It was about 6 a.m. when I parked my ATV and started walking into a shallow Texas canyon. It was 6:15 a.m. when I started walking out to my ATV with 250 pounds of pork on the ground ready to be processed. My rifle was no longer the most important tool for the job — a sharp knife was, however.
My chosen knife was an ESEE Laser Strike. It features a 1095 carbon steel 55-57 RC drop-point blade with a micarta handle. I carried it in a custom sheath from Slick Bald Custom. As good as the ESEE knife is, most knowledgeable folks, including the folks at Lansky sharpeners, point out that the knife must be tuned. Tuned to the sharpening system.
Lansky has two systems that will do this job equally well. There is the deluxe sharpening system with five color-coded hones and the Turn Box with two sets of sticks. I chose to use the Turn Box as it fits into my pack and I carry it everywhere. The wooden block not only holds the rods at a desired angle in use, but also stores the rods within when not in use.
Getting The Angle
A blade should have a back angle grind and an edge angle grind. The angles of a newly ground blade may vary. Establishing a back angle and cutting-grind angle that are matched to your sharpening system is known as re-profiling. To find and establish these angles, take a thick black permanent marker and blacken the edge of the blade. Take about 10 to 20 strokes on the course, in this case the diamond stick set in the Turn Box at 20 degrees. Positioned above the rods, hold the blade vertically and pull the blade across the rods. Be sure to start high enough to ensure that the tip will clear the wood block when completing the stroke. At 20 degrees you do one side of the blade at a time. This should remove a strip of the black marker from the back angle portion of the blade, but leave a thin strip of black along the cutting edge. Continue sharpening until all marker is removed from the back angle. Change to the ceramic sticks set at the same 20-degree angle and polishing the back grind.
Blacken the blade again. Now work on the edge grind. With the Lansky tool, now set at 25 degrees repeat the procedure with the ceramic stick only. A magnifying glass and a bright light are valuable here. Inspect the edge of the blade to ensure that the black has been entirely removed TO the edge grind. The black marker will remain on the back-angle grind because the sticks at a different angle have not touched it. Blackening and stroking can be repeated as necessary in order to inspect the edge. A shine or reflection of light should be visible along the entire length of the edge approximately a third of the thickness of a dime. This process of re-profiling establishes the consistent angle of the back and edge grind along the entire cutting edge. When done, the blade and the sharpening tool are both working on the same angles and not working against themselves.
Beyond sharpening the blade, the reprofiling is to make touching up in the field easier. With the required material removed to establish the angles during reprofiling, the small amount of material at the edge is the only part that needs to be touched in the field. When done right the reprofiling is done once or only infrequently. Regardless of being in the field or at home, clean the blade as much as possible to present a best surface possible for sharpening. During your skinning, your blade is getting duller with every step. Make it a practice to take a break to touch up the edge and then continue. When the job is finished and you are about to put the knife away until next time, sharpen or touchup the edge. This goes hand in hand with cleaning and lubricating your blade, especially lubricate the edge.