When I recently acquired a couple of ZDP-189 Spyderco knives, I was both excited and scared about putting them to use. I wanted to see how the steel held up to the abuse that I put my knives through, but I was looking forward to the sharpening time with much trepidation.
I carried the Spyderco Delica 4 ZDP-189 for ~30 days before I decided that it needed to be sharpened. I used it multiple times a day on ceramic plates for cutting my food at mealtime. I used it to open packages, cut cord, foam, and string, remove metal seals from our gas cylinders, cut lemons in half for tea, and many more tasks. The blade has not been babied. The blade is by no means dull, but I wanted to bring it back to the factory sharpness. I wanted it to glide effortlessly through the different mediums it is exposed to.
The sharpening itself was anticlimactic. I read several forum threads asking for help or advice with the ZDP-189 knives that wouldn’t come sharp. I had heard what an amazing super steel the ZDP-189 is. I was anticipating an hour long sharpening session filled with (Christian) cusswords, bleeding fingers, and a mediocre outcome.
I use a Smith’s sharpening kit with a blade clamp and guides for the stones so that they maintain the proper angle. It’s no WickedEdge system, but it does the job for me at a fraction of the cost.
I clamped the blade in place and started out using the coarse diamond stone(750 grit). Don’t press down too hard. Take soft, slow, and smooth strokes across the entire edge. I could immediately see that it was removing metal. That was a good sign, but there is much more to sharpening than just removing metal. When sharpening a knife for the first time, you never know if the factory bevel angle was the same as the bevel dictated by your sharpening kit settings. It could just be removing metal from the just the base or tip of the bevel. Unless you want a double angled bevel, this means you need to do a decent amount of work to reset the entire edge bevel angle. Thankfully, I saw that the stone was removing material evenly across the entire bevel!
After I was satisfied that I had an even bevel and an unchipped edge, I moved to the “Fine Arkansas Stone”(1000 grit) with a little oil to give it some finishing polish. After I finished, I decided to do some cutting tests to see if it actually cut better or if I had just made it look nicer. My twenty minute home sharpening job had indeed brought the blade back to it’s factory sharpness.
The moral of the story is: “Don’t be afraid of the ZDP-189 super steel.” It doesn’t require magical powers to sharpen. If I can do it, I’m sure you can.