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Antique pen/quill knife angles?

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  • #57630
    Timm
    Participant
    • Topics: 11
    • Replies: 44

    A friend who does calligraphy was complaining the other day that he doesn’t have a real pen knife and has to use a utility knife when cutting quills for pens.

    Well, I just happen to have this sitting around with no use for it:

    I’d like to tune it up and give it to him as a surprise, but have no idea what angles to use. The main part of the blade is for cutting/shaping quills, the short upper blade is an eraser for ink on parchment–more of a scraper. The flat end of the haft is a creaser for getting those nice, crisp folds for a letter-lock.

    The only marking on the blade or anywhere is Sheffield, so presumably pretty good steel for whenever it was made.

     

    Any suggestions?

    • This topic was modified 5 months, 1 week ago by Timm.
    #57632
    MarcH
    Moderator
    • Topics: 65
    • Replies: 2593

    Timm, before you can sharpen a narrow or short height knife like this one you first have to find a secure method to clamp it in the W.E. vise.  Otherwise, your sharpening stones will contact the vise and not allow the stones to reach the apex.

    Here is a W.E. video dealing with this issue with a couple solutions:

    https://support.wickededgeusa.com/portal/en/kb/articles/sharpening-small-knives-in-your-wicked-edge

    The Tormek Small Knife Holder is readily available from many different sources.

    If I were trying to attempt to sharpen that specialty knife I’d start with 25º or 30º per side.

    Marc
    (MarcH's Rack-Its)

    #57634
    Timm
    Participant
    • Topics: 11
    • Replies: 44

    Sorry, Marc–I should have mentioned that my Tormek Small Knife Holder arrived today. I have a lot of small pocket knives to sharpen so ordered one right away.

    Wow! 25-30 seems really steep. I guess with a smaller blade like this a fine angle isn’t needed? This will be used to cut and trim goose flight feather quills–the shafts–to make nibs for old-fashioned ink pens, so it needs to do fine work on soft, thin materials. The scraper side does seem like it would benefit from a steeper angle.

     

    I don’t mean to argue with you and appreciate the advice, just curious and trying to learn.

    • This reply was modified 5 months, 1 week ago by Timm.
    #57636
    MarcH
    Moderator
    • Topics: 65
    • Replies: 2593

    I recommend you should always start with wide angles.  This creates a short height bevel.  The sharpness is a factor of how smooth the bevels are and how closely and precisely the two bevels intersect, the keeness. Edge keeness translates to sharpness.  Sheffield steel is high carbon steel.  It can get very sharp but it’s not a particularly hard steel. Softer steels sharpen easily and quickly with the W.E. stones.  It’s really easy to remove too much steel fast. The small blade with it’s long handle suggest to me it’s used similarly to a paring knife with possibly a lot of hand pressure on the knife edge.  That suggests a wider bevel may be more stable.

    If your friend finds through use that the edge lacks the desired sharpness you can always touch it up at a lower bevel angle. Say, between 20dps to 25dps. (I’d work down narrower, incrementally). Each time you sharpen the narrow blade you remove a little more steel.  Steel that it doesn’t have alot of, to spare.  When guessing on an edge profile for an unusual knife, it’s always better to start conservatively with a wider angle shorter height bevel, requiring less steel use/loss than to start more acutely and find the narrower angled, taller bevels can’t stand up to use and the soft steel edge rolls under the pressure.  You can always take off steel.  You can never put it back.

    Marc
    (MarcH's Rack-Its)

    #57642
    Timm
    Participant
    • Topics: 11
    • Replies: 44

    Thanks for the explanation, Marc!

    I’ll give it a go tomorrow, maybe. Work interferes with fun sometimes.

    #57644
    Timm
    Participant
    • Topics: 11
    • Replies: 44

    My angle digital cube arrived today, so I’ll actually know what angles I’m sharpening at!

    I think this pen knife will be my first experiment with the small knife holder and angle cube. I’ll stick to your suggestions and go with the high-angles first. I don’t happen to have any goose quills to test it on, but I think some thicker plastic sheeting should be a good substitute.

    #57649
    Timm
    Participant
    • Topics: 11
    • Replies: 44

    Pretty happy with this:

    Shaves fairy thick plastic sheeting–about the thickness of a feather shaft–very nicely. I settled on 21 DPS (verified with Wixley WR300 T3) for the main blade, 25 DPS for the scraper. We’ll see how it holds up. I pretty much tried to copy the existing angles, hoping they were original.

    I learned quite a bit sharpening this little blade. It was my first experiment with the Tormek Small Knife Holder and with the Wixley. I used your (Marc’s) instructions for finding the sweet spot and the angle with a sharpie. I broke away from the instructions that came with it by sharpening into the blade (paddle moving downward and away, from heel to tip) instead of away, and, as I think you’ve suggested, used alternating strokes to establish the apex, as viewed with a 10X Baush and Lomb Hastings Triplet (used to work as a botanist and still carry one in my pocket). I’ve always sharpened into the stone when hand-stoning and it just makes more sense to me. I rarely saw a burr, and it never lasted through the next grade of stone (I know this is somewhat metal dependent). I think I’ll stick with this technique, as it’s more intuitive to me. I got lots of practice at maintaining the bevel through to the tip and following through with the paddle.

    I started with 400 grit and finished with 1,000–the finest I have for now. I think I’ll try to give it a bit of polish with my ceramic razor hone tomorrow.

    All in all, a great learning experience and thanks for the advice–here and elsewhere in the forum.

    • This reply was modified 5 months, 1 week ago by Timm.
    #57651
    MarcH
    Moderator
    • Topics: 65
    • Replies: 2593

    Edge leading strokes are done by bringing or pulling the stones down and onto, or down and against the knife edge.  (Apex down to bevel shoulder).

    Edge trailing strokes are done by raising the stones up and then off the knife edge, or up and away.  (Bevel shoulder up to the apex then off the edge).

    Both of these strokes, edge leading, and edge trailing strokes can be done either in a heel to tip direction or in a tip back to the heel direction.  That’s your preference.

    I finish my sharpening routine for each and every grit stones I use with edge leading strokes, (down and onto the apex) done in an alternating side fashion, (left side, right side, left side, right side).  This stroke routine should remove any burr created and any burr remnants left on the apex from all earlier strokes done.  This should leave an exposed sharpened apex with no wire edge.  I generally work all strokes in strictly a heel to tip direction.

    Stropping, done last, is always with an edge trailing stroke. I use an alternating side stroke.

    This is my method.  It’s suggested that you find what you like to do for yourself, what you’re comfortable with and make it your own technique. Achieving consistent sharp results that you are pleased with is all that really matters.

    Marc
    (MarcH's Rack-Its)

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