Sharpening Tips and Tricks from Moosenut Falls

  • Using a black “Sharpie” marker, draw a band of color along the very edge of the blade about an 1/8th” wide. Then when you run the blade over your stone you can see if you are taking material from the true edge or whether you are too far up on the shoulder/body of the knife. You want to be working the micro-bevel, not further back.
  • [This also works if you want to remove material from behind the micro-bevel when re-edging a blade… just make the Sharpie band wider, and attempt to leave the color on the edge itself]
  • You do not have to use much pressure. A little is better than a lot. Let the stone do the cutting and removal.
  • Use some oil to help float the blade on the stone, and keep cleaning the surface of your stone or hone as you work. the minute steel particles that are being stripped off the blade will clog the pores/grit of your stone. Eventually, you are just working on the build-up without any cutting action from the now buried stone surface. I use a drop of WD-40 wiped off with a paper towel. It will lift the debris right up and off… re-oil the surface and continue. [Diamond hone “stones” usually recommend water for lubrication, but the WD-40 trick works for cleaning]
  • Oh, yeah… that business about shaving hair off your forearm to “test” sharpness…? Don’t. You just end up looking patchy, and might cut yourself. Instead, just touch the blade edge to your thumbnail at the angle you would cut a steak. If it catches, you are getting sharp… if it slips, keep working.
  • Get a cheap magnifying glass or loop. Looking at the edge close-up is a full education as to what you are accomplishing and what you still need to do. [Plus a magnifying glass is still just as cool as when you used one as a kid… take it camping, it’s worth the weight for the fun.]
  • The consensus jury is way, way out on the issue of whether it is better to sharpen into the edge or away from the edge. Whatever you like. My personal take is that it is easier to accidentally steepen the angle and shove the blade into the stone, dulling it, if you are working into the stone. I move the blade back from its edge. I think this also allows the burr to pull away from the edge instead of being forced back under or up.*
  • Likewise there is no real consensus on whether you should work toward yourself or away on the stone surface, regardless of how you draw the knife across it.
  • Pressure, direction, angle, orientation… Find which works best for your own comfort. Your results, and the speed with which you achieve them will tell you what is right for you.
  • Also, remember that you can over-sharpen a blade. Going ultra-sharp on a chore knife just means it will dull faster because the edge is “too” delicate. If your knife performs the chore as needed, it is sharp enough.
  • Finally… an oldie-but-goodie. You can get a quick-fix sharpening done by using the rough, unglazed ring on the bottom of your favorite ceramic coffee mug.

My last suggestion is to find some old knives , and try out your sharpening licks on them. You might be really pleased to discover that you have rescued what would otherwise be a POS, and, at the very least, you won’t be wrecking a good knife on your learning curve. [Check out a Goodwill… old carbon steel kitchen knives show up in the bins there all the time. Give ’em a couple of surface licks with some steel-wool before you hit up working on the edges]

 

*with the new Lansky System I am using the only real way to use it is gliding the stones into the blade, up and across… exactly opposite to what I ordinarily do, but the results speak for themselves.

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Putting a Fine Edge on Things…

When I was at the Great Pumpkin hammock hang last month, my friend R3l@X gave me a knife sharpening mini-seminar. I am fairly proficient, and have a variety of stones that have accumulated over the years, but I wanted to see if I could up my game. His system is based on the Lansky System of graduated hone stones and various polishing compounds on leather strops. I was way beyond impressed with the results, and ordered my own set when I got home.

From the Lansky site:

“The Lansky Deluxe Controlled-Angle Sharpening System [5 Stone] features:

  • Extra Coarse Black Hone: (70 grit) for re-profiling the bevel grind
  • Coarse Red Hone:  (120 grit) for edge reconditioning
  • Medium Green Hone:  (280 grit) for sharpening and less frequent touch-ups
  • Fine Blue Hone:  (600 grit) for most frequent touch-ups to keep your blade paper-slicing sharp
  • Ultra-Fine Ceramic Yellow Hone:  (1000 grit) for polishing the edge for a razor sharp edge
  • Honing Oil:  Specially Formulated for sharpening
  • Easy to use, multi-angle clamp:  to hold the blade securely
  • Guide Rods:  One for every hone
  • Extra long knife clamp screws for thicker blades
  • Storage/carrying case to hold all system components
  • Complete easy-to-follow multi-lingual instructions”

I ordered two additional diamond hones in Coarse (120) and Medium (280) grits because I knew that I had some, old, worthwhile blades that would require aggressive reshaping.

As you can see in the product materials, you clamp the blade in the jaws of the clamp, select an angle [17°/20°/25°/30°] that closely matches the existing edge, and using the rod mounted on the hone stone to maintain that angle with the slots, you gently slide the hone upward against and into the blade while sliding it sideways as well. The technique takes only a couple of passes to master, and yields superb results.

One of R3l@x’s tricks is to blacken the cutting edge of the blade with a “Sharpie” marker. Then you make 1 or 2 passes with the ultra fine, 1000 grit hone. That stone is so fine that it only polishes off the marker, and reveals how much the blade needs actual “grinding” down with the more aggressive stones to place/extend that polish right to the cutting edge. Any black between the polished of area and the cutting edge needs to be worked down. There are some other tricks and techniques that make using the Lansky System easier and more efficient… I will go into those when I do a planned tutorial on Basic Knife Sharpening sometime soon.

You just move up through the gradations of grit, moving from actually changing or improving the edge profile, thru simply refining out the grind marks, and on until you are merely polishing the final, “hair popping”, razor-sharp edge.

The results are astounding! I took the sad little neck knives that I bought for next to nothing out of Sham Shui Po, last seen in the post “You Get What You Pay For…”,  and achieved an unimagined sharpness that upgraded them from classic POSes, to really “OK”. I had them relegated them to survival kits just for batoning fire stock. Now they can shave tinder as well. They were the proof for the Lansky System in general, and the two diamond add-ons as well.

 

Using the Lansky is simple and effective. Combined with further finish honing on stropping compound sticks, you can easily get great results. The action is one that you can do semi-mindlessly while you listen to music or chat around a campfire. At an Amazon price of only $40 , and given the life it can quickly bring back to nearly any knife, in nearly ANY condition, that needs sharpening, it is close to a no-brainer to pick up.

Later, as needed, you can add the diamond stones, arkansas stone hones, a 2000 grit Super Sapphire Polishing Stone, as well as shaped stones that let you work on serrated and curved blades like “karambits”. They also offer two stands and a C-clamp to support the blade clamp.

Look for my upcoming [check the sidebar] Sharpening Tutorial to see some results.

 

“Flash Loops”

Made this proof-of-concept up yesterday morning out of scrap line lying around on the coffee table.

Amsteel “dogbone” with GlowWire spliced into it to create daisy-chain loops for hanging gear.

Under tension, the hollow-core, braided amsteel lengthens and that constricts the line around the buried portions of the GlowWire like Chinese handcuffs. If the loops do pull thru and become unnecessarily longer, they can simply be tugged back open since they just lie against the amsteel.

Good for small gear on carabiners, hanging your shoes, or just stuff passed thru the loops.

These could be made right into the lower portions of a Whoopie Sling hammock suspension. With patience, they could probably be done in the smaller 1.75mm dyneema lines like Lash-It, and used on a fixed ridgeline between the ends of a hammock as well.

[… if it’s not clear, the running ends of the loop line are passed around the amsteel and then buried back inside toward the loops]

Adventures with the Thread Injector

In the world of camping DIY, a sewing machine is referred to as a thread injector… the process is called fabric welding. This sounds a little less wimpy than telling people you have been sewing.

To encourage myself to buckle down and actually git’er’done on the pile of fabric and parts that had been sitting on the end of the dining room table for the better part of three weeks, the other day I started a thread on Hammock Forums called “Thread Injector Log~~ Stardate:____”.

I did the ritual 15 minutes to thread the needle/accidentally pull it out the thread/rethread the needle…, but after the first hour I had gotten some stuff done.

  • L&L patch on bag
  • Patched tear in sq. bag
  • Fixed jellyfish bag
  • Made mesh pouches bag

One rat-nest on jellyfish bag

Another hour:

 

  • Really coffee-d up!
  • Reworked two BlingBags
  • Patched and adapted old yard chair bag to hold ALite chair

 

 

 

By lunch:

$5 kids 6′ hammock from FiveBelow°, repurposed to gear-mock.

 

 

 

  • “knotty-mod on both sides
  • 2 and 3 mesh pocket organizers… one sewn-on/ one prussic-ed on ridge
  • 58″ Zing-It ridge~ tied into channels w/ 8″ to 4′ whoopies on each end
  • 2- $$Tree 4′ dog leashes for straps w/ toggles

 

By dinner time: made a gear-mock tarp~ 64″x 56″ /rock pockets on all four corners/ it will get kam-snaps about 6″ down the sides below the suspension, and tieout tapes on all four corners [in case of really blowy weather]

Don’t stand too close and it don’t look too bad.

Next day:

“Bedding day’:

  • 60″x 70″ Costco Down Throw converted to UQ. Trimmed 3 sq of width, which gave massive, doubled draft collars at each end/1 1/2″ grosgrain tape and ripstop for channels/ standard UGQ~HG suspension…
  • Gathered end “hot-nights” sheet from Chinese terminal sleeping bag *. …Single layer, pongee cotton-poly/ trimmed off hood/ stripped zips and re-hemmed all around/ gathered, drawstring footbox
  • Couple of small repairs and adaptations on  other junk

 

I want to try the UQ out a couple of times before I commit to ripping thread between squares to make continuous down channels. May be fine like it is.

*[these are what the folks take incase of delays/layovers on the long, crowded trips back home over the Chinese winter holiday. They are basically just a 1/2 zip sleeping bag made of heavy sheeting material with a hood to stuff a coat into as a pillow. Really cheap [$7US], easy to wash or even toss, but are quite soft and comfortable… perfect for this use.]

Pillow Talk

Stuff: new 9.7oz down jacket [faux GhostWhisperer… seen/reviewed in post below…scroll down] and an old [very soft/ single side-seam/ round bottom] OT250* compression sack … use scissors… 40 seconds.
Yield: 12″x 5″dia/ 10.3oz downy-soft pillow… basically free.
[I]I left one strap long pending inspiration/determination of attachment for hammock.[/I]
It will stuff down further into the jacket’s own stuff sack…. just bigger than a soda can, and I’d carry the jacket anyway.

 

* Ozark Trail 250 [fill weight] down sleeping bag. Retailed at $89 at WallyWorld a few years ago. Mine was on “red-tag” since someone had pulled the cardboard info sleeve off… $59, I think. An incredible value. Anyone who was able to pick one up at that point, got an amazing deal. Wally hit it outta the park on this one! Super soft, down-proof fabric/ 700+ duck down/ very light/ stuffed down small/ claimed temp range was 32°… more like 40°. Perfect 3-season bag, and very easy to turn into a TQ for hammock camping. You can find my original review under “sleeping bags” in the nav sidebar…

[small] Random Acts of Kindness

Almost anyone who has occasion to go through any sizable inner city these days has seen the indigent folks with the cardboard signs… “Will work for food”… “Homeless veteran with PTSD- anything would help”.

What the signs will never tell you, of course, is that they are also quite possibly an alcoholic or an addict. It just goes hand-in-hand with both ending up in a hopeless situation, and preventing you from being able to escape or change. I speak from experience. I have been clean and sober for something over a quarter of a century now. No brag, just fact. While I did not end up in a burned-out tenement, or sleeping in the weeds, I did end up indigent and homeless, sleeping in the front seat of a pickup truck.

My bottom took me far enough down that I always look at people begging at stop light intersections with a “junkie’s eye”. For me at least, your contribution wasn’t going to buy food …it was going to take care of my Jones. A bag or a bottle…  so I will not give money to street people. I will feed them.

Whenever I find myself with more dollar store consumables that I can consume… which is pretty much constantly… I make up packages of those exact same things that I would take out hiking.

I keep a few in the car. These I can then pass out to the indigent, and needy at a stoplight. Jerky, crackers, cookies, breakfast bars… there is a decent caloric weight in each bag that can keep somebody going for a day at a time.

 

I pray that none of us ever has to deal with homelessness or dereliction, but if it did happen, think what a little kindness, and a little bag of food might mean to you

 

Tomorrow I need to go “down Babylon”, so I just made up four new packs out of my extra stuff for those I might encounter who can’t leave it behind as easily as I will.

 

 

[Random Info Tidbit: one of the other things that the indigent and homeless can always use is a new pair of socks… they have them at the dollar store, too]