Beginners Guide to the Wicked Edge
This page is a guide for the new user in setting up and using the Wicked Edge. It provides more detail as well as links to other pages of interest.
Make sure you have all the parts, and the Wicked Edge is correctly assembled.
A pdf page with a packing list, and setup instructions can be found here: Pro Pack II Assembly. (It also contains a part list for the Pro Pack I and II).
For your first couple of sharpenings, consider selecting a practice knife that is fairly easy to sharpen, and not a high end or custom knife. A 3-4 inch kitchen or pocket knife, or small hunting knife is a good choice. It should also be a knife you can practice on, without worry of messing up. This gives you the opportunity to become familiar with the system, as well as give your diamond stones the opportunity to break in.
Additional Setup Tips
While not necessary, consider lightly sanding the bottom screw of the clamp. This screw pushes against the opposite clamp, and if it has any rough edges, can dig into the clamp. (Note: this does not cause any sharpening issues... more of a cosmetic issue).
Also consider adding a small drop of lubricating oil to the end of the bottom screw. Makes tightening much easier. (Be careful not to overtighten!!)
For a location, pick an area free from distractions, and with good lighting. The sharpener should be comfortable to work, the base usually a little above waist level.
Clamping the Knife
Most knives clamp without issue. Set the depth using either the upper or lower holes on the clamp. The angles are calibrated for a knife that extends 5/8" (15.875mm) above the clamp. Insert the depth key with the horizontal alignment guide ruler at the appropriate height. Consider taping the spine of the knife, especially when learning, so that, if the knife slips in the clamp, it won't scratch the sides.
Set the width of the clamp, so it's the same as, or just slightly wider than the knife. Tighten the top screw first, then the bottom screw, to lock the blade in.
You also need to set the knife so that the amount of metal removed as you approach the tip is consistent with the rest of the bevel. To do this, the knife is adjusted horizontally, (changing the distance from the clamp to the tip). This can be done by marking the edge with a Sharpie (see "Setting the Angle" section), and adjusting the knife so the marker is removed along the entire bevel, or center of the bevel, as you approach the tip. A description of this method can be found here: Positioning your Knife Front to Back.
Once you have the knife properly positioned, you'll want to record your settings for future reference. This is one of the key concepts of the Wicked Edge... the ability to quickly replicate your previous work, so you can quickly touch up a knife without having to grind in a new edge every time.
There is a Knife Database that other users contribute to, with the settings they've used on a particular knife. A good reference to check to see what others are doing. (And when you're done, add your results to it.)
One knife that some users have trouble with, is the "Full Flat Grind" (FFG), which is a knife that tapers from spine to tip. If you pay attention, you can clamp the blade by insuring that it stays vertical as you tighten the screws. Additionally, you can use a small piece of foam tape on the clamps, or use a thin piece of leather or moleskin wrapped around the spine where it is clamped. Additional tips can be found here: Sharpening a Fully Flat Ground Blade.
Additional Info on Clamping the Knife
The following tips (in bold) are from an excellent post from forum member tcmeyer:
I've watched a few videos of WEPS users at work on this site and believe that most don't really understand the principles of the vise mechanism.
The designer intended that the top screw (the clamp screw)is used to set the clamp distance (the opening between the jaws), and the lower screw (the jack screw) is used to create the very high clamp force required.
To avoid excessive wear and galling of the threads, the clamp screw should be used only to apply enough force to position the blade. The jack screw is used to create very high clamping force by means of the lever principle. Think of this as a common pliers. The clamp screw is the pin (fulcrum). You apply an amplified force to the workpiece by applying force at the far end of the handles.
Keeping this in mind, there is no need to apply more force than necessary to the clamp screw. Except for very large blades, it needn't be tightened more than snug - just so the blade stays put.
The jack screw is capable of producing oodles of clamp force with only a modest amount of torque. For most small-to-medium blades only about a quarter of a turn past the point of contact is required. I believe this is also what is recommended by WE. If you apply too much torque, you are applying excess bending stress to the opposite jaw. Remember that every extra 1/4- turn bends the clamping jaw that much farther.
The threads in the aluminum alloy clamp aren't intended to endure the very high frictional (galling) forces created when high amounts of torque are applied to the screws. Moving a hard metal across the surface of a softer metal at high pressure results in galling, where bits of the softer metal are torn from their natural positions. This is often what happens when you "strip" the threads of an aluminum block. Extend the life of your vise by using only the required amount of screw torque.
I suggest also that you lubricate the screw threads with some anti-seize grease. I use RCBS re-sizing lube.
Setting the Angle
Determining the angle to sharpen at, is one of the most asked questions. When starting, there are two methods. One method, is to follow the suggestions in the User's Guide. The 2nd method, and perhaps the one recommended for new users, is to match the angle that is currently on the knife. This is done by marking the edge with a Sharpie, or other marker, making a light pass with a fine stone and adjusting the angle until the stone removes the marker from the majority of the bevel. A description of this method can be found here: How to Find your Angle. By matching the angle that is on the knife, you can concentrate on the sharpening process, and achieve a sharp knife without spending a lot of time (and maybe becoming a little frustrated).
The Calibration Points of the Wicked Edge
The Wicked Edge angles, like all angle controlled sharpeners, are based on certain "calibration points". Being aware of these points will help in determining how to setup your knife and angles.
- Height: The angles are based on a knife that extends 5/8 inch above the top of the clamp. For a knife that is higher, the angle sharpened will be smaller than indicated.
- Width: The angles are based on a knife that is no wider than .125 inches. For wider knives, adjust the right angle only out 1 degree for every .125 in. in thickness. (This is an approximation, for example a knife that is slightly wider, say .130 in. probably doesn't need this adjustment)
- Length: There is no calibration for length, since the angle does not change along the straight portion of an edge. So always set the knife based on the contact of the stone to the belly/tip area.
If you have a digital angle gauge, using this in combination with the above guide, will help to quickly and accurately set your angles. Even with out the angle gauge, using this guide will help "dial in" the correct angle.
Always record your settings, so you can quickly and easily repeat the previous sharpening!
Using the Digital Angle Gauge
AN angle cube allows one to set the angle EXACTLY.
1. Set your knife in the sharpener and decide the angle (ie. 18 per side.)
2. Put the angle cube on the base of the sharpener and zero it.
3. Put the stone on the sharpening rod and set the pre-marked scale to 18 degrees.
4. Lay the stone against the knife as if you were going to start sharpening
5. Put the Angle Cube on the side of the sharpening stone that is not against the knife .....
6. READ THE ANGLE. It probably will NOT be 18 (due to inherent differences in the height of each knife being sharpened.)
7. Adjust the angle until it reads 18 on the Angle Cube
You now have a true 18 degrees.
(Posted by R.JeffreyCoates in the forum.)
Sharpening is pretty straightforward. Begin on one side at the heel (back) of the knife, with the stone as low as it will go. Using light pressure, move the stone down the edge, at the same time going up the rod. Stop as you reach the tip. Be careful not to rotate the stone around the tip or you can grind it off. Go slow... speed comes with experience. It doesn't take long to learn the technique and pick up the pace, it will take longer to "unlearn" a wrong technique.
After learning the above, the second technique is for setting a bevel on a very dull knife, lowering the angle, or fixing some minor damage. This technique is "scrubbing" the stone, (usually a coarse stone), up and down as you move the stone down the edge. Again, start slow, use light pressure, and pay attention... you can remove metal faster than you realize.
Things to watch for during sharpening
Some additional points to watch for during sharpening include:
- Look at what's happening on the knife. Make sure metal is being removed where you want, and not being removed where you don't.
- Don't set too low of an angle. Rare, but make sure the stones aren't contacting the clamp or screws.
- Wipe the blade between stones, and especially between strops, so that you don't cross contaminate them.
My knife isn't as sharp as I thought...
Some users, after sharpening a couple of knives, don't get the results they expect, especially after watching a few videos where other users are getting shaving or "hair whittling" edges. There are a few reasons for this.
- Break-in of the diamond stones. The diamond stones, when new, are a bit more aggressive than their actual rating. As they're used, they settle in, and perform closer to their rating.
- Not sharpening all the way to the edge, is another common mistake. There is a misconception in sharpening, that if X number of strokes are applied, the knife will be sharp. One way to tell if you've reached the edge is to create a burr. A burr is a small piece of metal that folds over when the edge is reached. You can see an example here: Creating a burr. The easiest way to know you've reached the edge, ties into marking the edge with a Sharpie marker... when you've removed the marker all the way to the edge, chances are you've reached it.
- Too much pressure. Another technique to pay attention to, is how much pressure is applied. Lighter is better, and its often lighter than you think. It doesn't take much for the diamond stones, ceramics or strops to do their work.
Here's an excellent quote from Geocyclist:
DO NOT be disappointed with your first or 5th knife. A.) It takes 5 - 10 or so knives to break in the diamond stones. The first knife will probably not blow your mind. B.) Your technique will improve. It took me to about my 7th knife to finally say I had a Wicked sharp edge, with mirror polish, even bevels, etc.. My first two knives I was worried I had wasted my money. By knife #5 I wasn't worried any more about if I had wasted my money on the WE. Your first two knives or so should be ones you don't care much about or worry about messing up. (Reference)
- Check this page, My knife isn't as sharp as I thought... for more information.
A Basic Instructions page for using the Wicked Edge
The Wicked Edge FAQ
The Wicked Edge Forum. Here you'll find many members, both new and experienced, ready to help with any questions you might have. Join today!