The downside of using sharp tools often is, firstly, the risk of edge damage.
While they get the job done, sharp cutting tools such as knives also have the thinnest edge lining, which makes them quite delicate. So you’ll always be one wrong cut away from ruining it. No matter how sharp your damaged blade is, it won't function the way it’s designed to, and accidents could arise.
You can fix this yourself with a sharpening tool—not just any other sharpening tool; you need to get one that's electrically powered and acts as a grinding wheel. Cue the Work Sharp Knife and Tool Sharpener (WSKTS)!
Before you get your WSKTS up and running, you need to know the type of damage you're going to deal with first.
Knowing the type of damage your edge incurred will give you an initial idea of how to approach the repair. The severity of the damage will dictate how long repairs would take or whether or not you should seek expert help. Here are the different types of edge damages you may experience:
Dent - A dented edge is when the thin lining of the edge becomes crooked and out of shape. If you inspect the lining with a magnifying glass, it would have a slight or heavy curve. There's no blade material removed from the knife, but the edge is deformed.
Mash - When a blade material is soft enough, it will be prone to mashing. A mash would look like a bar of soap after one of its corners hits the ground. If you pick it up and inspect it, the corner is flattened into an oval-shaped surface, with some of the soap material spilling over on its side like that of a mushroom. Mashing normally happens when your blade has a Rockwell grade of around 52 to 54 HRC.
Roll - Rolling happens when you're slicing or cutting something hard, like a lump of meat with a hidden bone or a hard metal wire. Take, for example, a knife. A knife's full edge length runs on the hard object as you make the slicing motion. And what is supposed to be only a dent or a mash gets "rolled" across the knife's edge, causing the damage to drag on the knife's length. Roll damage retains the material and can be fixed.
Chip - This occurs when a small portion of the blade edge comes off and leaves a nick on the edge lining. Chipping happens when you use a strong blade and with heavy force, enough to break off a portion of the edge that took the impact. A chipped blade is prone to cracks, and if left unfixed, may eventually break your blade into pieces. Blades with a Rockwell hardness of 54 to 61 are prone to this type of damage.
It's important to note that these kinds of damages can be repaired using an electric belt sharpener like the Work Sharp Knife and Tool Sharpener. But if your edge is chipped heavily with a huge chunk of it removed, it's best to consult with a knifesmith before you attempt to repair it yourself.
Repairing a cutting tool's damaged edge is normally done by professional blade makers using a grinding wheel. But if the damage is not severe and you think you can wing it at home, getting an electric sharpener and taking the DIY route could suffice. Something like the Work Sharp tool sharpener will do the trick. Here's how you can make it work:
Be sure you're in a place where you won't disturb anyone, like a garage, a basement, or your own workshop, as the process can produce noises that may disturb someone. Conversely, you also don’t want to be bothered while you're grinding because losing focus may mean the risk of cutting yourself.
Find a sturdy countertop table, whip out your belt sharpening machine. If you haven't bought one already, we suggest you try the Work Sharp Knife & Tool Sharpener Ken Onion Edition because you can use it to sharpen and grind cutting tools of different shapes and sizes.
Once you have your Work Sharp Belt Sharpening Machine, place it on top of the surface, slightly away from the corners. Be sure that the surface is near an electrical socket as you will plug in the Work sharp knife sharpening machine.
Get a pan and fill it with water. Also, bring a dry cloth or paper towel. You will be using the water to cool the blade and the cloth to dry it out after sharpening the knife.
Lastly, do a last-minute inspection of the blade you're going to grind.
Once everything is ready in front of you. Turn on the Work Sharp Knife & Tool Sharpener and place your blade at a proper angle (refer to an angle guide if you're unsure) on the running abrasive belt. Then, pull the blade towards you slowly - that's a single pass. Now, do it on the opposite side of the blade's cheek.
It's important to use the coarse sanding belt with a 40 to 60 grit level first. The optimal belt speed should be set low to prevent heating the blade too much. Depending on how soft your blade's edge is, the heat could affect how your grind fixes the damage. It's best to start at a low speed and work your way up, especially for thinner blades.
After doing a single pass on each side of the blade, dip it into the water quickly. This will remove the heat from the blade caused by the friction of the abrasive belt.
Be sure to touch the blade and check the temperature of the knife. If it's still hot, you'll have to soak it in the water until it cools. This water cooling serves to solidify your blade, locking in whatever angle you grind onto it.
After dipping it in the water, dry it up with a cloth. This prepares the knife for another bout of pass on the abrasive belt. It's important to keep the Work Sharp Knife and Tool Sharpener Ken Onion Edition belt abrasives dry to get the maximum benefit.
After a couple of passes, do a swipe check by running the blade on the surface of soft plastic, wood, or piece of paper. If it runs smoothly and you don't feel any bump. You've fixed the chipped edge. If not, you'll have to do several more cycles again.
The Work Sharp tool sharpener is an adequate substitute for a heavy-duty grinder. Technically, this sharpening machine is built to sharpen tools, but the sanding belt technology of this machine can act as a miniature grinder. In turn, this machine can sharpen, but it can also repair edge damage by slowly shaping it. With enough patience and persistence, the Work Sharp Belt Sharpening Machine can be your portable, do-it-yourself edge fix.