How To Find and Determine Your Angle and Sweet Spot

How To Find and Determine Your Angle and Sweet Spot

Finding your blade's angle and sweet spot can be the difficult part of sharpening a blade for the first time, but luckily we have some tips and tricks to make it easier for you!
The angle of the blade is what degree your bevels are currently set at. Most pocket knives will sit around the 20-degree range, while kitchen knives can range from sub-10 degrees for Japanese blades up to 25+ for cleavers. It's important that you find the factory angle so you can determine the best course of action for sharpening your blade. The sweet spot is simply where in the vise you clamp your blade and how far forward or backward it wants to be. 

You can also check out this video to watch a more detailed explanation of how to find your angle and sweet spot:

First, we'll go over some knife terminology:

  1. Tip: This is the pointed part at the end of the blade
  2. Edge: This is the part of the blade that cuts
  3. Bevel: This is the section of the blade that your stones interact with to form the edge
  4. Heel: The section of the blade closest to the handle
  5. Shoulder: This is where the body of the blade starts to transition into the bevel
To begin this process, you'll take a Sharpie, place it down directly on the edge of the blade, and run it down the length of the blade so both bevels are colored in. 

Next, you'll take your highest grit Diamond Stone and lay it against the knife, adjusting the angle until the stone appears to lay flat against the bevel of the blade. Increase your angle by 2 degrees. It's always better to start at a slightly wider angle than you need to prevent scratching the body of your blade. Do several passes with your stone on one side of the blade to see where the marker is being removed. We are only looking to find the angle at the moment, not the sweet spot. You'll find that you will most likely bounce back and forth between finding these during this process, but the first order of business is the angle. When finding the angle, simply focus on just the section of the blade that sits directly above the vise itself. 

If you're seeing the marker only being removed at the edge of the bevel, but not lower on the shoulder, it means your angle is too wide and you need to lower it. Do this in 1-2 degree increments to prevent scratching the body of your blade.

If you see the marker only being removed at the shoulder, but not the edge, your angle is too narrow and you need to increase it. Again, do this in 1-2 degree increments to ensure you get the correct angle.

Repeat this process on the other side of the blade. Once you found the angle and have removed all the marker from the section above the top of the vise, you can move on to finding the sweet spot. To find the sweet spot, you'll want to look at how the marker is being removed along the entire length of the blade, not just a single section. When thinking about how to move your blade when finding the sweet spot, you'll want to think about moving the knife toward where the stone is hitting the edge. If the marker remains on a section of the edge, it means the stone cannot reach it and you have to bring the knife to where the stone can reach.

If you're finding that you're removing all the marker from the blade except for on the shoulder at the tip of the blade, that means your knife is clamped too far back and you need to move your knife forward in the vise. 

If you see that the marker is remaining at the edge at the very tip, your knife is too far forward.

For most knives, the first time you sharpen them you'll have to move them several times and adjust the angle as you move the blade until the majority of the marker is removed. Very rarely is the angle consistent along the length of the blade and even more rare will you find that you remove all the marker from the edge on a new knife, even if you have found the correct angle and sweet spot. The trick is to find the positioning and angle where the most marker is being removed. Once you find that, you can use a coarser grit to reprofile and even everything out.

Something else to note is that you will most likely find that the angles are different from one side to the other. Again, this is is normal and you have a few options if this happens.
  1. You can leave the angles where they are. This is the best option if you've used the knife before and like how it cuts and/or want to preserve as much metal on your blade as possible, extending its life.
  2. You can meet in the middle and reprofile both sides. For example, if one side is 18 and the other is 22, set both sides to 20 degrees and use a coarse stone to reprofile. If the angle difference from one side to the other is larger than 5 degrees, you may want to just keep the factory angles as this amount of reprofiling takes significant work and will remove a lot of metal. 
  3. The last option, which we don't recommend but is doable, is to simply pick the angle you want your blade to be at and reprofile it to that angle. For instance, if your knife is around 20 degrees on each side but want a more acute angle, you can set your sharpener to a lower angle and reprofile the edge to that angle. This option can take a significant amount of time, remove a lot of metal, and possible lead to less than stellar results. If you decide to go this route, it's imperative that you make sure you're taking the knife's usage and steel hardness into consideration to ensure your blade will still perform the way you want it to.

Things to remember:
  1. All Wicked Edge systems are calibrate for the edge of the knife to sit 5/8" above the top of the vise. If your knife sits higher or lower than this, the degree markings on your system will be off. If your sharpening a cleaver, your angles will be lower than the system is reading. If you're sharpening a smaller blade, the angles will be higher. 
  2. Softer metals are often more flexible, but less durable meaning they will require a wider angle to keep the edge. Save very low angles for blade steels that are hard and can hold that edge.
  3. It's common for a factory edge to have two different angels per side and that angle to change along the length of the blade. Find the position and angle where the majority of the marker is removed and reprofile as needed from there.
  4. Some knives need to be tilted in the vise to ensure the stone follows the entire bevel evenly.  

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