First off and foremost - I can not free hand on bench stones very well. It's a talent that I currently don't have the time to learn. The other reason why normal benchstone freehanding wasn't used is because I don't have a stone that is 1/2" or so, and this knife has a small recurve to it. Normal benchstones, 1" and larger, simply won't sharpen part of the curve. In addition, DO NOT PUSH DOWN. You only need 1-3 pounds of pressure to sharpen. Any more than that and your'e wearing out your hone, especially if it's diamond or a water stone. The finer the grit, the less pressure is needed. Now, onto my impromptue guide.
For equipment, you'll need, at a minimum, some sort of hones (commonly refered to as sharpening stones). Medium grit if you have to choose only one - it won't cut the fastest, but it'll still let you get a very nice end result. Use water, not oil, for lube on the stones. Why? Because water's dirt cheap, does the same thing, is available everywhere, and if you use oil even once, it's a pain to go back to water. Just trust me. Make sure to clean your stones with some powdered Ajax or similar cleaner with a cleaning pad like an SOS pad when you're done to remove the steel from the stone. I'm currently using a Spyderco Sharpmaker. I do not have the diamond or ultra fine stones for it at the moment. A sharpie. Optional: a stop, and some rubbing compound. Pretty basic strops can be made from the back of a legal pad and some rubbing compound. My equipment for today:
Can also be used for scissors
or as a bench stone
You can use any sharpening method you want, but KEEP THE ANGLE CONSISTENT. You will be able to have hairs pop off your arm (my least favorite sharpness test) at nearly any angle, as long as the angle is CONSISTENT - even with course grits like 220 sandpaper. There are a few tricks for this if you're sharpening without a jig - patience, and a sharpie. With the sharpie, you'll want to literally paint the edge on both sides with the sharpie. What this does is it shows you where the stone, hone, strop, whatever, is contacting the blade. Most people will give up on a knife because they'll be working on the shoulder of the edge, and not the edge itself, and give up to early. This will give you direct feedback on where you are on the edge, as well as if any particular areas need any particular attention. Also, lock your wrist. This will help keep the angle the knife up and down when you're switching sides, or even just moving the knife
The third trick is to look for the burr. All you're doing when you sharpen a knife is folding over a very small part of the edge to the side opposite of the hone, and polishing the edge. Some people can feel the burr by hand. When you work the burr up over the entire length of the edge, switch sides and repeat. Don't bother counting strokes. Your goal is to make it so you can flip the burr to the other side of the knife's blade with one or two passes of the stone. To look for the burr, I hold the edge under a bright light and move the blade a bit. Any shiny spots on the edge is a dull spot, where a burr exists, and I know I've still got some work to do. I don't think my camera picked it up very well, but here's a try:
Now that we've got some basics, let's get to the actual sharpening. You want to start with the most aggressive hone that will remove your material. Pushing harder won't do anything but load it up with stone, and on some stones, just wear them out pretty quickly. The sharpener that I'm using comes with ceramic hones, and has a minimum of 4 steps to sharpen a plain edge (yes, it can do serrations as well). To give you an idea, the medium (grey/brown) stone is about 500 grit, and the white stone is about 1000 grit. The optional diamond stone is about 220 grit, and the ultrafine is about 2500 grit. First get everything setup. Setup for me includes getting the 2 brass safety rods in, and selecting an edge angle of either 30* overall or 40* overall. I use 30* straight on my knives, and put 5-10 passes with the fine at 40* to finish off a friend's knife. For the sharpmaker system, you'll notice the hones are 1/2 inch triangles. First, you put the grey stones in the 30* slots with the corners pointing towards the inside.
Starting at the hilt of the blade is the most comfortable for me, so that's what I do. Others start at the tip. It doesn't matter. Pulling the blade towards me is just easier for me to control. What we're doing is standing, with the sharpener on a table, looking straight down over the blade. We want to keep the blade as close to vertical as possible. Don't freak out if one side hits the edge before the other - many knives, even expensive ones like Benchmade, come from the factory with one edge at a slightly different angle. Just keep going till you get to the edge. For those of you who can't even come close to freehand sharpening, don't freak out - this is pretty easy to do. The reason why bench stones is so difficult to pick up on is because you can't see the angle formed at the edge. By flipping the stones about 90 degrees, you can see the angle, and it's pretty easy to keep mostly straight. If you're STILL having troubles, put a small 1-2 inch long level and rubber band it on the spine of the handle. Play "keep the bubble in the middle" for a few hours What you DO NOT WANT TO DO is drag the tip of the blade off your hone - EVER if you can avoid it. What will happen is your sharp point will become a dull blunt rounded poking stick.
Start at the hilt:
End before the tip gets to the edge:
This isn't so bad now, is it?