Topic: What Will Sharpen Various Reed Knifes


I set out to find out what stone would sharpen what reed knives, and discovered the Mohs scale of hardness on Wikipedia (

The relevant hardnesses seem to be (first Mohs and then Absolute Hardness*):

Medium Steel Knives ...............................   5-6         ?   (Double hollow ground Swiss knife and double hollow ground Charles knife, for instance)
Hardened Steel ......................................   7-8       100  (Landwell knives are hardened steel, stainless steel knives are softer)
RazR-Steel ..............................................    ?           ?    (****below)   
Burnishing Steels (Sharpening Steels) ...     ?          ?   (
Corundum (Al_2 0_3 ) ............................   9.20    400  (The brown rods in my sharpener)
Carborundum (Silicon Carbide, SiC) ......    9.25    400   (Dark gray sharpening stones)
Boron Carbide (B_4 C)........................ ....  9.3      400  (?, cutting tools for lathes, tank armor, bullet proof vests)
Ceramic Stones and Rods (SiO_2 ) ........   9.5      400  (Either Aluminum, 9.2, or Silicon dioxide, 9.5, in a ceramic matrix)
Zirconium Oxide .....................................  11.0        ?     (Kyocerea knives:, $22.45)
Diamond (C) ........................................    15.0    1500  (See: DiamondVee Knife Sharpener, below** and diamond "stones"*** )

A nice discussion of knife edges and sharpening techniques can be found at I particularly like their discription of how thicker and thinner blades cut.

I find the rod sharpeners to be superior in all respects and they are rapidly becoming popular. You can either Google "ceramic rod sharpeners" or see some of the entries in the footnotes below. These rods don't wear out and they don't deform and don't deform the edges that they sharpen. No lubricant or sharpening guide is necessary, and they're very portable. (Razor Edge Products claims that all of the carborundum stones sharpen better without lubricants.)

The most fascinating, new product is the DMT DiamondVee Knife Sharpener. All of the diamond stones I've used needed a break-in period before they began to feel "smooth," so I assume that these rods would also need a break-in period--sharpen you steak knives on them before you sharpen your reed knife. These sharpening rods seem to trump Kyocera's zirconium oxide sharpening rod, because they're easier to use, cost less and are harder.

I was surprised to find that my favorite knives are not made of very hard steel. I like the Double Hollow Ground Knife by Charles best for working on tips (, and the double hollow ground Swiss knife best for working on the backs of reeds ( You can easily get a long-lasting burr on these knives with any of the white ceramic rod sharpeners. The RazR Steel is useful for adjusting their the burr without wearing out the knife. These knives have center-mounted blades and comfortable handles and are easy to use and sharpen. Another knife that shares these qualities and gets good reports is the double hollow ground Chinese knife (

If you want a one-knife-does-it-all knife, I think the best one is the Jende knife. It's heavy enough to work on backs and sharp enough to work on tips. It is hard stainless steel--but not hardened steel--sharpens easily with white ceramic sticks, and takes a long-lasting burr which can be directed with the RazR Steel.

If you can afford a Landwell knife, you should get their medium hard knife to see what a hardened steel blade is like. Reed making is a sensual experience and this knife has an interesting "hard steel" feel to it that sets it apart. According to the Mohs scale, any of the sharpening products will sharpen this very hard steel, but some of the sharpeners sharpen the knife only very slowly. The knife has a dropped edge so it's harder to use than my favorite knives, but it has a larger than average round handle that helps, somewhat, with this problem. This knife is so hard that I don't see the point in getting a hard Landwell knife, and I don't think the extra length of the hard knife is very useful.

I like a sharpener-steel combination for fast sharpening without wearing out the blade. My favorite combination for the softer steels is the white ceramic rods, followed up by the RazR steel. This combo is extremely easy to use and will adjust the burr beautifully.

Just for fun, I'm looking for a good sharpener-steel combination for the hard Landwell knives. I think, from what a number of you have told me, that the best combination is probably the DiamondVee Knife sharpening rods followed up by using the AH burnishing rods (sharpening steels) from Roger Williams. These burnishing rods (in two varieties) are bulky, but they're beautifully made tools. They are very hard and have microscopic grooves running along their mirror surfaces longitudinally--just what you need for directing a hard, Landwell burr.

Edward B. Flowers (ob)
New York City

*Measured by a sclerometer (a "scratch meter"?).
**DMT DiamondVee Knife Sharpener at :, $34.95., $38.85. (Kyocera zirconium oxide rod sharpener)
***Eze-Lap (, and DMT large diamond stone ( (9" alumina ceramic) (both carborundum and ceramic rods) (similar to knifeart sharpener)


Re: What Will Sharpen Various Reed Knifes

One way to sum up what the hardness scale means for knife sharpening is: all of the sharpening materials will sharpen all of the knives, but the harder sharpeners, like the diamond stones and rods will sharpen much, much faster.


Re: What Will Sharpen Various Reed Knifes

I have to agree about the Charles Double hollow ground knife. It is simple to get a good edge on it, works well on very thin areas, and mine has lasted years with a lot more years ahead of it. Very good value for the money. Brian Charles sells a good product.

Bill Grant
Portsmouth Symphony