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Knife sharpness question
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Wayne Wagner
(wagnerw) - F

Locale: NorCal
Knife sharpness question on 09/09/2011 00:57:45 MDT Print View

So, I had some cash to spend at REI (due to dividend and some returns) and so I thought I would upgrade my knife from a 5+ oz Gerber to something lighter. I read everywhere for people's opinions and came up with the fact that everyone loves the model knife they own. Ultimately, I settled on the Bechmade Mini-Griptillian without the serrated portion of the blade. REI sells it and the reviews were pretty much flawless. I ordered it along with a bunch of other stuff online.

I got the knife and I like it a lot (the locking mechanism is great; the knife is much lighter than my old knife; the feel of the knife is great, etc.), but I am curious. How sharp is it supposed to be? The reviews all said it was dangerously sharp, but I can push the blade against my arm without cutting myself. I can squeeze the blade without issue. It seems dull to me, but (obviously) I am not a knife expert. I imagine most knife experts would not recommend squeezing the blade, for example. Anyway, everything I read about how to tell how sharp the blade is usually with respect to whether or not the blade will shave hair off your arm. This seems a pretty weak test; my mini-griptillian does pass this test. Are there other tests I should try out?

Is this an issue I should take up with Benchmade? I know they will resharpen the blade if you ask.


Tom Lyons
(towaly) - F

Locale: Smoky Mtns.
sharpness on 09/09/2011 05:44:08 MDT Print View

If the blade shaves hair, it is sharp enough.

Simply pressing on the blade with your fingers does not impart a cutting motion to the blade, and the blade is not likely to just cleave your skin apart on this kind of pressure alone. With enough harder pressure it would do it, or with a hard swing like a machete.

Knives use a cutting motion to work, either a draw cut or a push cut, depending on the direction you move the knife. Even though they look like a smooth edge, blade edges have microscopic "teeth" on them, which act like tiny saw teeth to get the cut started.
This is why even very sharp knives need some motion to get the cuts going.

Knives which cut or slash the best, are knives with a "belly", which is another name for a curved cutting edge. The curved edge presents an angle of attack to the work, which is conducive to getting a cutting motion going quickly when you draw or push on the knife.

Tohru Ohnuki
(erdferkel) - F

Locale: S. California
Re: Knife sharpness question on 09/09/2011 15:56:29 MDT Print View

Look at the blade edge on, can you see a shiny line? If not, then try cutting some paper with a slicing motion. If it cuts paper, it's probably good enough for most outdoor chores. I would only complain to the factory if it didn't cut paper and/or you can see the edge. Really sharp is when you can shave the hair on your arm with it...

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Knife sharpness question on 09/09/2011 16:03:50 MDT Print View

It should be sharp enough to cut paper.
Watch this to see what I mean:
If you don't know anything about sharpening, I would recommend getting it professionally sharpened. Look up any cutely shops around you, they usually can sharpen it for you.

Brian Austin
(footeab) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Knife sharpness question on 09/09/2011 16:25:44 MDT Print View

Its not a sharpness question. Basically Every Knife out there will easily attain the same 'sharpness'. The real question is how long it will retain said sharpness. This is where the quality of the steel and heat treat comes into play.

All steel/stainless steel blades attain near equal sharpness. It all comes down to how often you wish to sharpen them. Better steels will attain a thinner blade able to take finer cuts for a far longer time over run-of-the-mill steels/stainless.

For most everything the recreational outdoorsman cares about besides fishing/hunting, all knifes are essentially equal with the addition of elbow grease and a sharpening stone. The obvious caveat here is "chopping". Chopping blades require different sharpening angles than slicing blades.

You care about weight and thus, elbow grease is not a problem in regards to sharpening.

Likewise if you aren't going to be polishing your blade all that often, I would seriously look into a TRUE stainless steel blade that does not rust. IE none of the 400 series stainless as its not stainless(IE swiss army knives and their ilk). H2 or equivalent for a beat around blade. Filleting/deboning knives go with steel. Here there are many options all of which cost some change over your easily bought blades from most manufacturers. It can be the difference between sharpening twice as often depending on the steel/stainless option.

Gets back to elbow grease and your willingness to wield a sharpening stone and water/oil.

Ryan Elsey
(paintballswimguy) - F

Locale: Kansas City
Benchmades on 09/09/2011 17:51:06 MDT Print View

I LOVE my benchmades, (I have 3 mini grips, and a few others) but, the last 1 i bought also came dull from the factory. However, normally this is not the case. You may try calling benchmade. They have excellent customer service. The life sharp service is also something that i have taken advantage of multiple times.

I see that another person posted about the steel that they use for the blades. I believe that the regular benchmade mini grip uses 154cm tool steel. Which is mid grade quality in the knife world. I've had a mini grip, with that steel and it always seemed to perform fine, however, it did need to be sharpened a little more often then some of my other knives. The Cabelas special edition D2 mini grip, seems to hold a grip much better. However, my favorite is my pink Doug Ritter Mini Griptillian, Its got an CPM S30V blade on it, and retains its edge extremely well.

Edited by paintballswimguy on 09/09/2011 17:55:54 MDT.

Brian Austin
(footeab) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Benchmades on 09/09/2011 18:08:40 MDT Print View

+1 on CPM SV30 if you can find it. It is expensive, but it is pretty much the best you can buy. Once an edge is on it it retains it extremely well. Getting the angle edge on it is also harder, but once attained is a wonder to behold. This is also true of any high grade steel. Basically if a knife sharpens easily it also looses its edge easily. From this perspective, one can have NO knowledge of what is actually IN the BLADE in question and then know with a good deal of certainty if they have a good blade in their hand or not.

D2, while quite common, can have many different grades as its not a true standard and also has many different Heat treat options. You can get exceptional quality from D2, but also run of the mill. Just because it says D2 on it doesn't mean its all that great. Still equivalent or better than Stainless, but not exceptional. Like my blade I have where the blades came to me with a pathetic Heat treat to 50 HRC when a proper heat treat is 56-60 HRC. I knew this because when I went to sharpen it it did not take as long as a harder tougher blade that I owned should have. See above paragraph explanation. I wasn't positive about where the D2 came from so opted for annealing my blades after taking the wood handle grip off and Heat treating to only HRC 56 since I didn't know if it was vacuum remelted D2 steel or not. Obviously most don't have access to such equipment.

In short adhere to the 1st paragraph and get "knowledge" by sharpening and using your knife. There is no magic wand.

Wayne Wagner
(wagnerw) - F

Locale: NorCal
Thanks on 09/11/2011 23:51:49 MDT Print View

Thanks guys. This answers my question pretty well.

1) The paper test. Those youtube videos were awesome. I tried that. My knife will basically fold the paper. Occasionally, if I really hit it right, it will cut the paper. It will continue cutting until I screw up the angle of the blade slightly, and then it will tear the paper. (I must have easy-to-shave arm hair, I guess, since it can remove hair from my arm.)

2) The "sharpness" question. Brian - I figured when I forked out the extra cash for the Benchmade over the Swiss Army or Gerber or other brands that one of the things I was paying for was better steel. I have no doubt that there are better steel out there still, but for my typical backpacking needs, I imagine this steel should hold an edge plenty long.

3) Sharpening. So, what now? I could sharpen it myself, but I admit I don't know how or what to use or what the end product should look like. I think I am going to send it off to Benchmade (since Ryan, among other people, has had success with that) in order to figure out what a properly sharpened knife looks like. From here, if I decide to sharpen it myself, what tools should I look into? Do I risk ruining my knife? i.e. Should I practice on a knife I like less?

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Thanks on 09/11/2011 23:55:40 MDT Print View

Arkansas stone for sharpening.


David Roach
(DRoach) - F

Locale: North America
Triangle Sharpmaker on 09/12/2011 07:37:12 MDT Print View

Sharpening a knife is no big deal. Lots of info out there on how to do it. I use a Spyderco Tri-angle Sharpmaker. It comes with an instruction video. Easy to use. If you can hold the knife vertical while drawing it toward will get sharp.

I wouldn't bother sending it back. You aren't going to send it back every time it needs sharpening are you? Find a sharpening method that you think will work for you. Practice on a cheap knife till you get it down. Then sharpen her up and enjoy.


Edited by DRoach on 09/12/2011 07:42:55 MDT.

Ron D
(dillonr) - MLife

Locale: Colorado
Re: Triangle Sharpmaker on 09/12/2011 07:53:24 MDT Print View

+1 on the Sharpmaker. It's quick, keeps the edge consistent, has different grit stones and can sharpen at the standard 40 degree angle or at 30 degrees if your knife steel is adequate.

Aaron Benson
(AaronMB) - F

Locale: Central Valley California
Re: Re: Triangle Sharpmaker on 09/12/2011 08:17:01 MDT Print View

I have the Tri' Sharpmaker and it works great and is easy to use. Mine came with an instructional DVD (I didn't use it) that many find useful. It's a pretty effective, nearly fool-proof system, great for a beginner.

Arkansas stones and others like it can/do sharpen very well and can get an edge scary sharp but it takes a bit more practice to use them appropriately. When I get over the convenience of the Tri System, I'll make myself learn eventually.

Edited by AaronMB on 09/12/2011 08:17:46 MDT.

Javan Dempsey

Locale: The-Stateless-Society
Re: Re: Benchmades on 09/12/2011 16:06:27 MDT Print View

Brian what you said regarding D2 is equally true of *ALL* steel. You can get "run of the mill" any steel, and the magic is ALWAYS in the heat treating.

Edge geometry, shape, thickness, etc, etc, all is moot with a crap HT. D2 is widely regarded amongst knife makers as one of the best knife steels out there, but it's notoriously finicky in HT, and has a wide range of end result.

CPM S30V has a great reputation, I think mostly because of the expense of the steel leading only high end makers with specialized HT ability to use it. The disadvantage is that S30V is a total PITA to sharpen, evne though it has great wear resistance. CPM 154CM is another high end steel in the crucible series, that shows great wear resistance/edge holding, but is much easier to sharpen than S30V. Bear in mind that there is a crucible version (CPM) of D2 also, that is *highly* regarded.

If you're an experienced sharpener, or someone that doesn't use his knife heavily in the field, S30V is a great choice for stainless. If you don't use it very often, you should rarely ever have to sharpen it. However, if you use your knife for hours at a time on trail, batoning, etc, I'm not sure I'd recommend it. Personally, for my heavy use knives (read: batoning, general abuse) I prefer something that's easy to maintain an edge on, and has high impact stress resistance, like 5160, or CPM 3V, etc.

Although, if you really want something maintenance free, and don't do alot of bushcrafting, what you *REALLY* need, is one of my soon-to-come Ti knives. Industrial titanium carbide spark deposition on a chisel ground edge creates a self-sharpening micro-serrated edge, that excels at cutting tasks, although isn't very suitable for impact stress tasks like chopping. ;) Yes, that's an official teaser.

Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Re: Knife sharpness question on 09/12/2011 16:30:38 MDT Print View

Hi Wayne,

I have a 556 combo blade and while it was quite sharp when new the smooth blade portion has become dull as dishwater. I can still mangle myself on the serrated portion quite nicely, thanks.

My usual mad sharpening skilz don't seem to be working and I suspect it's a combination of the steel's hardness and blade angles. I run into the same issue with Henckels kitchen knives. Still working on a Plan B.

Good luck,