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Question about sharpening stones

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 
I've been using a Norton IC-11 stone for about a year, and getting good results with it.

Last week, I picked up a pair of waterstones, a #1000 and a #6000 (both King). It was kind of an impulse buy I made after meeting a master bladesmith at a knife show a few weeks ago. Even though he said that sharpening is much more about technique than tools, I found myself buying the same stones he uses.

After thinking about it for a while, I realized that I don't have a good reason to change sharpening setups. From what I've read, I'm nearly positive the #6000 waterstone will make a more polished edge than the fine India side of the Norton stone. However, I'm not sure how the #1000 waterstone compares to the Norton (either side).

My questions are:
1) does the #1000 waterstone pick up where the Norton stone leaves off, or is it redundant to keep them both?
2) is it too big of a jump to skip the #1000 and go from the fine India stone to the #6000 waterstone?

I could figure these out myself with a little trial and error, but I'm thinking about returning/exchanging at least one of the waterstones, so I'm leaving them in their packages for now.

Thanks in advance for your opinions and advice.
post #2 of 20
Both of your alternatives could be right, depending on circumstances.

Norton scores the fine India (reddish orange) side of your IC-11 at grit size 280 ANSI (American standard), which is equivalent to 320 JSI (Japanese standard). However, a fine India acts more like a 700 JSI stone. That, is it's an excellent stone to begin the sharpening process of pulling a wire (aka creating a burr), but it's not a great stone for refining the wire (aka chasing the burr). In the end, it leaves too much scratch for a finished edge.

A 1000# JSI (like your King) does pretty much the same thing, only considerably faster on strong (as opposed to tough) knife steel, leaving far less scratch than the fine India. Faster is better. The fewer strokes it takes to perform a sharpening task, the fewer opportunities to screw up. Triply true for newer sharpenings. On the other hand, very "tough" knives like most European and American blades may actually sharpen a little faster.

Again, it depends.

A 1000# stone is on the very coarse end of medium, while a 6000# King is on the very high end. It's a lot of jump, but not too much for a good sharpener. It's probably is for you though.

A 6000# is really a polishing stone, and not a sharpening stone. The King 6000# in particular doesn't have much range -- either down or up.

You don't want to pull a wire -- which means you've got to have fairly good control of pressure. If you pull a wire, you have to deburr it. If you deburr, you're left with a fresh edge which needs polishing. So, you're right back where you started -- if you're lucky.

You also need to hold a constant and exact angle. In fact, when most people begin freehand polishing they end up dulling their knives by rolling the edge rather than improving it. It takes a fair amount of practice to get it right.

RULE: You can't solve a problem on the same stone which created it. You have to drop down to a coarser level and start over there.

In your case this means you're going to be going back to the 1000# a lot. It would be easier for you if you had something between the two stones. A 2000# or a manmade aoto like the Nonpareil or the Naniwa would be good. Without knowing your knife kit, I'd guess the aoto would probably be ideal. Unfortunately they tend to be kind of pricey. OTOH, you can find a 2000# King at a good price.

Also, King stones need a LOT of flattening. You either need a flattener or a plan -- I like drywall screen on glass.

For that and several other reasons I don't like them -- at least not compared to a great many other stone lines, such as Bester, Naniwa, Shapton, etc. On the other hand, they're priced right.

Looking back at what's written, I may have overemphasized the negatives. My advice is to do your best with both stones. If you can sharpen on a fine India, you can sharpen on a 1000# without much adjustment. The jump to 6000# will take a lot of practice, but so would a jump to a translucent or surgical black Arkansas.

Good luck and let me know if there's anything else,
post #3 of 20
Did you meet Murray Carter? He's pretty famous for using just those stones and trumpeting technique over equipment. And a highly skilled knife maker, of course!
"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
post #4 of 20
Thread Starter 
That's the guy! He had a booth at the Blade West show in Portland, OR. Turns out he lives about an hour from here. Super nice guy. He gave a seminar on "Micro Observation of Blades with the Naked Eye" that was a real <groan>eye-opener</groan>.

Watching him shave with a hunting knife was a trip. He sharpened the knife while talking to the guy that bought it and I don't know if he ever looked at what his hands were doing.

boar_d_laze: Thanks for your input. I've read a lot of your posts regarding sharpening, and I was hoping you'd chime in. I'm far from an expert at sharpening, but I've been making some good progress and getting more proficient and consistent. I've got an EdgePro and a Sharpmaker, but I recently decided to sell both of them and invest in some better pots and pans. Last weekend, I sharpened a pair of nearly identical knives - one with the EdgePro and one by hand. The EdgePro produced a prettier bevel, but it took a lot longer and wasn't as enjoyable as doing it freehand. I didn't notice enough of a difference in sharpness to justify its complexity and setup/takedown time.

My angle control is pretty good, but I think I might use too acute an angle for some knives. I'm starting to get my pressure dialed in, but I'm probably a little heavy handed when I move to the finer side of the stone.

My favorite knife is a 10" carbon steel Dexter chef's knife (has 45A10H stamped into the handle). I also use an 8" carbon steel Chinese vegetable cleaver. The rest of my collection is nothing to write home about - a block of cheap Henckels, a few Thai Kiwi's that came with the cleaver, some miscellaneous Kitchen Aid knives and the Pièce de résistance, a Miracle Blade Rock 'n' Chop.

I think your advice that "faster is better" is spot on. Also your feelings that if you had to start over, you'd choose waterstones over oilstones. I want to add a finer stone or two to my setup, but I don't think the waterstones I picked up are quite right. I think I'll stick to just using the Norton combo and do some more research on waterstones and/or hard Arkansas stones.
post #5 of 20
Interesting, BDL...despite the fact that my Dad had his own construction business, and that I've hung countless miles of drywall, I'd have never thought of that. How do you use it? Do you use media or just the naked screen?
"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
post #6 of 20
Naked screen. You spritz a piece of glass, a flat tile, a piece of granite (anything hard and "reference" flat) with water and lay the screen on it. The water is enough to keep the screen from lifting off the float.

Draw a corner to corner "X" or a grid pattern on the side of the stone to be flattened.

Start scrubbing the stone on the screen. Frequently change your motion from side to side, to up and down, to circles, to 8s and so on; change the places you grip the stone too. Randomizing the motion and pressure points helps make sure the stone won't get lopsided.

Check the pattern you drew frequently. As soon as it completely disappears, your stone is flat.

You may wash the drywall screen and reuse it.

Drywall screen comes in several grits. Use coarse screen for your coarsest stones. Use coarse, then fine for your medium and fine stones. After your fine stones are flattened, you'll want to rub them against whatever's next coarsest in your set in order to lap them.

A flat surface is essential to adequate sharpening; similarly a well-dressed surface is essential to efficient polishing. One of the drawbacks to waterstones is the amount of maintenance they need.

The softer the stone, the more frequent flattening it needs. Coarse stones need more frequent flattening than fine stones. Old-fashioned mud matrix stones need more flattening than modern resin stones. Kings run very soft.

At the end of the day, sharpening is just rubbing a knife on a rock. Whether you use oilstones or waterstones, natural or manmade, the basics of angle, pressure, burr formation, burr removal, and movements are the same. Remember, you're not Murray Carter, nevertheless, you could take a look at his videos. His ways are good ways. However there are other good ways which may suit you better. You'll want to look at Chad Ward's article on eGullet and John Juranitch's on Ameritech (and a few other places too. Oh, heck. Here: Sharpening Secrets of a Pro ).

Most stone systems are 2, 3, or 4 stones. In some ways 3 stones makes the most sense. After all, it's coarse, medium and fine. However, I recommend 4 stones for a complete, basic kit. That's one stone to repair, one to bring up a burr quickly, another to sharpen/polish and one to polish. You can bring it back down to 3 if you're sure you don't want a highly polished edge. six30nine, your knives don't want a high polish.

For people who do want a fair bit of polish, the 8000# to 10000# level (depending on the particular stone) is about as high as you want to take more kitchen knives. If you're cutting sashimi, you might concievably benefit from a higher polish but I don't think so. It's pretty much just vanity after that. There's one nominally, slightly coarser stone which does a great finish. It's the Arashiyama 7000# (also sold as the Takeonoko 8000# -- same stone, trust me). The Arashiyama is amazing for its ability to handle 1200# scratch and to leave a 10000# grit level mistly polish. Actually, the Naniwa Chosera 5000# and Shapton Pro 5000#, are almost as good -- but the Chosera is beaucoup expensive and the Shapton is a real pig to use. Anyway, all three of those stones are great lead ups to the Kitayama which is the best finishing stone of all time, unless you want a mirror finish. If you do, you want to visit the white 10,000, 10000 superstone, or Chosera 10,000 -- all by Naniwa -- and or moving to stropping with chromium oxide and/or diamond.

Whoops. I digressed. Back to basics.

Of course, people who really get into sharpening tend to acquire a lot of stones -- so the transitions from stone to stone end up as very gradual. From a pure polishing standpoint that's helpful -- assuming you have really good technique or use some sort of guide. But for most people, more stones just means more chances to mess up.

post #7 of 20
Very true, but then I always told newbs that we acquire nice stones to provide good knives, not the other way around. If you buy a big dog always buy a bigger pooper-scooper. One action promotes a differing reaction.

I have lots of flatteners. Some are bigger, some are smaller--I even consider my driveway a flattener. And some spots on that driveway are smoother, some are rougher.

I had great hopes for the cast iron flattener from Shapton because that company makes good stuff. This iron example is messy, it rusts in a blink, it's tedious to clean up and I'm not sure it works as good as a common cement sidewalk.

What I have found is that flatteners work like the waterstones themselves. It never made much sense to me to use a coarse flatener on a finer grit stone just because it works faster. Oh, I use them to make the stone uniform, but I follow that up with a light polish on a Suehiro flattener.

Oh, and remember to 'break' the edges of your stones and your flatteners.

Now that was just mean.:suprise:

So tell me, BDL, would you like to kiss Jessica Alba, or my Aunt Clara?:lol:
post #8 of 20
Hi Chico :)

What does that mean?
post #9 of 20
Chamfer, dear boy. Chamfer.

post #10 of 20
BDL is correct. I use a Shapton flattening puck, hold it with everything soaking wet at a 45 degree angle to the face of the stone and lightly take off the sharp edges of the sides of the stones.

Not only do these sharp edges mar knives and waterstones, but these untreated sharp edges seem to make a stone 'crumble.'

I don't know why, but I'll bet BDL knows. I just do it because I saw a polisher on youtube recommend it. That, and it works.
post #11 of 20
Thanks guys :)
post #12 of 20
Oh, I have a theory on this crumbling.

Before the advent of checking metal for cracks with a procedure called "magnafluxing" the best way to keep high stress parts--like the connecting rods in high horsepower engines--was to polish these parts like a mirror.

The idea here was that if there was a minor crack, and there was a chance that it would turn into a major crack at the worst possible moment--a buffer would just polish off any surface irregularities.

Stones have flaws. Those cut from a quarry have veins in them like carrara marble. It's pretty to look at, but it's a crack. In fact, one such crack is behind Washington's nose on Mount Rushmore. (See? Go to Sturgis, learn something.)

Newer stones are basically compacted grit or porcelain. There are manufacturing weak points.

When these stones are perfectly flat, the edges form a sharp 90 degree angle, and edges are weak. Any flaw might turn into an area where material chips out.

By 'breaking' that edge, you are in effect polishing it off.

Well, that's my theory and only a theory. I would recommend you do this anyway, it can't hurt, but I'd follow that up with research.
post #13 of 20
Additional: A quick bit of research took me to a book called the 'Woodworker's Guide to Sharpening' which suggests using a 180 grit sandpaper to chamfer or round off the edges of a silicon carbide type flattening stone like the one I have made by Norton.

Edit: Hi Chico - that Woodworker's book just talks about new edges being brittle and doing this to avoid crumbing as you previously mentioned.
post #14 of 20
Thread Starter 
My guess as to why the 90 degree corners break / crumble is due to the smaller surface area near the "point".

stress = force / area, so as the area decreases, the force is effectively multiplied to point where the stone chips

It makes sense to chamfer the edges of your stones. I've scratched up a few blades on the corners, but never thought about knocking down the 90 degree corner.

However, if you round/chamfer the edges of the stone, how can you sharpen all the way to the bolster on a chef's knife or 'shoulder' (can't think of the actual name) on something like a heavy duty folder?
post #15 of 20
Kinda, sorta, somewhat. Mostly, the chamfer focuses (or changes) the vector of force toward the center. Think of it like a buttress or flying buttress on a medieval cathedral. This, as opposed to force being directed outward to that low mass, unbutressed edge.

Yes. Another good reason.

Let's start with some nomenclature. The part of the knife blade which descends down from the tang and/or handle to the edge is called the "choil." The 3/4" or so of the edge edge nearest the choil is called the "heel." The intersection of choil and heel, extending about an 1/8" - 1/4" along the heel is called the "chin." A "bolster" is a piece which acts as a transition between blade and handle. A "finger guard" protects the hand from the choil. Some bolsters are made with integrated finger guards, so the terms get mixed up and "bolster" is often used to refer to the finger guard.

Not many serious cooks actually use the chin for chopping and/or slicing. Consequently they (we) don't need it very sharp. For them (us), it's not really a big deal and as close as you can get is more than fine. On the other hand, a few serious cooks and most knife hobbists do care.

Many knives, whether with or without bolsters, do not have finger guards. Consequently, sharpening the chin isn't a problem. You often hear folks giving this as a reason for choosing Japanese designs. However, the thought's a bit naive. There's nothing particularly Japanese about the absence of a finger guard. Instead, a bolster/finger guard was a sign a well-made knife in the west, because it was common to particular types of deluxe forging -- notably "martinet."

Some very good western knives, including almost all of the good customs, are made without finger guards. Despite what I said earlier, that's probably partly a result of cross-pollination as top western makers fool around with Japanese ideas for western knives. Complicated? Well, that's nuance for you.

Some knives, such as European style boning knives have such narrow profiles (such as Scandinavian filleting knives, and Eurpean style boning knives), the chin and most of the heel (or even most of the heel) cannot be laid on the stone -- presence or absence of boster and finger-guard notwithstanding.

Many makers profile the chin a little thicker than the heel, as a way of strengthening the knife and preventing cracking at the choil or heel during the heat treating and grinding processes. It's usually possible to thin this section out to match the rest of the knife.

Paranthetically -- all but a few culinary knives benefit a great deal from a full lengh of blade thinning. For instance, a good thinning will elevate MAC Pro performance to UX-10 levels. Once you're good enough to think about profiling, thinning should be your first priority.

If you're very serious about sharpening the heel all the way into the chin, it's a good idea to recognize that it's a little tricky and to "section" it through the entire sharpening process excepting deburring -- just as you would the tip for a knife which needs sharpness there.

post #16 of 20
Thread Starter 
How do you decide when to polish an edge and how much to polish it?

Is it based on the hardness of the steel? The type of knife? The type of cutting tasks it will be used for?

Is it detrimental to polish an old carbon steel or cheap stainless steel blade, or is it just a waste of time and/or more trouble than its worth?
post #17 of 20
Frankly, that's a two-part answer.

As a boy, I asked my Dad when to check tire pressure. His response was, "When you think of it."

Sometimes, the tire simply looked a bit low.

I talk to chefs for two distinct reasons. They'll call me if a knife is dead flat or it has been "damaged." ('Damaged' in a quaint idiomatic tinker's epithet for "I dropped my knife on a concrete floor, but I'm going to tell you I haven't the faintest idea how it happened.")

Or, sometimes I drop by a kitchen--as it should be in a perfect world--and a chef comments, "Oh, while you're here..."

As to "how much" a knife should be polished, well, I only know one way.

There is a story in my family my Aunt Clara tells about the Crusades. It appears that Saladin was showing the Knights how sharp his sword was by slicing a silk hankerchief as it floated to the ground.

Seated at that table was a distant ancestor of mine, "Phineas Balistreri The Beautiful," a noted scribe, harlequin, kitchen tinker, and chaser of many ale wenches.

As the severed silk kissed the floor, Phineas remarked, "Hey, Sal, ol' buddy, you want me to touch up that blunt mess whilst I'm here?"

This magical talent has been handed down in my family alchemist to alchemist, and then horse thief to biker...
post #18 of 20
Thread Starter 
I have to open another can of worms. The more I learn, the more I realize I've got a lot more learning to do.

It is (was) my understanding that a highly polished edge was mainly used for push cuts where the blade moves directly perpendicular to the material being cut.

So, if Saladin's blade was perfectly polished, shouldn't the silk scarf slip and slither down the sword rather than be sliced into segments?
post #19 of 20
While my comment was for humor, the main idea was very serious. There are lots of misinformation on polished edges. (BTW, a polished edge still has microscopic 'teeth' on its edge. More than enough to grab silk, which also has a fine grain.)

The biggest urban legend is that a 'toothy' knife stays sharper. Granted, a toothy knife has it place, but not in a contest for being sharper. The biggest reason is that a toothy edge was not as sharp to begin with. And if an edge is 'ragged' and drags when making any kind of cut it breaks down faster.

Oh, an F-350 truck might have a bigger engine, but a Lotus slides through the air.

Another misconception is that a polished edge is more fragile. Most of the polished edges I do simply refine the angle that comes with the knife. I take a ragged 18 degree edge and make it a mirror 18 degree edge.

The first year I sharpened hunters' knives at a sporting goods store most people were skeptical. But when they came back they told stories about the ease of field dressing, the perfect cuts, and how a polished blade dressed "three more deer."

But for our purposes at this forum I believe the best reason for a polished edge is the concerns of professional employees. How would you like to be a sous-chef or a caterer, on your feet for +10 hours, trying to push your wrist with an edge that cuts like a butterknife?

I have a secret theory on why some folks trash a polished edge and insist that a serrated knife, a toothy edge or convex sharpening is better.

And that is, they're not skilled.
post #20 of 20
I'm a fan of Murray Carter. He's a zealot, to say the least. I've started sharpening 2 years ago with an el cheapo carborundum combo stone and whetting with a Washita stone on my carbon chef's knife. It works OK. I just purchased a 1.2K and 6K King stones and will work with those. Then I'd like to work up to "better" stones. My grandfather used to sharpen his knives on the concrete steps, so I believe Murray when he stresses technique. Jon Broida is another source with his Geshin stones custom made. Very nice guy to talk to, and knowledgeable. Korin has a nice pdf file how to sharpen Japanese and western knives.
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