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Sharpening: push or pull (edge or spine first)?

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[I assume this has been covered before but my search was unsuccessful. If so, please point me to the relevant thread.]

When you sharpen on a whetstone, do you push the knife so that the edge leads or pull it so that the spine leads? Both? I have seen both methods in online videos. So far I have been pulling, leading with the spine. Thanks.
 

ian

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People have different methods. Personally, I always have the edge facing me when I sharpen, which seems to be the opposite of what you do. I then both push and pull, primarily with the hand that is holding the handle, scrubbing the knife on the stone. While I do this, I have my other hand on the blade, keeping (usually light) pressure on the parts of the blade I'm sharpening, and ensuring good contact with the stone. Because of body mechanics, probably I'm using a bit more pressure on the "away from me / edge trailing" strokes, and a little less on the "towards me / edge leading" strokes.

When I deburr at the end of the sharpening session, I usually use only "toward me / edge leading" strokes. Those are often better for deburring, because they don't build a wire edge.
 

amithrain

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Different people have different techniques. Generally, edge leading strokes are useful for deburring because they cause microscopic chipping at the very apex of an edge. Edge trailing strokes make a sharper edge, but result in an undesirable burr that has to be removed. I usually start with push-and-pull until the burr forms and deburr with edge leading
 
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cotedupy

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People have different methods. Personally, I always have the edge facing me when I sharpen, which seems to be the opposite of what you do. I then both push and pull, primarily with the hand that is holding the handle, scrubbing the knife on the stone. While I do this, I have my other hand on the blade, keeping (usually light) pressure on the parts of the blade I'm sharpening, and ensuring good contact with the stone. Because of body mechanics, probably I'm using a bit more pressure on the "away from me / edge trailing" strokes, and a little less on the "towards me / edge leading" strokes.

When I deburr at the end of the sharpening session, I usually use only "toward me / edge leading" strokes. Those are often better for deburring, because they don't build a wire edge.
(Sorry if this a stupid q). So you mean you sharpen 'both-handed' / ambidextrous? Do many people do that?
 

ian

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Yes, I do that. Some do, some don't. I like it better because then your motion is exactly the same on both sides, and the handle doesn't get in the way when you sharpen the heel, since you're never sharpening with the spine facing you. I also think that it's easier to exert pressure pushing than pulling, and typically we use more pressure in the edge trailing direction. It also allows you to use different muscles, so I think it's healthier for your body if you are doing a bunch of sharpening at once. I think I initially made this switch when I was either doing a ton of metal removal, or sharpening people's knives from the neighborhood, and my right elbow wasn't as bothered once I switched.

It does take some getting used to though.

I flip the knife over and use the same hand when I'm doing the final edge leading deburring strokes though, just for speed.



 

cotedupy

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Ah interesting, I hadn't seen those threads, cheers!

My left hand is so completely uncoordinated that I couldn't imagine doing that myself. But can certainly see how it'd make sense for someone who wasn't as single-handed as I am.
 

milas555

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When you sharpen on a whetstone, do you push the knife so that the edge leads or pull it so that the spine leads? Both? I have seen both methods in online videos. So far I have been pulling, leading with the spine. Thanks.
[/QUOTE]

No way will give good results if you sharpen (try to sharpen) on an uneven stone! It seems obvious, but at first I didn't think that a perfectly flat stone was so important. ("A wise Pole after misfortune!")
 

Ruso

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Any method that makes the blade sharp and works for you is a good method.
Personally, I flip the knife and use pull/push techbique. So I always hold the knife with my right hand and push/pull with the left. I try to apply more pressure on edge trailing stroke and relax the pressure on edge leading.
 

Kawa

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I can't find a comfortable position with my fingers when having the edge towards me, especialy on smaller (lower) knives like officeknives/petties. Fingers close to the edge I feel like I'm always battling not to 'push backward' instead of 'pushing downwards'.
Naturally I feel like I want to use 3 fingers on the blade, but when having the edge towards me I feel like my middle finger is too long; feels strange.

Switching hands was strange for the first few weeks. You will get used to it.
I'm not saying my less favorite side is as good as my dominant side, but I feel like I'm way more in control then when I was with flipping the knive.

Hardest part for me was (still is) learning to raise the elbow when doing the curvature/belly. I have to use different braintricks to remember how I have to raise the knive for the right angle. Doing the same trick in my head as I do with my dominant hand doesn't work...

You should do what brings the best results and make sure that 'your way' doens't feel bad within an hour or so ;)
 
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SeattleBen

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Switching hands and primarily edge trailing for me. It took some time for sure to learn how to but it now feels better. It for sure makes me think about what I'm doing on my non dominant hand much more when the handle is there, but I suspect that it was easier for me bring a left handed person to start with.

But for real, if it's working for you then that's how you should do it.
 

ref

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Putting pressure in both directions speeds up sharpening, so you would definitely want to try do it for heavy sharpening or thinning. But for normal sharpening, or when using softer stones (where edge leading strokes can dig in to the stone, especially if you're new and you can't hold an angle very well, or the stone isn't very flat),, you might want to try only putting pressure on with edge trailing strokes (or just putting less pressure on edge leading). As ian says, it's also a bit more natural to put more pressure when pushing away (although I sharpen by filling/ambidextrously)

But it gets a bit more complicated when you're finishing a sharpening session, because edge trailing strokes tend to form burrs faster than edge leading strokes. But then it also depends what steel you're sharpening, and what stone and grit and if you're going to be stropping at all after. Imo the tl:dr is:

- Cheap steel? Finish with edge leading
- Good steel? You can get away with edge trailing strokes to the very end if your burr removal has been good on the stone and you stop a tiny bit afterwards on some compound (I do one stroke each side on some leather very lightly dusted in compound), or strop on bare leather, but you can still finish with edge leading here too.
 

Bert2368

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Recently on Carbon steel, I will start with alternating out & back untill I've got to the burr from both sides, switch to edge leading single strokes alternating sides and going lighter pressure each time, de burr (drag edge over a natural wine cork or a piece of wood), do just a couple more strokes edge trailing with minimum pressure, strop (loaded denim or copier paper) for 2 strokes/side alternating sides at lowest possible angle and least pressure which will allow the edge to engage the strop.
 

Benuser

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Since I've learned the benefits of edge leading for deburring, I don't use the final edge trailing 'stropping' any longer.
Only use edge trailing for fast & dirty steel removal: repair, heavy thinning, reprofiling.
 
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