This little project should take you about 20 minutes at most. Mors Kochanski recommends making one of these in his book 'Bushcraft' (of which I have a signed copy!)...
I had all the ingredients needed in my basement: 600 grit wet and dry sandpaper, double-sided carpet tape, a scrap of wood for mounting the sandpaper, a cutting board (another scrap of wood), a pencil and a piece of paper.
First of all, I applied two strips of double-sided carpet tape to the wood, ensuring the application was nice and flat. That is, I didn't overlap the tape, just kept the joint between it very close (about a 5th of a millimeter at most).
This is a pseudo-action picture, showing the tape cover being removed in a curly manner. Just imagine the fervour with which I was removing the cover strip. Close your eyes, and imagine. Okay. You're done.
Then I traced the wood with a mechanical pencil onto the rough side of the sandpaper. I could have done this prior to the previous step. It isn't that complicated. You'll see. Trust me.
Then I carefully and evenly adhered the sandpaper roughly positioned over the wood. The tracing line was just to ensure I didn't miss any area of wood. You don't want any raised areas under the sandpaper. I should have mentioned earlier that the board needs to be nice and flat, absent of any dents, bumps or hiccups.
I flipped the wood over - and using a sheet of plywood - trimmed the sandpaper cleanly to the edges of the board.
Flip it over and admire your precision achievement, as I have done above. Admire.
Tidy up the bottom. This is another action-shot. I carefully staged it.
Create a paper template and draw a handle shape on the bottom part of the wood. As above. Fold the paper over to make a symmetrical handle shape. Or do it free-hand if you are feeling wild and crazy.
You may now dispose of the paper template, or recycle it.
Now cut the handle to shape. Use your knife. Even though it isn't as sharp as it will be soon.
You can drill a hole in the handle and attach a lanyard to it. You can sand the handle smooth and apply some oil to stain it. You can apply gold leaf to it to really jazz it up.
The final step is to use it. Wet the paper. I held mine under the bathroom tap and sharpened the knife there. Stop the water flowing, and let a slurry of metal paste build up as you slowly work the blade over the paper. The speed with which you stroke the blade over the abrasive is much less important, as holding the bevel is carefully to the surface. You'll get faster over time.
You'll need to stroke the knife probably 30 times per side. Then it will be ready for stropping on a leather strop (I use an old belt, tied to the wall). Stropping will remove the 'wire' that builds up on the edge as a consequence of sharpening or honing the blade.
A good sharp knife can slice through a piece of typing paper with no additional pressure other than the weight of the knife. Also, you know the knife is ready for surgery (seriously), cutting meat, shaving, or cutting wood if you can shave hair with the blade from a wet forearm painlessly. You'll only need to touch the blade up from time to time after this.
If you have any questions, e-mail me or leave a comment below.
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