Is the Harbor Freight 1x30 Belt Sander a good knife sharpener?

Posted by Jesse Craddock on

My Short answer is Definitely, YES! 

Is the Harbor Freight 1x30 the best knife sharpener?

No, but it's not the worst!

Check out our newest 1X30 Pack! Everything you need to start sharpening on your 1x30!

1X30 Beginner Sharpening Kit with Instructions

UPDATE!!!!! NEW VIDEO!!!!

Scroll to the Bottom to see our latest Video!!

The basics of sharpening are almost always the same. Irrespective of the machine or process you are using. I say this a lot, but, “Create a Burr, Weaken the Burr, Remove the Burr, The Knife is Sharp”. While not all sharpening is this simple, I think we have a tendency to overthink and complicate the sharpening process. My other Pro Tip, Practice. Only practice and experience will make you a better knife sharpener. You can learn a lot when you make a few mistakes sharpening knives. Pick up a few used knives from Goodwill or a garage sale to practice sharpening. Practicing on your favorite knife is not recommended. Personally, If I’ve paid a lot of money for a knife, I’ll take it to my local knife sharpener, I still make mistakes in sharpening and am always learning, even though I consider myself an experienced knife sharpener. 

Be sure to comment below with a question about knife or tool sharpening on a Harbor Freight 1X30 Belt Sander.

In this post we will focus on Sharpening knives on a common 1X30 inch Belt Sander from Harbor Freight. I will talk about grit progression and I’ll discuss some details on using a 1x30 Leather Stropping Belt on a 1x30 Harbor Freight Sander. Adding a Super Strop Leather Honing Belt can really give you an edge in sharpening on your Harbor Freight Sander. The Harbor Freight Belt Sander is a great tool, in my opinion. The HF 1x30 is a great sander and I think it makes a decent knife sharpener too. Conveniently, the Harbor Freight is always on my Bench and Plugged in, ready to sharpen a blade in the amount of time it takes to change a belt on the Harbor Freight 1X30. The availability of 1X30 inch Sharpening Belts has grown in recent years. We offer multiple grain material in 1x30 Belts with a variety of grits, from a coarse 36 Grit Zirconia to an Ultra Fine 2000 Grit Aluminum Oxide. With so many options and grit varieties available for the Harbor Freight 1x30, it can be tough to choose the right belts for progressive grit sharpening.

We offer some simple beginner Sharpening Belt Packs that include the SUPER STROP Leather Honing Belt and follow the grit progression we've laid out in the instructions below. Check out our Featured Products Here!

 

                 1X30 Leather Super Strop with High Grit 15 pack Sharpening Belt Assortment1X30 Knife Sharpener's Assorted Belt Kit with 1X30 Leather Honing Strop Belt

  You’ll find the simple list of instructions here. For more info about this sharpening tutorial, read the detailed instructions below.

How to Guide to Sharpening on a Harbor Freight 1x30 in. Belt Sander

  1. Prepare your 1X30 belt sander. It’s easy to set your sander up to be a knife sharpener.
    1. Remove the table and adjust the platen away from the belt.
    2. Like many knife sharpeners, you’ll want to sharpen in a slack area of the belt.
  2. Decide which grits you will use to sharpen your knives. I recommend using 220 grit, 600 grit, 1000 grit & a Super Strop leather Honing Belt for a razor sharp, professional finish
  3. Create your initial burr by grinding the knife’s edge 
    1. Install your 220 grit belt adjust your tracking and make sure all safety protocols are being followed
    2. Begin by contacting the belt with the heel of the knife. As soon as you contact the belt begin moving the knife to avoid creating a low spot. Sharpen edge trailing.
    3. Pull the knife’s edge along the belt, maintaining a consistent angle, once the tip of the knife reaches the center of the belt, lift the blade away from the belt. As with most knife sharpeners Do not drag the tip over the edge of the belt. Repeat this on both sides of the knife. Many knife sharpeners are set up to run the knife in only one direction, I recommend sharpening in only one direction also.
    4. Check & see if you’re creating a burr. A good overhead light is useful in spotting the burr. Once the burr is consistent along the entire edge. Move on to the next stage.
  4. Weaken the burr.
    1. Install your 600 grit belt. We recommend silicon carbide when sharpening knives.
    2. Repeat the same sharpening process as before, use light pressure and check to see that your burr is becoming smaller as you sharpen.
    3. A few passes on either side of the knife should be enough. If you’ve created a heavy burr, it may take more passes. 
    4. Once weakened with the 600 grit belt, repeat the process with the 1000 grit belt. 
    5. After a 1000 grit belt, the knife may feel very sharp and is sharp. There is still a very small and weak burr present. 
  5. Stropping with a 1x30 Leather Honing Strop Belt from SUPER STROP
    1. Install your leather honing belt and apply the compound according to the instructions. You must strop edge trailing.
    2. Using a slightly flatter (lower) angle begin stropping using the same process as the previous steps. Use slightly less pressure than when sharpening. 
    3. Make a few passes and test your sharpness. 

Your knife should be sharp! If you’re looking for further details, please continue reading below as I go in depth on some tips and tricks to sharpening on the Harbor Freight Belt Sander.

Detailed Instructions

Getting Started:

I prefer to sharpen knives on my Harbor Freight 1X30 Belt Sander with the table removed and the platen adjusted away from the belt as far as it will go. With a few minor adjustments, I think it makes a great knife sharpener. I will specifically be talking about sharpening your knife with a convex edge. A convex edge is achieved by sharpening on a “slack belt”. This is why we move the platen on the Harbor Freight 1x30 back and away from the belt. You still want the belt to have proper tension but the slack in the belt will help achieve the convex edge. 

Here is a simple visualization of a Convex Edge and Flat Bevel Edge.Difference between a convex knife edge and a flat bevel edge I could write an entire blog post on the advantages of a Convex edge. But, I’ll likely do that someday so we won’t get into it here. Plainly put, a convex edge is generally the superior working edge in most everyday applications. Again, in my opinion. Many popular knife companies use the flat bevel edge and it does look nice and can be durable with super high quality steels. Popular knife sharpeners like the Work Sharp and Ken Onion Edition Work Sharp sharpen a convex edge. We are going to stick with the convex edge today. If your knife has a flat bevel edge it will become a convex edge by following these instructions. You may find you need to do a little more grinding with the first stage to convert the edge properly and completely. If your bevel is single sided, you may think twice before converting both sides. A moderate amount of material would need to be removed. 


Let’s talk about sharpening belt grit progression. Deciding your grit progression is simple. This is where my fun little saying comes in handy,  “Create a Burr, Weaken the Burr, Remove the Burr, The Knife is Sharp”. You’ll use a grit, or two to complete each of these steps. 


So let’s create a burr on that knife! 

Your first grit will be used to create a burr. This commonly referred to as a wire edge or feathered edge.  There are a few things to consider when choosing the grit to begin sharpening on the 1x30 Belt sander.

First we need to decide how we can create our burr. Ask yourself these questions about your blade: 

Is the existing edge in good shape, just a little dull?

Or, is the edge very damaged with chips? 

If your knife is in good shape, you can start with a higher grit around 400 or 600 grit silicon carbide 1x30 belts. The advantage of creating a burr with a 400 grit 1x30 belt initially is the burr is much weaker than that of a 120 or 220 grit belt. The higher the grit, the weaker the burr will be when used as the initial grit in your sharpening progression on your 1x30 Harbor Freight.


If your knife's edge is damaged and needs to be repaired or re-established, you’ll want to start with a 120 or 220 grit 1x30 sharpening belt. This coarser grit belt will remove material more quickly and establish a new straight edge. Creating a consistent burr along the way.


Once you’ve created a burr, it’s time to weaken it! Remember the saying. In this scenario I am going to remove the burr with a Super Strop 1x30 Leather Belt for the Harbor Freight Belt Sander. I know the Super Strop Leather Honing Belt will remove a burr that has been weakened by a 1000 grit Sharpening Belt. Our White Sharpening Compound’s aluminum oxide abrasive will cut the burr left after a 1x30 1000 grit silicon carbide belt. So, I already know what my last grit will be before putting the leather honing belt on the harbor Freight Belt Sander. 


Fill in the gaps. 

Let’s assume my edge here is lightly damaged with a few knicks in the edge and I need to do some grinding to realign everything. I’m going to start with a 220 grit Ceramic belt. I’ll begin on the belt sander by grinding the edge at the heel and pulling the knife until the tip reaches the center of the belt and I lift the Blade Away from the belt. Remember to sharpen edge trailing, this means your knife edge will be pointed down as you stand in front of the belt sander. SAFETY NOTE: Never drag the tip over the edge of the belt. This will round your tip and can be very dangerous if your knife gets caught in your belt. 

If you’re new to sharpening, only pull the blade in one direction and move at a decent pace, 2-3 inches per second, depending on your specific sharpening task. Also, manage your pressure, light hands make sharper knives. Pulling the blade in only one direction helps you manage your angle along the contours of the blade, as you progress you’ll grow more comfortable and be able to maintain correct angles in both directions. 

Once you’ve made a few passes on both sides of your knife, check for your burr. A good overhead light will reflect very well and make it very visible at this stage. You can also carefully feel for the burr with your fingertips. Push your finger along the opposite side you just sharpened. Be careful and only move your fingers in the direction the blade is point to avoid cutting yourself. You should feel a noticeable burr on the edge. If the burr is present and consistent, then it’s time to move on. You’ll unnecessarily remove material if you continue with the 220 grit belt. 

Next I will install a 600 grit silicon carbide sharpening belt on my Harbor Freight 1x30. I am going to use this belt to weaken the burr we created previously. Using light pressure and the same angle as before, repeat the process of pulling the blade across the belt and lifting away when the tip reaches the center. Usually, 2-3 passes is all that is needed for both the 600 grit and 1000 grit stage. When you check your burr after the 600 grit, it should be noticeably smaller. Now repeat this step with the 1000 grit belt installed. After running your knife on the 1000 grit belt, it will be sharp. But, there is a very small burr, sometimes just fragments of the burr left on the edge. This is where the ultra fine polishing quality of strop will be necessary. Leaving these fragments behind can cause the blade to go dull more quickly than if it was removed. Since the burr is just as hard as the steel of the knife, as the blade's edge is used, these fragments are pushed against the edge and dull the knife. 

Stropping with a leather belt. 

Some key tips to stropping success:

  • Manage your pressure. Use very light pressure and let the belt and compound do the work. 
  • Manage your angle. Strop at a slightly lower angle to avoid “rolling the edge” and dulling the knife.
  • Check your sharpness every few passes. The stropping process happens very quickly.

Once your leather strop belt is installed and running smoothly on your belt sander, apply a thin layer of the Super Strop sharpening compound to your belt as it runs. Use light pressure. A very thin layer is all that is needed. Power strops do not need to be loaded up like hand strops. You’ll slowly build up a layer of compound and your belt will turn black, this is normal and evidence that the Leather belt is working. 

If you’ve followed these steps correctly, you should have a razor sharp knife with a finely polished edge.

Quick recap:

Our grit progression on the Harbor Freight was 220 grit Ceramic, 600 grit Silicon Carbide, 1000 Grit Silicon Carbide & a 1X30 Super Strop Leather Honing Strop belt to finish.

2-3 passes, or as many as needed, on either side of the knife for each grit stage.


Feel free to comment or leave questions below! Let me know what aspects of this post need more detail.

Happy Sharpening!

Jesse C.

UPDATE!!!!! NEW VIDEO!!!!


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6 comments

  • Informative and helpful. I’ve been researching various budget sharpeners and am settling on the model from HF. Will undoubtedly order your belt kit and angle guide soon.
    Thank you for taking the time to share your tips.

    Marc on
  • Can the inside (rougher) of the belt be used instead of the outside (smoother)?

    Chris on
  • James, The 2000 grit belt is similar on paper to a Leather Belt with our Compound applied. Because the application to the blade is different, the results are different. Both will get a knife sharp, but the leather belt will work more quickly and last longer. I hope this helps.

    Pro Sharpening Supply on
  • Peter, I highly recommend the Harbor Freight 1×30 for Sharpening. It’s tough to beat the simplicity and ease of use after a little practice.

    Pro Sharpening Supply on
  • you say it is not the best or worst
    witch is the best and simple to use??thank you
    Peter Konitzki

    PETER , KONITZKI on

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