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Thread: " 204-freehanding " — alternative usage of Spyderco's Sharpmaker 204MF

  1. #1

    Hahaha " 204-freehanding " — alternative usage of Spyderco's Sharpmaker 204MF

    i'm not the only nor the first one to use the TRI-ANGLE SHARPMAKER this way but i'm the first to (try to) coin a term, a name, for the method:

    means using a single Spyderco Sharpmaker triangle rod for freehand sharpening. No Sharpmaker device. Just you and the stone.
    The stones have the model number 204M, 204F, 204UF, 204D, or 204CBN, so it really makes sense to give it this naming. (Btw the model number 204MF is special and assigned to the Sharpmaker full retail product, which comes with the 204M and 204F rods.)

    Just me and the stone, aha yes sir? Well, in the past i did include a rag as anti-slip mat for the method, and that works well for fast back and forth strokes to raise a burr (wire edge) with the 204UF rod. For balancing strokes i wanted more clearance for the blade and my knuckles, so i use the Sharpmaker box turned upside down which conveniently serves as 'pedastal' for the method.


    1. comfortable sitting at office desk
    2. ample clearance to the table edge; machine can't fall off the table
    3. no third-party accessories (rag, DIY base, whatever) needed
    4. blade & knuckle clearance at right-hand side (nearing right stone end)
    5. entire stone length gets used
    6. excellent pressure control thru left hand; natural limitation of max force
    7. improved stone-vs-edge contacting thru stone's tilting auto-alignment ("line contact" thru Pivot Response Technology)
    8. edge gets even sharper and without fail; no more stropping needed!
    9. more effortless/effective/efficient/fun than conventional Sharpmaker usage

    Give it a try!, and please share how it went for you
    Last edited by kreisl; 06-16-2019 at 06:10 AM.

  2. #2

    Default Re: " 204-freehanding " — alternative usage of Spyderco's Sharpmaker 204MF

    Btw 204-freehanding is not the end of the story. Typically you'll end up with a microburr after the 204UF.
    Last edited by kreisl; 09-25-2019 at 10:57 AM.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2003

    Default Re: " 204-freehanding " — alternative usage of Spyderco's Sharpmaker 204MF

    Would you please show some better strokes using the Sharpmaker? I recently purchased one and have not used it yet.


  4. #4

    Default Re: " 204-freehanding " — alternative usage of Spyderco's Sharpmaker 204MF

    I have been using the Sharp maker for about 20 years – excellent sharpener for maintaining your knife edges! The Shaprmaker is also great for sharpening serrated edges and scissors.

    My advice is to watch the old video where Sal shows how to use the Sharpmaker:

    Yeah the video is old and kind of corny but if you watch it and use the Sharpmaker like Sal demonstrates you will have good results. My advice is not to try to reinvent Sal’s techniques.
    A few tips:

    – Do most of your sharpening with the corners of the gray stones – if the edge is not sharp coming of the gray stones it will take forever to get it sharp on the white stones (the white stones are for refining an already sharp edge).

    - Do Not sharpen the last Ό” of so of a plain edge on the corner of the stones – use the flats only for this or you may round off your point. For serrated edges keep the corner of the stone in the last couple of serrations near the tip so that the tip doesn’t get pulled past the edge of the stone.

    - Stand above the sharpmaker when sharpening. This helps keep the blade straight up and down so your edge angle is consistent.

    - For serrated edges (use the corner of the white stones), I prefer to use the second white stone free hand to remove the burr by laying it completely flat on the side that does not have the ground edge once every 5 to 10 strokes to remove the burr, like Sal shows for deburring scissors.

    - To remove burrs from plain edges you can strope (plain, unloaded strope) or use the stones at an angle slightly steeper than your edge angle with very light pressure. You can also strobe serrated edges on the unground side, again by laying it completely flat on the strope.

  5. #5

    Default Re: " 204-freehanding " — alternative usage of Spyderco's Sharpmaker 204MF

    Quote Originally Posted by Bullzeyebill View Post
    Would you please show some better strokes using the Sharpmaker? I recently purchased one and have not used it yet.
    Hello Bill, you didn't buy one until recently, seriously? Congrats to the acquisition, it's imho the very best edge maintenance product out on the market, at least for experienced sharpening folks . Because of time constraints in my video i demo'ed the 204-freehanding balancing strokes only; i didn't demo the 204-freehanding back'n forth strokes because there is already a video demo'ing it by the very Michael Christy:

    Btw my video is mostly to show the hand positions, left hand, right hand, box position. It was not to teach about stroke techniques, let alone sharpening principles. The Delica 4 was very sharp at the start of the video. Yet the 3min of 204-freehanding raised the sharpness level by a notable bit, notable to me. Lovely method for edge maintenance (especially of premium steels)! A full video from really dull to scary sharp using 'my method' with various stroke techniques (balancing strokes, back'n forth strokes, and other pertinent stroke techniques) wouldn't be fair or helpful because each knife, blade, edge, really needs individual assessment and appropriate treatment. Therefore following the Sharpmaker DVD instructions blindly would be wrong imo. The appropriate course of action is to be adapted to the exact condition of the edge (or apex). No "pro sharpener" who still uses the Sharpmaker product would sharpen a random knife sent in by a customer the very way the Sharpmaker DVD tells you to do, i promise you that! Of course, the DVD is a great place to get an absolute beginner started, and she should try the set of instructions on a cheap sharp mint condition EDC-sized kitchen knife first! After the test run the knife should be still sharp or even sharper. That may well set the start of the 204-journey!

    Here are some additional thoughts and observations:
    • while i use an oiled Spyderco stone face for grinding/sharpening, a dry Spyderco stone face is more effective in knocking off a burr. for example a dry face of 204UF (or 302UF) can be useful for knocking off a micro burr wire edge. the pores of the dry stone swallow the micro burr ; always worth a try. however, knocking off an extremely resistant burr wire edge is yet another topic and cannot be really done with a Spyderco M/F/UF stone (and i wouldn't recommend a leather strop in that case either!), and one'd rather use something like the freehand RUBY3000 for the deburring task.
    • don't employ 204-freehanding (or the Sharpmaker) on straight edge blades. sharpening a straight edge blade with such a narrow rod will eventually introduce a concavity to the edge line; the edge won't stay straight! if you want to sharpen a straight edge (say a Spyderco Yojimbo), do it on a wider stone like the 302UF.
    • i appreciate my collection of leather strops and i use them when i can (or when i am in the mood) e.g. on non-premium steels, but a premium steel after 204-freehanding will leave nothing to be desired. deff no stropping desired! save efforts time energy when it's the reasonable thing to do!
    • (...)

    @xxo Great post thx! I was aware of those tips when i was using the Sharpmaker the conventional way back then. But the OP suggests using the 204-rods in a more freestyle way , please give it a serious try too one day!
    Last edited by kreisl; 07-04-2019 at 02:41 PM.

  6. #6

    Default Re: " 204-freehanding " — alternative usage of Spyderco's Sharpmaker 204MF

    In the past 2yrs i successfully freehanded hundreds(!) of various edges (EDC knives, kitchen knives/machines/cutlery, gardening tools, other cutting tools, etc.) to scary sharpness and in all modesty i'd call myself an advanced, very experienced sharpening dude. But it wasn't until recently that i really learned about the 100.0% detection and 100.0% removal of the burr. This was so mind-blowing (because i was thinking that i knew it all) that it's worth sharing.

    During the sharpening process, how do we check for sharpness, for progress?
    Imho the most efficient way is to try to light up the apex 'from above' with a directed light source. For example you could wear a headlamp (Olight H1 Nova), hold the knife vertically with the apex facing your chest, then slowly rotate the blade away from your chest. The apex will eventually face your eyes and you would see light reflections bouncing off the dull spots/sections of the apex line. The sharper the knife, using any diffuse light source like daylight won't cut it, you will need a small powerful flashlight for this 'flashlight trick'.

    The 'flashlight trick' can tell you within a second which 1mm spot still needs some work.
    But here comes the first lesson. A light-reflecting spot (or section) of/on the apex can mean two(!) cases: The spot is either still dull/blunt/rounded or damaged or alike, or you're seeing the light reflections from a macro burr formed at that spot! Either way you're not done yet but keep working accordingly until the entire apex stops reflecting any light 'from above'. And that's then the point where i used to call it quits, rightly so because the edge would cut tomato skin and phonebook paper like nothing. So where's the problem?

    You wouldn't expect or believe it, but most likely there is still a micro burr at the apex.
    So do check with your thumb after all, on either blade side, and be honest to yourself! And if you can or cannot feel it, we come to the second lesson: the 'flashlight trick' is not complete until you check the edge 'from behind' on either blade side. Hold the knife horizontally near your chest, with the spine facing your body. Then slowly rotate the knife axially, turning the blade downwards. At some point your headlamp's light would hit the edge at a perfect angle 'from behind' such that the micro burr reflects light into your eyes. Wow, what a revelation, just crazy!

    Now we are ready to formally distinguish and define macro burr vs micro burr.

    • macro burr is so big that it produces visible light reflections (in direction of the light source), if directed light hits the apex vertically 'from above'. macro burr ("macro wire edge") can be easily felt with your thumb and it can be reduced and eventually broken off through alternating balancing strokes. If you see broken off "wire" on your stone, that's macro burr. As soon as the apex stops reflecting light in the aforesaid manner, congrats you broke off all macro burr and your knife edge is scary sharp. And you could call it quits here. Note: Depending on the steel, macro burr cannot be reduced and/or removed through a loaded leather strop; it's not the way to go.
    • micro burr is so small that it produces invisible light reflections (in direction of the light source), if directed light hits the apex vertically 'from above'. Fortunately, micro burr ("micro wire edge") can be easily felt with your thumb, too. And with a focused/powerful light source directed 'from behind' at a proper angle it can be made visible, luckily (and who would've known?). The ambitious perfectionist will look for it and try his best to remove it. Note: Typically micro burr is extremely persistent and is even raised by balancing strokes on Spyderco UF wtf. Dedicated freaky deburring strokes on a portable RUBY3000 followed by unconventional strokes by(!) a loaded narrow wood strop seems to work okay for me to remove the micro burr.

    Coming off the Spyderco UF your edge is scary sharp and good to go but the apex still carries a micro burr ("micro wire edge"), very hard to see during daytime but easy enough to feel. Removing a persistent micro wire edge can become extremely challenging and can only be accomplished by experienced practitioners. Feel free to ignore the micro burr but don't wonder if the edge 464 dulls a bit faster than expected!

    ( i know a picture is worth a thousand words but i am not sure if people are interested in this niche topic and nobody asked for more )

  7. #7

    Default Re: " 204-freehanding " — alternative usage of Spyderco's Sharpmaker 204MF

    I just push cut some tp, if it can do this easily it is sharp w/minimal burr:

    ....if not, it is dull or has a good sized burr (also dull). Some of the sharpening gurus go well beyond this sharpness level, but this is generally sharp enough for me.

  8. #8

    Default Re: " 204-freehanding " — alternative usage of Spyderco's Sharpmaker 204MF

    Quote Originally Posted by Willh5080 View Post
    Hi! Is this good way to sharpen steak knives? I have Flyingcolors Laguiloe steak knives set (the firs one here - and some of them are blunted. I want to sharpen them but I don't have much experiencce and I don't want to ruin this knives.
    The serration pattern on those looks a lot like Cold Steel's can sharpen the larger scallops with a Sharpmaker using the corners of the white stones one at a time the whole way down without skipping to the other serrations and removing the burr from the back of the small serration teeth by laying the stone flat on the blade by hand.

    To sharpen in between the small teeth, you will need to use something else, like a jewelers file or maybe a Lansky dog bone style ceramic sharpener made specifically for Cold Steel serrations would work.
    Last edited by xxo; 04-03-2020 at 03:47 AM.

  9. #9
    Flashaholic* P_A_S_1's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2010

    Default " 204-freehanding " — alternative usage of Spyderco's Sharpmaker 204MF

    Nortons Abrasives is now making ceramic bench stones. I've tried inquiring about them as there is little info about them available (contacting Nortons was fruitless) but no luck. Wonder how they compare with spydercos stuff.
    Last edited by P_A_S_1; 04-03-2020 at 04:34 PM.

  10. #10

    Default Re: " 204-freehanding " — alternative usage of Spyderco's Sharpmaker 204MF

    Quote Originally Posted by Willh5080 View Post
    Is this good way to sharpen steak knives?
    Congrats to such a nice set of knives! The exact blade shape seems to differ slightly between the production units, some edges have an S-shape (concave section), some edge might be straight at that section. 204-freehanding (or conventional operation of the Sharpmaker 204MF product for that matter) imho should not/never be used on a straight edge because the straight edge would eventually develop a recurve (=concave section), and erh nobody wants to develop a recurve on their blade. I discussed it not long ago on B/F or so 2947.

    I must assume that the machinist manually guided the edge across a grinding wheel and simply accepted the natural development of a recurve. The main blades of Leatherman Wave & Leatherman Surge have a slightly recurved section too and nobody can make me believe that they designed that S-shape from the get-go unless they show me the CAD files. Never mind, back on topic.

    Your knife doesn't have a sharpening notch, which makes the blade "impossible" to be sharpened with precision on a traditional benchstone (even the smallest Victorinox blades have a sharpening notch a testament to Swiss precision thinking), so without a notch your blade would eventually develop a recurve anyway no matter if you used a wide flat whetstone (like 302-seriez) or a narrow stone (like 204-seriez Spyderco). In case of recurves, you can absolutely not sharpen the section with a flat stone, in mathematical theory not even with the narrow flat faces of the 204-seriez stones. In practice the "flat faces" do sharpen the recurved section nonetheless because the rounded off extremities of the faces (i.e. two stone edges at a time!) would touch the blade after all and do the sharpening. On a side note, sharpening (i.e. grinding) a recurve on the flat faces or the edges of the triangular stones will consume (or even damage) the 204-stones noticeably. Just saying.

    Short answer is yes, using the Sharpmaker 204MF the conventional way would be a good way to get your knife back sharp! Personally, i would prefer 204-freehanding (starting with back'n forth grinding movements not shown in the op's footage) because my method is faster/more effective/fun than the conventional 204MF operation.

    @Willh5080 , my advice: use the 204M stone only for the steak knives (forget about 204F and 204UF for kitchen knives). No need to buy 204D or 204CBN; 204M is very fast-cutting if you use back'n forth grinding movements at 204-freehanding. As usual, make much use of a black marker on the bevel, apex the edge uniformly, creating a burr (as small as possible) on either bevel side. Then continue to use 204M-freehanding for your deburring efforts. Good to learn, it is much easier to deburr on 204M than on the white ceramics (204F 204UF).
    Last edited by kreisl; 07-10-2020 at 02:21 AM.

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