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Thread: sharpening ZDP-189

  1. #1
    Spyderco Forum Registered User
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    Unhappy sharpening ZDP-189

    I have a carbon fiber ZDP-189 stretch that I am having a whale of a time getting as sharp as I prefer (hair-popping). I've been establishing the main bevel with a lansky angle guide using their medium, then fine diamond stones at lansky's 20 degree slot; then a micro-bevel with the sharpmaker fine and ultrafine hones at their 20 degree (very different actual angles). I get an almost useful edge after the first step and a virtually useless edge after the second step and I'm getting rather confused and frustrated. I am minding my burr step by step from begining to end to no avail. This method has worked wonderfully for all my other knives, covering a wide range of steels (30 year old 420HC-i think-Case kitchen knives, AUS-8 cold steel-Taiwan, vintage high carbon core san-mai cold steel-Japan, VG-1 core cold steel-Japan, S30-V Buck/Paul Bos, 14C28N Kershaw, and CPM-D2 Kershaw/USA; but this ZDP is driving me nuts. Anybody got tips or advice? thanks

  2. #2
    Spyderco Forum Registered User cougar337's Avatar
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    From what I heard it is much tougher and may take quite a bit longer to get ZDP sharpened.

    When I was at the SFO they told me to never let ZDP get dull because it will be a pain to get it sharpened again. With the ZDP-189 knives I have I usually run them through a leather strop with green compound often, I don't think I have ever let them get dull enough to use the Sharpmakers stones so I don't think I can be much help, hopefully someone else here can chime in.

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  3. #3
    Spyderco Forum Registered User chuck_roxas45's Avatar
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    You must be rounding the edge if you get a better edge from a previous step. What do you mean almost useful? And what do you mean virtually useless?

    Maybe you need to reset the whole bevel if you're been sharpening that particular knife a lot. This happened with me with my black millie. I was using this knife a lot and I was sharpening it a lot with my DMT aligner. At first it was easy for me to get a somewhat hair whittling edge but after a few months, it got so that I could barely slice paper after a complete sharpening.

    I found out later(because of the edge pro) that the edge angles on that millie was pretty near 50 degrees inclusive. After I rebeveled at 30 degrees inclusive that knife is easily free hanging hair whittling. When it gets dull, I just spend a few minutes on the sharpmaker and it's back to hair whittling.
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  4. #4
    Spyderco Forum Registered User unit's Avatar
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    Some notes I made while working with ZDP from Spyderco include the fact that it is VERY HARD.

    Because this steel is so hard and resistant to abrasion, many will have the tendency to use more pressure to speed the work...and I found that my results suffered if I pressured this steel against my media.

    This steel is wonderful, but it WILL take more time to repair than most other steels. This cannot be rushed.

    Another note was that the burr formed will be smaller and harder to detect...perhaps this was due to the slow progress and I simply wanted to (and succeeded) detect it early. Perhaps if you raise a large burr it would be harder to get rid of than it would be with "lesser" steels? I am not sure on that one...I never raise more of a burr than I HAVE to.

    Beyond that, it is exactly like any other steel. If you know the process, and can detect the cues for progress, you will have results like any other steel.

    If all else fails...take advantage of Spyderco's free sharpening service...pay shipping and you will end up with a like new knife (in my experience).
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    Ken (my real name)

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  5. #5
    Spyderco Forum Registered User yablanowitz's Avatar
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    First of all, The 20 degree slots on the Lansky clamps I've seen were 20 per side for 40 degrees included, and weren't very accurate, so in all probability you aren't reaching the edge at all when you go to the SharpMaker. Quite frankly, I was given a Lansky years ago, tried it and threw it away as worthless, so I wish you better luck with it.

    Second, ZDP-189 takes some getting used to. It is very hard, and it doesn't feel the same as other steels on the stones. It feels very slick on the stone, like it is just sliding across the stone without being abraded. This can tempt you to lean on the blade harder so you can feel the abrasion. I can promise you won't like the outcome. The extra pressure will bend the edge back and forth until it breaks off, leaving a flat edge. Use light pressure, trust the abrasives and use a lot of strokes to get the job done.
    I don't believe in safe queens, only in pre-need replacements.

  6. #6
    Spyderco Forum Registered User marknett's Avatar
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    dealing with a lansky, which I have and use , There are a few things that you must do to be consistent. First when you set up for your knife , it must be exactly in the same position every time . Use the spydie hole or something as a reference. Then take a picture and use that as a reference. Are you using the marker trick? A black sharpie on both sides of the bevel will let you know if your hitting on the edge .A jewelers loupe is very handy to see whats going on also, but if you don't have one get a magnifying glass and a light right over your blade as a get by. On the lansky for zdp-189 I go to the lowest setting
    . If yours is a standard stone set like mine , it's gonna take a while . The diamond set is faster but we use what we have . Start out with the coarsest stone you have . Make a lot of strokes on each side checking with the marker trick to see your progress .Once your bevel seems to be close to the edge , stay on one side until you an feel a small burr on the opposite side. This can take a while. you should be able to feel it with your thumb slightly . Once you have got that burr , then you start on the other side until you feel the burr again on the opposite side . Now you lightly hone the burr level on both sides .. Now and only now can you progress to the next stone . Alternating strokes on each side .Once you got a decent edge here , move on to the next stone .Using a light touch and a lot of patience , you'll get that edge back . A trick I use is to leave the knife in the clamp and closing the handle . That way my knife stays in the same clamp position until completed .If you have time to finish all the steps in one setting , then this is not necessary . Once your through all the stones that you have spending ample time on each,
    You should have that hair popping edge your looking for . You can strop if you wish , but stropping is better used to maintain and refine what you already have . If you try to sharpen by stropping , you are gonna be a while.
    This works for me on the lansky and I'm sure there are different techniques , you have to find what works for you . I just got a sharpmaker and I love that thing, but you must have an established bevel before you use it to maintain and touch-up . I hope this helps you out because everything ,for the most part , that I told you was told to me right here on this forum .
    I'm sure you will get some more suggestions from others also . Good Luck
    "When Life feeds you Lemons , Pucker up and Quit Whining"

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  7. #7
    Spyderco Forum Registered User jackknifeh's Avatar
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    First of all, don't worry. You'll be an expert with this steel in about one week. I had the same problem when I bought a Michael Walker. The edge stayed sharp so well that I ordered a Stretch before I sharpened the MW. While I was waiting for the Stretch I sharpened (?) the MW and ended up with a very pretty butter knife. I just couldn't get it sharp and was regretting ordering the Stretch. Others on this forum were having the same problem so you aren't alone. Some on this forum stated they didn't have problems with it. Everyone that had problems that I know of has overcome them and like ZDP-189.

    My two problems were:
    1. Impatience. I had to realize that since the steel was harder it was just going to take more strokes to remove the same amount of steel as softer metals. I think you already know this.

    2. The edge angle has to be maintained more accurately than on other steels. This requires a lot of skill if you hand sharpen. I say this because I am NOT a skilled sharpener. That is why for the last 4 or 5 years I've been cheating with clamping sharpeners. They clamp the blade, stone or both to maintain a consistant angle. There are several available with different features and prices including the Lansky which I've never used but heard good things about. I use an Edge Pro and was having my problems with ZDP using it. Marking the edge throughout the sharpening process I found I wasn't hitting the entire edge of my blade consistantly because the blade would "pivot" on the sharpener. I created little "blocks" to hold the blade perfectly still and all my ZDP problems were solved. So, whatever sharpener or system you use maintaining a consistant angle is essential. This issue was harder to correct with ZDP or any harder steel I'm sure. That's my ZDP sharpening story. Hope it helps.

    Jack

    My EDC for a while. Stretch with carbon fiber handle, Chaparral 2, Dragonfly 2 with kirinite MOP handle, Manbug with bolster/red bone handle. Super blue/420J1 blades on all three (except Chaparral).

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    Thanks to everyone for the the advice, I am BRAND-NEW to the online forum business, and it's nice to see a real sense of community at work. I am familiar with, and have been employing most or all of your tips-hence my frustration. After working on it for HOURS today I have finally figured out what was going wrong, and I feel a little silly for not piecing it together sooner. I'll explain, just bear with me here as I am a bit long winded and overly thorough: Almost all my knives have traditionally shaped blades, and aside from a couple of kukris the only recurved blade I have is a Kershaw Tirade. The kukris I got for camping and cutting exersises, but I haven't done much of either in over two years due to back problems-so they haven't needed sharpening. The Tirade I carry as my "just in case it gets stupid" knife-I don't whittle with it or use it much for common tasks so it just sits in the back pocket "just in case it gets stupid" (I live in Bloody Burke County this nickname goes back to the late 1700's, continues to be used today and we earned it). I did sharpen it when I got it, and had very similar problems for a short while that seemed to vanish on the second or third try. I just chocked it up to having a bad day or maybe getting used to the abrasion resistence of the CPM-D2, and moved on. My other knives I keep sharp, rarely if ever letting them go until they are dull, just a regular honing on the FLATS of the fine and ultrafine stones-usually skipping the point of the triangle step because I found it generally unnecessary and they have no recurve or serrations. Today, I went back to the Sharpmaker with my Stretch and worked it on the brown medium stones for over 2 hours, eventually erasing the micro-bevel and establishing a new one, and all of a sudden (HA!) it is cutting! I then went to the corners of the fine stones and all of a sudden it's back to crap. Back to the mediums-it's cutting again, then the corners of the fine-still cutting, the flats of the fine-cutting really well now(at this point I'm happy but confused), on to the corners of the ultra fine-and we're cutting like crap again. Then it hits me. I closely examine the white ceramic hones and sure enough-ONE corner-out of three, on all the white stones is uneven. Smooth to the touch of your finger pad, but very uneven to the touch of your nail or a blade. So whenever that edge of the stone got the luck of the draw, the edge of my knife got TRASHED! Now I'm checking before setting them in the base and my leg is covered with new baby-smooth bald patches. Tommorow I'll be calling about the warrenty, as I'm sure this is abnormal. Sorry I talk so much.

  9. #9
    Spyderco Forum Registered User Evil D's Avatar
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    Make sure you're raising a burr on both sides with each stone and hone it out as you go. That's the only way i've been successful with ZDP.

    SHARPEN IT LIKE YOU LOVE IT, USE IT LIKE YOU HATE IT
    ~David

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    Spyderco Forum Registered User jackknifeh's Avatar
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    I've found that ZDP-189 will chip easier right on the edge that VG-10 (or softer steels), for my uses anyway. I cut down a small tree (about 1 1/4" in dia.) in my yard last summer and kept a section of the trunk for future possible uses. The other day I cut a piece about 2 feet long and started whittling on it with a ZDP blade. I put in a good hour of whittling and the edge was still slicing paper VERY easily though it wouldn't pop hair. No chips with an edge bevel of 20 deg and back bevel of 15 then another of 10 degrees. I did the same thing with a VG-10 blade sharpened with the same angles. The edge was on ly SLIGHTLY less sharp than the ZDP blade. I said less sharp because it wasn't even close to dull. Those are the only "good" steels I own.

    Here is my question. What other steels are available that have ZDP edge retention without the problem of chipping with a very thin edge? Or are there none? VG-10 seems to be very closer than I realized. Steel is more complicated than just hard or soft when it comes to making it for knife blades. I want a Delica FFG w/ZDP and am willing to wait for their release. But I think I'll get a VG-10 first then get a ZDP one later maybe.

    Jack

    My EDC for a while. Stretch with carbon fiber handle, Chaparral 2, Dragonfly 2 with kirinite MOP handle, Manbug with bolster/red bone handle. Super blue/420J1 blades on all three (except Chaparral).

  11. #11
    Spyderco Forum Registered User unit's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jackknifeh View Post
    What other steels are available that have ZDP edge retention without the problem of chipping with a very thin edge? Or are there none?
    That is going to depend on how you use it and how thin is "very thin" relative to that use. I would suggest taking a look at CPM-M4.
    Thanks,
    Ken (my real name)

    ...learning something new all the time.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jackknifeh View Post
    What other steels are available that have ZDP edge retention without the problem of chipping with a very thin edge? Or are there none? VG-10 seems to be very closer than I realized.

    cpm-m4 is really worth a look its close to zdp and i find it much easyer to sharpen but it will form a patina even if you keep it oiled but it will be veary fant i will put up a pick if i can
    Last edited by drewskeez; 01-25-2011 at 09:01 AM.

  13. #13
    Spyderco Forum Registered User jackknifeh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by unit View Post
    That is going to depend on how you use it and how thin is "very thin" relative to that use. I would suggest taking a look at CPM-M4.
    Did a search on inet for CPM-M4. Looks great. The Spyderco online catalog has only the Gayle Bradley with that steel. Haven't looked in the 2011 catalog yet. There are inconsistancies between the two. Inet not updated yet I guess. I've wanted a GB for a while but cost is an issue, especially since I have satisfied my goal of obtaining one great EDC knife (actually I have three). That was my only goal (one knife) when I started looking at better quality knives and now I have addiction issues that may require therapy.

    Jack

    My EDC for a while. Stretch with carbon fiber handle, Chaparral 2, Dragonfly 2 with kirinite MOP handle, Manbug with bolster/red bone handle. Super blue/420J1 blades on all three (except Chaparral).

  14. #14
    Spyderco Forum Registered User Michael Cook's Avatar
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    Ultimately, I've given up on zdp189. It's super hard and gets super sharp but it's not fun to sharpen and the enjoyment of sharpening and the ease of progress in sharpening my knives is part of it for me. YMMV.
    More of what does not work will not work. Robin Cooper, Rokudan; Aikikai.

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  15. #15
    Spyderco Forum Registered User jackknifeh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by drewskeez View Post
    cpm-m4 is really worth a look its close to zdp and i find it much easyer to sharpen but it will form a patina even if you keep it oiled but it will be veary fant i will put up a pick if i can
    I wouldn't mind patina. I have an old Shrade fixed blade that was stored for over 15 years in it's leather sheath. I pulled it out one day and there were light stains on the blade. I kind of liked the look. I believe CPM-M4 is non-stainless steel. Keeping it oiled is no problem because I oil everything. That is routine.

    Jack

    My EDC for a while. Stretch with carbon fiber handle, Chaparral 2, Dragonfly 2 with kirinite MOP handle, Manbug with bolster/red bone handle. Super blue/420J1 blades on all three (except Chaparral).

  16. #16
    Spyderco Forum Registered User Evil D's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Cook View Post
    Ultimately, I've given up on zdp189. It's super hard and gets super sharp but it's not fun to sharpen and the enjoyment of sharpening and the ease of progress in sharpening my knives is part of it for me. YMMV.
    Awww c'mon man don't quit! You're better than that. Like i was saying before, the key in my opinion with this steel is to make absolutely sure you feel a burr on the opposite side you're sharpening on before you switch sides...this will ensure that you're hitting the edge and you're getting somewhere. As you move from course to medium to fine and so on, that burr will slowly hone away. By the time you get up to about 1000 grit or so, the burr will be all but gone, or at least gone to the point you can't feel it with your finger anymore and it won't scrape your finger nail if you drag the edge along it. At this point it's going to be *at least* as sharp as the factory edge, and if you know anything about stroping its going to get better from there.

    SHARPEN IT LIKE YOU LOVE IT, USE IT LIKE YOU HATE IT
    ~David

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  17. #17
    Spyderco Forum Registered User dbcad's Avatar
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    on the fence about the Dragonfly zdp

    About sending my new ZDP dragonfly in for sharpening or to take the advice heard here and try again. I might give a final try tomorrow using the tips in this thread. It was a first for me when the edge came in lousy out of the box, It'll happen though with production knives. Everything else about the Dragonfly is great

    This ZDP stuff is NOT easy to sharpen. It's a strange material anyway, more resembles iron in it's composition and seems to act like iron when you try to sharpen it to a nice edge. Very good points brought forward in this thread

    I seem to be in the getting a good burr, then knocking off a whole bunch of the edge category It's a little humbling when I can bring vg-10 an S30V to a super fine edge pretty easily now.

    The reprofile I've done on the Dragonfly is pretty good. If I can learn and apply what has been said here to the Dragonfly is the question I need to get it as sharp as the Urban I have if I want to carry it.

    I have to sleep on all of this..............

    If I caught the previous posts right that means to go slow with very little pressure the entire way to hone off the burr instead of trying to strip it.

    Thanks for the thread
    Charlie

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  18. #18
    Spyderco Forum Registered User Evil D's Avatar
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    I just had another round of hour long profiling with my ZDP Delica...and man i can tell you it doesn't get any easier the wider that bevel gets

    SHARPEN IT LIKE YOU LOVE IT, USE IT LIKE YOU HATE IT
    ~David

    Official plea to Sal: Can we PLEASE get a DLC Yojimbo 2? PLEASE!!?

  19. #19
    Spyderco Forum Registered User jackknifeh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dbcad View Post
    About sending my new ZDP dragonfly in for sharpening or to take the advice heard here and try again. I might give a final try tomorrow using the tips in this thread. It was a first for me when the edge came in lousy out of the box, It'll happen though with production knives. Everything else about the Dragonfly is great

    This ZDP stuff is NOT easy to sharpen. It's a strange material anyway, more resembles iron in it's composition and seems to act like iron when you try to sharpen it to a nice edge. Very good points brought forward in this thread

    I seem to be in the getting a good burr, then knocking off a whole bunch of the edge category It's a little humbling when I can bring vg-10 an S30V to a super fine edge pretty easily now.

    The reprofile I've done on the Dragonfly is pretty good. If I can learn and apply what has been said here to the Dragonfly is the question I need to get it as sharp as the Urban I have if I want to carry it.

    I have to sleep on all of this..............

    If I caught the previous posts right that means to go slow with very little pressure the entire way to hone off the burr instead of trying to strip it.

    Thanks for the thread
    Here is the answer for you. It will give you immediate good results. This has turned out to be a long story so get coffee.

    My first ZDP-189 knife was a Michael Walker. It came out of the box razor sharp. I used it for several days and was very satisfied with the edge retention. Then, I decided to sharpen it to a very LOW edge angle. One reason I wanted the ZDP was because it was supposed to be hard enough to have an edge angle of 20 degrees inclusive and stay sharp for a long time. Ok fine. I spent an entire weekend one day re-profiling the edge to a low angle. I don't remember what angle exactly (doesn't matter). I finally got a perfectly flat bevel on each side of the blade and was getting a consistent burr on both sides. After removing the burr the damn thing just wasnít sharp. I kept at it and ended up with the same attitude that you have now. I told my story on the forum and got lots of suggestions and encouragement not to give up. I hated ZDP-189. Just to show you how much work I put into it think about this. The Michael Walker knife brand new has a blade of 2 5/8Ē. Right now mine has a length of 2 7/16Ē. I sharpened away 3/16Ē of blade trying to get it sharp. While I was doing this I was reading over and over posts from people who swore they had no problem with this steel. The answer I got came from Ben Dale, the inventor of the Edge Pro sharpener. First about really low angles. The lower the angle the wider the bevel. The wider the bevel the longer it takes to remove steel. So the wider the bevel gets it seems like the progress gets slower and slower, which it does. Then comes the skill part. When sharpening wide bevels and keeping them flat the slightest error in angle consistency has dramatic results. I had only had an Edge Pro for a couple of months but had not seen any problems with any steel like I was having with the ZDP-189. So now that my angle was very low Ben suggested putting a micro bevel on the edge at an angle slightly higher than the wide bevel angle. This is the same principle behind the SharpMakerís angle settings. It produces a 30 degree back bevel and a 40 degree edge bevel. The idea I understand is primarily to be sure your stones are hitting the edge when sharpening which is essential of course. Anyway Benís reason for raising the angle had two reasons. The first was the same as Spydercoís, making sure you hit the edge with the stone. The second benefit is that by sharpening at a higher angle you are creating a MUCH smaller bevel (not as wide) so the stones have to remove a lot less steel. When I did this I saw INSTANT success. I had a very low back bevel and a hair popping razor edge. I was so happy I ordered the blue Stretch with ZDP-189 and later the Delica saber grind ZDP-189 knives. Now Iím the guy saying I have no problem with ZDP-189. So, whatever your angle is on your knife if you do what I just explained Iíll bet you will have the same results I did. At this point your skill will come in to play and will improve from whatever skill level you are at now. If you get razor edges on other steels I assume your sharpening ability is good or very good. The accuracy of my stroke was one reason I was having problems. To increase the accuracy of my sharpening stroke on the Edge Pro I came up with something I call Edge Guide Blocks. These things hold knives perfectly still on the Edge Pro from the beginning to the end of each stroke. I can sharpen a knife and write down the edge angles I use on each knife. When a knife needs to be sharpened I can set the Edge Pro to the documented angle, mark the edge with a magic marker and hit the bevel PERFECT every time. The Edge Guide Blocks helped with this tremendously but they are another story which I did tell on this forum a few months ago.

    So, DONíT give up. There is an answer and as far as Iím concerned you just read it. I sound like Iím bragging but Iím not. If I figured out the answer myself I would have something to brag about but the answer came from someone who has been sharpening for 50 years plus. Iíll stop now. I think I covered everything I wanted to say. I want you to say in a few days that you have gotten over this ZDP-189 hurdle and are on your way to mastering the steel. With more and more skill I believe you CAN get a great edge with just one very low angle and not need the micro bevel. But, for ZDP-189 I will always use the back bevel and higher edge bevel because ZDP has a tendency to develop micro chips (or larger ones) if the edge bevel is too low. Again, thatís another story.

    Normaly, I like to re-read a post like this but now I have to go. I'll read it later to see if it makes sense. Let me know if you have any questions. This is how I overcame the dilema but I'm sure others have found other answers. I hope you find your answer if mine doesn't work (but I think it will).

    Great luck,
    Jack

    My EDC for a while. Stretch with carbon fiber handle, Chaparral 2, Dragonfly 2 with kirinite MOP handle, Manbug with bolster/red bone handle. Super blue/420J1 blades on all three (except Chaparral).

  20. #20
    Spyderco Forum Registered User Evil D's Avatar
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    The thing i keep stressing on this steel is, just make sure you're raising a burr. Use a marker, and make sure you're hitting the edge. Once you know you're raising a burr on both sides, make sure you hone it out and don't leave a wire edge and/or micro chips.

    SHARPEN IT LIKE YOU LOVE IT, USE IT LIKE YOU HATE IT
    ~David

    Official plea to Sal: Can we PLEASE get a DLC Yojimbo 2? PLEASE!!?

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