Here is a brief discussion of the methods I use to sharpen and polish my swords along with video tutorials.
These methods are best suitable for all blades that the have lenticular or appleseed edge geometry such as Katana and European cut-oriented swords (mostly Oakeshott types X - XIV)
These methods can also work on blades with flat edge geometry such as flatened diamond shapes found in many European thrust oriented or cut/thrust oriented swords. I find the hand methods work more easily for flat edges but the belt grinder method can work fine if you apply it carefully.
I do not recommend using these methods on blades that are hollow ground meaning they have a concave edge geometry. I also do not recommend anyone who is not an expert and experienced polisher to attempt to polish antique swords with historical and or artistic value. those sort of swords really need an experienced artist to polish them. these methods are for common modern production swords only and works well for them.
This first my video is on hand sharpening/polishing. I still do this mostly inbetween the 1200 belt sanding and stropping to remove unsightly belt marks and help refine the polish and edge. If I started with the belt sander I only use the 1000 - 2000 grit paper; 1000 between the 500 and 1200 grit belts, and again with the 2000 paper between the 1200 and leather belts.
I also have begun to clamp down the blade to a bench or table edge and move the paper over the secured blade. less chances of accidentally taking off a finger and works the same way with the same motions.
If you want to use the belt grinder/sander and get those wicked sharp edges people talk about you will first need the machine, here's a link to where to buy the belt sander I use. it works really well (Use these belts).
You can do everything up to the leather belt with the belt series:
D. Aluminium Oxide Grinding Belts.
The 500 and 1200 grits are all you really need unless you are sharpening blunt swords or removing heavy secondary bevels.
I also like the A. 15 micron Silicon Carbide Sharpening Belts as an in-between for the 500 and 1200 (the 500 grits are marked 20 micron and the 1200 are marked 9 micron putting the 15 micron between them in grit).
At the bottom of that page is: E. Leather Honing Belts and a link labled "ACC" which brings you to the page that has the honing compound here.
Here's how to do it:
This machine works great for CONVEX edges such as lenticular or appleseed shaped edges but is not suitable for hollow ground blades; for these you need a fancier machine with the right kind of wheel. please do not fall to the temptation of taking the top wheel guard off and using that guard as a contact wheel. I have tried this with disastrous results. that wheel is not designed to be a contact wheel and will cause your blade to bounce which will screw things up fast.
For flattened diamond and other flat edged blades I do the same thing at for convex or Appleseed blades except that I use almost no pressure against the belt and I watch very carefully to make sure as much of the flat is being touched as possible. I have had poor results from using the flat guide bar that comes with the machine but your results may vary. I think the main reason it hasn't worked too well for me is that I didn't need it for so long I lost the screws and none of the replacements I have found have realy fit right. so don't throw out those screws or that plate as you might want them later on.
Good luck all, and remember the best thing you can do is go slow and check your progress often.
I hope this tutorial on how to sharpen a sword has been helpful. To return to Navigating the Sword Care Maze to How to Sharpen a Sword click here