I have drawers full of knives and blades that have never been as sharp as when they came from the factory. I have some whetstones, Lansky sharpeners, and leather strops. I have tried to use those but eventually realized that I'm as likely to make an edge worse as I am to improve it. In large part this is because:
- I can't maintain a proper and constant angle of attack while working a curved blade across a series of stones by hand.
- I don't know which step to use or for how long, given a blade's condition.
Meanwhile, I have benches full of power tools: Bench grinders, belt sanders, drill press. I believe I can hold a reasonably constant angle while dragging a blade once or twice across a tool that's doing the work for me.
As I understand it, there are only three steps to producing a perfect edge:
- Sharpen: In this step the blade is run against the grit to grind a new edge. Perhaps two grits (usually 100 and 400) are used in this step. (Optionally, one might grind a relief angle that's more shallow than the cutting edge angle, but it's the latter one that has to be maintained going forward.)
- Hone: Here the blade is run with the grit to knock off burrs and nudge dings back in line. Power honing is done with finer grits, but not sure how fine.
- Strop/polish: Once again the blade is run with the grit to smooth the edge. You know you're done when the edge is as shiny as a mirror.
With this in mind I began searching for sharpening wheels preloaded with an appropriate compound for each step. Instead I've found a smorgasbord of wheels ranging from glass to paper, and separate polishing compounds of widely varying composition, many of which users report needing to supplement with oil and wax. Great. Am I missing a shortcut around selecting and loading the power sharpening tools?
Now, suppose I manage to find or prepare a line of 3 or 4 powered wheels. I pick up a knife. How do I know which step to start at? And how do I know when I'm ready to move it to the next step? I know that if I do it right then at the end I have a blade that will catch and slice cleanly through a loose sheet of newsprint. But is there a foolproof way to get there without grinding away undue amounts of time and metal?