Knives That Are Impossible to Sharpen

Work Sharp

I read a lot of knife reviews. Pretty much every time I buy a knife I’ll read a few just for fun. Many of those mention difficulties with sharpening new knives that people just got from the store. At first I thought those comments were ridiculous. I mean, surely you can sharpen a knife. Any knife… Right?


And it’s true. It’s possible to sharpen any knife, or a properly heat treated steel object for that matter, at home or in the field. But as my collection of knives grew bigger and bigger and I kept getting more and more of those ‘DIY’ projects, I started getting a little impatient with certain knife companies. Let me explain what those folks meant by complaining they could not sharpen a knife and why I’m losing my patience with certain knife brands.

Some knife companies generally don’t seem to bother sharpening some of their knife models. Some say it allows them to sell those models cheaper. Fair point, except there are much cheaper knives out there, which are incredibly sharp right out of the box. But let’s not confuse two different things here. If a knife is properly ground and just not razor sharp, that’s still ok. Most of those complaining in their reviews would still be able to sharpen a knife like that without a problem. That’s not what they’re complaining about.

The true problem, or problems, lie elsewhere.

  1. Knives with unusable edge angle. It’s quickly becoming my nightmare. Pretty much every single knife I get, except the cheapest Mora and Hultafors knives (and maybe a few others), come with an edge of about 30-35 degrees on each side! A knife like that will not cut anything properly. I don’t even put such angles on most of my axes and machetes. This may be good for a shovel but not a knife you’re intending to use for carving or food preparation. Regular sharpening will not solve the problem. You need to regrind the thing to a shallower angle between 17 and 25 degrees which can take hours, unless you use a dedicated grinder. I say dedicated because taking a knife to just any grinder may overheat the blade and ruin the heat treat. Don’t do it!
  2. Knives with no edge or no grind whatsoever. This may seem ridiculous but I have got a lot of those as well. These are the DIY projects I mentioned before. It seems as if you payed for a knife but were in stead sent a flat piece of steel to shape in your spare time. Like it’s your hobby or something. Too bad nobody specified this in the product description. Needless to say, you can sharpen those all you want. They will never cut anything, unless you grind them down with a file, a grinding wheel or something of that sort.

The more of those DIYs I get, the more I understand those angry reviews. It’s not about being able to fix it. Of course I can fix it. But why should I waste my time on something I’ve already payed for? Besides, not everyone will have the tools, skills or simply the time and patience to deal with something like that.

In the video below I show one such example. I also explain and demonstrate how to solve the problem. Hope that helps.


Weak Hand Fearher Sticking and Fire Starting

curlsSome time ago, under one of my YouTube videos, a viewer asked me if I was up for a challenge. The challenge was to make a feather stick with your weak, non-dominant hand.  I sure was up for it as I had experienced the need to use my weak (left in my case) hand for about three weeks when I stabbed myself in the right hand, which effectively made me left-handed for a period of time.

I could still use my right hand to some degree. Hold or maybe even lift things without overloading the palm of the hand. But anything requiring grabbing, squeezing and manipulating using the fingers was out of the question. So if I had to start a fire at that time I’d have to do most of the fiddly work with my weaker hand which has no experience with this type of tasks whatsoever.

Should such injury create or worsen a survival situation, I’d have to be able to do most ‘right-handed’ tasks with my left hand. And believe me if I tell you it’s not easy! Of course, since I’m pretending my right hand is injured, I thought I should strike the ferro rod with my left hand too. But then I realized that holding the rod in my right hand isn’t exactly something I’d be able to do with my injured hand anyway. So I added a new skill to the challenge – lighting a fire with only one hand.

The trick is to use your foot to immobilize the handle on your knife resting on your feather stick with its blade sticking up, and use the exposed sharp spine to create sparks like in the pictures below. It takes time but it’s possible and quite reliable.
One handed fire  trick

Perfect Feather SticksDon’t expect things to go smoothly or be perfect. They most likely won’t be. Under normal circumstances, I can make feathers that look a bit like a piece of art and it’s really frustrating to see myself struggle to make a single curl with my left hand. It’s a bit like being a child again. Only you already know what it feels like to walk and run without falling down on your knees every other step. You just can’t do it for some messed up reason. Really annoying feeling.

Bear in mind, that in a real survival scenario things are going to be even more difficult, frustrating and the injured hand will most likely hurt like a bitch, which does not help focusing on the job. To make everything even more ‘fun’, add a possibility of strong wind and rain (which happened to me when shooting the video below), and the fact that you will not be ok with just one stick. You’ll need more like four to six nice and big feather sticks with the feathers attached to the main shaft.


Feather Sticks

Why attached? Well, if you’re lucky and it isn’t windy and rainy, you can afford to collect whatever’s fallen off to the ground. But if you’re not, the wind will blow away everything you incautiously cut off, and drench it in the wet grass or mud. And it’s not easy to make those curls stay attached when carving with your weak hand. Especially when the strong hand is hurting, you are cold and wet, and under a lot of stress and pressure to make that fire going as soon as possible.