Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 15 of 20

Thread: Sharpening stainless pocket knife

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    Warwick, RI
    Posts
    668

    Sharpening stainless pocket knife

    I had just sharpened my knife this morning on my Shapton 1000 and 8000 stones followed by stropping. This was before I went into my oils stone foray. At work I have access to some pretty good magnifiers and looking at the edge of my knife, it's no wonder it didn't feel all that sharp when I was done. Is there something else I need to do with a stainless blade. My chisels and plane irons sharpen up beautifully but this stupid knife, not so much. I plan on getting a better pocket knife at some point but in the meantime, can these cheap stainless knifes be honed to a surgical edge?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2019
    Location
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Posts
    429
    I carry this pen knife with a 1.5" blade. It's sheffield made, but I don't bother to sharpen to much beyond paper cutting sharp. There are many varieties of stainless steel, my understanding is that the types used for knives are not particularly good at taking a keen edge nor holding it.

    This topic can be a can of worms though, the knife crowd beats the woodworking crowd probably by a 10 to 1 ratio. You just need to browse one of their forums to see all the opinions these guys have. .

    20220426_140551.jpg

    P.S. I sharpen the knife on a washita, pant legs for a strop.
    Last edited by Rafael Herrera; 04-26-2022 at 2:26 PM.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Longview WA
    Posts
    25,028
    Blog Entries
    1
    I plan on getting a better pocket knife at some point but in the meantime, can these cheap stainless knifes be honed to a surgical edge?
    It depends on what you mean by "cheap stainless knife."

    Chinese stainless is different than Swiss stainless. My Swiss Army knives (stainless) will get a decently sharp edge. Not as well or sharp as my carbon steel Boker knife will.

    Often on pocket knives one thing seen is the bevel is very rounded (convex). A rounded bevel is at best difficult to work in to a sharp edge.

    jtk
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    Location
    twomiles from the "peak of Ohio
    Posts
    10,763
    My 2 Stainless Pocket Knives..both say Pakistan on the blades..
    A Planer? I'm the Planer, and this is what I use

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2020
    Location
    Camarillo, CA
    Posts
    206
    I wouldn’t bother sharpening a stainless pocket knife beyond 1000 grit. I find it trickier to keep a consistent bevel on knives with curved blades compared to plane and chisel irons, but decent stainless knives can still be plenty sharp for general use.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    Location
    Millstone, NJ
    Posts
    689
    Get a milwaukee fastback, then you can just dump the blade when its dull. That being said I have my "dress" knives, I try not to cut too much whit them(kind of defeats the purpose I guess).

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    Warwick, RI
    Posts
    668
    Quote Originally Posted by George Yetka View Post
    Get a milwaukee fastback, then you can just dump the blade when its dull. That being said I have my "dress" knives, I try not to cut too much whit them(kind of defeats the purpose I guess).
    That just rubs me the wrong way. I think I need to upgrade to D2 at least. I have a nice one in the cart now.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2019
    Location
    Madison, Wisconsin
    Posts
    210
    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Koepke View Post
    It depends on what you mean by "cheap stainless knife."

    Chinese stainless is different than Swiss stainless. My Swiss Army knives (stainless) will get a decently sharp edge. Not as well or sharp as my carbon steel Boker knife will.
    My experience with Swiss stainless hasn't been great. I have two stainless Swiss Army knives; one Wenger, purchased about 25 years ago, and the other Victorinox, purchased about 5 years ago when the body of the Wenger started to come apart (the rivets started letting go). The Wenger takes a good enough edge and holds it okay. I am not convinced that the Victorinox was ever properly hardened--certainly softer than the Wenger and doesn't hold an edge to speak of nor does it take a very good edge. Cut the tape on a dozen boxes and it's already noticeably less sharp. Mine is probably just a dud rather than representative of the product line.

    I replaced the Victorinox with an old pocket knife that belonged to my grandfather before he passed. The nameplate fell off before it came into my hands, but I recall seeing it labeled "Old Timer" when I was a child. The old knife is so much better than either of the newer Swiss ones; takes and holds a better edge, and easier to refresh the edge.

    My experience with Swedish stainless is better than the Swiss (on a sample of one Swedish and two Swiss, so not enough to make a general statement). I have a Mora camping knife ($20 or so, purchased new--is that considered cheap stainless?) that takes and holds a good edge--almost as well as the Old Timer--and I have no complaints.

    So, my anecdotal evidence suggests that stainless knives even from ostensibly reputable makers can vary from poor to very good. It sounds like Richard's knife tends toward the poor end of the spectrum.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    Location
    Tokyo, Japan
    Posts
    835
    Sharpening knives is a little trickier than sharpening tools sometimes, if you're not used to it.

    I've had cheap stainless pocket knives that were super difficult to get sharp. My guess is two fold:

    1. First, and most probably, you didn't get down to the edge. Pocket knives, especially those that have been abused for years and not sharpened, but often even straight from the factory, will much of the time have an extremely rounded off and poorly ground edge. Now, I'm a person who loves a good convex edge on a knife or tool, and all of my pocket knives have curvature on the bevel. But the curvature that you find from the factory, or from years of wear, is concentrated at the edge -- exactly where you don't want it, and is really difficult to deal with. Get out your coarsest stone and grind, grind, grind until you feel a burr. That's my advice. When you get a burr, you know you've finally established the right geometry. Until then, you're just polishing a turd!

    2. Some really cheap stainless steels (not good stainless steels like on my SAKs) are just gummy and won't take a keen edge. So if you do #1 and then move on to a finer stone, and still don't get a good edge, this may be the issue. Try out a few other knives.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    Location
    Tokyo, Japan
    Posts
    835
    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Bulatowicz View Post
    My experience with Swiss stainless hasn't been great. I have two stainless Swiss Army knives; one Wenger, purchased about 25 years ago, and the other Victorinox, purchased about 5 years ago when the body of the Wenger started to come apart (the rivets started letting go). The Wenger takes a good enough edge and holds it okay. I am not convinced that the Victorinox was ever properly hardened--certainly softer than the Wenger and doesn't hold an edge to speak of nor does it take a very good edge. Cut the tape on a dozen boxes and it's already noticeably less sharp. Mine is probably just a dud rather than representative of the product line.

    I replaced the Victorinox with an old pocket knife that belonged to my grandfather before he passed. The nameplate fell off before it came into my hands, but I recall seeing it labeled "Old Timer" when I was a child. The old knife is so much better than either of the newer Swiss ones; takes and holds a better edge, and easier to refresh the edge.

    My experience with Swedish stainless is better than the Swiss (on a sample of one Swedish and two Swiss, so not enough to make a general statement). I have a Mora camping knife ($20 or so, purchased new--is that considered cheap stainless?) that takes and holds a good edge--almost as well as the Old Timer--and I have no complaints.

    So, my anecdotal evidence suggests that stainless knives even from ostensibly reputable makers can vary from poor to very good. It sounds like Richard's knife tends toward the poor end of the spectrum.

    Curious if your Victorinox was a dud or was damaged somehow... Because, while my victorinox's aren't shining examples of great edge retention nor do they take the finest edges, I can get them hair popping sharp and they stay that way reasonably well.

    Swedish stainless steel is incredible, IMO. I'm referring to Mora knives and the like. They also come ground really nicely from the factory -- it's rare that I can take a new knife to an Arkansas stone and have it sharpen up nicely without first fixing the geometry / grinding out a really buffed and rounded off edge first, but with the last Mora I bought, that's exactly what I did. There was no need to grind on a coarser stone at all -- a first in my experience!

    Opinel's Stainless is pretty good too. Not sure what they use.
    Last edited by Luke Dupont; 04-26-2022 at 9:00 PM.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Apr 2019
    Location
    Madison, Wisconsin
    Posts
    210
    Hi Luke,

    The Victorinox was purchased in a retail store, in one of those thick plastic packages that are clearly factory sealed; if it was damaged, I would guess it must have been so at the factory. The Wenger would get sharp enough to shave—the Victorinox I never got beyond hair pulling even though I already had plenty of practice getting the Wenger shaving sharp (though I am better at sharpening than I was when I last sharpened it, so perhaps I could get it a bit sharper now). I don’t believe it’s a geometry issue—I long since steepened the edge enough to avoid rolling it, and yet it still won’t hold its edge well at all. Curiosity aside, there doesn’t seem to be much point in trying to push it farther; my grandfather’s old pocket knife is much preferred for any cutting tasks. The Victorinox comes out for small multi-tool needs, but not for cutting anything anymore.

    I’ve not tried an Opinel knife, but I do like the Mora.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Dec 2016
    Location
    South West Ontario
    Posts
    1,373
    I have a good selection of knives. My grandfathers 1st world war knife has a stout 2&1/2” blade and a huge spike for removing stones from horses hooves. Good sharp knife but a heavy lump in your pocket. My Swedish Mora knife is my workshop GOTO, it’s not stainless. As for stainless most are very poor. D2 is a camping favourite, lasts a week in the bush easily. My custom Elmax stays useful sharp for a long time. My cast cobalt knife with dendritic carbide will never rust, never feels really sharp but will cut the toughest rope 200 times and sharpens with 4 strokes.

    My advice is D2 steel, very economical and sharp enough for almost anything you use a knife for.
    ​You can do a lot with very little! You can do a little more with a lot!

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Richard Hutchings View Post
    That just rubs me the wrong way. I think I need to upgrade to D2 at least. I have a nice one in the cart now.
    I wouldn't want D2 for a pocketknife – it's not stainless (although it's certainly more rust-resistant than most tool steels). I'll second Luke's comment that you probably want to make sure that you're sharpening right to the edge. For knives, geometry is far more important than steel. Steel determines how long it'll stay sharp, but geometry will determine the cutting performance. The sharpest knife I own is probably a cheap stainless Opinel – in large part because Opinel blades have a very acute angle and therefore cut like the dickens. I find my Morakniv utility knives hold a great edge, and they're just basic 12C27. (Part of it, of course, is getting steel made by people who know what they're doing – I think Mora gets theirs from Sandvik, and they also know how to heat-treat properly.) Just my two cents.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    Location
    Tokyo, Japan
    Posts
    835
    Quote Originally Posted by Tyler Bancroft View Post
    I wouldn't want D2 for a pocketknife – it's not stainless (although it's certainly more rust-resistant than most tool steels). I'll second Luke's comment that you probably want to make sure that you're sharpening right to the edge. For knives, geometry is far more important than steel. Steel determines how long it'll stay sharp, but geometry will determine the cutting performance. The sharpest knife I own is probably a cheap stainless Opinel – in large part because Opinel blades have a very acute angle and therefore cut like the dickens. I find my Morakniv utility knives hold a great edge, and they're just basic 12C27. (Part of it, of course, is getting steel made by people who know what they're doing – I think Mora gets theirs from Sandvik, and they also know how to heat-treat properly.) Just my two cents.
    Exactly. Geometry is way more important. I'd rather have a knife with good geometry sharpened on a coarse stone than a knife with poor geometry polished to the finest grit.

    I'm also not a fan of D2. Though in my case, I'm not so concerned about rust resistance... I just like a knife that sharpens easily in the field, and D2 is kind of the opposite of that.

    I often carry Nata when camping / bushcrafting / adventuring in the streams and mountains here, and those are typically Japanese blue steel which is not very rust resistant, but is easy enough to sharpen. A 1075 Tomahawk also accompanies me from time to time. Just keep it wiped down and oiled and you won't have much of a problem.

    In the USA I carried a similar Higonokami pocket knife for years, even in the summer when I sweated profusely, and I didn't have much of a problem with rust. Then again, those knives are quite "open" and will not trap moisture like some knives will. Again though, I kept it sharp on oil stones, and oiled.

    Stainless is certainly great for food prep though, and is a must for SAKs / multitools, as any rust would cause huge problems with so many moving parts.
    Last edited by Luke Dupont; 04-28-2022 at 12:19 AM.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    Warwick, RI
    Posts
    668
    I re-sharpened my pocket knife this morning using my new interest, oil stones. I was able to get a real good burr which took a bit of time to remove on the strop with green compound. I used a magnifier to check my work this time. I would have stopped stropping much sooner had I not taken a close look. I now have a very sharp knife, let's see what kind of abuse it can take before it becomes a butter knife.
    Last edited by Richard Hutchings; 04-28-2022 at 2:06 PM.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •