• Sharpening Tips
After a number of years crafting hoof knives for working farriers and veterinarians, we are sure we're on the right path to making them function as quality tools. We have realized our mission is not over when a knife is sold to the public. From feedback and conversations in passing, we discovered there's a large lack of information about how to keep a hoof knife performing at its optimum level. We want our clients to be happy with our product throughout it's entire lifetime.
The maintenance of sharpening a hoof knife requires keeping a number of points in mind:
- Hoof knifes, like all blades, are wedging tools. A perfectly tapered edge is necessary to make the cleanest cut with the least amount of force. A very low angle must be used.
- Low-angle blades are sharper than a blade of a higher angle, but dull more quickly. This is a tradeoff. Therefore, maintenance is required more often on a low-angled blade.
- Hoof knives should be sharp enough to cleanly slice a piece of paper, if you wish to use them for hoof work. The usual reaction to a dull blade is to apply more pressure and pull harder. Watch a farrier using a dull knife, and you can see them in a strain. Energy is wasted. Sore wrists and elbows will soon follow. This stop/start jerking action also produces the gouges and chips seen on the sole and frog from using a dull knife.
- The blade should be touched-up lightly after every horse. Lightly and often is the key to maintaining an edge. Sadly, we've had owners disappointed when they say their blades became dull after several days with no sharpening.
- Use our system to sharpen your knives. Coarse buffing compounds will destroy the hollow-ground edges. Diamond files won't work, because they do not fit the contour of our blades. In addition, commercial types are rated at 6oo grit -- while our buffing compounds are around 1000 grit and leave a smoother edge with less resistance.
- Never touch a foot with a knife unless the foot has been wire-brushed. This has two purposes: First, it saves the edge of the knife by removing dirt and grit. Second, it brightens the foot and brings it to life. You'll find yourself actually trimming less.
- Use of buffing wheels with our knives is ideal because the radius of the buffing wheels matches the contours of our blades.
- After an edge is destroyed by lack of maintenance, too coarse an abrasive, or sharpening by other means at too high of an angle, refurbishing must be done. This means restoring the desired angle, which is slow and time-consuming.
• Components Needed
Components necessary to keep your Baggett Hoof Knives in sharp working order:
- Buffer or grinder, 1/3 horsepower minimum - 1800 rpm (not 3600 rpm commonly found in stores)
- Two each 6-inch or 8-inch medium-sewn buffing wheels. Yellow wheels are chemically treated for stiffness and are the best choice
- Buffing compounds: 1 tube of 11b81 Matchless™ green medium-cut, 1 tube of 525 Matchless™ white fine-cut. These compounds work the best. Use the exact numbers and you'll be assured of perfect results. We'd be happy to provide suggestions for retailers selling these compounds.
• Sharpening Safety
Using a buffing wheel can be hazardous! Always grasp the handle firmly when using a buffing wheel, as the possibility of the knife rolling and catching an edge is always possible and can be dangerous. Allow no one to stand to the side or directly behind the buffer, because they are directly in the line of fire from a snatched knife! Be strongly aware: A loose, floppy buffing wheel will snatch a knife very easily.
It takes less than half a minute to touch-up the sharpness of your knife. A dull knife requires more time, so be sure to touch-up your blades after every horse.
• Sharpening Technique
Wheel coarseness, compound grit, and pressure applied all determine the aggressiveness of the sharpening technique.
- Break in a new buffing wheel by holding the end of a piece of bar stock or rasp and pressing it below the midline of the wheel to fluff-up the wheel material so it can hold compound.
- Apply different compounds to separate wheels. Leave overnight or let the buffer run a few minutes to allow the compound to dry. It takes a period of use before the wheels accumulate enough compound to produce optimum results.
- The most important skill to learn is to read the edges of your hoof knives. A dull edge will reflect light and create a tiny glint - sometimes on a spot, sometimes along the whole length. This operation must be done in good light. Tilting the blade in your hand will help the glints to become visible.
Try cutting a piece of paper, along with the visual checks for glints, and you'll be able to judge the sharpness of your blade. A mildly dull blade will require less time on the buffing wheel to restore to sharpness. After several sessions of resharpening and bringing a knife back to working order, you can learn to predict how aggressive you have to be to redefine the edge.
- Start with the green compound. Hold the blade just below midlevel of the wheel, matching the concave surface of the blade to the radius of the buffing wheel.
Make several passes along the length of the blade, being careful to maintain even contact with the wheel. Tilting the knife back towards yourself will cause the blade to break contact with the wheel and create rounded edges. Observe and test the blade on paper after each few passes to learn what effects you're producing. You'll soon develop a feel for how long you'll need to stay with the green compound before moving on to the next step.
- Move to the buffing wheel loaded with white compound. Use this step just like you did with the green: Stop, test, and observe.
- After you've removed all glints and your blade still fails the paper test, your blade has probably developed a burr along the back edge. The excess metal removed has peeled back along the opposite edge of the blade and formed a blunt surface. Sometimes this burr can be seen, and sometimes it can be felt by carefully moving the thumb along the edge. Remove the burr by lightly passing the back of the blade across the white compound wheel one or two times, being careful to not buff aggressively enough to create an angle on the back side of the blade, then stop and check for sharpness.
Visualize the curl as being removed to level with the back of the blade. Burrs can destroy the best of sharpening efforts because they are hard to detect. If no glint is observed and the blade is still dull, the problem is nearly always a burr! Repeat passes along the back of the blade.
- Loop knives are sharpened using the same method on the outside edge. Remove burrs by stropping the inside edge of the loop with a half-inch strip of 400-600 grit sandpaper. Strop the inside edge lightly and evenly along the inside edge. The flexible strip should conform to the inside profile of the loop. A broken bridle rein or a similar piece of leather works well to remove burrs. Coat the leather with the white compound and strop as instructed above. Loop knives take a little longer to sharpen, but the return is in their usefullness.
We've received questions about using power sharpening methods such as Dremel tools with sharpening tips, but feel this method produces a blade with a rougher edge than can be achieved with a hands-on approach.
To repeat: Maintaining a sharp knife is a state of mind. Learn to feel the knife, and forget how much more work you have to do that day. Once the knife starts to pull, retire that blade and trade to a different one - or touch-up the sharpness of this blade. Having several backup knives is a good standard policy.
• Sharpening Versus Refurbishing
A problem we encounter when explaining to buyers how to sharpen their knives is separating the concept of sharpening versus refurbishing.
Sharpening deals with redefining the edge and eliminating small glints, which are flats or bent portions of the edge.
Refurbishing deals with reducing the thickness of the edge of a blade after it has been pushed without maintenance to a dull edge, resulting in poor action and the appearance of a very visible thickness.
Sharpening is done lightly and often. If ignored, a refurbishing process must be done slowly to prevent burning the heat-treated blade because of the more abrasive grit used.
Instead of the 1000 grit compound used for sharpening, 400 grit is used to speed up the process of refurbishing. Never use a bright wheel for any purpose, because the rougher abrasive tends to shred the edge of the blade (visible only under magnification.)
Using a lower, rougher grit requires a slower technique with fewer passes to prevent heat buildup which can kill the temper and cause soft spots. Soft spots are visible as a change in the coloring of the polished blade. Two or three passes are all that can be made before one should check the heat buildup.
Using a 400 grit, make passes reducing the thickness of the edge. Check your progress after every few passes. This is all a visual effort. After the edge is reduced, return to the sharpening process using a finer-grit compound to refine the cutting edge.
Always remember: It's easier to maintain sharpness with frequent touchups! Refurbishment takes much longer.
• Sharpening Service
We offer professional resharpening services for vets or anyone who lacks the necessary equipment to maintain these instruments. Simply send your dull knives to Baggett Hoof Knives and they will returned to you in their original sharp state.
Thanks for your interest!