HOW TO SHARPEN A RECURVE KNIFE
Welcome to the ultimate recurve blade sharpening guide! Recurve, or convex, blades have upward curves in the main cutting edge of the blade. Convex curved blades are just the opposite and have downward curves sometimes called “bellies.”
The magic behind sharpening a recurve blade lies in the hands of the user. By moving the blade along a sharpening stone, you are removing thin layers of steel and creating a finer edge. Taking care of and sharpening recurve blades is different than other styles because the concave shape is harder to keep in contact with the sharpener.
If you finish sharpening your recurve knife to perfection and want to see how to strop a knife and other sharpening life hacks, check out our guide on How to Sharpen and Strop a Knife.
Knowing the blade angle is important in sharpening because different angles are great for different uses. Pick up a Richard Kell Bevel Gauge or Audacious Concept Dog Tag Tool if you're unsure of the angle. Just remember, if in doubt, try to sharpen to the factory angle by making sure the entire cutting edge is touching the stone. This is a foolproof way to get a great all around edge that serves many purposes. If you aren’t seeing results, color the cutting edge with a permanent marker so that you can see where it’s not coming in contact.
Recurve Knife Sharpening Methods
There are three basic types of sharpening stones: dry (used without liquid), wet (used with honing or mineral oil), and water (you guessed it). Popular sharpening stones are Spyderco Double Stuff Ceramic Stones, Hard Arkansas Pocket Oil Stone, and the Lansky Puck.
Many free hand sharpening stones have both a coarse side and fine side. If not, you may need to use more than one stone. Go from a coarser stone to a finer one to get a more refined edge.
- Find the Angle - Set the blade flat on the stone. Tilt it slowly until the grind angle is flush with the stone.
- Start Sharpening - This part is a little tricky. Favoring a corner of the stone, run the blade from the heel to the tip in cutting motions. It should feel like you’re shaving a layer off the stone. Using the corner of the sharpening stone allows even sharpening of the recurved portion. You can use the flat side of the stone for the rest of the blade.
- Check for Burrs - A burr is the thin strip of metal that curls over on the side not being sharpened. Sharpen both sides an equal amount and be sure to knock off any burrs that form with a fine stone.
You only need about one to three pounds of pressure on the blade. It really doesn’t take a lot. Another tip: Don’t drag the tip of the blade off the stone repeatedly. This can cause it to round off and nobody likes a rounded blade tip.
Lansky Tapered Sharpening Rod - The Lansky Sharpening Rod is tapered so it can sharpen a variety of blade shapes and sizes. This is the easiest way to free hand sharpen a recurve knife.
- Determine the Angle - Rest the blade flat on the rod. Tilt it up until the blade angle is flush.
- Start to Sharpen - Put the heel of the blade on the thickest part of the rod. Move in a cutting motion from the heel to the tip of the recurve blade. This should feel like you’re trying to shave a layer off the rod.
- Repeat - Do this the same amount on both sides of the blade. Take any burrs off with light passes until the blade is sharp at an even angle.
Spyderco Sharpmaker - The Spyderco Sharpmaker is one of the most popular sharpeners on the market, and for good reason. It is very simple to use and can sharpen a large variety of blade styles.
- Set the Angle - The Sharpmaker has slots for a 30 degree angle and 40 degree angle. Set them to the angle you want or the angle closest to the factory grind.
- Coarse Stones - Set the brown stones so the corners are facing each other. Going from the heel of the blade to the tip, move the knife straight down the stones like you are trying to shave off the corners. Make about 20 strokes on each side.
- Fine Stones - Set the white stones with the corners facing each other and repeat the process.
Note: In traditional Sharpmaker sharpening, you use the flat sides of each stone after using the corners. You can do this with a recurve, but you have to use extra care. The blade should always be in contact with the stone, so you can use the corners of the flat side and move the blade onto the flat portion at the end of the recurve. It takes some skill to master, but can leave a blade with a hair shaving edge in no time.
Other Knife Care Guides
If you’re yearning for some more sharpening knowledge, check out our other sharpening guides. You can learn things like how to sharpen and strop different knife styles, and even some sharpening life hacks for those desperate times when there’s no sharpener around.