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Maintain Your Edge

Maintain Your Edge
Outdoorsmen are quite skilled, generally speaking. But one of the less understood skills is how to sharpen knives properly. Most people have a vague idea of the process. Perhaps youíve even tried using one of those gadgets you buy at the store. Knife sharpening involves certain tools and skills. With those, you can keep your knives in good working order for years.

The cutting edge on a knife may appear smooth, but at a microscopic level it is actually a row of very tiny saw teeth. With repeated use, those saw teeth get out of alignment. (This is true for all knives, whether for hunting, whittling, or preparing food.) The result is a duller blade. The first step is to use a knife sharpening steel.

How to sharpen a knife

Example of several steels Big steel & smaller steel

A steel (not to be confused with a file) has numerous tiny ridges running lengthwise. Swiping a knife blade along the steel produces a straight and smooth edge. That may be all you need during the life of your knife. Iíve heard of knives that are 10 years old and still work great. The owner runs them over a steel before each use, and they hold up fine.

As with grinding, which Iíll get to next, you want to hold the blade at the proper angle on the steel. For hunting knives, that amounts to about a 30 degree angle. (Blade angle plus 10 degrees.) For kitchen knives, hold the knife at about a 20 to 25 degree angle relative to the steel. Swipe about a dozen times, alternating the side of the blade each time.

If you want to understand the impact of using a steel, test your blade on a piece of folded paper before and after using a steel. Beforehand, the blade cuts in a rough and jerky fashion, and often tears the paperís edge. Afterward, the knife should cut through the paper smoothly. If the steel does not bring the edge back to a useful sharpness, you need to grind the blade. Grinding is also required if the blade has any nicks or dings in it.

Grinding is a precise process, too. Unless youíre an expert, donít use a power grinder. Those heat up the metal, causing it to lose its temper. Also, avoid using those grinders often found in kitchens. The angle may not be proper, and they tend to just chew up the blade.

Angle Guide LoRay Angle Guide

Proper grinding is done by hand, and involves a knife sharpening guide (sometimes called an angle guide) and sharpening stone. The sharpening guide is important because you have to hold the angle throughout the stroke. Thatís almost impossible for most people to do by hand. The number one key to success is to use an angle guide. Without it, you wonít be able to grind at the proper angle, and your efforts will fail.

Edge Pro, Inc. makes two types. Their Apex model is sufficient for most people. (Mine is an older LoRay unit, and may be no longer available. DMT makes a very similar unit.) A quick Internet search will turn up other models to choose from.

For optimum grinding, youíll need two stones. One is a medium grade (about 180 grit), and the other is finer (320 to 360 grit Ė about twice as fine as the first stone).

Proper use of a knife sharpening guide

Start with the medium grit stone. Set the angle of the knife sharpening guide to same angle as the blade. For hunting knives, that would be about 20 degrees. Each manufacturer has decided on the optimum angle. Until you have a lot of experience, it is best to maintain the same angle. A simple technique to achieve the same angle is to darken the edge with a Sharpie pen. Then adjust the angle so a very light grind removes the ink completely along the blade angle.

The preferred technique is to sweep the blade back off of the stone. If you have a lot of metal to remove use a circular motion initially, and then switch to pulling the blade off the stone to raise a burr. Do this until you see (or feel) a burr piling up along the entire underside edge. This takes time and patience. Flip the unit over and repeat the process. The second key to success is to grind on the medium stone until you raise a burr all along the opposite edge.

Example of several steels A sharp edge will bite not slip

Now repeat this entire process using the finer stone. This will remove any scratches in the metal left by the first stone. To test the blade, rest it on a pen, as shown in the image. The blade should dig in easily. Then lower the angle of the blade. If it is sharp it will continue to bite and not slip.

Use your steel when you are done grinding to smooth and straighten the edge.

You can use a piece of paper to test for sharpness. Hold an open sheet in one hand, and try to slice the paper. If these steps donít work, try some more grinding.

For most of us, this process will result in a blade sharpness we are happy with. To go beyond, you need to continue step 2 with increasing finer grit stones (like 1000) and use a leather strop instead of a steel.

Knowing how to sharpen a knife is a skill everyone should master. It comes in handy in the home and out in the woods. The proper knife sharpening tools come at a price, but they last for years and allow you to get more use out of your knives.

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Related Articles from Badlands Off-road Adventures

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Recent Calendar Changes & Upcoming Events


Monache Meadows

We have moved the Customer Appreciation Event to September 30, 2012 from the previously scheduled June 17th (Father's Day).

For July we have scheduled:
  • Rocks - 2 dates 7-7 & 7-21
  • Sand 7-28
  • Winch 7-29
  • Advanced Beginner (aka picking lines) 7-15
  • Getting Started 7-14

The Rubicon trail trip is only about 8 weeks away - August 13. Best to sign up now and start planning. Details on the Rubicon Trip

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Wilderness Advanced First Aid Course June 28, 29, 30 & July 1, 2012

The course is a go! You still have time to sign up. So if you have been thinking about taking it, sign up in the next few days.
WFA Clinic Example

The Wilderness Advanced First Aid clinic will provide you with skills, knowledge and training to handle life threatening medical emergencies and allows you to be better prepared to protect your family in an emergency. Wilderness Advanced First Aid is a four day immersion into general medical concepts and Basic Life Support skills. This course teaches what to do with a medical emergency when help is miles away and calling 911 isnít an option. If you plan to become a Wilderness First Responder, this is the first 4 days of the 8 day Wilderness First Response course. You can take the second 4 days at a later time (within 3 years).

" The Wilderness First Aid was one of the MOST USEFULL clinics I have ever attended, due in large part to the effort you and Josh put in to make it all possible. "
Joe de Kehoe


Note - this is a four day class and you must be at least 18 years old. If you are interested follow these links.

More Details...


You can register directly at http://www.4x4training.com/calendar/calendar.php#WFA


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Rocks Clinic July 07 and July 21 2012

If you are thinking of doing the Rubicon Trail with us in August, you should sign up now for both the Rock Clinic and the Rubicon Trip. We have scheduled 2 sessions in July in advance of the Rubicon trip. You can sign up for one or both.
Rocks Clinic Example

The Class will be in Johnson Valley. This is an introduction to Rock crawling but it is not on "baby" rocks. We take out time and stress careful wheel placement. We use spotters for difficult sections. You learn by inspecting the obstacle and predicting the line; by watching others try their line; by experiencing it yourself; and by the coaching. We recommend you repeat the training several times. You will be much more relaxed the second time over the same obstacles and you will pick up on little details missed the first time. More Details...


You can register directly at http://www.4x4training.com/calendar/calendar.php#Rocks


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Sand Clinic July 28, 2012

Sand Clinic
If you have been waiting for the next Sand Driving Clinic, put it on your calendar for July 28th and sign up now. This day-long clinic will expose you to a variety of driving conditions and levels of difficulty. Driving on sand is challenging and different than dirt, so weíll progress slowly as you learn the proper techniques. As your confidence grows, you will master increasingly more challenging dunes. Along the way you will be exposed to the beauty of SVRA and the thrill of the windswept dunes. This is a rare opportunity to cruise the only beach in California open to vehicles.
More details...



Register for the Sand Clinic using this link.

http://4x4training.com/calendar/calendar.php#Sand

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Winch Clinic July 29, 2012


Winch Class Example

This one day clinic starts with the basics. If you are considering installing a powered winch on your vehicle, or have one already but need training to learn how to get the best from it and do it safely, you need to take this class. The one day course covers: safety related issues, basic operation of the winch, simple and complex riggings, stuck assessment, winch capability, and minimizing environmental impact. This is a hands on class. By the end of the day you will be safely rigging some complex recoveries. More Details...


You can register directly at http://www.4x4training.com/calendar/calendar.php#Winch


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Advanced Beginner Clinic July 15


Next month we will run the Advanced beginner again. If you missed it in the past, sign up.
Rocks Clinic Example

The clinic is held in the El Paso Mountains near Mojave CA. The goal is to help you get a "better feel" for tire placement and to visualize the obstacles as they move into your blind zone. You will gain more behind the wheel experience combined with picking lines. The difficulty level is one step higher than the basic class and you can expect some pin striping. More Details...


You can register directly at http://www.4x4training.com/calendar/calendar.php#Basic2


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Getting Started Off-road Driving Clinic July 14, 2012


Getting Started Off-Road Clinic

The clinic is held in Hungry Valley State Vehicle Recreation Area near Gorman CA. This clinic is specifically designed to meet the needs of novice off-highway drivers or someone with a bit of experience who is looking for a more complete understanding. This is a one-day session. The session includes classroom and behind-the-wheel instruction. More Details...


You can register directly here


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Click here if you cannot see the full store



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I hope to see you on the trails!
Tom Severin, President
Badlands Off Road Adventures, Inc.
4-Wheel Drive School
310-374-8047
http://www.4x4training.com
Make it Fun. Keep it Safe.
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Copyright 2012, Badlands Off-Road Adventures, Inc.





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