Keep an edge on your blade with these sharpening tools.
By Gibbs Milliken
Sharpening knives requires the proper toolkit designed for the blade size and type. The ultimate edge on flat and hollow-ground knives is best achieved using an angle-guided system. One of the finest sets is the Razor Edge Deluxe Professional Kit. The blade is securely clamped so that an exact angle can be maintained during each pass over the whetstone. A coarse carborundum stone is used first to establish the edge and then polished keen on a second, ultra-fine stone. The final stage is straightening the cutting edge with steel finishing rods and checking for razor-smooth sharpness on a special rod tester. To avoid tool marks, masking tape can be used to protect the clamped portion of the blade. The set comes complete in a hard-sided carrying case. ($119.95, Razor Edge Kit #TK-52B, Razor Edge Systems, (800)541-1458, http://www.razor edgesystems.com.)
The most innovative new sharpeners are DMT Whetstones, made with monocrystalline diamond particles. A perforated mesh support keeps the cutting surface open for maximum abrasion, making this system renowned for its sharpening speed. The diamond-coated steel plates are laminated to synthetic bases and stay flat, never dishing out like conventional abrasive blocks. Each stone, from extra coarse to ultra fine, is color-coded for easy identification. The DMT Deluxe Aligner Kit is a great system for standard knife blades up to 6 inches. It can be set at various angles to match the original bevel. The roll-up nylon kit has a non-marring blade gripper, steel alignment rod and four diamond hones. ($83.98, DuoSharp Whetstone Kit # W8EFNB with base, $78.76, Aligner Kit, #AKEFCX, DMT, Inc., (800) 666-4368, http://www.dmtsharp.com.)
The fastest, least expensive, and easiest way to maintain acceptable sharpness on conventional knives is a hand-held unit such as the Diamond Stone 2-Stage Knife Sharpener. It has a set of diamond-impregnated ceramic wheels for establishing the edge and a smoother pair of white ceramic rollers for finishing. The knife is held in a vertical position and drawn across the v-shaped openings using about the same pressure as cutting through a tender beefsteak. With only minimum effort, a knife can be sharpened without marring the original polished face of the blade. Note: Most manufacturers warn to never use oil or any synthetic lubricants that can ruin the stones. Use dry or only water as a lubricant and a stiff toothbrush to remove metal fines from the abrasive surface. ($24.95, Diamond Sharpener, Model 1322, McGowan Mfg., (800) 342-4810, http://www.mcgowanmfg.com.)
Knives with serrated blades require a different whetting tool and technique. These are usually diamond-coated rods such as the Diafold Serrated Knife Sharpener, which tapers from 1/4 to 1/16 inch to match all sizes of blade teeth. Each crescent-shaped serration must be individually honed using short strokes and a consistent 20-degree angle to effectively regain the original cutting edge. For storage, the tool handle folds neatly over the rod into a convenient, pocket-size unit. ($27.85, Diafold Model FSKF, DMT, Inc.)
Sharpening knives can be a fun and relaxing activity in the long evening hours in front of a crackling campfire. Your buddies will also appreciate using your kit to get their skinners, fillet and pocketknives to the keenest possible edge.