Brainerd, Minn. – I first started bow hunting for deer when I was 14. We had only a few choices back then for arrowheads. None of them came presharpened.
I chose to use ones called Bear Razorheads. The two-bladed heads were outfitted with what were called bleeder blades, which slid inside a slot cut in the main frame of the broadhead, essentially converting a two-blade head into a four-blade head. I reasoned that this feature also allowed for easy sharpening because a hunter could lay the broadhead on a sharpening stone at the proper angle without the bleeder blades getting in the way. A great idea.
I was a kid with no training on how to sharpen broadheads, knives or any other tackle I might use while hunting or fishing, so I spent hours honing equipment on various-grit sharpening stones. My goal was to attain a fine edge that would shave the peach fuzz on my arms.
I distinctly recall sitting in front of the television for hours in my attempt, while my dad watched, slouched in his easy chair and smoking his pipe.
"Haven't you got that sharp enough?" he'd ask.
It took me years before I realized that the key to a sharp edge on broadheads, knives or any other cutting tool was to begin with the blade contacting the stone at the proper angle. I feel a bit foolish for not realizing sooner that I was doing something wrong.
Years passed, and I finally became proficient at attaining the right edge. I took pride in showing off a tool that would shave hair with a light stroke. Still, I dreaded the sharpening process. I tried several devices where you simply draw a knife blade through a so-called sharpening device to no avail.
Things changed a year ago. I was watching an infomercial about a tool called the Work Sharp that would supposedly make sharpening just about any tool an easy task. I know … an infomercial? I could count on one hand how many times I had made a purchase via a TV commercial.
I liked what I saw after the half-hour pitch. The host explained what I already knew: The blade angle to the stone (or in this case a sanding belt) was crucial. I watched as the guy took a dull knife and honed it to sharp perfection in a minute or two.
I was sold, game for anything to avoid using my old, well-worn stones.
My Work Sharp arrived in the mail and I immediately watched the instructional DVD. The kit includes five different grinding belts, from extra coarse to extra fine.
The tool incorporates guides to aid in holding the knife at just the proper angle. No guesswork involved.
I started with my kitchen knives and used a coarse belt. The idea is to first attain the proper angle (25 to 35 degrees) and to remove enough of the blade's edge so that a burr is raised. Then I switched to finer-grade belts to finish the process.
I ended up with a half-dozen kitchen knives that were scary sharp. That description might be a bit confusing because we all know a dull knife is more dangerous because of the extra manual force needed to cut. Thus, if the dull knife should slip, one has a chance of stabbing something, be it a hand or arm. Conversely, as should be scary sharp knife cuts with ease; no excess force needed.
The Work Sharp system is not cheap, but I don't regret buying it. I chose to buy the special Ken Onion edition, and I'm glad I did. The Work Sharp is not just a knife sharpener. It can be used to hone hatchets, axes and even lawnmower blades.
Bill Marchel is an outdoors photographer and writer. He lives near Brainerd. Reach him at email@example.com.