DAY 353: Sharpening knives so that I might prepare for a dystopian future

19 Aug

“THIS is why you keep failing your driving test,” says Emerson, making his point spitefully. “You’ve got to understand that very few things come immediately. You’re all meat and potatoes and no foreplay. You’d be great in the trenches; you’d be over the top in a flash.”

Today I’m learning how to sharpen a set of knives on a carbon block with a dash of olive oil, and I actually reckon I’m being pretty patient for someone with a burning need for instant gratification – but it’s a scientific fact that men are more methodical than women and can quite happily do the same thing again and again and again without wanting to scream, so Emerson begs to differ.

“Man had knives before he invented the wheel or discovered fire,” he says, stroking away, “and if we end up like Mad Max, you’ll need to know how to sharpen your blade properly, not gouge a hole in the block.”

scrick scrick scrick

Here are Emerson’s precise instructions, if you can make it through to the end:

20 degree angle for a thin blade, 30 for a thick blade (rule of thumb), five degree for the finishing strokes (called linishing), then you run it over a strop (leather belt that’s affixed to something to hold it tight). “Stropping” is usually only seen with shaving razors as it gives that super keen edge that only lasts for a few cuts, but it’s worth doing nonetheless. You saw me do it with the autosol and a kevlar rag, rather than the traditional leather way. 3 strokes each way for soft blades like bronze or copper (as used by ancient types: Normans, Gauls, Mesopotamians) 10 for steel or low carbon stainless, and 20 – 30 for high grade austenitic alloys, titanium and heavily folded irons. 2-300 for foamed alloy.


Keeper? Yes. Would like my own gear.

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