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Free Hand or Sharpening System

Discussion in 'Maintenance, Tinkering & Embellishment' started by smilk327, Nov 5, 2017.

  1. HeavyHanded


    Jun 4, 2010
    You'd need a pivot at the stone clamp, or the bearing block for the rectangular stock would have to rotate. I'm just speculating where you'd get into trouble clamping full thickness 10x3 stones. With a 1/4" rod things might start flexing, 3/8 or 1/2 would probably take care of that.
  2. cbwx34


    Dec 27, 2004
    You hit a key point about stone weight. I used a sharpener years ago that was basically a giant EdgePro... and used full size stones to sharpen. It sucked. As mentioned in other threads, light pressure is one point of sharpening, and you have to try and constantly lift up to compensate. I think it would be hard to even add a counterweight... could be done I'm sure, but probably not in a practical manner? Plus it's difficult to see what is going on with the knife. I wouldn't even consider an EdgePro style sharpener that used full size stones in that manner... unless you were filling a "special need" like major repairs or something like that, but not for the entire sharpening process.
  3. maximus83


    Nov 7, 2011
    I'd vote for freehand as well. I looked at these systems a few times, each time I came away convinced that for the average person who is not sharpening for $$ or making custom knives for display (where the cosmetic edges would be helpful), freehand sharpening is the way to go.

    • Enjoyment: learning a manual skill and doing something with your hands. You can quickly make progress and get proficient at basic sharpening, but there's always more stuff to learn, which makes it fun. There's kind of a satisfaction too in doing something on your own without depending on a machine that basically takes most of the skill out of it. Finally, I find sharpening relaxing, sort of a diversion to reduce work stress as it gives something to focus on.
    • Control: you get full control over the sharpening results. For example, in freehand, you can choose whatever sharpening angle you want, and you are not limited by things like the thickness of the knife spine due to size limits on the clamps of guided systems, etc.
    • Results: everyone I've talked to believes that if you are proficient you can get your knives as sharp via freehand as you can with a guided system. The only guided systems I've used are Sharpmaker and the DMT aligner, but I can definitely get things SHARPER via freehand than I could with either of those systems. Both were holding me back.
    • Cost: freehand CAN be a bit less expensive. Gotta be careful on this one, because this would be true ONLY if you get a smaller, more basic set of sharpening stones and gear, and stick with it. If you actually did that, it'd be less expensive than most full-on guided systems like EP, WE, or Hapstone. But.....most including me who get into freehand sharpening probably don't save that much $$ vs guided in the end. I suspect a lot of us just go spend the $$ on other things, like more stones. :p
    • Ability to sharpen anywhere: a lot of folks forget about this one, but I think it's important because for instance, I go backpacking a lot. If you are dependent on machines to sharpen, how do you sharpen when you're traveling? Hunting? Backpacking? In an emergency situation? I want to be able to sharpen and strop anywhere, and because it's a learned skill that degrades if you don't do it, I'd rather just freehand sharpen all the time.
    FortyTwoBlades likes this.
  4. Gritomatic

    Gritomatic Dealer / Materials Provider Dealer / Materials Provider

    Jan 4, 2016
    We tried to implement the counterweight. The resistance appeared to be too big, so the project was canceled after testing the first sample.
    Edit: One of our competitors with the implemented counterweight
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2017
  5. smilk327


    Apr 14, 2016
    So I've decided to invest the majority of my money in the 6" double sided dmt stones xc c f ef with the continuos diamonds. Still curious about a system though. Does the lansky kit work well or is not worth the hassle and all $$ should be spent on stones? Such as a Spyderco uf benchstone?
  6. Rich S

    Rich S

    Sep 23, 2005
    If you learn to sharpen freehand, you will never be dependent on anyone's system or gadgets again.
    Kels73 likes this.
  7. T. Erdelyi

    T. Erdelyi Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 3, 2001
    Both but learned freehand and and 90% of my sharpening is freehand. I like freehand because of the feedback I get while sharpening and the ability to adjust and compensate on the fly. Also it allows me to go into the field with the minimum about of sharpening equipment needed to maintain my edge. I can get by with a medium 5"X 3/4" diamond hone slipped into my wallet.
  8. cap'njake


    Aug 15, 2016
    I prefer freehand. But it is one of those things that takes 1 hour to get a basic understanding 10 hours to have any success at. 100 hours to be considered good by the average person 1000 hours to be pro level and 10000 plus hours to master. Of course you can apply that to most skills tho. And different people learn at different rates. But it is a skill you can use the rest of your life that people will remember you for. Especially if they watch you work.
  9. smilk327


    Apr 14, 2016
    So what are the maximum size stones it can be used with now? Sorry still trying to sort the v7 stones etc in my head. I too thought it could handle at least 6x2 stones.
  10. Sergeua

    Sergeua Gold Member Gold Member

    May 1, 2016
    You gotta know yourself. I used to weld and fabricate and all my welds looked amazing and finished tolerances were spot on like on a drawing. I don't do that kind of work anymore but that kind of precision and steady hands transferred to freehand and makes me feel like I'm using my hands for some craft. Otherwise i do computer related work. I like how you can feel the blade when you go onto the belly to the tip and just ride that curve. So yeah it's either for you or not.
    Start with freehanding your micro bevel here and there. Get used to the stropping motion on simple leather and you are halfway there.
  11. l1ranger

    l1ranger Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 27, 2017
    IMO, the lansky is worth the money.
    I have the deluxe 5 stone kit - it comes with XC, C, M, F all alumina oxide and a XF which they just list as ceramic. I added the 'sapphire' or ultra fine, and a strop with diamond compound (compound was not from lansky).
    these days i generally just use it for reprofiling and when I have the time or desire to work through all the steps on a knife. generally for touch up, i just grab one of the seemingly 9 million stones I've collected and touch up as needed.

    im not sure about the diamond lansky stones, but plan on picking up some at some point in XC, C, and probably M for starters and going from there.

    it does have limitations - especially with larger blades
    smilk327 likes this.
  12. Kels73


    Feb 20, 2012
    I do about 99% of my sharpening freehand. I appreciate the simplicity, versatility and satisfaction that it offers me.

    I can get my knives every bit as sharp freehand as I can with a sharpening system, and I don't need nearly as much equipment to do it.

    There is a learning curve, but it's a fun learning curve to navigate, and the reward is well worth it.

    A significant characteristic of the sharpening systems regards the level of precision that they offer. They allow you to create an edge at the specific angle of your choosing.

    However, I'm not overly concerned with precise measurements. If the edge is too obtuse for my intended application, then I sharpen it at a reduced angle. If it's too delicate, then I do the opposite...or I might decide to make it convex.

    My point is that freehand sharpening tends to be more instinctive in nature, and that's one of the primary reasons I prefer it.
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2017
  13. maximus83


    Nov 7, 2011
    I'll go out on a limb and vote for going total hardcore--total freehand :)--don't bother buying any guided system. I've changed on that, recently. Before, I thought that starting with something guided like Sharpmaker, Lansky, DMT aligner, was the way to learn. Because that's what I did. :rolleyes: And the truth is, you CAN learn something about the sharpening stroke and angle you need by, for example, hooking up a blade in the DMT aligner and seeing what it looks like as you stroke the blade over a stone. But....all these smaller guided systems have severe limitations, and I think now that they actually hold you back, and maybe even mislead you, more than they help. If I were starting again today, as a home sharpener not doing it for $$, I'd skip guided systems of any type and just go total cold turkey. Get a practice knife or four that you don't care about of a few different steels and blade profiles; get an Arctic Fox stone from @FortyTwoBlades; ask questions on this forum to get started; and sharpen those things until you're proficient. Really doesn't take long to get basic proficiency....
    FortyTwoBlades likes this.
  14. microtech85


    Dec 1, 2015
    I free-hand sharpen. That is how i learned. I started with a 3 inch diamond stone. I had no one to teach me and this is back in 2003 when i wasnt aware of any websites to find info. I had heard of the sharpie trick so i tried that. It helped me to understand the very basics. However it took many years to be able to reliably put a hair popping edge on knives. i was able to get arm ahir shaving sharp after not too long. But it took longer to learn to get hair popping sharp. I really made a big leap forward when i got a spyderco 2x8" fine stone. So, for people starting out, if you do not have someone to teach you, i would recommend spyderco sharpmaker. It is affordable and you will learn the basics of sharpening by using it. Then you can gradually start going free hand.

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