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Unconventional (Free) Sharpening Materials

 
pollinator
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I admit it, I am an incorrigible scrounge and recycler. I hate waste. I also hate dull tools with an incandescent passion. (What a weirdo. Sighs deeply, looks downward, shakes head.) At some point, these two intersect: here's what I've learned.

1. Old, worn grinding wheels from a bench grinder:

People don't have a clue:  I have been given these, found them at the dump,  pulled them out of the free box at garage sales. As a hand tool, they will literally last you forever, and save your files in the process.

I use the flat side to put a quick-and-dirty edge on shovels, hoes, and "beater" axes and hatchets. The abrasive is hard enough to grind through a hardened (temper burned) layer on many hand tools (like the cheap fibreglass axe you use to chop roots). Not as quick as diamond, but pretty good. Grinds out nicks too. It's also good for rust removal and first-pass edge repair of scavenged tools like hedge trimmers or beater mower blades. Moisture and freeze-thaw does not seem to affect them in the slightest. My nephew broke one in half by accident; what luck -- now I have an extra for another work area.

2. The underside of paving stones:

Yeah, this makes a grinding wheel look positively elegant in comparison, but it's fast and effective. As a material, the bottoms are generally very flat and typically are made of a very dense concrete conglomerate.

Great for shovels that see hard use/abuse. I set the stones on the ground where they can't move and use the full length of handle to grind at a 45-degree angle. The edge doesn't last, of course, but you can refresh it in 10-20 strokes and keep cutting sod/gravel or whatever.

3. Ceramics:

You all know this one. It's the "bottom of a coffee cup trick" for kitchen knives (which is somewhat effective if you still have a bit of an edge left; otherwise you are tilting at windmills, though I admire your optimism). If you see black stuff on the ceramic, you are removing tiny amounts of steel.

Ceramic comes in many levels of coarseness. The coarser the material, the faster it grinds away steel. It also loads up quickly with steel "flour" and ceases to cut unless you scrub/grind away the debris.

Scrap ceramic tile is a a common source, and easy to scrounge. It's everywhere. As well, big-box stores will happily give you a bunch of samples, large and small, for free. Just say you're planning renovations and "the wife" (a phrase I loathe) wants to see how they'll look in the kitchen/bathroom. It gives you an idea of what their actual cost is -- probably  a penny per unit. If you need eco-points, take a cracked/chipped on that will be tossed out anyway.

How do you grind off the glaze? You work it on the underside of a flat paving stone. (This is also a rough-and-ready method to flatten carborundum sharpening stones that have dished out.)

Can you really polish up the blade of hard-used pruning shears with a bit of broken teacup? Yes, if you're patient. Do it outside with a cup of tea, and listen to the birds. It's a lot more satisfying than sitting in a cubicle.

4. Toothpaste:

Toothpaste (especially the nasty paste-type samples you get from the dentist) contains a micro-abrasive. It's brilliant for scrubbing rust spots out of stainless steel knives and sinks. Just put a dab on a cotton rag and polish away.

There you go, full confession. Thoughts? Additions?
 
steward & bricolagier
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Cement. I have sharpened and smoothed more things that I care to admit on cement. You can get a good long stroke on a patio or sidewalk, and a good angle on a curb.

I like the grind wheel idea, I have a pile of them too, I'll dig one out to misuse :D Thank you for that one!

As far as tile, be sure to get a piece of quarry tile, that's my favorite for sharpening with. No glaze to remove, and a nice medium fine grain, not as fine as porcelain wall tile.
 
Douglas Alpenstock
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Pearl, what exactly is quarry tile? A source of medium grit ceramic would be amazingly useful. You're right, I find that wall tile is rather too fine a grit. I am intrigued.
 
Pearl Sutton
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Quarry tile looks like this:



My dad was a master mason tile setter, I worked with him for a while (I loved it, but I'm just not strong enough to do it all day, it's very heavy work) and we put quarry tile into a lot of restaurant floors etc. It's pretty common floor tile, I saw it listed at Lowes just now when I was looking for a picture. Terracotta is also orange looking, and unglazed, but it's a very soft tile, breaks easily, often hand made or hand made looking, it's not useful for sharpening. Quarry tile is the machine made, harder, more processed version. Terracotta looks like this:


 
Douglas Alpenstock
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Good info, thanks. I guess I didn't know it was different from other type of floor tile.

Checking the big box websites, it looks pretty expensive. I'll have to ramp up my scrounging skills to get a free sample or broken piece.
 
Pearl Sutton
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Douglas Alpenstock wrote:Good info, thanks. I guess I didn't know it was different from other type of floor tile.

Checking the big box websites, it looks pretty expensive. I'll have to ramp up my scrounging skills to get a free sample or broken piece.


Check restaurant construction sites. It's pretty common in the kitchens. It's really durable and easy to clean. Could find a tile setter, ask him if he has a scrap piece or two, we had a bunch. I wish I could have moved more tile than I did when we came to MO. I had broken quarry tile to make a patio with, that stayed at my house. Broken quarry makes lovely patios.

qurry-tile-front-porch.jpg
Broken quarry tile patio
Broken quarry tile patio
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