what do you mean by "tuning" the shaving blade? And when you say you get a year out of a blade, what would that be in ,say, elk or deer capes shaved?
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Tuning a blade means that the cutting edge is tuned to run true and straight, but most of all, canted only a slight amount so as to remove flesh and shave a hide when pressed down on it, but NOT bite into the hide and pull it deeper. A blade needs constant tuning so that it does not create unnecessary work. A blade cuffed too far down will make you pull the hide tauter over the wheel and it will kill you and your back. One not cuffed properly will dig into the hide and rip holes all the way through the skin. That's what tuning steels do.
As far as WHAT I flesh, I do about 50 deer in an average year, half a dozen black bears, 2 or 3 damned skeet goats from game farms, half a dozen boars, a moose or two and an elk or two. I also run all my foxes, raccoons, and coyotes over the wheel. Not many days go by without that machine being run.
I also use a carborundum stone to hone the edge of my blades though most manufacturers discourage it. When my blades get to the point that there is no lip any longer to work with, THEN I get them resharpened or I replace them with new ones.
Available at any welding supply. I have used it for 22 years and I always have had great success with the material. It used to be radiated (2% Thoriated), but federal regulations have done away with that. The regular tungsten is hard enough for the knife.
I use it for making my own sharpening steels.
And how do you use it to hone the edge of your blade? I only use the tungsten steels for the edge, then I go to the grinder for the new turning of a new edge.
It's a trademark name for silicone carbide abrasive stones that you can buy at your local hardware store. It's stronger than Arkansas stone and hones the edge of the blade easily. Your tuning steels really don't "sharpen" the blade as they align it. You should never press your steels so hard as to make sparks appear as this is a result of heat and caused the edge to lose temper.
I used to have tuning steels that were hard enough that they didn't wear out (they did disappear, unfortunately), but now I can only find steels that wear away with use. I try to have a light touch in using them, but they just seem to be very soft. Even after several years of shaving, I still struggle with having a good consistant sharpening technique. I can usually achieve the edge that you're talking about where you don't have to hold the hide too tight, and it doesn't bite chunks out of the hide, but I could never make a blade last through the amount of capes you're talking about.
We do about 50 deer also, and bears, cougars, etc., but also about 40 elk capes and 20+ elk hides. Some of those elk capes are very thick.
How do you make your own sharpening steels? I would love to have good hard ones.
Here is one way you can use to make a homemade steel. Go to the local welding supply and purchase a couple of sticks of 7/32" diameter by 7" long welding rods. Try to get the 2% Thoriated kind made of Tungsten steel. May not be able to get the thoriated anymore since it has a small amount of radioactivity to it. However, you do need the Tungsten.
Then, carefully grind it through in a couple different lengths into the size steel you prefer. DO NOT cut it with a pair of wire cutters, that will send stress fractures through it and you will have pieces flaking off when you use it on the knife.
Then use a fine wet rock that you can spare from sharpening your pocket/fillet/hunting knife and work a groove into the rock by rubbing the steel on it. It takes some time, but you will end up with a smooth, bullet-shaped point on the end of the steel that is perfect for steeling your knife. Then drill a hole in the end of a piece of a wooden dowel (I prefer oak from the Lowe's here in town-99 cents) and insert the steel into the hole with a little Elmer's wood glue. Be very careful when you tap the steel into the hole because you could risk breaking the steel at this point and have to start all over.
The steeling technique is very involved and will require some practice to develop. The general idea is to insert a bottom steel into the groove of the turned edge and catch the top edge with a top steel. Try not to cross your steels because that causes stress on the edge and it will develop a very ragged edge as the metal flakes off. Experiment with it and don't get discouraged when your knife keeps making the "railroad tracks" on the hide. Steeling a knife is a talent that is learned through practice.
for the advice. I will try to do that. I can't figure out why they sell these steels that are so soft. I have been shaving for a while (several years), and can do a "good enough" job sharpening, but I'd love to get really good at it. I'm going to try your method of making steels. Thanks so much. And now I'll go shave a deer cape.