Sharpening then and now
Although the desired end result - that being a sharper edge - has not changed over the past 10,000 years, many refinements in the sharpening world have developed recently creating advancements that our forefathers could not have dreamed of. For the sake of streamlining this article, I will single out the craftsperson as the main sharpener of blades; this is an editorial decision and should not to be taken as a discount to both the men and the women, the owner/user or the apprentice who each has had or will have a need to sharpen edges for various purposes.
Craftsmen/women over time have always been at the forefront of sharpening because they eke out their living by performing these repetitive tasks that require blades to be sharpened to a particular degree, or they have worked in conjunction with other craftspersons and or purveyors of materials to sharpen blades as a service. The average person in modern or ancient times has always
appreciated a well-sharpened blade, but the highly refined and ultra-sharp edges have been elusive to all but a few because the sharpening media required and the techniques necessary to create these super edges required an investment of time and money that up until about one hundred years ago was too specialized to devote the resources for the layperson.
The thrust of my article here will be concerned with these super edges, and I will center my comments below in regard to my observations of one geographic area. As an island and a
contained self-limiting microcosm, Japan is just one example of how a social structure has dealt with the need to sharpen blades to extreme levels but at the same time, Japan is unique because in
just the past and very recent century it has progressed from an edged weapon toting society to the modern leader in abrasive and metallurgical sciences. Their roots of what is really sharp are well documented in Japan as well as hints on how to sharpen.