Hello! Thanks for stopping in. Since I sell knives it seems I should sell the means to sharpen them.
Most of the knives I sell have the Scandinavian grind. The Scandinavian grind is a single wide, flat bevel that runs right to the edge. This results in an exceptionally keen edge that is easy to sharpen without jigs or other gadgets. The efficient functionality of things Scandinavian is evident.
This means you don't need a lot of equipment to keep your knife sharp. All you need is a flat abrasive surface. Some surfaces are more efficient, or handier, than others, so here are a few suggestions.
Diamond plates are the top of the line for easy maintenance of a good edge. Diamond plates are steel plates with abrasive diamond grit bonded to the surface. They cut quickly, but leave a relatively smooth surface. They can be used dry, or with water, rather than messy oil. Best of all they stay flat, and do not wear into the saddle shape typical of old sharpening stones. Since even industrial grade diamond is expensive, diamond plates cost more than most stones. They're worth it.
Large diamond plates have a lot more area than small ones. They cost a lot more. A large flat area is almost required for sharpening things like plane irons and other woodworking tools, but is not really necessary for knives. I own some large diamond plates, but seldom use them. I find the optimum size is about the size of a credit card, or just a bit longer. I carry one in my wallet, and I have it when I need it. I no longer worry about wearing it out. I've been using it for more than a decade and it hasn't slowed down much, although it's gotten smoother. It's always with me, so it sees a lot of use.
If I were starting over, and buying a single tool to sharpen my knives, this is what I would get. It has a medium (600) surface on one side and a fine (1800) surface on the other. It's 4" long, 1 1/4" wide, and less than 1/16" thick (.055"). The plate and it's plastic sleeve weigh about 1 1/4 ounces. Made in the USA. $19
I also have a single sided plate in this size in 600 grit. $10.
If I were going to add anything, I'd get something for a super fine finish or strop. I often glue a strip of 9 micron polishing film to the back of the single sided plate for this purpose. If you would like me to send a strip film add $1. You do the gluing.
The single sided plates shown below are a close second, and actually fit a wallet better. They have the advantage of a blank surface you can use for the polishing film, which gives you the strop. If you keep your knives really sharp, and don't expect to need the medium surface, this may be the better option. I personally prefer the slightly greater length of the Hewlett plates, which is why I also carry the single sided version.
A while back I had an inquiry about sharpening kitchen knives. The credit card plates really won't do for these, especially the wider chief knives. At the time we decided on the large plates. I've found something better. These have the shape of a rounded triangle with a different grit on each side (Coarse (270), Medium (600), & Fine (1800)). The sharpening surface is about twelve inches long by 3/4" wide. This should be more than enough for the largest knives. You move from grit to grit with a turn of the wrist. The molded handle keeps your hand away from the sharp edges. I think these would be just the thing for either a professional or residential kitchen. Made in the US. The price is $43.50 which is something of an investment. But each stick gives you the same selection as all three of the large diamond plates, and in a better format for the purpose.
Stones are the more traditional way to sharpen knives. There are many different kinds, but they can be roughly divided into Western and Japanese styles, both of which come in natural and artificial varieties.
Stones are much softer than diamonds, and wear away in use. The residue tends to clog the surface and interfere with the cutting action. Japanese stones avoid this by wearing away quickly, and exposing a new surface. They are used with a lot of water to flush away the residue, and require maintenance to keep the surface flat. Western stones wear more slowly, but still require liquid to flush the residue away. They also wear away to some extent, and require occasional flattening. The liquid used with Western stones can be either water or oil. Oil is recommended most often, but I prefer water. Oil makes a nasty mess, which gets on your hands, your work, and into your food if the knife is used for cooking. Water works nearly as well (I can't really tell the difference), it's cheaper, readily available, and the clean up is a lot easier. You can take a stone that has been used with water, dry it out, and switch to oil. But once you use oil on a stone, you are pretty much stuck with it.
Natural stones are more traditional, and often more attractive. Artificial stones are more consistent, and usually cheaper.
The Vikings selected their whetstones for beauty as well as function. They were sometimes selected for colorful contrasting bands, and sculpted into elaborate shapes. They apparently served ceremonial proposes as well, because some of the largest and most elaborate examples have been found in connection with royal burials, and in unused condition. In one of the Nordic legends a giant used a club-like whetstone as a weapon against Thor.
I'm often asked about the grit size of the various grades of Arkansas stones. Here's a link to the supplier's web site.
In Viking times small whetstones were often worn as pendants. These are reproductions of whetstone pendants found in Viking Age York. Similar pendants have been found in KalŚstad, Norway, Birka, and Gotland. They are cut from Jasper, and seem about midway between hard white and hard black Arkansas stones in action. That means they are very fine, and suitable for the honing a final edge rather than basic sharpening. They vary in color and size, but are mostly muted browns, greys, reds and greens, and about 3" tall, 11/16" wide, and 1/4" thick. Each comes with a string and descriptive packaging. I use them dry, and clean off the clogging residue as often as necessary with water. Imported from Sweden, the price is $15.
Whetstones have been quaried in Finland for centuries. These come from the village of Všstilš, and are marketed by Wšstikivi. You can visit the company webpage. The stones are used with water, and quickly form a slurry or paste that improves the performance. These are quite fine, and measure about 4" long, 15/16" wide and 5/16" thick. They are suitable for basic sharpening, and could be followed by the Viking stone above for polished shaving edge. $11
#AC-53; Soft Arkansas is usually graded as fine or medium fine. It's the grade most
often used for general sharpening. These are about 2 7/8" long, 1 1/8" wide and 1/4" thick.
As with all natural stones, there's some variation in color. Some have minor chips on the
corners or edges, which will not affect the functioning. $2.50
#AC-168; Larger soft Arkansas may be better for those who like a bit more length.
They are about 4" long, 1" wide and a bit over 3/8" thick.
As with all natural stones, there's some variation in color and size. While they are rated the same as
the AC-53, they feel smoother to me. Perhaps they are just more highly finished. $2.50
AC-2; These are larger still, and come in a plastic case. The stones are a little over 4" long, 1 1/2" wide and 1/2" thick. It's a bit large for the pocket and would be better carried in a pack or tackle box. The cutting is a bit rough and there are some with chipped corners. None of this affects the use of the stones. $6.00
AC-12; Soft Arkansas stones are the grade usually used for general sharpening. The stones are supplied in a cedar box (nice smell!). They vary a bit, but are about 6" by 2" by 1". The price is $17
AC-13; Hard Arkansas stones are considerably finer than the soft grade, and are about as fine as most folks need before going to a strop. Again, the stones are supplied in a cedar box, and are about 6" by 2" by 1". The price is $17
AC-15; Black Hard Arkansas stones are one of the world's best natural sharpening stones. The Black Arkansas is the finest grade ordinarily available. These are too fine for anything but the final edge on very sharp blades and tools. These are about 4"x2"x1/2", and come in a wood box. The price is $16
AC-88; Translucent stones are the finest, rarest, and usually the most expensive of the Arkensas stones. These are a handy pocket size; about 4" x1" x 1/2" and come in a leather pouch. They feel just a bit coarser than the jasper Viking Whetstones shown above. They are factory seconds, and have some chips or cracks that shouldn't materially affect the functions. Because they are seconds, the price is only $9.
LSPK; The Lansky Puck is a two sided artificial stone for sharpening axes or other large tools. When sharpening large tools it's more convenient to move the stone on the tool. The stone is about 3" in diameter and 1" thick. The sides are beveled for a comfortable grip. One side is coarse (120 grit) for removing nicks, etc., and the other is a medium grit (280 grit). Made in the USA. $8.
This has to be the original snake oil. At the turn of the last century the Kaiser's Wehrmacht put out bids for a military multi-purpose oil. It was to clean and lubricate firearms and other machinery, prevent rust, dissolve residue from corrosive primers, nitro powder and black powder, remove copper, zinc and lead fouling from rifle bores, preserve both wood and leather, prevent mold and mildew, and be suitable for treating and disinfecting minor wounds and abrasions on the soldiers themselves. By all accounts Ballistol met the requirements, and then some. It was adopted by the German military in 1905 and served until 1945. Itís still in use by the German Special Forces, as well as the US Coast Guard and some of the Navy Seal teams. Of course a multitude of European hunters and other sportsmen use it regularly.
Ballistol is slightly alkaline, so it neutralizes the amino acids in human sweat. It emulsifies with water, so it will protect wet surfaces as well as dry surfaces. The mixture prevents rust, and when it dries it leaves a protective film. As a lubricant it never thickens or gums up. Mixed half and half with water it makes a black powder cleaner. Mixed 1:20 with water itís a cutting fluid. On unfinished wood surfaces it helps seal and protect the wood, as well as bringing out the beauty of the grain. It restores old oil finished surfaces. It softens old dried leather and protects from mold and mildew. (Warning; it darkens light leather, and is not for use on suede.)
Ballistol is approved for use on equipment used in food preparation. However it hasnít been submitted to the US Food and Drug Administration, so labeling in the US indicates itís not for use on animals or humans. In Germany it's often included in first aid kits, and even used internally in some folk medicines.
Balistol is environmentally friendly. Itís non-toxic and biodegradable. There are no carcinogens. It comes packed in either a pump spray can, or aerosol cans which contains no CFCs. The aerosol propellent is flamable, so you shouldnít use it around a flame. Shelf life is unlimited in the original can.
The downside; (you knew there had to be one). The stuff stinks, literally, at least on first application. The initial smell is between old sweat socks, and something much more vulgar. After a bit however, it just leaves a faint odor resembling black licorice. Iím told that the smell is common to most German gun shops and hunting lodges. I suppose, like the smell of Hoppeís No. 9, itís an acquired taste. Iíve gotten quite accustomed to it, although I found it offensive initially.
Note: it's not recommended for long term storage of nickel or chrome plated firearms. These metals are plated over a base of copper. If there is a break in the plating the Ballistol can attack the under-plating.
In four sizes:
1 1/2 ounce aerosol, $5
4 ounce non-aerosol can. (no pump, but the can will take the standard pump from shower sprays, Windex etc). $9
6 ounce aerosol, $9.
16 ounce non-aerosol can with pump. $19.
Note: Aerosol cans cannot be sent Priority Mail, which goes by air. They will go by ground parcel post. Please allow extra time for delivery. Aerosol can not be shipped to California.
Shipping and handling is $6 per order (not per item) anywhere in the US. Standard shipping is by Priority Mail, so please give me your mailing address, not your UPS address. The $6 doesn't actually cover the cost in many cases, but it's easy to calculate, and is my way of saying "thank you".
Orders in New York State require sales tax. If you don't know the sales tax in your county, I can calculate it for you, but you should expect it to be added. This applies only to orders shipped to addresses within New York State.
I'm sorry, U.S. orders only please.
Most folks use a credit card and the encrypted secure order form. If you prefer, you can FAX your order to 716-731-3715. I'll need the type of card (Discover, Visa, or Master Charge), card number and expiration date. Of course I'll also need to know what you are buying, and where to send it. Please include your e-mail address.
If you don't have a FAX, you can call 716-731-3715. If your timing is good, you can just speak to me and give me the order. If I'm not in the office it will default to the FAX machine. No collect calls.
If instant gratification is unavailable, you can always send a Postal Money Order or check to:
PO Box 326
Sanborn, NY 14132
The Postal Snail may be slow, but he's faithful and discreet. Checks may be held for clearance, so if you're in a hurry, use a money order.
Everything on the page should be on hand and ready to ship. However some items may be short supply, so if you are ordering by mail, you might want to e-mail first so that I can hold your item (firstname.lastname@example.org).