Over the years I have had lots of different knives with lots of different steels pass through my hands. In that time I have been able to keep every one of those steels shaving sharp with my own maintenance routine.
The S35VN on my Mnandi came in sharp but dulled relatively quickly. I carried and used the knife quite a bit so it is not a surprise it dulled quickly, but what was surprising is the fact that I couldn't get it sharp once that happened. My typical routine for each knife is a stropping once a week if it got carried that week. It is pretty simple--on Friday night after the boys go down and the craziness ends, my wife and I turn on the TV and watch a show (it was Dowton Abbey, yep I am old enough to appreciate the granduer of the Yorkshire Estate, and now it is a rewatch of Next Generation), I grab a glass of bourbon, and my two strops. It is a very comforting ritual and one that keeps all of my knives in tip top shape.
But in a weird turn of events, after one such ritual with the Mnandi it couldn't cut paper. Not like "cuts poorly" but more like "can't cut at all." It was so strange. After that, I took to a full resharpen on my Sharpmaker. I cleared the decks, went down to the coarsest grit and the up through the fine grit, on to the strop (which was freshly charged with compound) then to the even finer grit strop. Nuthin'.
I tried all sorts of tricks--the coffee cup trick, the cardboard trick--and nothing changed the fact that the knife was no longer sharp. I don't baby my knives and I didn't baby the Mnandi, but I don't abuse them either. Years of carry tell me that I am not overly hard on my gear as I have always been able to get it back to working order quickly, but this blade must have been pushed a little too far. The most strenuous task I subject my blades to on a regular basis is processing cardboard for our itty bitty recycling bin. Here, prior to the edge needing attention, the Mnandi worked well, like a zipper. But I must have pushed it too far.
It needed a full reprofiling. I have done this myself in the past on my BK-9, but with a knife this nice, I wasn't sure it would work. I wanted to make sure it came out great and set a foundation for future maintenance. I also wanted to try out a sharpening service and so I used Nick Shabazz's guy, Spadeknifeworks. Nathan was prompt and communicative and the end result was a gleaming blade, polished enough to show off newsprint in a reflection. The Mnandi is back in working order and pops hairs with the slightest pressure.
Nathan's work is very good, it exceeded my expectations, but I have no idea, even now, why I needed to go this route.
In this day and age we assume so much about steel--X is better than Y, A holds an edge longer than B, this steel is easy to sharpen and this one is not. But the reality is, outside Crucible's lab or Carpenter's factory, steels encounter a wide range of conditions and even steels that are well known (this is probably my tenth knife I have tested with S35VN) sometime react in wild ways. All of the hypothetical and scientific knowledge about steels in the world is a helpful foundation, but you don't know the steel on your knife until you use it. All the gee whiz tech in the world is still not a replacement for experience.