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May 07, 2008

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Video Clip: About Ceramic Sharpeners

Here are a few things you should know about ceramic sharpening-rods sets. First, there are some truly lousy ones on the market. The two good ones that I know of are the Lansky Kitchen Combo and the A.G. Russell Ceramic Sharpener. The Lansky comes with three sets of rods ranging from coarse through fine and A.G.'s is fine only. Fine is all I ever use, and I don't believe you can get a shaving edge without it.

Ceramic rods will never wear out, but if you drop them they are guaranteed to shatter. So don't drop them. Also, I was not kidding about cutting your arm in the video. A knifemaker friend of mine cut himself so badly pulling that stunt that he had to go to the hospital.


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This was a great learning aid. I hope that you do more of these in the future. Maybe rifle cleaning, shotgun cleaning, or cleaning for Ar style rfles.


Great learning aid. I hope you do more of these in the future. Maybe rifle, shotgun, or AR cleaning.


Nice film. I have had good luck with my Spyderco sharpener, which is like yours, except that it uses trangular stones and is far more expensive. If you have a really dull knife, you can remove a lot of steel in a short time with diamond coated crock sticks; these I usually save for my longer knives.

I would say that most people don't know what a sharp knife is. Knives rarely come from the factory with a decent working edge, let alone a sharp one. While I own and use serrated pocketknives (they are very effective on seat belts), I think they are as popular as they are because factory sharp plain edged blades are too dull to cut as well as they should, and most knife carriers, never having even met a sharp knife, assume that their butter knife is as good as it gets.

Scott in Ohio

I have a set of crock sticks but have never really used them. - Maybe I'll dig them out. I currently use a Lansky sharpener kit. And I always finish my knife with a butcher’s steel - I thought this also removed the thin edge of steel on a newly sharpened blade.

Good idea from Tanner. I too would like to see more short instructional videos featuring Herr Petzal from time to time. How about trouble shooting accuracy issues, setting up for a rifle match (how you set out/up your gear, settle into your hold etc., perhaps a look into Dave's shooting gear/range bag (what is indispensable and what can be left behind at home), techniques of using a "hasty" and other slings...

Jim in Mo.

Glad you mentioned the Lansky. While I haven't tried their ceramic rods their set of stones does a very good job and comes with a rod which keeps the angle correct. Since your connected to good knife makers I wish you had included opinions on 'degree of angle' for different applications.

Blue Ox

Good stuff!


Never had had a chance to try these rods, but of all the methods i have tried, i still vouch exclusivley for sharpening stones. With some practice, it's almost impossible to put anything short of a decent edge on the blade, and once mastered can put a razor sharp edge on, consistently, in no time at all.


Del in KS


I've used many different sharpeners over the years including a set of those sticks. My favorite of all is a 5" diamond coated rod with a small handle. It never needs cleaning, it screws apart to fit in a pocket and a few very light strokes makes any good knife razer sharp. My buck pocket knife is always hair shaving sharp. If you want an even finer edge use a leather belt to strop your blade.

Jim in Mo.

Del in KS
In the old days when shoes were made out of real leather I have used an old pair to strop my blade.
Today its hard to find actual genuine leather, even belts and wallets. The word 'genuine' seems to be a generic term.

Ralph the Rifleman

I have used a set of ceramic sticks for years, and they work great but as you said they are for honing an edge and not taking off steel on a dull blade.
By the way, I clean my sticks with a powder cleanser(Ajax or Comet)to remove metal residue.

Jim in Mo.

I agree with you. After I use the supplied stones (including their 'fine') I also use a very fine rod of butchers steel. I'm having a hard time finding a replacement as fine as mine (if needed).


I have used Lanskys stones and rods for years with great satisfaction. As a matter of fact when you get tired of looking at the shaved patches on your arms you can start on your legs. Don't matter to us Wyoming types because the sun has never seen our legs anyway, always covered with Wranglers or Levis.
Once I touched up a skinner/gutter that Dr. Don McBryde made for me to my specifications. The friend who was watching wanted to handle the knife. His thumb touched the edge and he was impressed. He mockingly held it up to the side of his neck and said "I bet a guy could cut his throat with this". With a joking stroke he did just that. Talk about two guys getting on the move double time. Luckily it was just a hairline cut that barely broke the skin but still provided more than adequate blood.
Another thing to remember with any knife after killing your deer or elk. Never straddle the animal and pull the knife toward your legs. I know of two people who have severed the artery inside of their thigh doing this and neither survived. One of my ER doc friends told me that it would be hard to save someone if they performed this sort of cut right in the ER. Too large a vessel which just pumps you dry of blood in minutes.

Two people skinning/carving on the same carcuss simultaneously is also inviting an unwanted cut hand or arm.


Good video Dave. Being dull my entire life I need all of the help I can get. I also like the idea of similiar features in the future.

Will you be attending the NRA convention in Louisville or will you be working?


Wow, Petzal speaks. His voice reminds me of a combination of Mr. Rogers and the guy on the old Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom(Marlin somebody?!). Marlin, who tells the audiance how dangerous it was to capture that particular beast they are filming as he sends in his PARTNER in to do it. Dave's instructional video also reminds of my dear old dad who was famous in his hunting club for his knife sharpening skills. He would take his huntin buddies dull blades and break 'em in with an Arkansas stone and put the finishing edge with the crock sticks. He would skin everything with fins,fur or feathers with his razor sharp Uncle Henry 3 blade pocket knife. The only thing different from dad's instruction was dad taught me to shave the hairs top of my arm away from all those important veins! Also, so I wouldn't look like a dork in gym class I would test the blade on the hairs above my ankles so my tube socks would cover it up. I believe it was Walt Garrison of the Old Dallas Cowboys who would sharpen his knife while sitting on the bench between offensive series. He said "only a lazy man carries a dull knife". Well, I must admit to being more lazy these days. Dave's instruction reminds me of chores to be done. One of my cherished prizes is my own crock sticks my dad bought me at a gift shop in Jasper, Ark 35 years ago. I clean them with Comet and a rag. The eraser trick is a new one to me. Well done, Dave!


When I was in college there was a class in the animal science department on meat processing. A few went on to work in the school meat lab, which was a working slaughter and meat processing plant. Most of the students who did this were pretty fanatical about sharpening their knives. A close friend of mine was moving his roomates knives from his desk one night, scooped them up by the handle, blade up and while moving them one slipped through his hands. Just sliding through his hand, with only gravity to propel it cut his thumb right to the bone. I drove him to the student medical center and you can imagine the scepticism at the report he filed.


Buckstopper, that guy was Marlin Perkins. I think he ran the St. Louis MO Zoo for years before discovering TV.

Dave Petzal

Various Subjects:

I've been told that I sound like Dustin Hoffman would if he took a whole bottle of Xanax.

Years ago, I was hanging around in the shop of George Herron, the late, great South Carolina knifemaker, and asked him how long it took him to get an edge on a knife. "Twenty seconds" said George.
"Stuff and nonsense," said I.
So he took a just-finished knife with no edge at all and make six passes on his grinding belt, three on each side of the blade.
"C'mere, yankee," he said, and without so much as a by your leave, yanked out one of my whiskers. Then he proceeded to peel it. That's how sharp that knife had become in 20 seconds.


Love the Lesson Dave. Thank You
A fellow Hunter turned me on to this about 6 years ago.
I have been using one since,works great and has impressed many a fellow hunter after they have ran their knife through it with just a few strokes.
Go ahead an laugh if you want but Home Depot sells a hand help plastic knife sharpener for a few bucks that fits in the palm of your hand, easy to pack, and if it you lose it you are only out a few bucks. It will put a excellent edge on a knife with just a few strokes slice paper and skin with ease. Yes it can also shave the hair off your arm.with ease and skin


I'm not much for shaving with a knife so I'm probably a lousy knife sharpener. Did anyone else know that the bottom of a ceramic coffee cup does the job? It works! The only problem is keeping the angle true. If you can do that, your cup will keep your knife reasonably sharp. Works great in a pinch and its not too expensive.


What? No reloading equipment on the shelves in your office? You are wasting good space Dave!

Bernie Kuntz

I use natural whetstones exclusively to sharpen knives, then touch them up with a leather strop or a sharpening steel. Those ceramic sticks probably would work well to finish a blade though.

In the 1970s I bought three knives from Scott Barry of Laramie, WY, and he demonstrated the same sharpening technique that the late George Herron did for Dave. Scott used a belt grinder and had a razor edge on the blade in seconds. I don't know whatever happened to Scott Barry. I don't see his name in the Knifemakers Guild membership--current, retired or deceased.


Thanks Dave.

It's so simple. How do we manage to over-complicate something like this?

Quiet Loner

Barkeepers Friend works better than Comet for me & doesn't leave the slippery feel on my hands or the odor. A single stick with a handle works well if you can hold the correct angle that you use on a flat stone.

james t

i know the sharpener you talked about. used to sell them at a hardware store in alaska. they do work. i use a diamond tri-stone before i go hunting and always take 2 or 3 of the plastic sharpeners to touch up in the middle of dressing and skinning.

Dr. Ralph

I like it! More Dave is what we need... maybe next time disassembling and reassembling a Ruger MKII blindfolded while Heavey hides parts.

Not to change the subject or anything (always a good opening line when that is exactly what one intends to do), but why is there no real fishing blog here? Field AND Stream I believe is the name on the cover of the rag... Does eliminating the 98% of fishermen who don't own a fly rod really help your site? Hell I bet Mercury, Abu Garcia, or Zebco would sponsor it if you can just teach Merwin to blog. Shimano would probably sponsor the whole magazine if you'd just tell everyone to get a Stradic because they outperform any reel ever made. Standard of the industry in my experience. My children and I have been fishing several times a week for the last two months and have not seen a fly rod. I have been downstream from our greatest trout hatchery in Tellico, Tennessee dozens of times at 4AM the day of a release and the banks are elbow to elbow with people waiting for that magical minute when legal fishing begins and they all have ultra lite spinning reels or plain jane Zebco 33's and corn or eggs or Mepps Aglia's which made your last cover but not a fly in sight. The streams that are reserved for fly fishing are absolutely barren... we always camp out there just to get away from the crowd. Get your elitist NY noses out of the air and look around to see what's going on in the real world. In Tennessee there are fifty $20,000 bass boats for every fly rod. Just the facts.

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