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Toothy Edge Maintenance?

Discussion in 'Maintenance, Tinkering & Embellishment' started by MtnHawk1, May 23, 2019.

  1. MtnHawk1


    May 22, 2019

    I would like to know the best way to maintain 400-600 grit toothy edges on good quality, high carbon, fixed blade knives, such as an Esee 4, for outdoor use.

    Since I often use these knives in the wilderness I cannot carry a lot of sharpening tools and accessories. Even at home I like to keep sharpening simple with a minimalist approach, using as few grit sizes as possible. I only need good utility edges that do the work I need them to do and do not spend time and energy getting knife edges sharper and more refined than what I need. I only freehand sharpen, mostly with diamond benchstones, so am not interested in suggestions regarding sharpening machines and devices.

    My understanding of stropping is that it polishes and refines a smooth edge after it’s sharpened. I would think this would be counter-productive to maintaining a toothy edge, such as damaging or destroying them over time, between sharpenings. This isn't what I'm looking for, and I'd prefer not to have to carry and use messy stropping compounds. If I'm wrong about this feel free to let me know, but please base your info and advice on experience and not theory or guesswork.

    That pretty much just leaves steeling. If steeling is the best way to maintain a toothy edge, then I would need to know if I should go with a smooth steel rod, which just re-aligns the edge (depending on the hardness of the steel rod and knife metal), or diamond or ceramic, which also both sharpen somewhat, as well as supposedly remove loose and useless metal. If the last two are recommended, then should I stay with the highest grit I sharpen with (400-600) or go to a 1200 or higher grit rod so I don't remove any more metal than necessary?

    I did several searches on this forum using different search terms to try to find the information I need. I was able to find bits and pieces of good info scattered around, but nothing specific and comprehensive about how to best maintain toothy edges between sharpenings without damaging them. If this info is available on other threads I would appreciate links to them.

    Thank you!
    wardcleaver and bucketstove like this.
  2. Blues

    Blues Lapsed SuperMod / Cattle Knife Rustler Staff Member Super Mod

    Oct 2, 1998
    I'd take a double sided DMT Diafold in the coarse / fine configuration into the field. It folds up flat and small, is pretty light, and the diamonds will sharpen any of your knives. The grits will be 325 and 600, right up your alley.

    (Based upon several decades of extended trips backpacking, canoeing, mountain and rock climbing, x-c skiing...not to mention a pretty fair friendship with the ESEE boys.)

    filedog, Alberta Ed, steff27 and 3 others like this.
  3. David Martin

    David Martin Gold Member Gold Member

    Apr 7, 2008
    MtnHawk1, Welcome to the Maintenance Forum. I use a Norton Puck on my axes, with a coarse and fine side in SiC grit. You can use it with water. IT works. Also, ACE Hardware sells a 2X4" SiC stone in the grit your inquiring about. It is a good economy stone. By taking the stone to
    the blade it works well. There is a learning curve but its worth it. Good luck, DM
    Last edited: May 30, 2019
  4. Sergeua

    Sergeua Gold Member Gold Member

    May 1, 2016
    You can get small diamond sharpening card and be set. When you freehand things are easy.
    jackknife and Chris "Anagarika" like this.
  5. HeavyHanded


    Jun 4, 2010
    For a wilderness strop on carbon steel, some ash from the campfire smeared on a piece of flattened wood or hard bark, with a sprinkle of water.

    Aside from that I use a small natural silt stone puck, a Norton puck works well too.

    A smooth steel works well on a very coarse edge, but once its drawn out you'll have to resharpen, maybe three or four reconditionings.
  6. lonestar1979


    Mar 2, 2014
    Folding dmt is excellent for field touchups on any steel and leaves nice toothy edge that shaves hair and still bites into skin.Norton stones are good too but folding dmt is easier to carry.Theres also small pocket norton stone,fine grit sil carbide stone,bought it for 3dol long time ago and is pretty good f9r touchups.
    Blues likes this.
  7. Bigfattyt

    Bigfattyt Gold Member Gold Member

    Jun 23, 2007
    I usually take a Smith diamond stone, ceramic stick combo camping. The diamond gives a nice toothy edge, still capable of easily jumping arm hairs off. The sticks are fine, but still give a nice bite to the edge.
    Chris "Anagarika" likes this.
  8. If you like the finish exactly as it comes off the 400-600 diamond, then that's the best solution for maintaining it as well. Focus on keeping the touch very light, and don't grind any more than is necessary to restore the 'tooth' to the edge. It's a misconception that a coarse hone will remove too much metal when used for touch-ups; that's more about using it excessively, either with too many passes or with too-heavy pressure. So long as you don't neglect the edge for too long, touch-ups with a diamond hone can usually be done to completion with maybe ~ 5 very light passes per side, or fewer.

    This is one of the things I personally like about using diamond hones; they can leave a clean, nearly burr-free finish on their own, used with a very light touch. If any additional stropping is needed, I usually confine that to a bare leather belt (I use the 'suede' back side, by preference) or perhaps just a bare piece of paper laid over something firm, like the diamond hone itself or a smooth piece of wood (countertop, workbench, etc). A piece of bare MDF also makes a good strop for simple high-carbon or low-alloy stainless steels, BTW.
    Last edited: May 24, 2019
  9. lutejones

    lutejones Gold Member Gold Member

    Mar 15, 2007
    I agree with the above in that the best you can do is carry a 1”x4” medium diamond stone, be it the DMT or the Fällkniven dc4 or even the new Spyderco double stuff 2( this one is coarser).

    Besides that I’ll recommend you a way to sharpen that will make the touch ups extremely quick in the field
    Lower your angle at home to 10-15 dps on the edge bevels, whatever you need in terms of durability. Then raise your angle to 17-22 dps with a very light touch for 5-8 passes per side to create a microbevel, this way every time you lose your sharpness with only 1-3 passes ps should be enough on 1095 with a diamond abrasive to restore the edge, because you are only abrading a minimal quantity of steel.
    You can keep this routine for months before you need to redo the bevels at home.(usually when it’s taking more than 10 pps to restore it, or is clearly visible to the naked eye).

    Hope it helps, I only use the microbevel on a few specific task knives, but it’s worht it when you just need the sharpness back in a hurry.(field dressing game for example)
  10. MtnHawk1


    May 22, 2019
    Thanks to everyone who took the time to respond to my request! Not only do I very much appreciate and value your information, but it is refreshing and uplifting to see a group of people who are willing to share their hard-earned knowledge and wisdom to help others. I just joined BladeForums (thank you for your welcome, David Martin :)), but have been reading posts here for several years and have been helped immensely by you folks. I am going to print out your replies and keep them with my benchstones so they are easily accessible.

    One of the big takeaways I inferred from your posts is that I don't specifically need a steeling or sharpening rod to maintain a toothy edge. I thought that there might be something special about using a rod rather than a stone, but apparently not. This is good news for me, as I mentioned I like to keep sharpening as simple as possible, with as few sharpening tools as possible, especially when I have to carry them.

    Obsessed with Edges, you said in two paragraphs what I've tried to find out in research for more hours than I even want to think about. Thank you for that. :)

    I have a few DMT Double-Sided Diafolds that I've accumulated over the years, but have rarely used. Thanks to Blues and lonestar1979 for letting me know I am on the right track with these. I will definitely use them more (especially when I'm in the wilderness) and rely on them with confidence because of your recommendations. Bigfattyt, I appreciate you letting me know about the Smith diamond/ceramic combo. I hadn't heard of this product and will check it out further. I prefer double-sided sharpening stones like these and the Norton Puck that David Martin and HeavyHand (thanks also for your valuable info on steeling!) recommend, for simplicity and to keep the weight and bulk down in my pack.

    lutejones, great sharpening advice! Very simple and logical, and consistent with the best I have learned about sharpening over several years. I have some big, high quality wood-chopping knives, that came with fairly thick convex edges, that I thinned out a lot at and near the edge. I was nervous about doing this, but was surprised and happy what low angles I could get without deformation, even when chopping hard and dead pine and fir. Will follow your advice, and thanks a lot! :)

    Sergeua, thanks for reminding me of the credit card sized diamond sharpeners. It would be good to carry one or two in my wallet in case the unexpected happens. I'm sure I could get better edges with a machine, angle guide, sharpening device, or whatever, but the edges I get are good enough (and getting better as I learn and sharpen more) for what I need, and I get satisfaction from freehand sharpening (I remember watching my Dad do this when I was a kid and being kind of fascinated by it). It's a good skill to have in the wilderness, too
  11. Bigfattyt

    Bigfattyt Gold Member Gold Member

    Jun 23, 2007
    If you already have diamond stones, no need to run out and grab the Smith combo.

    Your DMT double sided stones are all you need.

    Though the Smith combo set is inexpensive. I've used mine for a long time, and finally wore it out. I need a new diamond stone!! (Though the ceramic sticks are fine still).
  12. MtnHawk1


    May 22, 2019
    Bigfattyt, thanks for your follow-up post! I checked out the Smith combo online and it looks like a good product, but I’ve picked up a few DMT Double-Sided Diafolds over the years. I haven’t used them much yet, but they are usually highly recommended by knowledgeable knife users (such as on this thread), so I will start using them regularly. I’ve used other DMT products, also, which so far I’ve had good luck with.
  13. Gary W. Graley

    Gary W. Graley “Imagination is more important than knowledge" Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Mar 2, 1999
    Only recently I have started using some diamond paste on a strip of leather, that brings the toothy edge back with just a few light strops.
  14. Wowbagger


    Sep 20, 2015
    I went with "600Grit" LINK > > > not sure of the micron. I looked and it isn't on the syringe . . . it does have an expiration date of 2005. That's just the sell by date though. Still good for a couple decades after that right ?

    What abrasive size did you end up with Gary ?
    Last edited: May 26, 2019
  15. Wowbagger


    Sep 20, 2015
    rough or smooth side ?
  16. Gary W. Graley

    Gary W. Graley “Imagination is more important than knowledge" Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Mar 2, 1999
    It is dmt .5 microns and on the smooth side of the leather
  17. jpm2


    Nov 19, 2014
    It seems from this chart, and this one, it's rather vague when referencing the amount of tooth you prefer to a grit, unless you specify the exact abrasive, brand, and model.

    For instance 400-600 grit can range from as large as 45 microns, down to 9 microns, according to those charts. That's an extremely large variance.

    Add to that, finish and edge tooth can depend on composition steel of being sharpened, hardness of steel, abrasive binder, how fast they load, how fast they break or wear down, if a slurry is formed, whether water/oil/dry, pressure, and probably 20 other things.

    Aside from all that, I can get a very wide range of edge tooth from just two abrasives, coarse(250grit) and extra fine(1200grit) eze lap diamond plates. They are available from credit card and 1x3" sizes on up.
    Eze laps run a little coarser than dmt and need a lot of break in, in my experience, but I prefer them to dmt's, and in continuos form(not dimpled).
    J D Wijbenga likes this.
  18. dantzk8


    Nov 1, 2005
    All that is very true but there is an other and major factor: the sharpening angle.
    More acute is the angle, deeper are the serrations and larger are the teeth.

  19. MtnHawk1


    May 22, 2019
    jpm2, the charts were interesting. Even though I only understand about 10% of the content, I think I get your point. I thought there was more standardization and interchangeability of terms than there apparently is, so it's good to know that limitation exists. Since I use mostly diamond benchstones (DMT and Atoma) I was using their grit terminology.

    The difference between 9 microns and 45 microns is about one-thousandth of an inch. I can't even see my calipers move one-thousandth of an inch. I think it's great that some people take sharpening to a precise level. Much can be learned, for everyone's benefit, from doing so, and you mention several important variables affecting sharpness. But there is a point where I cannot tell the difference between two different grit sizes, microns, or whatever measurement is used, in real-world cutting performance, so there is no use going further. I use my knives (except for kitchen knives) mostly for wood-chopping and basic slicing and cutting chores around the house and when I'm in the wilderness: nothing real exciting or challenging. As long as my knife edges do what I want them to do, that's all I need.

    My sharpening standards are probably pretty low compared to a lot of people on the forum, but I don't see the value in spending more time and energy to get what I don't need. Even if I could attain toothy edge perfection, if there is such a thing, it would only be applicable for one kind of material and would probably only last for one slice or cut before some kind of edge micro-damage occurs.

    The reason I started this thread was to see if I could learn more about keeping toothy edges doing what I want them to do for as long as I can without sharpening, and with minimum maintenance. Thanks to the knowledge and helpfulness of several people here, I have.

    Thank you for your info about Eze Lap. I've never used their products but always like to hear about new possibilities, especially when they are recommended by someone who uses them. I prefer continuous diamond surfaces to interrupted. I can't see any real advantage to interrupted, but then I clean my stones often during sharpening so don't have to worry about swarf.
  20. jpm2


    Nov 19, 2014
    Yeah, grit only seems relevant to individual manufactures progression in a certain model of abrasives.
    It's probably much less than that when it comes to depth of scratch, if it's true that only about 10% of the grit actually protrudes, but still makes a notable difference in edge refinement.
    Since you're already using diamond plates, your needs seem to be covered.

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