Knives are as indispensable as any tool in the farrier’s shoeing box.
Used and maintained correctly, the various knives necessary to trim a hoof not only make the job easier, but safer.
“A dull knife is particularly unsafe because you really have to start pulling it aggressively,” says Bob Smith, owner of the Pacific Coast Horseshoeing School in Plymouth, Calif. “When it slips, you’ve got a lot of force behind it. When you have a sharp knife, it doesn’t require a lot of force, so even if you slip a little, it’s not going anywhere.”
Although there are knife-sharpening systems available that include a motor and sharpening and buffing wheels, many farriers improvise.
“I used a 1/4-horsepower motor that ran at 1,200 rpm,” explains Bob Schantz of Spanish Lake Blacksmith Shop in Foristell, Mo. “I installed a 3M Scotch-Brite fine grade wheel on one end and a cotton buffing wheel on the other. The 3M wheel removed metal quickly, and I used it primarily on new knives. Once I had the initial edge on a knife, I mostly used the cotton wheel with a fine buffing compound.”
The number of knives that a farrier might carry depends upon personal preference and necessity. Some climates tend to harden hooves, dulling a knife quicker.
“I carried two knives, one to use and one as a backup,” recalls the Farrier Product Distribution clinician. “I buffed mine between each horse. It takes about 30 seconds to keep a sharp knife sharp. It will take much longer to make a dull knife sharp.”
Smith carries four knives when he shoes a full day. He also sharpens them often.
“I touch them up with a little diamond edge across my knife between every foot, particularly in areas that have granite or sand because that really dulls a knife quickly” he says. “As soon as I’m not getting a very controlled cut, that knife goes into a box and a new, sharp knife comes out.”
There are others who don’t want to waste time sharpening between feet.
“My friend Jack Kohler kept five or six sharp knives on his truck and used one per horse,” Schantz says. “That evening, he’d sharpen all of them and be ready for the next day. Whatever works for you, just keep ’em sharp.”