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Incaratus

Struggling to improve

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Hi everyone, I'm new here.

I'd like to jump in straight away with an issue I've been having for the last few weeks, and I'd like to request your feedback accordingly.

I've started forging knives in my backyard since about a year now. I've been able to make about a dozen knives. I had to throw away a few, as they were mainly for practice in order to improve my skills. I Own a small propane forge (big enough for knives, too small for hammers), have a small anvil (15kg), and thoroughly enjoy the whack whack bit and the wood work finish for the handle. I do not own a proper belt grinder. I use files, a disc grinder and a small 300 rpm 910x100 mm belt grinder for the wood work.

It's the finishing that I struggle with. Obviously I am not looking for a perfect shine, or a rediculously detailed finish (since I do not own a fancy belt grinder), though I'd like to be able to at least deliver a knife of which I can be happy with and cut things properly with.
Until know, only one of my knives " sorta"  fits here. 

While creating my most recent knife (see attachment) I was able to create proper bevels, and with it made my first hidden tang knife. Though achieving those bevels with lots of effort, sweat, and profanity, its achievement only feels minor compared to my thrive to improve.

The biggest struggle is the sharpening. none of my knives cut properly (which is kinda their purpose), no matter what I do. I've been trying a converted bench grinder (MDF sharpening disc setup I found on youtube somewhere), sharpening stones, a kitchen knife sharpening rod, a buffing wheel, bench grinder stones, and in a whiff of dispair even one of those grindy things people use to sharpen their scizzors with. My hours of research browsing through forums have led to unsatisfying results.

I am kind of lost here. Finishing my knives towards a final product loses its charm quite quickly, especially now I ruined my most recent knife (see att) desperately trying to sharpen the thing. the corresponding failures keep me from buying a proper belt grinder or expensive sharpening equipment, since I am honestly afraid to lose interest once the failures keep outweighing the achievements. Additionally, forging and finishing equipment is hard to come by in my country, whereas the investment is considerable when I'm going to up my game, and I'm not even sure if buying better equipment will do the trick in the first place.

Am I being too ambitious, impatient, unskilled? I don't know. I can only find videos online of either very basic "how to use a hammer and coal" kinda videos or horribly complicating projects of people with years of experience which I one day hope to even come close to. I cannot seem to find anything that can help me proceed.

This is where I'd like to ask for your expertise. Did you reach a point where I am now? How did you deal with it? any tips and tricks? let me know.

thanks in advance!

IMG_20180412_081557.jpg

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You can finish up to a mirror polish by hand with the right materials and enough time. Definitely do the finishing for the blade before hilting it! (Covering the finished blade with masking tape can help it from getting scratched while hilting.)

What I see with that blade is that you are not removing all the scratches from a previous grit  before going on to the next one.  Silicon Carbide paper wrapped around a hard block is a good way to work on the finish as is reversing the direction you are working it to show the scratches you have to remove better.  When you get up to extremely fine grits you can polish with a piece of leather wrapped around a block and metal polish

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What steel are you using? And what are you defining as sharp?

Also, that belt grinder in inches is a 4 X 36, pretty common, and with patience can easily be used on metal. I have one, and use it with decent success.

 

Like TP states sand paper on a block, I really like using wet/dry silicon carbide sand paper on a hard wooden block for final polish, alternate direction when polishing, start spine to edge with one grit, next grit go tang to tip until all previous scratch-marks are gone, then alternate again, and again, with higher grits.

 

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Incaratus,

Sharpening is obviously related to grinding. As Thomas pointed out, you've got scratches from coarser grits showing in your finished piece.  It helps me to alternate directions by ninety degrees when I change grits because the old scratches are easier to see.  Also, it helps to work in one direction at a time.

Using a backer for the abrasives is more important than it might seem.

As for sharpening, are you working up a burr/wire edge that you can feel?  If so, you might be getting a "false" edge where the weak wire edge is just pointed out straight.  Those will just roll over in use and the knife will feel dull.  Stropping will break that weak wire off while honing the actual edge. 

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Thanks for your replies! 

54 minutes ago, ThomasPowers said:

What I see with that blade is that you are not removing all the scratches from a previous grit  before going on to the next one. 

I am aware of this. Unfortunately, the finish was much smoother before, but I screwed it up while sharpening it. I redid the finish to an acceptable level, though you're absolutely right.

32 minutes ago, Jclonts82 said:

What steel are you using? And what are you defining as sharp?

I am using O1 tool steel. I define sharp as being able to cut as well as a standard pocket knife. 

32 minutes ago, Jclonts82 said:

..with patience can easily be used on metal. I have one, and use it with decent success.

I found it difficult to use this right away, primarily because my bevels get sloppy. My current bevels were mainly done by hand, whereas I finished it with the slow grinder to even out the scratches. This way, I had a flat surface as an indication for my bevels.

32 minutes ago, Jclonts82 said:

silicon carbide sand paper

Is really hard to come by here, I will expand my search outside of my country for this, and see what I can find. for now, I've been using the standard sanding paper from my hardware store.

17 minutes ago, rockstar.esq said:

Sharpening is obviously related to grinding.

This got me thinking; My cutting edge has a pretty steep angle (about 40 degrees), might this be the reason why I seem to be unable to sharpen it? Might my blade be too thick?

 

17 minutes ago, rockstar.esq said:

Using a backer for the abrasives is more important than it might seem.

 I am unfamiliar with the term ' backer', could you elaborate?

 

17 minutes ago, rockstar.esq said:

are you working up a burr/wire edge that you can feel

I (think I) can see a burr, though cannot feel it, even after repeated grinding or sharpening efforts. This is after heat treating, which would make me think that a burr would be very minimal with hardened steel; though I am unsure what to look for as I lack the experience.

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From the picture, it looks like you need to hone the edge on a sharpening stone buy hand, it's very easily done for a sharp edge.

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What angle are you sharpening to, how hard is your edge and what steel are you using?  lol 

My friend with one of those fancy sharpening rigs was over on pig to food conversion day, and attempted to sharpen my antique knives. He found out that the softer plane carbon steels did not sharpen like the harder, more abrasion resistant stainlesses. 

The old knives did very well with natural stones and a corser finish than he was used to, and maintained their cutting edge against pig hide with periotic steeling. 

So exactly how hard is your edge, what angel are you sharpening to, what type of steel, and what technique are you using? 

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Your post just appeared after my reply :)

It's 01 tool steel (1.2510 / 100MnCrW4). My edge is hardened, though I do not own anything that can give me an HRC number. a file skids off nicely though. The angle is about 40 degrees (admittably a bit steep, as I mentioned in my previous post) and tried every technique listed in my earlier post.

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So you posted wile I was typing, lol. Try a 60d angle. They are much more robust and a study was done that fount it to be neirly the optimal angle for most knives.

try an automotive supplier who deals in paint and body supplies. The paper is often refers to as wet and dry and can be had in extreamly fine grits. 

Backing is somthing to mount the paper to so it remained flat, often a paint stirring stick or piece of lath if you are moving the paper against the blade or a thick piece of glass if you are moving the knife against the paper.

I have herd O1 can be finicky as to heat treat, so what was your method?

 

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1 minute ago, Charles R. Stevens said:

I have herd O1 can be finicky as to heat treat, so what was your method?

ground out my basic shape, annealed it once to remove any stresses, went to heating it up just after it went non-magnetic, and quenched in oil. right after the quench my file skidded off nicely, unable (and still unable at this time) to dig into the metal. after, It went into the oven twice for one hour at 200 degrees celsius (which should be about 400 degrees fahrenheit)

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Incaratus: That's a pretty nice looking knife you made there. Getting the final details right is always an issue no matter what we make.

The advice for bringing and finishing the blade are sound, I don't have anything to add. Change direction 90* when changing grit to reveal the marks from the previous grit is exactly what I'd say. Same thing with hand finishing. The "backer" for sand paper is the wooden block you wrap the paper around, it backs the grit from behind keeping it flat. 

It doesn't look like you are putting a final bevel on the cutting edge. The main bevels on the blade are often called the "Cheeks". The bevels are the final angle to the cutting edge and are two different things on a knife. I almost hit "Submit Reply" and Charles most recent post appeared. Looks like lots of us are typing at the same time. 

Final bevel of 60* is good, that's 30* on each side if you didn't know already. And remember, when sharpening and honing an edge only LIGHT pressure so you don't roll the edge. A final strop on CLEAN leather will make a sharper more durable edge.

Frosty The Lucky.

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Your quick on the trigger...

So a file sliding on the edge tells us somthing about the hardness. 

So an old school (setup and the above mentioned study recommended) includes a leather strop. Your abrasives are either hard stones, demand files or abrasive papers mounted to a ridged backing. Once you have worked threw them to your satisfaction one then goes to a leather strop, this can be the one we see old school barbers using in which tension is used to hold it or a piece of leather glued to a strait piece of wood. To this you add juelers ruse and as it defects a little as you work each edge it will polish away the burr. The classic smith steel is for softer edged knives, as the fine edge can be bent as aposed to blunted. The hard steel then straiten the edge. 

 

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7 minutes ago, Charles R. Stevens said:

abrasive papers mounted to a ridged backing

I will try this method, I did not try this before. I do own a large scale of abrasive sheets (3M, unsure what it's made of) varying between 400, 600 and 1000 grit wihch should work.

10 minutes ago, Frosty said:

Final bevel of 60* is good, that's 30* on each side if you didn't know already

I wasn't sure the angle was measured at both sides, my mention before was based on 40* each side, so 80* on the entire edge. which might be a bit chunky, admittably. I will try to bring this to 30* each side, and try sharpening with abrasive papers on a backing (thanks for explaining me what that is :) )

I will therefore begin with establishing a proper burr at 30*.

@ all: thanks for the overwhelming amount of replies and support, much appreciated!

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Ok first non magnetic is just below critical temp, so most give it 30 seconds or more to finish heating (table salt melts at critical). That said you did good. Depending on ally and intended use 400-500f works for knife blades so your may be on the hard side but that’s good. It makes for a harder to sharpen blade, but a more durable edge (tho more susceptible to abuse). 

So now that we are fairly certain it is not a fault in hardness we move on to angle and technique. 

Have you seen the knife bevel fire gigs? The ones that use a plank, eyebolt and rod to maintain file and sharpening stone angles?

Dang give an old guy a chance to answer, lol

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you will be surprised what you can learn if you read through this section, I only moved your post here  from where it was lost, the rest is up to you

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3 minutes ago, Charles R. Stevens said:

table salt melts at critical

I did not know this, thank you for the insight!

4 minutes ago, Charles R. Stevens said:

Have you seen the knife bevel fire gigs

I made one for my cheeks ( @Frosty thanks for the term) , similar like this one,  though I did not use that jig for my cutting edge bevels. Might this be it? :o 

5 minutes ago, Charles R. Stevens said:

Dang give an old guy a chance to answer, lol

I might've become a bit enthousiastic with the amount of responses there ;) 

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Paper is only good for establishing the final bevel not for sharpening. You want to use a proper sharpening stone or ceramic sharpener. NEVER use those stupid pull through kitchen sharpeners, you know the ones that look like stacked washers, they REALLY mess up bevels.

I like my ceramic sharpener, it's not in a special holder, I use them like any sharpening stone. Your blade is hard enough a ceramic sharpener will work well. It's not a must nor a best type stone they're just my preference for final sharpening. I have an oil stone in the kitchen and there are lots of good stones.  The more common sharpening stones here have two grit sizes, one on each side. Medium and fine is a good combination. 

Remember LIGHT pressure when sharpening!

We LOVE your enthusiasm! Keep it up please. I LOVE looking at the blades members make and show us. 

Frosty The Lucky.

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That would be it. So if one uses a protractor on the rod one can set the angle and mount your stones or backed paper to sharpen as well

Jerry, wet and dry mounted to glass makes an exelent substitute for natural stone, one can get into the 1200 grits or finner. Tho hard white Arkansas stones are hard to beat. 

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Keep different grit abrasive papers away from each other!   Storing each grit in a dedicated seal-able container to prevent contamination helps.

As for "Backers":  for flat grind blades I like a hard surface like a hard fine grained hard wood, or a block of plastic or even a block of steel.  Some people use spray adhesive and mount the abrasive paper to a piece of flat ground glass or flat ground steel and move the blade and not the abrasive.  For appleseed grinds or trying to mimic old historical blades I glue a THIN piece of clothing grade leather to a wooden block. Note this softens lines giving a more used antique look. (I set the original bevels using draw filing when I'm doing all by hand work.)

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Senor Charles,

Sayeth,

"That would be it ...."

How true good sir.

But for the few obsessive-compulsive citizens, at I.F.I., there is one more step possible.

Take the very sharp blade to a buffer and subject same to a light pressure buffing using "green rouge". That is Chromium Oxide green. (it's particle size is only a half micron).

SLAG.

welcome to the site Mr. Incaratus.

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good, I now have a few things I will do, because of all your advice:

  • I will use my filing jig to change the angle of my cutting bevel to about 60* (30* each side)
  • I will nail a piece of leather to a wooden block for proper stropping methods
  • I am planning to purchase a proper set of sharpening stones (best one I could get my hands on goes up to 200 grit at best) and proceed until an actual burr can be felt
  • I will postpone futher polishing the blade surface, until I get my edge nice and sharp (prioritizing here)

I will post in this topic as soon as I have an update to share the results. Thank you all for your insights and your willingness to help me out!

 

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Incaratus,

Sir.

Before you invest in a set of whetstones check out Japanese style water stones as well as the traditional oil whet stones.

If you are financially well secure diamond stones work even faster but they are pricey.

SLAG.

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35 minutes ago, Charles R. Stevens said:

That would be it. So if one uses a protractor on the rod one can set the angle and mount your stones or backed paper to sharpen as well

Jerry, wet and dry mounted to glass makes an exelent substitute for natural stone, one can get into the 1200 grits or finner. Tho hard white Arkansas stones are hard to beat. 

Thanks Charles, I forget super hard bench backers with wet and dry papers. I rarely do this kind of honing and don't think of it much. My finest ceramic is 1,200 and works a treat. 

Incaratus: To check the edge, stand with your back to a light, window, etc. and hold the blade edge towards you towards a dim or dark object or space. If the edge is SHARP it'll be invisible, you can see the blade but NOT the edge. If you see a reflection on the edge there's a rolled edge or dull spot. Once you have some practice doing this it's fast, easy and a LOT safer than running your finger down an edge. ;)

Frosty The Lucky.

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GADZOOKS !

Gals and Guys.

We can turn this thread's discussion into a booklet!

With abundant & super and knowledgeable information.

Or perhaps it could be pinned?

"Just Sayin",

(as Marg,("The Marvelous") is wont to say).

SLAG.

p.s. Herr Frosty,  a 1,200 grit ceramic stone is probably as sharp as most people need to go for knives. But the afflicted, (me &, a few others, mentioned above), would compulsively require a brief pass on a green buffer for the finishing touch.

A knife sharpened above a 800 - 1,000 grit will not cut as well as a 800 grit edge. The former edge has not enough "tooth" to help cut soft items, such as tomatoes. Tooth have micro serrations on the blade edge. (a little like a saw).

It is time for me to get back to my life of crime. See you later.

Cheers,

SLAG.

 

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