Knife Sharpening – Essential for your Tools

by Vince Paxton

Sharpening your tools, including knifes, sheers, saws and chainsaws is important. It keeps your tools working optimally and precisely. It used to be that stone grinders were the sharpeners of choice but there are many other options. The sharpener you choose depends on the tools you need to sharpen, your budget, and what you prefer. Here is an overview of different sharpeners so you can make an educated choice.

Grinding wheels are a common piece of sharpening equipment and come in a variety of shapes. There is a straight wheel which has a front facing edge and a cylinder wheel with the cutting edge at the front of the cylinder. They all have an abrasive material that will remove unwanted buildup and straighten the cutting edge so it will be sharp and precise when cutting. The grit (abrasive material) size is something to keep in mind when selecting a wheel. They range from rough (10-24 grit) to fine grain (100-180). The fine grain grit is good for tools that require precision and detail.

There are also bench grinders which are inexpensive and can easily be mounted on your workbench. The wheels are small – only 6 to 10 inches in diameter. It is run by an electric motor and has a tool rest to improve accuracy while sharpening.

There are different abrasive materials used depending on the brand and model. The most common material is aluminum oxide and is ideal for use on steel, iron and annealed (heat treated) iron. The next most common material used as abrasives on grinding wheels is zirconia alumina which is a combination of aluminum and zirconium oxide. This material is also ideal for sharpening a variety steels and alloys such as lawn mower blades.

One of the newest materials to hit the market is ceramic aluminum oxide and is extremely strong. It is preferred by craftsmen who like precision when sharpening their tools. Ceramic aluminum oxide is more expensive that other abrasive material due to its durability and accuracy.

Grinding wheels are useful for most of your tools that you need to sharpen but if you need to sharpen you chain saw then you will need a special tool. An automatic sharpener is the easiest and ensures uniformity. After you set the angle on the sharpener you place each tooth on it individually. A less expensive option is a manual chainsaw sharpener which will require more work. Since they usually come with more than one wheel they are more versatile than an automatic and therefore useful if you have multiple chainsaws.

Sharpening tools are an important part of any workshop or handyman workbench. Keeping your tools sharp with a professional sharpener will increase your precision, make cutting easier and you’ll get more use from your tools.

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