Can a Knife be "Chisel Sharp"? - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 6 Old 05-25-2014, 11:46 AM Thread Starter
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Can a Knife be "Chisel Sharp"?

I recently posted something about sharpening and maintaining a chisel's edge, and I forgot to ask another question I had since I got my trusty knife back from a friend's place.

If sharpening by hand without a jig, is it realistic to expect an edge as sharp as a chisel or plane?

Chisels and planes have flat surfaces (yeah, planes have a minor contour, but to no effect here), which makes sharpening them methodical and simple, more a matter of care and patience than finesse or dexterity. These can become frighteningly sharp, but can a beveled knife blade match it? Of course it could if sharpened with precision, but I can't believe in such a level of consistency and precision when running a curved edge across a stone by hand.

My knife was extremely sharp before, and trying to put it through the extra mile ended up ruining my work so far. I wonder if it's heard of to achieve a "chisel sharp" edge on a knife.

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post #2 of 6 Old 05-25-2014, 12:13 PM
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You can get a knife as sharp as you want.

Take a look at the video in post #15 in this earlier thread.
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post #3 of 6 Old 05-25-2014, 12:34 PM
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"Chisel Sharp"...?

So many variables there, blade thickness, angle of the bevel, type of steel, final lapping of the blade.
"Razor sharp"...Being a Journeyman Meat Cutter 40+ years, you can get a knife too sharp. Before I get too much flack on this, you sharpen your blade for your application.

Whoops...if your talking about a wood carving knife, less thickness of steel, more chance of folding a edge on a double beveled knife. If it is Razor sharp.

I don't have any "part planes" I keep restoring them.
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post #4 of 6 Old 05-25-2014, 01:25 PM
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I think a better question would be..."Can a chisel be knife sharp"? My chisels are sharp and so are my Old Timer and Case pocket knives. I use them along with my carving tools. How good an edge you get depends on your methods. I like oil stones for knives, and the curvature makes for the way you stroke the blade on the stone.

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post #5 of 6 Old 05-25-2014, 02:15 PM Thread Starter
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Well those are promising replies. I use an arkansas stone to smooth and flatten the bevel, then I switch to 1500 wet/dry paper placed on the stone before stropping.

The edge is not really going to benefit from being extremely sharp, as it's a double beveled blade and I don't use it for whittling much. Occasionally I do some paring with it, but for the most part it's just my 3" surgical stainless multipurpose knife for making big things into smaller things. The edge I want is for curiosity and to show off. I love to see how far I can take things, and it's a fun process sharpening knives.

The limiting factor is probably my dexterity and consistency. I had a nice flat bevel on it before, and rounded it when I tried to further sharpen it at a later date. Ultimately, I would like to be able to show off my knife like Crocodile Dundee, shaving my face with it. Of course that's childish and cliché, but heck, it's a fun time knowing what I am capable of.

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post #6 of 6 Old 05-25-2014, 07:36 PM
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If you want carving sharp, as with top wood carving gouges like Pfeil, it can be done freehand.
It is a learned skill, not magic. The key "trick" is learning how to maintain the needed bevel angle
throughout the entire process from where you start to where you finish for the application
(+1 acowboy).
What is the desired bevel angle to optimize performance? Of course, it is certainly a tradeoff between durability and ease of function. As good as my Pfeil gouges are, 30-45 minutes and they just get harder and harder to push. They wear down.

Working a 9/15 or a 5/35, even a Stubai sculptor's adze or an elbow adze on a flat abrasive surface is no big deal. My Stubai is about a 7/75 and I can tune it up, carving sharp, in minutes.

In wood carving, the first number refers to the sweep, the curve, of the edge according to the London Pattern Book (aka the Sheffield list). The second number is the width in millimeters.

Leonard Lee (The Complete Guide To Sharpening) shows how to put a good edge on a new razor blade.
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