Japanese skiving knife

I purchased one of these for $10 on amazon (search leather knife) and was asked to make a quick video as to how I use it. My granddaughter actually recorded it. Apologies for the messy workbench. And, yes, I am a southpaw.

It is my “go to” knife when cutting leather now, even over my round knife.

In God’s Grace,

Pastor Bob

“While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” - Romans 5:8

1 Like

I love my skiving knives. This a fantastic video for anyone who wants to know how to hold and use one for the purpose of cutting pieces out of leather.

Hopefully this video gets some traction in the LW community.

1 Like

A few awesome thoughts :slight_smile:

  1. That is really nice to watch - I haven’t used the japanese skiving knife very much at all, usually free-hand cutting with an xacto type blade. This makes me want to try that knife style more

  2. The resolution in the video rocks, and the audio makes it leather working background “music”. I could listen to the ambient cutting all day! I also had my heaphones on while watching and it was immersive.

You both did great, nice one for sure. Thanks for sharing

This set; I bought on line as well. I’ve really enjoyed these. They were sent sharp and nicely done! These were a great addition to my tools.

Those look cool too. I ran into an issue with mine. I was struggling cutting some 8 oz leather with it. Stropped it with no improvement. Got out my round knife and same issue. By this time, I was more than a little irritated…wondering how i screwed these blades up. Then i reached for the old standby box cutter, slapped a new blade in it…and it did the same thing. It was the leather. It was imported and very hard. Glad it wasn’t the knives.

I’ve been in a similar situation, only reversed. I started with the box cutter and had issues, so I grabbed my Skiving knife. I have been sharpening blades for twenty years and have learned to trust my skills. When my Skiving Knife had trouble getting through the leather, I knew the fight was on. I ended up throwing away more scrap leather than I intended to, but what do you do when it fights you every inch of the way?

I have always struggled with blade sharpening…going all the way back to my Boy Scout years. Do you have or recommend some good How To videos. There are tons out there, but with your knowledge and experience, I would rely on you to point me in the right direction. I would only have non-powered means of doing in sharpening.

So, I have been writing this out. I got all the way down to number 6 before it hit me… Paul Sellers! He is a world-class woodworker and has a YT channel loaded with useful information about maintaining the cutting edges of his many planes, routers, handsaws, and chisels. That would be my number one recommendation…

First, I always recommend “non-powered” methods. I love my DMT plates and Japanese Wet Stones. I use a variety of methods though, depending on what I am sharpening. Chainsaw blades, for instance; I will use a guide and file if I am just doing 1 or 2 chains. If I need to sharpen several at a time and on a regular basis, I like using my Oregon Chainsaw Grinder.

I prefer a bench grinder for sharpening those chisels and drifts used in Air Hammers or Jackhammers. I have spent weeks at a time sharpening buckets (literally… 5 gal buckets filled with used jackhammer chisels) on the bench grinder.

I have a slow RPM Tormek wet stone grinder that I haven’t touched in years but used to sharpen all of my kitchen knives on. Today, however, when it comes to pocket knives and kitchen cutlery, I wouldn’t go near a grinder of any kind (even a slow-rolling wet stone) There are a few basic tips to keep in mind when sharpening a knife.

  1. Always draw the blade backward away from its edge.
    As a kid, I was taught the wrong way to sharpen my pocket knife. I was told to push the blade down and forward toward the cutting edge… Nope! The goal is to remove just enough material to form a new cutting edge. This means pulling the blade away from its edge so it can form a “Burr”.

  2. Don’t roll the blade as you are pulling it.
    Keep your wrist locked and watch the space between the spine or the top of the knife blade and the stone. Keep the space consistent to get a flat, consistent bevel. Allowing the gap to increase as you pull the blade toward you will result in a rounded bevel. One trick I use is to place my thumb on the back of the knife and keep the side of my thumb just barely grazing the top of the stone surface. If I keep my finger in the same place on the blade and barely touch the stone as I draw the blade toward me, I get a consistent cutting edge no matter how many times I need to do it.

  3. There is no big mystery to sharpening a blade.
    I know some of these guys act like they are unlocking and revealing hidden secrets of the universe. Your goal is to get a nice long even burr formed along the edge of the blade that you will eventually remove with a strop. Also, know that there are many times where all a blade needs is a good stropping to get its edge back. Once I sharpen a knife or chisel, It will likely never touch another stone. I keep my blades sharp with a leather strop and either green or white compound. My french skiving knife that I use on nearly every single LW project gets stropped with green compound before it ever touches leather.

  4. Try to get the entire length of the blade in a single draw to maintain a consistent edge.
    For longer blades like a chef’s knife, you will need to draw across the stone as you are pulling it back to remove material from the entire length of the blade. I know this sounds counter-intuitive but as long as you are drawing the blade away from its cutting edge, and maintaining a consistent gap (not rolling the edge), you will begin to remove material and start forming a new edge.

  5. Switch sides with each stroke.
    Another mistake I was taught as a kid is to sharpen one side then the other and eventually, the two sides will meet and form a sharp edge. When you are trying to get the sharpest possible knife, the last thing you want to do is offset your edge by grinding away too much material from one side before you flip the blade over. THIS ONLY APPLIES TO A DOUBLE BEVEL BLADE!.

If you are sharpening a single beveled blade, then repeated passes over the stone is exactly what you want to do.

  1. The burr does not show up right away.
    As you remove material it will slowly begin to form at the edge. With my DMT stones or even my Japanese Stones, I am usually on to the second stone before the burr becomes really prominent. If we know that a consistent edge requires keeping the blade at a set angle all the way through the stroke (ie: not rolling the edge) and we know that to get the burr to form, we need to draw the blade away from its edge, then the formation of the burr will help us judge the progress of the blade. This only comes with experience. The burr will tell you everything you need to know.

  2. Do not be afraid of scratching the beveled edge. I knew a guy at one time who would not sharpen a knife because he was afraid of scratching the polished edge. It took me showing him the entire process for him to realize that in sharpening the blade and stropping to remove the burr, we actually re-polish the edge and leave it looking brand new. If you use the “Thumb” technique I mentioned above, you won’t have to worry about scratching the sides of the blade, just the cutting edge.

Much of this has been about sharpening knives. As Leatherworkers, we work with many cutting tools that only have a single bevel to them. Japanese Skiving Knives, French Skivers, Edge Bevelers, Groovers, etc… These are just simple variations of the woodworker’s chisels and planes. As I mentioned above, Paul Sellers is a fantastic resource for learning to properly sharpen our tools.

I will stop here for now and see if there are any questions I can answer.

Thank you @josh. I scanned through, but later I will come back and scour this. Wow. Lots of good information!!! Thanks.

Great stuff, @josh. Was able to digest what you wrote. Thanks so much. The main question was how often I needed to sharpen it. Most of my blades are sharp and I steop them often using white compound. I don’t have any green. When would I need green over white (bought at Tandy)? Do I need 2 strops; 1 for each? Or can I apply one over the other?

As for how often… I imagine I am quite a bit like you. I, too, keep my blades sharp and strop them often. I usually strop my blades when they begin to hang up on the leather (or wood in the case of my chisels). It’s the same rule of thumb I use for changing razor blades in my box cutter too. Out of sheer habit now, I will run my french skiver over a small chunk of leather coated with green compound every time I use it. The last thing I want to do is gauge a chunk of leather out of a piece I cannot afford to throw away.

My edge bevelers get drawn along a long piece of 1mm thread coated with stropping compound when they start to hang up on the leather too. I love the feeling of cutting a long thin ribbon of leather off the top and bottom edges.

About the white and green stropping compounds… They are two different grits, and for that reason alone, I would not combine them on the same strop. As I understand it, the White is about 9000 grit, and the Green is something like 20,000 grit.

If all you have is white, I can’t see a reason to get both. I have used both and I like how White removes material from a blade. It’s a visual experience. There is something oddly satisfying about watching a leather strop, freshly coated with white compound, turn black as metal is removed from a blade. As you know, the white compound is perfectly capable of removing the scratches left by a wet stone or diamond plate and polishing the blade back to a mirrored shine.

About 15-18 years ago, I purchased a massive bar of green compound that still, to this day, looks like it has been barely used (I will try to get photos of it posted tomorrow). I may never need to buy stropping compound again. I keep my bar of compound and the leather strop safely stored in a ziplock bag, so they don’t dry out.

I hope this bit of rambling is somehow helpful or useful.

Thanks for the information. The white compound is like a large stick of chalk. It doesn’t appear it could get anymore dry. Is yours moist or dry like mine?

I apologize for the delayed response. I have been without internet for the last week.

Yep, mine seems dry to the touch too. It is a strange phenomenon. When coating my strop with a fresh layer of compound, the dry, chalk-like residue on the strop is bone-dry compared to the new compound, which seems almost moist.

Hope I’m not necroposting here, I’d just like yalls opinion on what would be a decent cheapish single edge japanese style skiving knife? As i’d imagine it would be easier to keep a single edge sharp with a strop, rather than trying to constantly resharpen 2 sides evenly.

BANYOUR Leather Knife Cutting Knife Edging Knife with Wooden Handle Leather Working Knife for DIY Leathercraft Cutting https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07LD4PC2D/ref=cm_sw_r_apanp_guYcqRgImo5Lm

This is the one I got. Sharp out of the box.

I still have and use one of those single bevel Japanese-style skiving knives that come in a cheap beginner’s kit. I sharpened it on my diamond stones, then stropped the edge until I could see my reflection in it, and the knife cuts through 9 oz. veg tan belt leather like I am cutting paper. It fits well in my hand. It is comfortable to hold and easy to maneuver as I work.

The geometry’s the key. The edge is the narrowest possible sliver at the edge of the face of the blade, whereas the bevel is the slope above it, the entire face. The result is a contradiction, the edge needs to be as shallow as possible but has to be greater than the bevel. Grinding should only be used on the bevel: sharpening on the edge. Eventually the edge cuts back into the bevel, as material’s lost in continuous sharpening, until some of the bevel has to be ground back to recover a distinct edge. Some really old chisels I’ve seen have lost almost all the blade thereby.
Personally, I like the waterstones, because the slurry can form a burr far quicker: a slight cross-grind removes it as easily as a strop.