Dead whale that is… In the past two days I have spent 7 hours sharpening over 100 whale necropsy knives for the local marine mammal stranding network run by the IFAW. They contacted me and asked if I could sharpen a few knives. I said sure bring them on down. The first day I got twelve and they must have been sharp enough because the next day they dropped off ninety one. I am grateful for their business and the work that they do.
All the knives were pretty dull and damaged, as one would expect from a stainless steel knife hacking into whale bone all day. There were signs of previous rather harsh sharpening practices. One knife in particular stood out. It was ground very unevenly near the hilt and had a deep gouge and a burn mark in it. Many knives showed deep scratches from slipping on a grinding stone or belt. Tom remarked that the knives were like the ones used at Stop and Shop to butcher meat. He said, “A new scimitar will be ground down by their previous sharpening service to where it resembles a filet knife in just 3-4 sharpenings!!” He also commented that I was being a lot gentler on these knives with my method than the other sharpeners had been and that the knives would last a lot longer.
The lady who dropped them off also thought my method was much easier going than the other place she had taken them with a giant spinning wet stone. My method is simple and does give knives a longer life. I use a 600 or 800 grit belt to remove very little metal per pass. I keep an eye on the blade every couple of passes to check progress. I only want to take as much off as I have to in order to get a good clean edge. I also grind on the slack of the belt, which keeps the metal from getting too hot. It also gives the knife a convex edge, which is sharper and lasts longer then a flat ground edge. I then polish the edge for a few passes on my buffing wheel with a 12-1600 grit rouge. This does not really remove much metal but gives a really smooth cutting surface which offers very little friction when cutting.