Knife sharpening was recognized as an important part of tool maintenance since the very first primitive tool was made. In the Colonial times, a grist mill was often the first building to be set up and running when a new settlement was being formed. That is because these pioneers recognized that without sharp tools, the rest of the building would be slowed dramatically.
Today?s knife sharpening tools are based on the same basis physics as the old grist mills and whet stones, but with a whole lot more power behind them. Grinding wheels that were once powered by water wheels are now zapped with electricity to do the job in a fraction of the time.
What to Look for in a Knife Sharpener
A knife sharper that will serve you well for many years can take on several forms. The bench top grinder for example is good for sharpening gardening tools and axe blades alike.
Chain saws are tools that need to be sharpened often to ensure a good cut, which in turn means better safety in cutting. An abrasive end to a long drill-bit type attachment is inserted in the drill and tightened down. The power drill quickly rotates the end as the saw blade is held against it. When choosing a chain saw sharpener, look for one that comes with multiple tips, since they will wear quickly.
Tormek makes a knife and scissor sharpener that is a bench top grinder with water to reduce friction. The grinder also comes as a complete package with a leather strop, although some users recommend using a paper wheel to hone and strop the edges of the knife.
The most important item to look for in a knife sharpener is versatility. Can it sharpen longer knife blades? Can it strop the edges adequately? Are the replacement parts easy to obtain? These are all considerations to make carefully especially in light of the fact that knife sharpeners suitable for heavy duty tool maintenance can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
Knife Sharpeners for Everyday Uses
Of course the heavy duty grinding wheels and chain saw sharpeners are probably for the serious woodworkers and landscapers. For everyone else there is a wide array of options that are much less expensive and even more portable.
The handheld knife sharpener like that you would find in a butcher shop is a basic, non-electric tool. Other variations on this are the wheeled knife sharpeners where the blade is drawn between two hard wheels. Abrasive materials against which a knife is drawn at about a 30 degree angle is how each works, whether electric or manual.
You can still get good quality sharpening by hand or through electronic means. The skill of the knife owner at angling and stopping the blade is still at the heart of how sharp you can get your tools. There are educational course offered on knife care and sharpening, that you may want to consider if being the sharpest tool in the shed is important to you.