticket!


If you ever hear the suggestion that your knife may be "too sharp",  moving to a coarser grit is what is being suggested. A "too sharp" -- or more accurately, "too finely polished" -- edge may shave hair well, but not do your particular job well. Even with a coarse grit, your knife needs to be sharp, in the sense that the edge bevels need to meet consistently.




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