Calling all Doctors--a very Obscure Question

Discussion in 'Edged Tools' started by werewolf won, Jun 28, 2018.

  1. werewolf won

    werewolf won TANSTAAFL Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    Years ago I read in Dyson’s Baidarka book how surgeons used to sharpen their scalpels and finished the procedure by running the blade over a block of aluminum. This sounded something akin to stropping to refine the edge. I was wondering two things: First was this even true? And second does anyone have any info on the aluminum blocks used?
     
  2. RocketBoy

    RocketBoy Guide

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    I have no idea if this is true, or not. However, are you sure it wasn't a 'block of aluminum oxide? Maybe they forgot the 'word' oxide?

    RB
     
  3. DarrylM

    DarrylM Supporter Supporter

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    It is possible that a soft aluminum block could have been used to trap minute steel slivers that could become a source of infection in the incision
     
  4. werewolf won

    werewolf won TANSTAAFL Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    I thought that too but the book was about building boats from aluminum tubing and sheet’s of 6061 aluminum and the section was saying that drilling and sawing through the material actually made tools sharper and went on to talk about the scalpels.
     
  5. werewolf won

    werewolf won TANSTAAFL Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    When I was a young kid I had an infected toenail and ended up going to a foot doctor. I remember it like it was yesterday but it was over 45 years ago now. That guy had scalpels that were not disposable and one of them went through my toe nail like it was a hot knife going through butter. He knew how to sharpen a blade :D I wonder if any knives and scissors are still sharpened today.
     
  6. Riverpirate

    Riverpirate Supporter Supporter

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    No. It is all thrown away today.
     
  7. Bitterroot Native

    Bitterroot Native Indigenous Skills Junkie

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    I was a surgical assistant for some time. Never seen a surgeon sharpen a blade, always just popped on a new one! I would imagine back in the day they probably did sharpen their blades on the spot though! I use scalpels to skin animals I hunt, really great for skinning something down in a hurry and quick to change out a blade and get back to work :dblthumb:

    Forgot to mention, I think some specialty tools still end up getting sharpened by a professional sharpener. I remember a civilian guy coming to the OR and picking up some tools to sharpen, was working for a company that got contracted out to various hospitals to sharpen and maintain surgical implements.
     
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2018
  8. werewolf won

    werewolf won TANSTAAFL Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    I’m sure a lot are, but there are a lot of specialized cutting instruments, bone rasps, chisels and other tools used in orthopedic work that I bet are not disposable.
     
  9. Riverpirate

    Riverpirate Supporter Supporter

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    Yea I have a friend who is a nurse. I get lots of free scalpels, hemostats, rags, bandages etc. Whatever is on the "field" that does not get used but is headed for the trash, she brings me. The waste in our medical system is just unbelievable.
     
  10. werewolf won

    werewolf won TANSTAAFL Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    It is for sure! I used to sell process equipment and hospitals were one of the biggest customers. When I was getting away from that field a big trend was to de-rate their huge high pressure steam plants that required 24/7 manned firemen and add in a handful of small pony boilers that did not require licensed operators (saving a lot of man hours / pay) for the limited amount of HP steam still being used for autoclaves.
     
  11. Red Yeti

    Red Yeti Mostly Harmless Hobbyist Supporter Bushclass I Bushclass II

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    Interesting, I remember reading that same reference in George's book many years ago and it stuck with me too. I think the idea was that by sliding a ground steel cutting edge on an aluminum block ( I pictured it like stropping), little bits of aluminum would scrape off and fill in the minute grooves in the edge left by the grinder. This would then make the edge smoother overall and cut better. I think it was an asside comment to explain that it didn't hurt steel tools to be used on aluminum and actually might improve them.

    Maybe this would polish the edge a bit too.

    I don't think I ever heard of this elsewhere and have never tried it. I did build 2 Dyson baidarkas and had no I'll effect on my tools from the aluminum work (I do prefer paddling to sharpening.)

    If this was done, I'm sure it is supercedeed by all the disposable stuff as noted above.

    I also wonder if, returning to the sharpening stone, one might clog it up with aluminum if using thid method a lot.

    Makes me think about the microscope pics of a scalpel (rough) compared to obsidian flake (smooth)...

    :38:
     
  12. wrath0r

    wrath0r Supporter Supporter

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    Softer metals can be used to polish harder ones. For example, if you find some surface rust on the chrome of your bathroom fixtures, you can ball up some aluminum foil, wet it a little, and rub it against the chrome. The rust will come off and the chrome will become super shiny. My best guess is that the aluminum blocks referenced in the book were used to put a polish on the blade, most likely similar to a strop like you suggested.
     
  13. IzaWildman

    IzaWildman Grey Dog Supporter

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    Speaking of old scalpels, this bone handled scalpel was my father's and it was probably his father's.

    ETA: Looked on Google, this may be ivory handled - whatever it is, it's old.

    image.jpeg
     
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2018
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  14. Jim L.

    Jim L. Guide

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    I don't know about doctors sharpening their implements, but my mother told us when she was going through nursing school she had classes in sharpening needles and blades.
     
  15. Jim L.

    Jim L. Guide

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    It's possible that some of the softer metal could remain on the blade. Infection control wouldn't be as much of a problem as foreign matter contamination. Every thing would get steam autoclave after any maintenance.

    I have some aluminum plate from the '70's, I'll give it a shot and report back.
     
  16. bam7765

    bam7765 Supporter Supporter

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    They still sharpen the scalpels at the hospital I work for. They use the cardboard wheels and baldors with buffing wheels. Got them to sharpen a couple knives for me once. Wow! those guys were good
     
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2018
  17. TRYKER

    TRYKER Guide

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    i did some time as a tool an cutter grinder for a large machine shop, when we sharpened a tool we ran a copper penny across the cutting edge to remove the feather edge that the grinders left.
     
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  18. RocketBoy

    RocketBoy Guide

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    Interesting discussion. I've learned a few things I didn't know. Going on 64 revolutions around the rock, I still struggle with getting a good edge on certain blades. I lived with a Dental Hygenist for a few years and she sharpened (burnished) her teeth Scrappers with a carbon steel 'Burnisher'. Kind of like the carbon steel scapers for woodworking, she actually created a sharp 'rolled-edge'.

    RB
     
  19. BetterNotBitterIsSurvival

    BetterNotBitterIsSurvival Supporter Supporter

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    @werewolf won I don't know if this is related or not but to sharpen craft punches and craft scissors I will punch or snip aluminum foil and it does make a difference in how effectively they cut after that. That is for implements used on paper or fabric but I don't see why it wouldn't work on other edges as well. I am not sure where I learned to do it but I just searched and here are a couple of websites...that I am rather embarrassed to be posting but...

    https://www.myfrugalhome.com/how-to-sharpen-craft-punches/
    https://www.marthastewart.com/1058072/craft-punch-how
     
  20. Self Reliantist

    Self Reliantist Guide

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    When I was young we used to use aluminum foil to polish the chrome on our bicycles.
    When I was older we would take the headers for our hot rods and have them flame sprayed w/molten aluminum. The aluminum layer on top of the iron headers is self healing, meaning the oxide that forms on aluminum blocks the moisture from rusting the surface and looking all grungie. Didn’t improve the lifespan much as headers self destruct by rusting from the inside out. Shortly thereafter ceramic coating iron headers on the inside became popular. The end all be all coatings ended up being ceramic inside and aluminum outside, then ceramic in & out. Stainless headers were cheaper & turned cool colors, but didn’t retain the heat and gas velocity like the exotic coatings.
    Stropping on an aluminum block would polish the steel and coat the edge w/aluminum oxide to increase the shelf life until next use.
    I’m an old guy, I used to help my pop sharpen his dental instruments, (uh, li’l tiny surgical chisels so to speak) before autoclaving them.
    If you’re interested in falling down an interesting rabbit hole : Googlesearch the history of “flame spraying” it saved a lot of Allisons and Rolls Royce Merlins & Griffons with spun bearings from the recycle heaps of WWII. Also it resurrected quite a few more for marine and hydroplane use right up through the ‘70s and early ‘80s until the hydros switched over to the mostly Lycoming T55 turbines and variants thereof.

    Norm
     
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  21. CSM1970

    CSM1970 Guide

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    Facinating! I gotta research this more and try it. Thanks for posting!
     
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  22. southron

    southron Guide

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    I remember my great uncle had scaples that a fellow would come by and sharpen for him. NO idea how it was done though.

    What I do remember was the autoclaved needles for shots.

    Man they still felt like a toothpick was being rammed into ya. Ouch still 50+ years later.

    I can't imagine most doctors sharpening their own tools.

    I used to go with Dad and he would sharpen up both my uncles and aunts house knives / pocket knives while we were visiting them. Sometimes the old rotory blades on the human push mower and other things.

    My Uncle always hired me or other boys to do his yard work. Had to protect those hands don't ya know.

    But he paid well.

    My first pocket knife was given to me by him around age 4 or 5. It had a caduceus symbol on it on it and was all surgical steel and I still have it sitting here on my desk. A small pen knife, not useful for much but opening mail, sharpening pencils or similar, but it was Mine!
     

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