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Thread: Knives and Sharpening Method for Deer Butchering?

  1. #1
    Boolit Master DonMountain's Avatar
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    Knives and Sharpening Method for Deer Butchering?

    I am in the process of butchering up my first deer this season, and it is getting more apparent that I need a new set of skinning and butchering knives. Can anybody recommend a particular make of butchering knives and sizes needed for deer butchering? Also what do you recommend to keep them sharp?

  2. #2
    Quote Originally Posted by DonMountain View Post
    I am in the process of butchering up my first deer this season, and it is getting more apparent that I need a new set of skinning and butchering knives. Can anybody recommend a particular make of butchering knives and sizes needed for deer butchering? Also what do you recommend to keep them sharp?
    My wife and I skin and quarter with benchmades. But we butcher 100% start to finish with a Morakniv filet knife. A pair of those is all we use after the meat is off the animal. They are cheap, sharp, comfortable, stainless, and have a good amount of flex to them for removing fat and silver skin. Iíve given probably half a dozen of them as gifts. I think everyone that butchers should have one.

    I use work sharp stuff to sharpen. If Iím away from home I use the guided field sharpener. I remove the plates because it becomes much lighter this way and gives easy access to the broad head wrench, which I use much more often. I donít let my knives get dull enough to need the plates. I use the ceramic rod and leather strop exclusively, even after a whole animal, maybe two if you donít hit much hair and bone. Never have come close to needing anything more coarse.

    At home I have the knife and tool sharpener with the blade grinder attachment. Itís the belt sander style sharpener. I could honestly get by with just the guided field sharpener, but power tools are nice. The same level of sharpness is achievable with both once youíre proficient with the manual methods.


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  3. #3
    Boolit Buddy Newboy's Avatar
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    Sharp pocketknife for the deer. I usually pull the hide down without much cutting.

    At home a filet knife to cut it up.

    You donít need much to keep a knife sharp, itís all in knowing what you are doing. I have sharpened a lot of knives for people with the scrap of wet-or-dry paper I carry in my wallet. And, yes, I am talking shaving.


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    Boolit Buddy OldBearHair's Avatar
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    First thing I would recommend is a nice long hi-quality steel to keep the edge aligned after it is sharpened during use.. Every few cuts give the knife a few strokes on the steel. As for sharpening it depends on how dull and rounded the edge is. Use a coarser grit if it is very dull. I use a worn 400 grit belt on a 1x42 inch grinder and cool with water on each pass, while being careful to hold the same angle each time. There are all kinds of sharpening systems available. Ones I prefer are the ones that clamp the knife securely and have a rod that goes into a hole that holds the blade at the correct angle as you drag the blade into the stone edge first. And with practice and a good eye one can learn to see the angle and duplicate it every time the knife is turned to stroke the other side. The secret to sharpening a knife is just that. At each turn of the blade if it is not the same as before a rounded effect is achieved that will not produce a good edge.
    I have a favorite chef knife SVS vanadium steel Japan that was in a thrift store used to slice up deboned meat. A highcarbon nine inch blade with wooden handle long pointed knife is good working in small areas like around the joints as you are deboning. And a good cleaver should do nicely. Bunches of different brands are available and the pricing usually parallels quality.

  5. #5
    Boolit Master MyFlatline's Avatar
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    Second the Mora knives and the Ken Onion Work Sharp. Yea I know how to use a stone, but the work sharp is so fast and easy..

    As for the Mora Knives, I picked up a bunch off of Amazon for 10 bucks each. I gave 3 to the wife for skinning her rabbits and I have the others in trucks, UTV's Tractors , you name it. Used them on the last trip Pheasant hunting, they did a great job breasting out the birds..

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    Boolit Grand Master



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    Boolit Grand Master tazman's Avatar
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    I do the vast majority of skinning and cutting up deer with a $30 Buck hunting knife(not certain what that knife would cost now. I bought it 20 years ago). I have more expensive knives but they don't do any better. I will use Chicago Cutlery to cut up meat for steaks and tenderloins.
    The difference in knives is how well they hold an edge once sharp and how well the handle fits your hand. Any decent blade with hardened steel can be used. Keeping it sharp is the trick.
    From what you said, I think it may be more that you need to know how to sharpen a blade well than needing a new knife.
    I use several different tools depending on just how dull and damaged the knife blade is when I start on it.
    Rounded edge---Diamond stone-- Be careful. This stone will take off a lot of metal in a hurry.
    Dull but not yet rounded-- Flat stone or diamond steel.--I use these to put a rough edge on a blade. Doesn't take long to put a rough edge on a blade with this stuff.
    Rough edge(it will cut but not really well)-- Steel or crock sticks. Either will sharpen to a razor edge quickly if used properly.
    A good, razor sharp edge is a wonder to use if you are used to knives that aren't really sharp. They make things sooo much easier.
    When I get done sharpening my knives, they will shave hair off your arm very easily.

  8. #8
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    I had my best edges with a Lansky kit. https://lansky.com/

    I put the lower L bracket in a sturdy bench vise and use 25 degrees for field knives, 20 degrees for skinners. I have taken off a full beard with just my skinning knife, down to smooth skin that was as slick as a razor did it.

    I use the coarse, medium, then the fine 600 grit and see no need to go any finer than 600.

    Red meat will dull a knife faster than anything! I usually get 1 1/2 deer in the freezer before renewing the edge.

    Hint: If you clamp the blade in the middle, you get an even degree for most of the length of the edge. BUT.. If you clamp the shank of the blade and let the tip stick out one side, the stone will naturally roll the degrees less and less as it gets to the tip, so you have more of a field cutting edge the closer to the handle you use it, and if you want a fine almost surgical edge, use just the tip of the blade. This is my preferred method for sharpening with the Lansky kit..
    Got a .22 .30 .32 .357 .38 .40 .41 .44 .45 .480 or .500 S&W cylinder that needs throat reaming? 9mm, 10mm/40S&W, 45 ACP pistol barrel that won't "plunk" your handloads? Shoot me a PM! Also on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Cylinderhone-756429174391912/

  9. #9
    Boolit Master
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    have not done many deer. but have done a lot of hogs with old hickory. 50 years ago that was all you found on farm butcher houses and kitchens.

  10. #10
    Boolit Master RU shooter's Avatar
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    Victorinox is all we use at the butcher shop processing during rifle season . Few swipes on a stone to sharpen and few every so often during a shift on the steel keeps them going . I prefer a 6" semi stiff boning knife for most things like breaking them down and deboning . If your only doing one or so a year just about any sharp knife will do .we normally do over 100 in a few weeks so handle comfort is important .
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  11. #11
    Boolit Master
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    lots of good advise - I will ad- deer fat gets sticky when cold I keep a hot of hot water on the bench for dip-heating up blades. I have many times thought I had somehow ruined an edhe when it was cold fat sticking and dragging. I use a wide assortment of old carbon steel knives left over from 3 or 4 generations and as many farms. I like the ceramics, but not for butchering.

  12. #12
    Boolit Grand Master tazman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bob208 View Post
    have not done many deer. but have done a lot of hogs with old hickory. 50 years ago that was all you found on farm butcher houses and kitchens.
    Those OLD HICKORY knives are good blades. I buy them when I can find them at garage sales. The old ones have good steel in them. You just need to protect them to keep them from rusting.
    Many times I find them with very rounded edges because people don't know how to sharpen a knife. They buy one, use it till it gets dull, and get a new one.
    You can pick those up really cheap that way from time to time.

  13. #13
    Boolit Master knifemaker's Avatar
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    I make custom knives and what I have seen is many customers lacking in experience on how to sharpen a knife. For those customers I recommend the "Work Sharp" belt grinder to keep their knives sharp. My top line knife steel is CPM S30V stainless steel. That steel has added elements that makes it "abrasive resistance" and it would require a long time to sharpen it using oil stones and good experience at sharpening using the stones. S30V steel will hold a sharp edge longer over most other steels, but it is a bear to re sharpen once it gets dull. The Work Sharp will restore that edge very quick and easy for most users.

  14. #14
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by RU shooter View Post
    Victorinox is all we use at the butcher shop processing during rifle season . Few swipes on a stone to sharpen and few every so often during a shift on the steel keeps them going . I prefer a 6" semi stiff boning knife for most things like breaking them down and deboning . If your only doing one or so a year just about any sharp knife will do .we normally do over 100 in a few weeks so handle comfort is important .
    Victorinox 6Ē semi stiff here also with the black plastic Fibrox handle. 1200 diamond stone for sharpening and a steel for maintaining.

    I have a couple custom skinning knife a lot of times I use a Havalon or Hunters edge knife with changeable blades.
    Doug
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  15. #15
    Boolit Grand Master tazman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by knifemaker View Post
    I make custom knives and what I have seen is many customers lacking in experience on how to sharpen a knife. For those customers I recommend the "Work Sharp" belt grinder to keep their knives sharp. My top line knife steel is CPM S30V stainless steel. That steel has added elements that makes it "abrasive resistance" and it would require a long time to sharpen it using oil stones and good experience at sharpening using the stones. S30V steel will hold a sharp edge longer over most other steels, but it is a bear to re sharpen once it gets dull. The Work Sharp will restore that edge very quick and easy for most users.
    I was wondering how long it would be before a knife manufacturer posted.
    The only Victorinox knives I am familiar with are the Swiss Army knives they make. Those sharpen easily and cut well but lose the edge very quickly. I assume the butchering knives they make are different.

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    Steel hones are forbidden in my house. Ceramic hone is what I use. 90% of the sharpening I do is on a leather belt. You just have to be careful as the edge will end up as a convex edge. I also use a polishing compound on the leather to help cut and polish the edge. I like a 18*-20* Scandi.

  17. #17
    I have got that knife deal going where my 24yr old son is a knife nut and I just let him handle all of the sharpening and game cleaning...makes it easier on me and he really enjoys it.

  18. #18
    Boolit Grand Master tazman's Avatar
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    I am always hesitant about using powered sharpening tools. It is really easy to take off more metal than is needed if you are not really careful in their use.
    I like my hand powered sharpeners. Any mistakes I make happen slowly, over time.
    The worst problem I've had so far is having the tip of the blade rounded off by the ceramic rods. It can be corrected easily enough by using a flat stone.

    Speaking of knives that hold an edge, I have an old Cold Steel tanto made with san mai steel made about 25 year ago. I don't know what the center layer is made of, but it is hard and holds an edge.
    One day a few years ago, I skinned and cut up 5 whitetail deer in one day with that knife and never resharpened it during the process. At the end of the day, there were still spots on the blade that would shave the hair from your arm.
    A little touch up with the ceramics and it was ready to go again.
    I know that knife wasn't designed with that in mind, but it certainly worked well for it.
    Last edited by tazman; 11-18-2018 at 09:56 AM.

  19. #19
    Boolit Buddy
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    Deer hair will dull a knife quickly

  20. #20
    Boolit Buddy
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    Definitely recommend the Work Sharp Knife and Tool Sharpener---I've had the basic model since they first came out, and it is fantastic. The Ken Onion special edition seems to be a nice upgrade in almost every way, and it's not especially pricey. The only reason I haven't upgraded yet is that the original model does everything I need done; it's an unbeatable deal for $69 or so. However, I think I may put the Ken Onion version on my Xmas wish list this year.
    I'm not only a knifemaker and outdoorsman, but I'm the chef around here, so I need to keep my kitchen knives sharp, and the WSKTS does it with ease. You can sharpen a whole drawer full of totally dull knives in a few minutes. I've tried every system out there, and I'm OK with a stone, but this gadget does it much faster and much better. It's the only method I know of that lets you easily put a convex edge on knives, and with a little practice, you can control the convexity of the edge. Because you use belts with different grits, you can stick to the fine grit belts for a touch-up and not really remove any steel at all.
    Having said all that, I still like my little Rapala sharpener for a quick touch-up at home or in the field: https://amazon.com/Rapala-Ceramic-Sh...dp/B000EYY9K4/
    Hard to beat for the price!

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