Why Knife Sharpening is as much of an art as it is a science with the CEO of Lansky Sharpeners, Christopher Fire
Welcome to episode 7 of the Hardest Kit on the Planet Podcast brought to you by Heinnie Haynes. In this podcast we try and extract as much knowledge and ideas as possible from some of the hardest people and companies on the planet. Our aim for the podcast is to continually provide you with some great knowledge and information from a wide range of people and companies who are actually out there doing the business.
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The Show Notes
In this episode I (Ben Roberts) talk to Christopher Fire, who is the CEO of Lansky Sharpeners.
In this episode we talk about all things knife sharpening. Looking at how to choose a sharpener, the types of sharpener available, some of the techniques and skills you need for knife sharpening. We also do a little bit of myth busting too!
Click the link at the top of the page to listen or download. The full transcript as always is below . . .
Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Christopher Fire, and i’m the CEO of Lansky Sharpeners. I take take of all the day-to-day operations including, new products development, marketing and i’m generally just an avid outdoor person so this is a pretty sweet gig for me.
Can you give us some background to Lansky?
It was established in 1979 just outside New York in a suburb of Buffalo. We ae very near the great lakes and it’s a popular hunting area so there are a lot of people who come from rural backgrounds in the area. Arthur Lansky Levine is the founder of Lansky, and he grew up in and around his fathers military surplus store which included knives. So he actually developed an angled sharpener for the knives in his parents basement then started selling it out of the garage.
When Arthur grew up in the shop he noticed that people either threw away knives or struggled to keep a consistent edge on the knives using a simple benchstone. He then thought “if only there was a way which people could sharpen at a consistent angle”. Thus the controlled angle system was born.
How do you decide what people and tools can help people sharpen their knives and tools?
we use a lot of our sharpeners. So take them all sorts of places then just see if we can improve anything or see what could be useful. Karma’s for example are becoming increasingly popular, so we had to develop half round sharpening stones. These work with our controlled angle sharpener so it’s just an nice addition to our range.
We also spend a lot of time at shows talking to people to really try and get the feel from the street.
We are a small company almost family run, which allows us to be really close to our customers and really get a feel for their needs. It’s that accessibility which makes us different I think, from anyone else.
Do you find blade steels play a role in how you design your sharpeners?
Definitely. We’ve had to develop a lot more diamond sharpeners recently. Compared to 10-20 years ago the steels are much stronger. You can still use the traditional stones, but because these steel are so much stronger they take so much longer to sharpen, and almost resist sharpening. So instead, we are looking at ceramic and diamond which are always harder than the steels, so it’s usually quicker, and a bit more of an aggressive approach to sharpening.
We’ve got a big range of products that are designed to meet those needs. Take for instance the blade medic: It’s got carbide, ceramic and diamond, so you can choose your preferred option. It’s not one size fits all but these hybrid sharpeners seem to be really popular.
What sort of sharpener should people look for if they are inexperienced in knife sharpening?
Controlled angle systems are a great way of getting people into sharpening. They are almost fool proof, and because they are guided it’s hard to go wrong.
The next level i’d say would be something like the crock stick sharpener. This allows you the adjust the angles and there area range of different stones available. It’s a really nice way of learning consistently how to sharpen.
Something else I want to bring up actually is about the sharpening angle if I can . . .
There is a common misconception that you need a really acute angle to get a sharp edge. This isn’t true. A 25 degree angle is sharpened and honed properly will be just as sharp as a 17 degree angle. The 25 degree angle will also have a lot more metal behind it too, making it much more durable, and it’ll hold that edge longer. That 17 degree angle is only necessary so something like precision sharpening in a kitchen. For the outdoors you’ll want a 25 degree angle. For heavy duty tasks like rope cutting, even consider a 30 degree angle.
I’d like to talk to you about your collaboration with Mikkel Willumsen now if I can. So, why did you guys diversify to knives from sharpeners?
Well, the knives and sharpeners are always closely linked. In some countries like the US for example knives are seen as accessories to gun, and sharpeners are then seen as an accessory to those. We therefore, wanted to do something increase our visibility. But, we didn’t want to just do anything.
It was on one of our annual trips to Blade Show that we met Mikkel Willumsen. I first bumped into his girlfriend who introduced me to Mikkel. Who then showed me his stuff which I just loved, I really felt and affinity with it, like it was made just for me.
His look just had a something about it which I hadn’t seen anywhere else.
The Lansky Word Legal and Madrock have really taken Europe especially by storm. We are really happy with how they have gone down.
Are these collaborations a one-off or do you have any further plans?
We are definitely looking at other knife collaborations especially with Mikkel. We’ve got a few different designs we are prototyping at the moment. I can’t say when but they are in process. What’s nice is that because this isn’t the main part of our business we can really take our time making sure that knives are as good as they can be.
What about new stuff on the sharpening front?
Yes. There are some really cool things. All of which you can see on the Lansky Sharpeners website now.
If you could give anyone a bit of advice on knife sharpening, what would it be?
If you’re a newbie. Get a guided sharpener, that’ll help you earn techniques and angles. Something like the Master’s Edge (really nice professional looking sharpener), or the Blade Medic which is really small and portable with 4 different sharpeners.
I can sharpen free hand, but there is something really easy about a guided sharpener.
How can people find out more about you?
Website: lanksy.com and sign up to the rewards club