Sharpening Wheels: How They Work

Sharpening wheels or grinding wheels are extremely efficient tools used for sharpening knives and any other cutting equipment. They are made of abrasive materials that come in a form of a circle (wheel). Many users love sharpening their knives with grinding wheels because they remove the minimum of metal and still make the razor look like a new one. Plus, sharpening with a wheel minimizes the risk of blade overheating.  Wheels are used for sharpening filet, butchers, hunting and professional knives. You can even use them for sharpening your cutting tools like gouge or chisel.


Safety Measures

While working with sharpening wheels, it is very important to protect yourself. Use safety glasses to prevent metal particles flying into your eyes, and put on gloves to protect your hands. The sharpening wheel can work almost anywhere as long as you have a socket to plug it in. However, the sharpening itself may result in a little mess, so you might want to avoid doing it in your living room. Sharpening knives with a wheel is easy, but you need to pay extra attention to small details.

  • The tip of the blade must be turned in the same direction as the wheel spins.
  • The blade must be placed on the wheel very gently and without pressure, otherwise you risk damaging its edge.
  • Control the sharpening time. If you hold the blade on the wheel for too long, you can destroy the knife as well.

Types of Sharpening Wheels

The most commonly used type of sharpening wheels is the paper wheel. It is produced of cardboard. That is why it is light and not as damageable as other sharpening wheels. Another peculiarity of working with a paper wheel is that its edge needs to be waxed. Put only a tiny layer of wax. Do not overdo it otherwise you will spoil the sharpening process.

Grinding wheels can be covered with different materials like metal, ceramic or diamonds. They can also be of different grain size and spacing. The larger the grain, the more metal this wheel will take from your blade. You need to remember that after sharpening with a large-grain wheel, you will need to polish your knife with a small-grain one. The grain spacing defines how many particles of abrasive material are placed on the wheel.

The wheel with small spacing will sharpen your knife quicker, but its work will also look scratchy, so the blade will need to be polished as well.

Sharpening Process

Take the knife in both hands and put it on the grain so that its tip is pointing to the same direction as the wheel is turning. The angle between the wheel and the edge should be approximately 20 degrees. Make light movements with the blade so that the wheel could be sharpened from the bottom to the top. Remember not to hold the knife on the wheel for too long because it will get hot. Yes, any blade heats up a bit. Even a built-in cooling system doesn’t help. The only alternative are so-called wet wheels like in Northern Industrial Wet Sharpening System. The key distinction of this model is that its wheel doesn’t turn so quickly as others, and it has a bath that reduces blades’ overheating.

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Michael Smith

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