Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Sharpening the Edge

All knives get dull. Thats not true.  You know that’s a lie.

All used knives get dull and that’s the truth. So it was no surprise I needed to sharpen my Spyderco Salt I. I use that little serrated blade all the time.

The blade is made from H-1 steel which is completely rust proof. No really, it is. I made a paste of table salt and water and coated my blade with it. I tried to keep the paste moist, but I’m sure sometime during the night it dried out. No rust. A little discoloration on the steel blade, but no rust.

The H-1 steel carbon content is very low, only 0.15%. That leaves all the chromium available to form a nice chrome oxide film which resist oxidation or rust formation.

I like sharpening knives. It’s my own little Japanese Tea ceremony. The counter gets wiped off, several layers of newspaper a placed on the surface. I slide the stones out of the Spyderco Sharp-maker and inspecting each one. Each stone deemed dirty gets scrubbed with a mild cleanser to remove oxidized metal, dried and returned to the black plastic base. The dark medium grit stones are put in place first, then the brass protective rods.

The sharpening starts with downward strokes on both side of the blade. I let my mind go blank and just feel the stone and steel abrading. At some point I test the knife by cutting newspaper. Satisfied, I wipe the blade clean and replace the stones with the white fine stones.

The fine stone grabs the edge differently and the steel sings a different song. When I’m ready, I start running the blade upwards from the stone’s base to its top. This draws the wire edge out. There’s an element of symmetry here: The stone receives the metal from the blade and give the blade its sharpness.

When it’s time the blade is tested. Does it shave? It does. The blade gets wipe down and the pivot gets a drop of oil. I thumb the knife open, test the lock and slip the closed knife back in my pocket.

The sharpener is returned to its container. The newspaper is rolled up and placed in the trash. There is symmetry to the entire process, all of which turns on the exchange of metal.

You don’t sharpen a knife to use it: rather you sharpen because you have used it.

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