Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Don't Ever Do This

I used to do a bit of blacksmithing when I was younger, and my favorite thing to make was blades. Big and small, all shapes. These all had to be sharpened at the end, so I tried a bunch of different ways to do that.

If you've not seen it, there's a show starring a guy named Bear Grylls in which they drop him somewhere and film while he demonstrates various survival techniques. One of the episodes featured this scene, which caused me to use some monumentally bad language and wonder what the hell was wrong with him.

A nice smooth rock all by itself, preferably with a little water poured on, will do a fine job of touching up your knife's edge. The basic idea behind sharpening a blade is simply "Use something hard enough and coarse enough that it will actually wear some metal off the sides of the blade, thus creating a new, sharp edge." That's it. Whether it's a ceramic stick or stone, a fine Arkansas stone, a diamond sharpener, all of it does that. The smoother the abrasive surface, the finer the grit it has and the slower it will remove metal, and the smoother and finer the edge can be made.

Do you know what happens if you break up another rock and add that grit onto a surface? You get a crapped-up edge from all those nasty, course bits of rock, because they'll stick and catch and roll and prevent the blade from making good contact with the surface. So if you're out somewhere and your blade needs touching up, use a nice, smooth rock often found in or near rivers or creeks (he was right on that part).

And if you put sand or broken rock into the process, the ghost of some ancient blademaker is going to haunt your dumb ass.

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