Re-conditioning Natural Sharpening Stones

2013 August 14
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I recently received an inquiry from one of our blog followers asking if it was possible to re-condition a natural sharpening stone.  I thought was an intriguing and unique question, so I’ve decided to make it and my response the blog post for this week.

 

My response – Mr. Harada, thanks for visiting our blog and for posting an inquiry.  Your question is interesting and one I had to do some research to answer.  However, I think I have an answer that will help you.

The answer to your question is “Yes, you can re-condition natural sharpening stones so they are flat again.  If the stone doesn’t have a severe bow to it, you can take really coarse sand paper and put it on a solid flat surface, add water, and use the sand paper to try to flatten the surface by hand.  If the stone has a large, really severe bow in it, then you should send it back to us or another abrasive company that has a rub bed (or lap table) and have them resurface it for you.  These re-surfacing type tables are quick and do an excellent job finishing stones.  There might be a small fee involved, but getting 3 - 5 more years of service from your stone will be worth the small investment.  Good luck and keep it sharp!”

This was definitely one of my most unique questions, but after it is all said and done, I bet it this post becomes one of my most viewed.  Hopefully, there are others who find it useful as well.  I’ve included an image of a lap table at work for reference.Smiths_Finishing_HS038

 

Good luck and Keep It Sharp!

 

 

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Identifying Old Smith’s Sharpening Stones

2012 January 12

Earlier this week, I received the following inquiry from one of our readers needing some help with identifying some old Smith’s sharpening stones and some information about their abrasive qualities.  I was intrigued by the question and started wondering how many more knife owners out there might have this same predicament.  Thinking this might be useful information and urged to make this subject a blog post by our follower, I’ve decided to use his inquiry and my response for this week’s blog post.

I have three 8″ Smith bench stones in cedar boxes.  They must have been acquired 20+ years ago.  I don’t know how abrasive the stones are and I wonder if someone with Smith’s can tell me.

One stone is black, one is which with grey markings in it and one is white.

Thanks for any help you can give.

Here is my response.

Thank you for visiting our blog and for sending an inquiry.  You are correct.  The sharpening stones you have are at least 20 years old because we haven’t put stones in cedar boxes since the late eighties.  As for your particular stones, here is a brief description of each and what it is used for.

Black Hard Arkansas – extra-fine surgical grade.  Used on blades that are already very sharp to polish it to the most perfect edge possible.  Used mostly for sharpening razor blades.  Very popular with jewelers and in medical    profession for sharpening scalpels and other razor sharp instruments.

Soft Arkansas – a gray, medium grade stone.  A good, all-purpose sharpening stone.  Used mostly for sharpening dull blades on hunting/fishing and kitchen knives that have a consistent cutting edge but the edge is not very sharp.  Is a good stone to start the sharpening process with and take a dull blade to sharp.

White Hard Arkansas – the best stone for really polishing the blade.  A good stone to use after sharpening a dull blade with a diamond bench stone or a Soft Arkansas stone.  Most commonly used by dentist, doctors, gunsmiths, and edge enthusiasts.

Natural Arkansas Stones

Please note, always use a sharpening lubricant (i.e. Honing oil or water) when sharpening a knife with Natural Arkansas stones.  Using a Natural Arkansas stone to sharpen a knife blade without some type of lubricant will damage your stone and cause it to lose its sharpening capabilities.  A lubricant keeps the pores of the stone clean, dissipates frictional heat, and ensures a smooth sharpening action.  You can’t use too much fluid.  Use enough to keep a pool visible on the stone while you are sharpening. When the pool gets murky, pat or lightly wipe up with a rag and re-apply more fluid.  Keep fresh lubricant on the stone until sharpening is complete.

I hope this helps you identify and know how to use each of the three stones.  If you have other questions or need additional information, please let me know.

Good luck and keep it sharp!

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Rolling the Edge

2011 November 29

Many people think a “sharpening steel” actually sharpens a knife’s cutting edge.  This is not true.  A sharpening steel only aligns a knife’s cutting edge.  This topic was addressed in the inquiry and response below at the request of one of our followers.  It is our second post for this week.

I always understood that you should have a bevel on the edge of your knife ….as a carpenter with my chisels I put 2 bevels and then dress up the very edge with stones….people who are always dressing up their knifes are rounding over the edge and never hold a edge very long…. please address this and also what type hunting knife with hook is the best for holding an edge ….when cutting deer meat through the sinew and fat and bone I really need it sharp and to stay that way….knife should have the skinning hook as well for field dressing.  – Don

Thanks for the inquiry.  Sounds like you are very experienced with knives and woodworking tools and with maintaining a good, sharp edge on these tools.  Obviously, you’ve figured out the keys to sharpening a knife or cutting tool, consistency of angle and equal treatment to both sides of the blade.  For purposes of addressing your issue of “rounding over the edge when dressing up a knife,” which you mentioned below, I am going to assume you mean the use of a sharpening steel to sharpen a knife blade.  If you mean otherwise, please let me know and I will reframe my answer accordingly.

If I am correct in my assumption, let me address what we refer to as “steeling a knife blade.” A sharpening steel does not actually sharpen a knife blade, instead it aligns the edge.  It keeps it straight in layman’s terms.  To sharpen a knife blade, you have to remove metal from the blade, which is not possible with a sharpening steel.  It does, however, keep the cutting edge of the blade straight and removes any burr (or roll) on the edge.

You mentioned below that “people who are always dressing up their knives are rounding over the edge and never hold an edge very long.”  I am not sure that I agree with this statement.  The whole purpose of a sharpening steel is to keep the edge straight and to remove any rounding or rolling of the edge.  In theory, as long as the edge is sharp and straight all the way down the length of the blade, then the knife should cut just fine.  A quality steel blade that has some thickness to the edge should hold its sharpness for a lengthy amount of time.  Therefore, sharpness is not the main concern.  The issue is really keeping that very thin portion of the edge from rolling over, as you mentioned.  This is where the sharpening steel is very effective.  Like our President, Richard Smith, always says, “the best way to keep a knife sharp is to never let it get dull.”

As for holding a sharp edge very long by dressing your knife frequently, I think lots of chefs and butchers would disagree with you.  These professionals are the biggest users of sharpening steels and many of them swear by them.  However, you have to consider what they are cutting….mostly soft foods.  Soft foods will never really dull a knife blade because the metal slides right through it.  But when the cutting edge hits the hard surface the food is setting on what do you think happens?  That’s right.  The edge rolls.  This is why they keep a sharpening steel close by.

Now, think what would happen to that same knife blade if it was used to cut rope or wood or a nylon material or electrical wire?  See the difference.  Any tough material like this will not only roll the edge, but it will also change the makeup of the metal material (i.e. scratch it, remove chunks from it, etc.).  When this happens, a new edge has to be placed on the blade and to do this, you have to remove some metal from the blade.  In this case, a sharpening steel will not get the job done.

As for a good hunting knife with a gut hook that holds its cutting edge, I’m going to let you make that decision.  I will say that I have personally used a Buck Omni Hunter, a Kershaw Elk Skinner, and a Knives of Alaska Trekker and they all performed exceptionally well.  They are all high quality, comfort grip knives that get the job done.  My advice to you is to find a knife that is comfortable in your hand and that is geared to performing the task at hand (don’t take a 2″ blade pocket knife up the mountain to skin an elk).  There are lots of good hunting knives out there and most all manufacturers are using good, quality steels these days.

I hope this information helps clarify the issues you pointed out in your inquiry and if I can be of further assistance please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Good luck and keep it sharp!

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Smith’s Advice for Buying the Right Sharpener

2011 November 29

We recently received an inquiry from a consumer wanting help with buying the right sharpener and a suggestion for a good field sharpener.  His inquiry and our response is this week’s blog post.  Maybe this will help anybody else out there looking at buying a good knife sharpener, but not sure which one to choose.

I am trying to decide between manual or electric sharpener.  Also, deciding between diamond or ceramic electric sharpener. My application is hunting knives with 440 stainless and 440 carbon steel. My research steer me towards the Smith’s Ceramic Edge Pro. Is this the correct decision?  Also, any suggestions for in the field application?  – Mr. Giles

With regards to your inquiry below, let me see if I can help you with your decisions.  First, let’s look at “Manual versus Electric Sharpeners.”  Both of these types of sharpeners work.  They both will get your knife sharp.  The only major differences are cost and time.  Obviously, the Electric sharpener is going to be more expensive, but if you own several knives or like to sharpen other peoples knives, the electric sharpener will prove beneficial.  Electric sharpeners are made to work quickly and precisely.  These benefits come in handy when sharpening several knives at one time.  I have no doubt you could achieve the same results using a manual sharpener for a much cheaper investment, but it will take you MUCH longer to get there.

Now, let’s look at “a diamond wheel electric sharpener versus a ceramic wheel electric sharpener.”  As you may or may not know, diamonds are the hardest substance known to man.  This means they are very aggressive when used to abrade metal.  They work quickly on even some of the hardest of steels.  Ceramics on the other hand are used for finishing and polishing, so they remove very little metal when sharpening a steel blade.  Based on these characteristics, let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Diamond abrasives remove metal quickly, so they work very fast.  They don’t, however, leave a very smooth edge on the blade.  If you look at the cutting edge of a blade that has been sharpened using diamond abrasives under a microscope, you will see lots of micro-striations near the edge of the blade.  The blade will look rough and sort of eat up.  The ceramic abrasives will work in just the opposite manner.  They will give you a very smooth and polished final edge, but they will take forever to sharpen a very dull or damaged blade, especially a blade that uses very hard steel.

A smooth, sharp edge cuts better than a rough, sharp edge when cutting softer items like fruits or vegetables, but some people like a rough edge, especially if they are skinning or caping an animal or packing out meat, because the rough edge works like mini-serrations.  The rough edge actually grabs and holds whatever you are cutting while the sharp edge cuts it.

I would suggest you go with the diamond electric sharpener if you are planning to use it for sharpening your 440 steel hunting knives.  It will sharpen them faster and will give you the type of edge needed for their application (i.e. skinning animals, cutting tough meats, cutting cloth or tree limbs, etc.).  However, choosing a good sharpener should always be based on the “right fit” for the person using the sharpener.  If you think the ceramic electric will work better for you because you will also be sharpening other types of knives (i.e. kitchen knives, soft steel pocket knives, etc.) then by all means go with your gut.  The last thing we want is for one of customers to buy a sharpening product that he or she never really felt comfortable with.  He or she never really achieves success when this is the case.  Hopefully, I have given you enough valuable information regarding electric sharpeners and abrasive materials that this won’t be the case.

And last but not least, “field application.”  If you like a quick, simple, fixed-angle style sharpener, I would suggest our Pocket Pal Knife Sharpener.  It sharpens both standard edge and serrated edge blades, and it’s small enough to carry in your pocket or fanny pack.  It also works well on blades made of hard steels.  Now, if you prefer “freehand” sharpening (i.e. like sharpening on a whetstone), then I would suggest our Diamond Combination Sharpener.  It has both a 4″ x 1″ Coarse interrupted surface diamond abrasive stone and a 4″ x 1″ Fine interrupted surface diamond abrasive stone built into one compact unit.  It comes with a soft rubber handle that stores and protects the stones when not in use.

I hope this helps you with your decisions.  Remember, they all sharpen.  It just comes down to finding a sharpener that you are comfortable using and one that is geared toward sharpening the types of knives you use.  Let me leave you with these words of wisdom our President, Richard Smith, tells everyone that ask him for advice on how to sharpen a knife…….”The best way to keep a knife sharp is to never let it get dull.”

Good luck and keep it sharp!

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Smith’s Gearing Up For Fall Show Season

2011 September 15
tags:
by Russ
The fall and winter show season has already started for Smith’s®, who attended their first show last week in Fort Worth, Texas. Smith’s will exhibit at approximately 18 trade shows in the coming months at numerous locations across the United States from Hawaii to North Carolina. The entire Smith’s Edgesport™ and Edgework™ product lines will be on display at these shows as well as various merchandising options for displaying Smith’s products.
 
If you happen to be in attendance, stop by and see the new sharpening products introduced this year and make sure you take advantage of the HOT DEALS only available at the shows.
 
See you there and Keep It Sharp!  

10' x 30' Smith's Booth

10' x 10' Smith's Booth

30' x 30' Smith's Island Booth

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Cleaning Ceramic Sharpening Rods/Stones

2011 August 19

This question was submitted through our blog, but I believe there are lots of owners of ceramic abrasive sharpeners out there with the same question.  Therefore, I am making it the blog post for this week.  I hope you find it helpful.

How do I clean the ceramic rods?

Ceramic Rods in Smith's 3-N-1 Sharpening System

Smith's 9" Oval Ceramic Sharpening Rod

Answer:

The best way to clean ceramic abrasives (whether its ceramic rods or stones) is to use a common kitchen cleansing powder.  Just scrub the ceramic material with a wet, mild brush (I like to use an old toothbrush) that has a little kitchen cleansing powder on the bristles, then rinse the surface in warm water.  The black coloring on the rod/stone should come right off!  If not, repeat process until the ceramic surface is clean and restored to its original color.

Always remember to dry your sharpener when finished and store in a safe place to protect the abrasive surface from damage.

Keep it Sharp!

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Smith’s® Participates in 30th Annual BLADE Show and International Cutlery Fair

2011 July 7
by Russ

Smith’s continued its annual tradition of participating in the BLADE Show and International Cutlery Fair over the second week in June.  The 30th Annual BLADE Show, the largest in history, was quite possibly also the most successful BLADE Show for all involved.  It took place in the Cobb Galleria Center of Atlanta, Georgia, June 10-12, 2011.  Nine hundred exhibitors displayed their edged wares, including 175 booth holders and 725 tables. Every major knife manufacturer in the world, and the planet’s greatest custom knifemakers, collectors, dealers and purveyors took their places on the show floor.  Smith’s was also a part of the action on the show floor with a 10’ x 10’ booth just off the main entrance, in which there were numerous knife, tool, and scissors sharpeners sold and plenty of discussion about the best way to sharpen a knife.

Smith’s booth at 2011 BLADE Show and International Cutlery Fair

The excitement over the weekend’s seminars was unparalleled.  Taking place during the show, attendees enjoyed seminars on blade grinding, knife throwing, bladesmithing, forging, Japanese sword cutting, sword fighting techniques, and renaissance sword fencing.  Meanwhile an unprecedented number of knives, swords, tomahawks, daggers, dirks, bowies, pocketknives, hunters, tactical folders, fixed blades, and knife accessories were viewed, bought, sold and traded.  The Blade Show proved once again that it is the place to be for knife and edge care enthusiasts.

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Smith’s NEW Ceramic Edge Pro Electric Knife Sharpener – This one gets it scary SHARP!

2011 May 6
A brief overview of the sharpener including highlights of its features and benefits.

Smith’s® is very excited to introduce the first of several electric knife sharpeners launching this year that feature our patented interlocking wheel technology in a ceramic abrasive material.  Like in all of their electric sharpeners, Smith’s will continue the practice of combining quick and precise sharpening provided by electrical powered sharpening wheels with the versatility of manual sharpening elements.  This unique combination provides a broad capability to suit multiple blade types and edge conditions….everything from extremely dull blades to already sharp blades in need of a quick touch up to straight edge blades or blades with serrations.

Smith's new Ceramic Edge Pro Electric Knife Sharpener

The Ceramic Edge Pro™ Electric Knife Sharpener is the first of these innovative new sharpeners to hit the sporting goods and hardware markets this year.  Unlike other electric sharpeners in these markets, this sharpener will produce a true factory quality (or better) cutting edge on your knife using interlocking ceramic sharpening wheels.  The sharpness and quality of the cutting edge produced by these ceramic sharpening wheels is better than the cutting edge produced by any diamond-coated wheel sharpener on the market today!  This is all done while removing less metal from the blade than other electric sharpeners.  So, how exactly is this product capable of doing this? The answer is combining new sharpening technology with the right abrasive material.

Traditional electric knife sharpeners work in a combination of numerous steps and only sharpen one side of the knife at a time.  These products can often scratch and/or damage the knife blade during sharpening and always require a finishing step to remove the burr on the cutting edge from sharpening one side at a time.  In addition, they cannot guarantee that both sides of the blade are sharpened equally on both sides, even though this is one of the keys to obtaining the sharpest cutting edge (the other is consistency of angle to the sharpening surface).  When you combine this inadequacy with the fact that most electric sharpeners use an abrasive material that can actually damage the cutting edge instead of enhancing it, the end result is usually a knife blade that doesn’t cut consistently all the way down the blade or one that dulls quickly.  This is not the objective of sharpening your blade and will only cause you extra work at some point down the road. But don’t be discouraged, this can all be avoided with interlocking ceramic sharpening wheels.

Interlocking sharpening wheels deliver fast and precise

Interlocking Ceramic Sharpening Wheels

sharpening of both sides of your knife blade EQUALLY at the same time.  They reduce the amount of time needed to sharpen your knife because you aren’t sharpening one side at a time, and they leave no burr on the cutting edge.  Now, make those interlocking wheels out of a material that is very forgiving to the blade and you eliminate the possibility of marring or damage to your blade.  In addition, you will remove very little metal from the knife blade and extend the life of your knife.  The Ceramic Edge Pro™ Electric Knife Sharpener uses these type sharpening wheels in its electric sharpening slot to produce a smoother, more consistent cutting edge and a sharper knife.

The interlocking wheels in the Ceramic Edge Pro™ were designed to sharpen at a 45 degree angle (22.5° on each side) and to provide a Precision Machined Edge configuration.  A Precision Machined Edge configuration offers the perfect combination of edge retention, performance, and sharpness, opposed to other edge configurations that are generally strong in just one of these characteristics.  The 45-degree combined sharpening angle allows this sharpener to be versatile enough to sharpen a wide variety of Kitchen knives as well as hunting/fishing knives and everyday pocket knives.

The Ceramic Edge Pro™ also features manual, pull-through sharpening slots for initial edge setting, repairing a damaged edge, or sharpening serrated edge knives.  Crossed carbide cutting blades used in the manual edge setting slot create a preset angle that sharpens both side of your knife at the same time.  These premium carbides are designed to set the initial cutting edge on your knife to the appropriate angle of the ceramic wheels, or to reset the edge on extremely dull or damaged blades only.  They are not intended for use as a starting point every time you sharpen your knife blade.

The other manual, pull-through sharpening slot is designed for use when sharpening serrated edge blades only.  The characteristic scallops of a serrated blades are usually only ground on one side of the knife blade.  For this reason, it is not recommended that serrated blades be sharpened using the interlocking ceramic wheels in the electric sharpening slot.  These wheels are designed to sharpen both sides of any blade at the same time and will not follow the shape of the serrations.  For proper sharpening of your serrated blade, Smith’s strongly recommends manual sharpening in this slot marked SERRATED as the preferred way to lightly hone a serrated edge.  This slot has triangular- shaped ceramic stones that are designed to follow the shape of your serrations and ensure proper and consistent sharpening for all types of serrated knives. 

 

 

What kind of knives does it sharpen?

Any knife with a grind on both sides of the blade (i.e. Hunting/Fishing knives, Kitchen knives, tactical style knives, custom knives, outdoor sport knives, or everyday pocket knives) that fits freely into the sharpening slots and knives with large or small serrations.

It can sharpen knives of alloy, carbon, or stainless steel, but it is NOT designed for use on ceramic blades, Asian style knives (will sharpen but diminishes performance), or knives with a grind on just one side of the blade.

Other pertinent information about this sharpener.

The Ceramic Edge Pro™ comes with non-slip rubber feet for stability during sharpening and a clean out door on the bottom of the sharpener to remove the metal filings and dust produced during sharpening.  In addition, metal filings and dust will build up on the surface of the white ceramic wheels under normal operation.  If the wheels are not cleaned periodically (once or twice a year), then their sharpening capabilities can diminish.  Smith’s offers an easy to use, felt cleaning brush that can be used to remove the build-up of metal particles/dust from the ceramic wheels after each use.

There is a THREE YEAR LIMITED USE WARRANTY on this electric sharpener.  The limited warranty DOES NOT cover replacement of abrasive wheels necessitated by use of the product or product damage resulting from misuse.  

Troubleshooting and maintenance guides are also included in the owner’s manual.

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Smith’s Celebrates 125th Anniversary!

2011 May 5

Smith’s, the industry leader in innovative sharpening products, will celebrate its 125th year of business in 2011.  Since 1886, Smith’s has been a trusted name in the sharpening industry.  The company’s long history has focused on a single mission: provide their customers and consumers with the best value in easy-to-use and effective knife, scissors, and tool sharpening products.  Their continued focus on this mission has led them to the top of their industry as the leader in the manufacture and distribution of manual sharpening products.

Founded in 1886 by their current President’s Great-Grandfather, Smith’s is located in the resort town of Hot Springs, Arkansas.  Smith’s started out as an Arkansas stone company selling raw “Novaculite” stone, which can only be found in commercial deposits within a 15 to 20 mile radius around Hot Springs.  This scarce stone was sold to various overseas processors in Germany and Japan.  Under direction of Hiram A. Smith, 3rd generation Smith and father or their current President, the company started cutting and finishing the Novaculite in Hiram’s garage behind his house in the early 1960s.  At that time, the finished sharpening stones were sold to Hardware stores and Buck Knives, but by the 1980’s Smith’s was known almost universally in the sharpening industry as the largest producer of Natural Arkansas Stone sharpeners in the world and owned mineral rights to quarries that could produce all 5 grades of natural sharpening stones.

Today, there are numerous types of sharpeners on the market, and Smith’s has evolved along with the industry by diversifying its product line and expanding its markets.  They now offer products from all major sharpening categories: Natural Arkansas Stones, Carbides, Ceramics, Diamonds, Synthetics, Precision Sharpening Systems, and Electrics.  In addition, they have built upon a successful 125-year track record and positioned themselves as The Edge Experts®. “We have the financial strength, manufacturing expertise, and management team that allows us to offer our customers better service and more sharpening products than ever before,” says Richard Smith, 4th generation Smith and current President. “We are just as passionate about sharpening as ever before and plan to fully deliver on our role as your single source supplier for innovative sharpening products.”

Smith’s will promote its 125th Anniversary throughout 2011 via trade show events, customer appreciation activities, special pricing for top customers, and community activities.  Each promotion will provide details of important events and people that have helped build the strong foundation for our company as well as the products that define it today.

About Smith’s®
Widely regarded as a world leader for sharpening tools, Smith’s, The Edge Experts® Since 1886, lays claim to the
design and manufacture of the broadest line of knife, tool, and scissors sharpeners currently available in the Sporting
Goods and Hardware markets. The company’s product offering includes both manual and electrical sharpeners
ranging from the very simple to the sophisticated and several edge care products. They incorporate a wide variety of
abrasive materials including diamond, carbide, ceramic, bonded synthetic abrasives, and natural Arkansas stones.
For more information about the complete line of Smith’s products visit www.smithsedge.com.

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Smith’s, The Edge Experts Since 1886, attends 2011 SHOT Show in Las Vegas, Nevada

2011 April 8

Smith’s® continued its annual tradition of participating in the Shooting, Hunting, and Outdoor Trade Show (a.k.a. SHOT Show) over four days in the middle of January.  SHOT Show is the largest and most comprehensive trade show for all professionals involved with the shooting sports and hunting industries.  It is the world’s premier exposition of combined firearms, ammunition, archery, cutlery, outdoor apparel, optics, camping and related products and services.  The show attracts buyers from all 50 states and more than 100 countries and is owned and sponsored by the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

The 32nd annual SHOT Show, held at the Sands Expo and Convention Center in Las Vegas, NV, soared above expectations by setting records for buyer and media attendance.  Overall attendance of comprising buyers, exhibitors, media and guests, ranked the show as the third largest ever behind the 2008 and 2010 events.  With 1,600 exhibiting companies covering 660,000 net square feet with their booths, the Sands Expo was filled to capacity for the second consecutive year.

Smith's booth

Many companies use SHOT Show to announce new products and services.  Buyers and media members use the show to handle and discuss products.  Smith’s used this year’s show to celebrate our 125th year of involvement in the Arkansas stone business, announce the launch of three new products for 2011, and strengthen our relationship with customers.  In addition, there was plenty discussion with visitors to our 30′ x 30′ booth just off the main entrance about the best way to sharpen a knife.

125th Anniversary Booth Graphics

The SHOT Show proved once again why it is known as “the world’s largest Shooting, Hunting, and Outdoor Trade show and conference.”  The 2012 edition of the SHOT Show will again be held at the Sands Expo and Convention Center in Las Vegas from January 17-20.

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