A question often asked is, “How in the world do I sharpen seat belt cutters?” It’s not really as difficult as you might think. All you need is the correct sharpener.
The Best Sharpener for Seat Belt Cutters
Because you’re sharpening a cutting tool that has limited access to the actual cutting edge, I recommend something like the DMT FSKC serrated sharpener. It is a coarse-grit, diamond-coated, tapered rod commonly known as a rattail file.
Sharpening Seat Belt Cutters
Working the cutting edge from the ground side only, carefully work the file with light pressure, ensuring you run it over all of the exposed cutting edge.
On the reverse side of the blade, which is flat, feel very carefully for the burr that will form. Once you feel the burr, you know you have done it right. On the flat side, take the rattail file and, holding it as flat to the blade as you can, lightly “wipe off ” the burr. You might have to return to the ground side to wipe it back to the flat side.
Stropping Seat Belt Cutters
Another thing that helps is stropping the inside of the hook with a leather shoelace. Have someone hold the unsheathed/opened blade by the handle for you, then firmly grasp both ends of the shoelace and lightly “floss” the inside of the cutting hook. Move the leather string only in one direction—down the cutting edge. If you move into the edge, it will cut the shoelace in two.
Repeat the correct motion a few times to strop the ground side. It is basically the same principle as stropping a straight razor.
Provided you don’t use the cutting hook for anything outrageous, such as cardboard, and you use it sparingly, you won’t need to sharpen or strop often. However, in the event you do need to restore the edge, this is how it’s done.
Recurve blades throw some folks off when it comes to edge maintenance because the lines of the curving edges do not fit those of more common blade patterns. Truth is, with the proper sharpener, re-sharpening recurve blades is just as easy as any more common blade pattern—and here are some sharpening rods well suited for the job.
Lansky LCD02 Diamond Carbide Sharpening Rod
At a manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) of $19.99, the sharpener represents a good value in the genre.
The LCD02 Diamond Carbide Sharpening Rod from Lansky marries the effectiveness of a diamond abrasive with the convenience of a retractable sharpening rod and the expediency of a pull-through carbide sharpener all in one package.
“The Lansky tactical sharpening rod is a must-have tool for any trip into the field,” says Barbara Worden, Lansky national sales manager. “It makes short work of dressing and honing knives, machetes, hatchets and axes.”
The LCD02 is designed to quickly and easily handle any type of knife—large or small, fixed blade or folder—and most common steels found on today’s production knives. The coarse-grit diamond rod also can be used with recurve blades, as the rounded profile—and this is a key to handling any sort of recurve edge—allows you to effectively sharpen the recurve’s flowing curves. When not in use, simply retract the rod into the handle to protect it from damage during transport. The whole package is compact and stows easily in a tacklebox, toolbox, glove box, or any sort of backpack or storage container.
With recurve blades the carbide portion of the sharpener is pretty much impossible to use, so you will need to use the retractable diamond rod only. Employ light pressure as you work the blade down the rod. A nice feature is the carbide draw-through sharpener’s flat base. It stabilizes the unit, preventing it from rolling during use. Handle knurling adds a nice, non-slip grip.
According to Worden, the pull-through/diamond rod combo unit can serve as a kubaton/striking instrument, too. The LCD02 is the longest of the three sharpeners tested, which translates well as an impromptu kubaton, but the added length makes it less compact. If the carbide portion would be omitted, that would shorten the length to where the LCD02 would be more compact and travel friendly.
AccuSharp Diamond Sharpening Rod
The sharpener’s compact size makes it easy to carry.
“The retractable rod is engineered with a cone-shaped end for use on serrations and tight spaces,” says Kelly Clark, sales manager of Fortune Products, Accusharp’s parent company.
In the fully retracted position, the rod extends by unscrewing the knurled nut and pulling the rod out of the handle some, then re-tightening the nut to secure the rod in the extended position.
The rounded profile allows it to follow the edge of a recurve blade. The overall diameter is similar to that of a pen, and it includes a steel pocket clip. The rod also has sharpening grooves for hooks, darts and other pointed objects.
It is a pretty simple model construction wise but works well. The only thing I saw that could be improved is the overall diameter of the handle/body. Adding a bit of thickness would make it much easier to hold but also would increase weight and bulk. As is, it carries very well in multiple ways.
EZE-Lap Retractable Diamond Sharpening Rod
The EZE-Lap exhibits very good quality manufacturing.
Similar in nature to the AccuSharp, the EZE-Lap Retractable Diamond Sharpening Rod is another compact, rod-based sharpener that stores easily. Unlike the AccuSharp, the EZE-Lap has a brass handle, which looks nice compared to the anodized aluminum of the other review models.
Measuring 3.25 inches long, the sharpening rod does not retract into the handle.
Instead, it unscrews from and inserts into the handle, and then screws back down. In other words, it stows similarly to a capped fountain pen. A nice touch not found on many sharpeners of this type is the full knurled handle. The knurling aids in achieving a non-slip grip and works well wet or dry. The knurling adds confidence by not allowing the handle to rotate inadvertently in your hand.
Unlike other knife sharpeners of the type, the diamond coated steel rod does not have a tapered end for serrations. However, the EZE-Lap will handle any size of plain edge blade, including recurves, and does so quite well. The quarter-inch-diameter rod is coated with a diamond substrate that allows the sharpener to easily remove metal and restore dull edges quickly. It comes with a belt sheath for an alternative carry option. It is the only sharpener herein that comes with a belt sheath—a nice touch and added value.
The EZE-Lap exhibits very good quality manufacturing. Part of this is from the brass handle, so its appearance alone makes it stand out. The only thing I would change, like with the AccuSharp, is the handle diameter. I would make it slightly bigger for ease of holding onto in use.
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Editor’s note: All images are courtesy of their respective manufacturers.
Today’s sporting cutlery market is flooded with some very good foreign-made knives, and it may seem USA-made models are threatened in terms of quality, but nothing could be further from the truth. The American knife industry is still the leader of the pack.
USA all the Way, Even When It Gets Tough
Emerson Knives, Inc., and president/founder/custom knifemaker Ernest Emerson are unabashedly pro-American made. Emerson founded the company in 1997 on the principle of designing and building the best USA-made production tactical knives anywhere.
Along with his wife Mary, Ernest has consistently grown the company by listening to what consumers want. Emerson knives are 100 percent made in the USA, right down to the screws. Emerson is an ardent supporter of the military, law enforcement and other first responders, another good reason why it’s so important that the company’s knives be made entirely in the USA.
Nonetheless, there are downsides.
“There are very few advantages in building a manufacturing operation in America,” Emerson says, citing state and federal taxes and ever-increasing regulations. It’s actually tough for a business to remain competitive here. However, I believe it’s worth the effort, restrictions and extra burden because I will do anything for America. I know my business is putting Americans to work with American wages who can earn a living in this country.”
He adds that the taxes he and his employees pay go directly to supporting the country and the U.S. military and its infrastructure.
“We have to manage our business smarter, more efficiently and more strategically to ensure a profitable and viable existence,” he stresses.
It’s the same attitude that makes the Commander and CQC7 models the company’s best sellers. The CQC7 is durable and comes in three sizes and two distinct blade shapes. A sexy piece with its ergonomic handle paired with a recurved clip-point blade, the Commander is a formidable cutting tool that comes in five iterations, each varying in size. Maintaining the popularity of these knives down the road is important to Emerson.
â”In order to stay viable,” he notes, “I believe the future lies in the industry’s ability to design and build knives that the consumer really wants.”
CJ Buck, president of Buck Knives, says a major advantage to having knives made in the USA is owning the integrity of the manufacturing processes.
“Consistent processes create consistently performing products,” he begins. “It also ensures product quality improvements are held as processes evolve.”
Another advantage is heightened flexibility and responsiveness.
“We can fix a design or quality issue quickly or adjust to spikes in our forecast since the partnerships between our factory and our USA vendors can be aligned immediately,” he explains.
On the other hand, domestic production carries its own set of challenges.
“When importing, if you need to add capacity you simply contract with another factory or, on the other side, cut a factory off,” he explains. Stateside you have to invest in more equipment, people and buildings. Consequently, as Buck laments, “If you are forced to reduce your output, the pain and loss of investment is in laying workers off.”
As for the future of American knife manufacturing, Buck is optimistic.
“The United States continues to lead in innovation,” he states. “Our culture and national character give us a substantial, sustainable advantage in that area.”
“Made in the USA” Means Better Quality Control
Microtech Knives built a solid reputation in the 1990s on designing and making some of the market’s most progressive production tactical folders, and continues to push the envelope. Why manufacture in the USA?
“So we are able to keep flaws to a minimum and catch mistakes early on,” reasons Hank Greenberg, the company’s custom shop manager, adding that if a company offers a solid made-in-the-USA knife with quality materials, then consumers will have no problem paying a fair price for it.
Americans build Microtech’s knives, such as the Ultratech out-the-front (OTF) auto and Socom Delta tactical folder.
Taking Care of Fellow Americans
HTM Knives is based in Forney, Texas. An acronym for Hand Tech Made, HTM was founded by knifemaker Darrel Ralph as a result of an ever-growing demand for his custom models. HTM allowed him to offer his designs to more people at a lower price and accelerated delivery times.
According to Ralph, HTM makes its knives in the USA “to take care of Americans and to take care of the people who take care of us. By having our knives made in the USA, we have total control on quality.”
Ralph says the Gun Hammer and Mad Maxx are HTM’s best-selling knives. Both began as full customs, so it made sense to produce them under the HTM banner. For the Gun Hammer alone, HTM offers several iterations in varying blade shapes, finishes, steels and coats.
“The military likes both knives and guns made in the USA,” Ralph notes. He says his Gun Hammer and 18 X-Ray automatic are among HTM’s best sellers with military customers. The company also offers designs by such makers as Kirby Lambert and Greg Lightfoot.
Ralph indicates there is a 23 percent scrap rate for knives made overseas.
“You have to figure in for that rate,” he says of foreign-made knives. By having their knives made in the USA, he reasoned, the HTM brain trust has total control over the processes, and can rectify any production issues that might arise before they become a problem.
When it comes to the advantages of knives made in America, Ralph says U.S. companies have access to the best steel and high-end materials.
It should come as no surprise then that Ralph says there is a huge upswing in companies manufacturing knives stateside. He specifically cited Buck Knives, who has been returning some models to “made-in-USA” status after previously being off shore produced. He also noted a growing trend of custom makers offering mid-tech/semi-production knives.
“They are growing the American market instead of stealing from it,” he observes. “That’s what we need in the knife industry.”
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Many knife users/collectors opt for high-performance blade steels such as CPM S30V, CPM 154, 154CM, CPM S35VN, BG-42, CTS 204P, CTS XHP and others. These high grades of stainless offer maximum edge holding, though at a price—and that price comes due when you resharpen the blades. Since these steels excel at wear resistance and can hold an edge for a long time, it also makes them difficult to resharpen. It’s a tradeoff you must consider when buying knives with premium blade steels.
Ergo, especially if you’re going to sharpen the knives yourself, it’s imperative you buy a sharpener that can address such steels effectively. If you’re new to the super steels, not only is selection of the proper sharpener critical but the necessary investment of time is also required.
With the proper sharpener, that time can be kept to a minimum.
Enter Diamond-Coated Sharpeners
Historically, diamond-coated sharpeners are at the upper echelon for sharpening knives. They are the most durable and longest lasting. The tradeoff is price. They are generally more expensive but you must bear in mind that unlike other sharpeners that can break or eventually wear out, there is almost nothing to break or wear out with a diamond sharpener.
Once you buy it, if you can keep from losing it, it should last your lifetime.
AccuSharp Diamond Paddle Sharpener
AccuSharp’s Diamond Paddle Sharpener model 051C is a double-sided model featuring both coarse (320) and fine (600) grits. At a healthy .75 by 3.75 inches, it has a large diamond-coated sharpening surface.
The big surface enables the 051C to address all types of knives, from multi-blade slip joints to large fixed-blade hunters. It includes a sharpening groove for use with all kinds of hooks, darts and other pointed items. It features handles similar to a butterfly knife’s that fold up around the sharpening surface, protecting it from damage during transport or storage. The handles feature a secure gripping surface as well.
The 051C works very well. With a diamond sharpener, use light pressure and let the abrasives do the work.
Too much pressure and you can dislodge the diamond particles, reducing the sharpener’s effectiveness. I like the sharpener’s two sides, which eliminate the need to carry a separate finer-grit sharpener to fine tune the edge. When done re-profiling the edge with the coarse side, just flip the 051C over and continue your work to refine the edge.
Another thing I like about the 051C is the rubber overmold gripping area. With or without gloves or wet hands, the sharpener is comfortable to hold. It never felt unsecure in my grip. Along with the rubber overmold, the thickness of the handles adds to comfort by filling my grip easier.
However, I can see where the girth can also be a downside, making the 051C difficult to stow in tight quarters like a zippered pouch or glove box.
Diamond Machining Technology Diafold
In my opinion the most iconic product made by Diamond Machining Technology (DMT) is the single-sided Diafold diamond whetstone sharpener. DMT’s sharpeners are easily recognizable by their trademark round polka-dot sharpening surface. They offer near-perfect grit-size consistency across the sharpening surface.
The Diafold is a compact sharpener with a flat form factor, allowing it to be carried in a large pocket, toolbox, glovebox, tackle box or carry bag. The handles double as a carrying case, folding up to conceal the sharpening surface and protect it from damage during transport.
Each DMT sharpener is color-coded according to grit, so, once you learn the codes, it’s easy to identify each grit by its color. The clear handles make identification easy and are a nice touch, so there’s no mistake which grit you have.
The Diafold works exceptionally well. It has been on the market many years and in my opinion is pretty much the gold standard when it comes to compact handheld sharpeners. It easily addresses all types of high performance stainless steels with ease. The fine grit carefully constructs the final edge keenly, and is for use only after re-profiling the edge employing a coarse-grit sharpener.
An improvement I recommend would be to make the sharpener a bit thicker to give the handles some width, which in turn would make it easier to hold—especially for an extended period of time sharpening several knives in one sitting.
Still, as is it functions well and, when the handles are folded, the thin profile makes it easy to pack.
“In the 1970s when [Mrs. Gail Glesser] and I started selling knife sharpeners at local fairs, we were buying and selling other people’s sharpeners,” begins BLADE Magazine Cutlery Hall-Of-Fame® member Sal Glesser, CEO and founder of Spyderco. One of the sharpeners the Glessers sold was a V-stick type that they liked, though they identified some of its shortcomings. “We invented the Tri-Angle Sharpmaker because, while similar to the [V-stick] sharpener, it solved many sharpening challenges/problems the [V-stick] couldn’t perform,” he says.
One of those problems is the V-stick model could not sharpen serrated blades. Enter the Sharpmaker’s triangular-shaped rods, which allow it to address both plain edges on the rods’ flats and serrations using the “points” of the triangle.
With the advent of higher-performance steels, the Sharpmaker’s ceramic rods were underpowered, so the company devised the 204CBN (Cubic Boron Nitride) Tri-Angle hones. The CBN hones work exceptionally well addressing dull or damaged blades. They can reprofile edges efficiently, handling not only the super stainless steels but all steel types. Like the ceramic Tri-Angle hones, the CBN easily addresses both plain and serrated edges.
As with the ceramic rods, a groove running the length of the CBN rod’s length allows for sharpening pointed objects and tools. The CBN material is what Spyderco calls a “super abrasive” second in hardness to diamond.
The CBN hones cost extra. The 204CBN complements the included medium- and fine-grit ceramic hones well. Once you re-establish the new cutting edge, switch to the medium and fine ceramic hones to further fine-tune it to razor sharpness. The CBN hones work on any blade length, fixed or folding.
Once you set the sharpener up, start your blade from where the edge starts closest to the tang and run it down the hone, at the same time pulling the blade back toward you, ensuring the hone contacts the entire length of the cutting edge all the way to the tip. Hence, you’re doing two simultaneous motions—moving down the hone and pulling the blade back toward you. Do it all with light pressure.
An improvement I would recommend would be to include a set of CBN hones as standard with the Sharpmaker. The CBN hones speed up the process of edge recreation. Granted, the addition would increase the Sharpmaker’s cost but the increase would be justified.
DMD Double-Sided Bench Stone
The DMD double-sided bench stone sports two different grits: a coarse 400 and fine 1,000. The base is molded ABS plastic and features wide, anti-skid rubber feet to keep the sharpener in place while working on a flat table, counter or bench. The sharpening surface sits in a cavity of the base. To change grits, flip the hone over and return it to the base.
A hex-like pattern on both sharpening surfaces removes the tiny metal particles so they won’t collect and clog the surfaces as you sharpen the blade.
Work with the DMD and discover the convenience of a double-sided diamond bench stone, a rarity among such stones. The coarse side easily and quickly re-establishes worn edges to sharp. After you establish the primary edge, flip the sharpening surface over to the fine side and fine-tune the blade.
The DMD did a great job on CPM S30V and CPM 154. Keep in mind that since this isn’t an angle guide-type sharpener where the angle is held consistent for you, extra care/consideration is required to get a nice edge.
Try using a permanent marker to color in the entire cutting edge on both sides of the blade. As you sharpen, note where the ink is removed and where it remains on the cutting edge. By doing so you can adjust your angle accordingly to capture the entire cutting edge and, therefore, keep the angle consistent for a sharp blade.
Butterfly knives (aka “balisongs”) have evolved into meticulously crafted pieces of cutlery. Many of the best capitalize on state-of-the-art blade and handle materials coupled with progressive and modern designs that advance the genre toward the close of the century’s second decade.
Brous Blades B3
The B3 from Brous Blades is a modern butterfly knife with its stainless steel handles and D2 recurve tanto blade style. The handle interiors have cavities milled out to reduce weight. The knife has great action as a result, without the need to use bearings in the pivots. MSRP will vary depending on the finish, though this one is $320.
Bear Ops Bear Song VI
The hollow-ground 1095 carbon steel blade of the Bear Ops Bear Song VI has great edge geometry for all your cutting chores. A textured black epoxy coating guards against corrosion. MSRP: $174.99.
Mantis Knives Vuja De
The Vuja De from Mantis Knives marries the karambit’s large finger ring and hook-shaped blade with the free-swinging individual handles of a butterfly knife. The scales are textured black G-10 for both durability and grip quality. The blade is Mantis’ proprietary MV-1 stainless steel.
Emerson Knives Bali Commander & CQC7
The recurve clip-point blade of the Bali Commander (left) from Emerson Knives, Inc., is easily sharpened using a round profile sharpener to effectively capture the blade’s gentle sweeping curve.
The Emerson Bali CQC7 (right) in the background sports the chisel-ground blade like that of the iconic Emerson CQC7 tactical folder.
The Quick Edge works like most other pull-through-type sharpeners. It consists of a sturdy plastic handle with a D-guard, and there is a pair of tungsten-carbide cutters in the sharpener’s head set at a pre-set angle of 20 degrees.
How It Works
The pull-through sharpener works on the principle of scraping a tiny amount of steel from the edge to reconfigure it to a crisp “V” shape. Pull-through sharpeners require very little skill to master—just pull the sharpener head over the entire cutting edge a few times and you’ve got a sharp knife. The Quick Edge is fast, convenient and safe, too, thanks to the D-guard that prevents accidental cuts during sharpening.
The handle’s understated, user-friendly finger grooves enhance grip, and the D-guard is large enough to accommodate a gloved hand comfortably and securely.
A thumb rest on the handle enables you to use your thumb to aid in providing downward pressure during sharpening.
Using the Quick Edge
Place the knife you want to sharpen edge up on a sturdy work surface. Firmly grip the knife’s handle with one hand and, with the other hand, place the Quick Edge cutting head down on the cutting edge at the area closest to the tang.
With light to moderate pressure, drag the sharpener over the edge in one motion, going toward the blade tip. Once you reach the tip, replace the sharpener where you started and repeat the process several times until you have a sharp edge.
Due to how pull-through sharpeners work—not just the Quick Edge but most pull-through models—I caution against using them with high-quality using knives, including customs. However, if you need a good, serviceable edge for inexpensive working or hunting knives, the Quick Edge is for you.
For instance, if you do a lot of machete work, the Quick Edge should be your cup of tea. When the edge gets dull, sharpen it with a series of pulls and you can go right back to work. The edge the Quick Edge creates will not be as sharp or uniform as one provided by any of Lansky’s clamp-style sharpening kits—hence my recommendation against using the Quick Edge on high-quality cutlery.
Nonetheless, the pull-through model provides a nice, serviceable edge for cutting/chopping outdoor knives that see a lot of use and, perhaps, abuse.
Stored in a tackle box or toolbox, the Quick Edge is ideal for fast stock removal in the field and works best with low- to mid-grade blade steels.
Invest in a good bench stone. You have the natural ones like the Arkansas stones and the manmade ones such as the Norton India stone. There are also the diamond-bonded stones that many companies produce.
2) Color the Edge
With a black ink permanent marker, color the entire cutting edge or primary bevel on both sides of the blade. The objective is to sharpen off the black ink. After you remove the ink from both sides of the blade, it will be sharp.
3) Adjust Accordingly
Take a few strokes on the stone and then examine the edge bevel. If you see ink toward the top of the bevel, decrease the angle of the blade to the stone. Conversely, if you see ink toward the bottom of the bevel, increase the angle to capture that part.
4) Remove the Ink
After you sharpen the ink from the cutting edge, you will have to remove any stray marker ink. A liquid-based adhesive and paint remover is ideal for the job. Place a few drops on a paper towel and very carefully wipe the cutting edge.
After you get the hang of it, skip the permanent marker step. Congratulations, you’re now a freehand sharpening pro!