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Can a knife be too sharp?

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  • #57044
    Thomas Brannan
    Participant
    • Topics: 1
    • Replies: 3

    So I have a new small fixed blade knife (an Argali Serac) that I am going to use for hunting this year. It’s a 3” blade that is in S35VN steel. Out of the box the knife is not as sharp as I would like (only a portion of the blade will actually shave hair), so my plan is to sharpen it this weekend for hunting season.

    My question is: If I sharpen this knife all the way down to some ultrafine diamond strops, will the knife become ineffective at cutting up a deer or elk more quickly than if I only sharpen down to say a 1600 grit ceramic stone and leave it more toothy? For some reason I have been under the impression that a super sharp knife (polished with strops and diamond paste) dulls more quickly and is rendered ineffective quicker than a knife that is left more toothy.

    I guess at the end of the day I am trying to figure out how far I go down in grit to make this blade as functional as long as possible for processing an animal as big as an elk.

    Any feedback would greatly be appreciated.
    Thanks in advance – Tom

    #57045
    MarcH
    Moderator
    • Topics: 64
    • Replies: 2469

    Welcome to the Wicked Edge Forum Thomas Brannan,

    “Sharp” can be quantified with sharpness testers like a “BESS Edge-On-up Tester”.  This I guess is the “absolute” sharpness.  Knives of the  various types and styles there are, are often purpose made for a focused use or choir.

    This sharpness your describing is a more subjective sharpness where your edge quality is sharpened for a specific need or specialized purpose, like for hunting.  Because of this the best absolutely sharp knife edge is not what’s the sharpest edge for your use.

    There really is not one sharpening plan or process that works best for every sharpening session.  Sharpening knives in a specific manner to get purpose focused results is what I like to call the “art of knife sharpening”.  This ability is learned over time as you try different ways and experience the results.  We always can learn different methods by what we pick up from others that has worked best for them, for your same needs.  That all said, which I’m sure you’re well aware of, drives us to sharpen each knife the best we can for the purpose they’re being used for.

    Your hunting knife, (made with that fine S35VN steel), can absolutely be sharpened too sharp to dress your game and be long lasting.  But toning it down too much is not good either. I will see if I can search up an old W.E. Forum thread where Clay, the W.E. founder, shared his knife sharpening experience he learned when he guided hunting trips and dressed their kills.  I will post the link here, in this thread, for you when I find it.

    I try to use new knives first, for some time at least, before I try to sharpen these.  I want to believe for a better quality special purpose knife that the knife makers know what they’re doing and their products are designed, ground and sharpened to work best for that purpose.  When I got my first W.E. setup I used to rush to sharpen my newly bought knives.  I knew with the W.E, sharpener I could improve on what I was seeing and often what I was feeling.  I hadn’t learned yet what I know now.  Now I prefer to use my knives as they’re made to get a feel for the maker’s skill and  design intentions.  After using them until they absolutely need a sharpening, then I have a better idea what the knife was meant to do and I learn a basis for comparison to the maker’s edge to emulate when I do sharpen them.

    I recognize some knew knife edges may feel disappointing.   After first inspecting the new, out-of-box edge, with a USB Microscope, I can actually see how the grinds looks.  I can say after doing it this way, for years now, most of these almost crappy looking and poorly sharp feeling knives are still great performing. Surprisingly great performers, despite it.

    When I just sharpened them all up, I never felt the maker’s edge.  Just my sharpening job.  I had no basis for comparison to know what I should expect it to feel like.  Something to strive for when I finally need to sharpen them.  I barely did more then a paper slice or maybe shaved a little arm hair with some fairly expensive knives before I put my take and my edge on it.

    The other side was with these poor practices I was removing and wasting a lot of brand new, never really used premium steels as I profiled these knife edges to be better. In my mind.  That steel was lost, wasted.  The worst experiences were when I didn’t like how my newly purchased pricey knives cut with my newly sharpened edges. After I ruined a couple really nice knives as I repeatedly reprofiled them chasing after my best plan, I quit that practice.

    Now, for a real under performer, out-of-the box knife,, I may take it to a hand strop.  This quick and un-invassive step usually brings the new edge back out.  Then back with my plan to use my new knives until they really “need” to be sharpened.  When I finally need to sharpen these knives I know exactly how they were meant to feel.  I can also look at the USB photos I saved from when I first inspected the new knives.  That gives me a plan for the sharpening grind style I want to apply that best copies how the knife edges were applied when new.

    Here is the thread where Clay shared his knife sharpening experiences learned while guiding.  This may not be exactly what you need to do for your knife when you choose to sharpen it.  But it does go to the point I’m attempting to make, above.

    Marc
    (MarcH's Rack-Its)

    • This reply was modified 3 weeks ago by MarcH.
    #57047
    anomad
    Participant
    • Topics: 1
    • Replies: 10

    Welcome aboard Thomas B. In my experience, yes. I can sharpen a soft steel cheap paring knife down to a fine angle so it will split hairs. But it will be dull after cutting an apple into slices.

    What Clay said in the link MarcH provided above jives with my game processing experience. I don’t have any S35VN blades so I can’t recommend angles or anything. But you don’t want to be so acute it falls apart or so obtuse you aren’t getting the most out of it. Cut some stuff with the factory edge, see how it does. Measure what it has and make your adjustments from there.

    My “hunting” usually looks like walks in the woods with a gun more than bringing meat home – LOL!

    #57048
    Thomas Brannan
    Participant
    • Topics: 1
    • Replies: 3

    Gentleman – thank you for the feedback.  I guess I could have prefaced that I have been using the original wicked edge commercial Series for years.  But much like Marc brought up, I typically use a new knife and only sharpen it once it truly needs it.  And I’ll touch up my EDC KNIVES with a couple of strokes on a 1600 grit once every couple of months and I have not found that I need to go any finer than that.  If I thought the new knife was sharp enough to gut and quarter an elk I would use it as is… but I don’t think it’s up to the task.  When looking at it under a USB microscope, I’m just not impressed with the edge from the belly to the tip to use this as my only knife.

    On a side note, I would normally just take two knives, but this year I am going to forego actually hunting and take a disabled veteran hunting… and I’m trying to save as much weight and room in my pack to carry some of his gear.

    … and thank you for the link.  My plan is to sharpen it just like Clay mentioned in that article and then carry the knife and use it as an EDC for the next couple of months to get a feel on how well it is going to hold and edge.  Worse case senario I just throw in my Old tried and True Falknieven F1

    Thanks again to the both of you.

    #57049
    MarcH
    Moderator
    • Topics: 64
    • Replies: 2469

    Thomas, send Clay, “wickededge” a private message.  He’ll be glad to tell what he’s learned. His guiding was the impetus for designing the fixed angle sharpener he created with the W.E.  The forum post I was really looking for is more recent than the one found and linked.

    I remember Clay writing he was guiding and dressing multiple kills, quickly.  I believe he found a great sharpening combination that allowed him to sharpen more game faster with the same knife for a couple days.  Maybe like 7 or 8 antelope or elk??? I don’t recall which…out west USA.  I remember sharing jokingly it sounded like the old story…I’m trying to drive faster so I can get there before I run out of gas.

    Clay said with the right edge it’s sharp enough that you can clean faster without the need to press so hard.  In turn by not needing to press so hard the edge lasts longer because the lack of pressure wearing on the edge.

    I definitely noticed you didn’t specify you were a new W.E. user.  I didn’t mean or intend to treat you that way, and I hope it didn’t come across like that. When I reply to a post, I try to share to all forum readers, more with the new user’s in mind.  Trying to pass along my sharpening philosophies and techniques I’ve learned along the way.

    A 20º to 22º bevel angle even taken up to 1500 grit should be just fine.

    Good luck on your hunt.  That’s a great thing you’re doing with veterans.

    Marc
    (MarcH's Rack-Its)

    #57050
    Thomas Brannan
    Participant
    • Topics: 1
    • Replies: 3

    Marc – there was absolutely no perceived hostility on my end whatsoever.  And I genuinely want to thank the two of you for replying and for sending me the link.  It’s forums like this that really help with the learning curve to the art of sharpening.

    I think tomorrow I’ll try taking some before shots through the USB microscope and then some after shots.

    Thanks again guys

    #57051
    tcmeyer
    Participant
    • Topics: 37
    • Replies: 2026

    In my experience, knife use in the field almost always benefits from a toothy edge.  Tendons, ligaments and tough hide are a challenge for highly polished edges, which would just as soon glide right over the toughest fibers as they would break through them.  That said, polished bevels will slide easily through a cut if the apex is doing its job.  I’ve had the best reports from users where I’ve finished an edge with a micro-bevel – usually two or three very light strokes with 800 or 1000 grit stones at a 2dps-higher angle.  This also applies to filleting knives.

    #57055
    Thomas Brannan
    Participant
    • Topics: 1
    • Replies: 3

    Thank you everyone for all of the advice.  As everyone suggested, I sharpened the knife with a secondary bevel, I elected to use my 1600 grit ceramic stone for the bevel.  Below is a Youtube link that shows how the knife was performing pre & post sharpening.

    #57058
    anomad
    Participant
    • Topics: 1
    • Replies: 10

    Good call to touch that one up in my opinion. The factory edge was barely biting into that paper. Nice video too.

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