Friday, November 11, 2011

Ladybug Frustration (Frustration with myself, really)

Today's lesson: Never give up, as long as you have reason not to.

I wasted about two hours doing a complete resharpening on the Ladybug Salt. I can never get an edge on it, it won't even cut paper. So I put it on the sharpmaker a little and studied the effects with a loupe and I determined that it might not be sharpening because I'd been hitting the shoulders, which is a problem I've never run into before. If that really was the case, I guess it shows just how much time I've put into trying to make it work in the 22 months I've had it. I put it on the stones at 30º, reset the bevel with a total of probably around 200 strokes using all sides of the coarse rods. I got it looking pretty good, the bevel looked fresh and shiny and even, like it really should, based on what I've seen in sharpening tutorials. But I still couldn't get what felt like a good edge on it and had to just move on to the other steps without feeling like I'd truly gotten where I wanted to be. I continued at 30º and gave it 20 strokes on every side of the fine rods, for another 120 strokes total, all the way up to the UF for I think 20 on an edge and 20 on a flat. Then I went to 40º and did it all over again, 20 strokes on all six sides of the coarse and fine, then another 40ish on the UF. I tested along the way at each step, inspected with the loupe, tried to get rid of any burrs by running it through soft plastic, but at no time was I ever able to get it to cut, though it did actually feel sharp. In the end, after two hours of labor and hundreds of careful strokes, I ended up with the prettiest and shiniest bevel I've ever created, and an edge that still can't even slice paper cleanly.

At that point I gave up and just polished the edge with some chromox since looking shiny is apparently all this blade is good for right now. I really love this knife, I love the bright yellow, the tiny size and weight, the secure grip. It's been my true EDC knife more than any other since I retired my Mini-Grip, riding in my pocket every day no matter what else I'm carrying, but at this point I'm thinking I really have no choice but to just retire it, unless I can figure out what's wrong with it or get someone else to. I bought it to be a polite and inoffensive little knife to always keep with me, but it's never cut very well so it's never really been able to serve that purpose properly. Instead, I've used it as a food knife, to neatly slice open bananas more than anything else, but it's not even sharp enough to open a granola bar so it's very limited. I like having a clean and easily washed knife to open bananas in a neat way without having to gunk up my nails, so I guess I might still take it along just for that sometimes, but I mostly eat them at home anyway. If it won't cut, there's just no justification for continuing to let it occupy space in my pocket, especially now that I also have the hawkbill version.

I'm saddened and will miss it. I carry lots of bigger, nicer, more interesting, more expensive knives, but this one, more than most, has a real attachment for me because of how much carry time it's gotten (perhaps undeservedly). I think it's safe to say I'm done with H1 plain edges too. I can now get my Tasman very sharp if I really want to, but it takes a lot more effort and attention than most other steels/blade types I use and has given me a lot of frustration. Maybe the LB just needs a particular technique like the Tasman did? But it shouldn't since it's a regular blade and doesn't have special requirements due to blade shape. Maybe I'll put it aside and give it another try sometime when my wrist has had a break from today's marathon session, but I don't have high hopes for figuring it out if today's attempt at a complete redo didn't work. In the meantime, I'll probably try carrying my Grasshopper as a small and polite knife, but it's bigger, heavier, less sturdy, not a one hander, and not nearly so cute. Doesn't matter though, it'll only be just in case I need a small plain edge for some reason. The LB Hawkbill Salt can probably fill in adequately on its own in most cases.

Update (12/11): The Ladybug's back! After I got over my frustration, I realized and accepted (with some outside help) that despite all my efforts to establish a new edge, I still was not actually touching the edge somehow. Obviously, since it still wasn't cutting at all after hours of sharpening. They say that H1 isn't very abrasion resistant and is easy to sharpen but... in my experience, the actual edge of H1 stands up to a damned lot of abrasion without losing nearly as much material as you'd expect. So, this time I'd had enough of messing around with it. I set aside my preferred Sharpmaker, got out my Lansky kit, set it for the most obtuse edge it's capable of, and gave the LB a quick session on the diamond stones. The result is not a great edge by any means, but... it cuts! It actually *cuts* rather than wedges things apart again. For now, that's good enough, and I'm happy to have it back.

And, to welcome it back with a story: The other night, I was out to dinner at a seafood place having fish and chips. Because it was a take-out oriented place, the vinegar came in those annoying plastic packets that are so difficult to open cleanly, making cutting them open vastly preferable to trying to tear through without spurting delicious acid all over the place. Since it is so acidic and potentially corrosive, I'd rather not put a normal knife through it if I can avoid it (yeah I know, S30V or VG10 would have been fine, but I'd still prefer not to), and also it was in a crowded restaurant environment, so it was a perfect job for H1, and for a cute and friendly little yellow knife that recently remembered how to cut.

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