Types of Knife Sharpeners
Sharpening stones are used to grind and hone edges of steel blades or tools. Sharpening stones come in a wide range of shapes, sizes and materials. Stones may be flat for working flat edges, or shaped for more complex sharpening. Stones are usually available in various grits. Generally, the finer the grit, the finer finish or edge is left on the surface of the tool. Finer grits cut more slowly because they remove less material. Grits are often given as a number, which indicates the density of the particles with a higher number denoting a finer grit. This makes it easier to choose the proper grit for what tool is in need of sharpening.
Made of metal or a composite base, diamond stone sharpeners have an outer layer of micron-sized diamonds bonded to a metal surface through a nickel plating process. Many have special surface holes which claim to prevent "filling build-up", however we feel it just reduces the diamond used per sharpener.
Diamond stones are fast, effective and come in different grits. You can use a diamond stone wet or dry, but we recommend wet as this keeps the diamond abrasive from loading up with the removed steel from the sharpening process. Use water or mineral oil and not a lubricating or petroleum-based oil. Another key benefit to a diamond stone is that you will not cause a depression in the sharpening surface.
When you are done using the diamond stone be sure to clean the surface thoroughly so the diamonds are fully exposed for your next use.
NATURAL SHARPENING STONES
Arkansas Washita natural stones are genuine silica Novaculite from Arkansas. The different grits occur naturally based upon the density of the stone itself and, with their abrasive qualities, make excellent sharpening stones. Natural stones are also self-renewing. The stone itself is structured as a series of stacked bubbles, or a honeycomb construction. As you wear through the floor of one bubble you expose the two side ridges which give you a refreshed sharpening surface until you wear through them into the bubble beneath. This self-renewing does have a negative aspect though as the stone will belly out and will eventually break. This should take years to happen though.
Natural stones can be used wet or dry and cleaned after sharpening just like diamond stones. Therefore, don't be stingy with the honing fluid during sharpening. Use enough to keep a pool visible on the surface of the stone. Once murky, pat or lightly wipe away the fluid, then add more.
HOW TO CLEAN AND CARE FOR YOUR SHARPENING STONE
Use a little extra fluid to clean and then dry the sharpener after every use. Store carefully. Glossy grey streaks are a good indicator of debris build-up. Clean the sharpener thoroughly.
• If using water or water-based honing fluid, clean with soapy water.
• If using petroleum-based honing oil, use the same oil or kerosene.
• To scrub clean, use your finger or an old toothbrush.
• Do not drop your sharpener. Being made of stone, it may break or chip.
Sharpening steels began as hardened steel rods (harder than the blade to be sharpened). With steel rods, the surface was disrupted to provide an abrasion. These were only useful for light honing and reshaping the metal on the edge back into alignment. Today, with the diamond coatings, you can find steels that are capable of the grinding process. They can be diamond or ceramic materials. Buck's EdgeTek line of steels and FlipStik's are 100% diamond coated for sharpening. The FlipStik's are lightweight and compact, as the handle unscrews from the steel and doubles as a carrying case. EdgeTek Steels are longer rods used mainly on kitchen cutlery or other larger blades. They can be used wet or dry.
TAPERED AND POCKET SHARPENERS
These small sharpeners are used for serrated blades, gut hooks and fishhooks. They are often sold in a Pen Style where the tapered rods are carried in a case similar to a writing pen.
ELECTRIC KNIFE SHARPENERS
These knife sharpeners typically come in the shape of a rectangular box with one or more slots to place the blade in. A motorized wheel spins to sharpen your blade as you pull or push it through the slots. While electric knife sharpeners are known for their convenience and speed, they are often criticized for giving less control than hand sharpeners, for not sharpening the whole edge and for lack of portability.
Depending on the sharpener, you can use water, water-based honing oil and/or petroleum-based honing oil. Treat your choice of sharpening fluid as a permanent one; because of the porous nature of the stone itself, it is very difficult to switch from an oil-based lubricant.
Lower grit numbers, considered "coarse", are more aggressive and remove more material. "Medium" and "Fine" higher grit numbers are used for touch up and final edging. The abrasive leaves microscopic serrations along the edge of your knife. A shaving edge is a polished edge with serrations that have been polished off. In more heavy-duty use serrations contribute to the knife's cutting ability, and a knife finished with a medium grit may cut longer than one taken to a shaving edge.
A coarse grit is good for removing metal. A medium grit is a good finish for meat cutting or outdoor chores, while a fine grit is for shaving edges required in activities such as wood carving.