Sharpening Swords - Tips, Techniques and Ideas
There are almost as many sword sharpening techniques as there are people who sharpen swords - and with persistence - everyone finds their perfect method.
But many sword collectors struggle with this basic skill that EVERY sword collector should have at least an intermediate grasp of - after all, even the keenest sword will eventually become dull with usage, and commercial sword sharpening services are few and far between (not to mention, extremely expensive. Add in the cost of shipping - and it is often cheaper to simply buy a new sword).
Not to mention, a skilled sword sharpener can take the dull factory edge of a cheap battle ready blade and hone it so that you can shave the hairs of your arm if so desired - putting in your own time on a sword that is not economically feasible for sub $300 swords (after all, even in China, the best sword polishers command a very high fee for their specialized services).
The simplest - and perhaps the most maligned - method of sharpening a sword is with a hand held, $5 tool like the infamous 'accusharp' (pictured right)
Using pressure, it is possible to create a very serviceable (if cosmetically ugly) edge on even an completely blunt blade - and once the basic (secondary bevel) edge is formed, it can be cleaned up and refined with a whetstone, ceramic sharpening rod and/or abrasive paper.
for a video tutorial by Jason Woodard on this method.
Personally, I use this method when I am in a hurry on an unsharpened sword (usually a Windlass or Darksword Armory blade) and after around 20-25 minutes work, can produce an edge sharp enough to cut tatami mats and even pool noodles, so while it is kind of a 'cheat' method, it does the job.
But the main method I use for sharpening is described on the site here and requires only a file, whetstone, 3M abrasive paper - and lots of patience..
We cover this method any many more on the
sharpening page of SBG here
- but here are some additional techniques to consider:
Skallagrim - The Fool Proof Way to Sharpen a Sword (YouTube)
Excellent video by Skallagrim detailing the Ken Onion Work Sharp grinder - a great shortcut technique to create a very servicable edge.
Woodcraft Hamster - Sharpening a Sword by Hand (YouTube)
Video demonstration of the basic hand sharpening techniques on a Hanwei Tinker Viking Sword (great blades, but often a little dull)
Samurai University - A Heads Up on Practical Sharpening of Your Katana
Sharpening a Katana is a bit different than most other blades. This guide looks at the main edge profile types, waterstones, grit types and basic sharpening techniques.
Toyama Ryu - Sharpening Guide
Additional details on Japanese waterstones, scratch patterns and basic sharpening technique.
There is only one catch. No matter what method you use, it WILL take practice and you probably won't get it the first couple of times. But that is okay.
KEY TAKEAWAY: Sword Sharpening is as much an art as it is a skill
Like all arts, it takes practice. And lots of it - before you get any good at it.
The best way to get started is to simply pick a method that makes sense to you on some instincual, gut feeling level and keep on practicing until you really start to get a feel for the blade you are working on..
There is no better time to REALLY get to know a sword than when you are sharpening it. Don't rush, ENJOY the time with your sword - get to know every inch of steel, sharpen it keenest at its center of percussion, and really make it YOURS..
No matter which method you use, this is the real key to learning the art of sharpening a sword. Never think that you are not any good at it - it is only because you haven't truly set aside the time needed to make it second nature that you can't
Yes, you can use an Accusharp, or a Ken Onion sharpener, or any other number of shortcuts in a pinch. But starting today, find the cheapest, most neglected, forgotten and dullest swords in your collection, set aside a few hours, and just start getting to know the steel and experiment with different approaches until suddenly, the edge kind of appears all by itself as if by magic.
And that brings us to the crux of sword sharpening - almost any genuine method of sharpening a sword requires bucket-loads of patience.
Sword Buyers Digest subscriber, G. De La Rosa, pretty much hit the nail on the head:
Seems like a major component of high end sharpening is concentration and patience.
Slowing down to appreciate the journey, and not rushing.
Focusing on the quality of each pass over a stone or strop rather than the quickness and volume.
Knowing that the end result will only reflect the quality of each preliminary step,
and that "perfection" can only be achieved when all the previous steps are done very well.
"Meticulous" comes to mind.
We are a fast food, quick fix society.
Sometimes it takes an effort, and commitment, to slow down to appreciate the zen and focus of sharpening.
So what are you waiting for?
If you don't have a suitable dull blade to practice on, here is a recommendation. Head on over to Kult of Athena and check out their selection of
. maybe something like
this unsharpened one
for just $124.95 (pictured below).
Then make it a project - make it the first sword you truly sharpen by yourself. There is no sharpening service available for these bargain basement swords - but if you are willing to put in the time to learn it yourself, a whole new world of swords opens up for you..
Happy and Safe Sharpening all!