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What stone should I buy?

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 
Hi all :)

I really hate to even make a post in this forum. I would really like a real nice knife, but I'm not ready to buy one just yet. That's why I figure the less time I spend here the better! (no offense ;))

I have read a good number of posts in this forum and found most of them quite useful/informative/educational/over my head. But one thing that I think I understand correctly is that I've been using a combination stone that wasn't ever meant to be used on a kitchen knife. So I am asking you for a recommendation of stone(s) that would work well, but still be a budget buy.

I have a 10" Gunter Wilhelm chef knife. It is a bit heavy, but it's balanced real nice.

You can read a little bit about the Gunter Wilhelm, brand and steel information here.

What stones (or combination stone) would you recommend for this knife.

post #2 of 21
Since you haven't said what stone you're using now, it's difficult to say which one you should get to replace it.

That said, what you've got is an average stainless chefs knife, which should sharpen pretty well on a 1000/1200 grit stone. You shouldn't need a coarser stone unless the edge is chipped or rolled. If you want to go first-class, get a Bester 1200 from JKS. If you want to go the cheaper route, try the Steelex 1200 at Amazon.com. It's a fraction of the cost of the Bester, but is a decent stone to learn on. After you can get a good edge on your knife with the 1000/1200 stone, you can move on to a higher grit.
post #3 of 21

A Norton combination coarse/fine India is a wonderful stone for that type of knife. Very inexpensive, a good stone to learn on, can fix your knife if it gets chipped, doesn't need flattening, and so on. Ultimately, that knife can take substantially more polish (although not that much in the long run) and you're a good enough cook to appreciate it.

The tricky parts are deciding whether you want to move away from oilstones like the Indias at all; and if you do, whether you want to do that in part or entirely now.

A good sharpening kit has at least three different surfaces, one for each task: Repair/Profile; Sharpen; and, Polish. Most good sharpeners want at least one extra sharpening grit, and perhaps an extra polishing stone as well. For instance, one "barebones but still mighty" kit might be:
  • Beston 500#
  • Bester 1200#
  • Suehiro Rika 5000#
  • Naniwa Super Stone 10000#
While another, also all waterstone, just as good and maybe better kit (Chanukah Harry are you listening?), might be:
  • Chosera 400#
  • Sigma Power 1000#
  • Nonpareil Synthetic Aoto (call it 2500#)
  • Arashiyama 6000#
  • Kitayama 8000#
Yet another, this time all oilstone (and my actual kit):
  • Norton coarse India
  • Norton fine India
  • Hall's soft Arkansas
  • Hall's surgical black Arkansas
As you can see, my kit is really just an extension of the Norton combi stone. Yes I do use separates and do take my knives up to a fairly high degree of polish; but the fine India is the stone I almost always use to pull a wire quickly.

As you can also see, there are a lot of possibilities even within the arbitrary range of "barebones but still mighty;" and when you're talking about filling some of the gaps and going a little coarser at one end and a little finer at the other, in a kit that's going to last for years -- you multiply the possibilities for each slot against a growing number of slots.

On the other hand, if all you're trying to do for now is learn how to sharpen, you can get away with one or two surfaces and the range of quality options becomes much smaller.

So, our first order of business is to figure out whether there's some way to keep your old stone working for you. Then, whether you should move to waterstones or stay with oilstones for the time being. If you are going to start with waterstones, whether to go for an entire (although barebones) kit, combi-stone, or single stone. Whether to go with less expensive stones using a mud binder, or drop a little extra change on more-convenient resin binders. And so on.

If you do stay with oilstones, it's a similar decision making process -- but a lot easier because there aren't nearly as many quality choices.

Some questions:

So How good a sharpener are you now? Do you know how to raise a burr? Deburr? When you try to polish does your knife get sharper? Or, does it sometimes dull?

If you're planning on switching over to Japanese made knives, how long are you going to stay with European or American knives?

What's your price range for stones now?

Are you trying to put together a more or less complete kit, or going barebones?

If oilstones are the way for now, would you consider a tri-hone?

Will you want to use your stone(s) for other tools?

What 'steel' do you use?

Your pal,
post #4 of 21
Thread Starter 
Thanks for your advice Pensacola Tiger :)

I don't believe I'm that good of a sharpener, I've certainly got alot to learn. That said...I can raise a burr and deburr. When I sharpen a knife it does get sharp, I would just like a sharper edge. It seems like I get to a certain point...and that's it.

i would really like to get a decent knife. But I'd like to wait another couple of months (maybe six months) before buying a new knife. In the mean time I would like to improve the edge that I'm getting.

I'm not really sure. If I can use my existing Norton combination stone and fit something else into the mix, with good results, all the better! $30.00 or less???

Right now I'm just trying to get a better edge on my existing chef knife until I upgrade in the future. When I get a new knife I plan to purchase the appropriate stone for it at that time.

I would. I wonder if this may be the best choice for now?


Just an el cheapo

post #5 of 21
$30 or less... I don't think so.

In order to keep prices down while you get a feel for the maintenance waterstones require, and learn to polish at a higher level than whatever it is you're currently using -- You might want to try something like a Norton 1000/4000 combination waterstone. It's not much more than $30 -- although after you buy something to flatten it with -- unless it's sandpaper on a glass table top, or a flat spot in the driveway -- you're going to be in the $50 range. It's not an ultimate stone by any means, but it's very consistent quality, and has a nice feel to it. You can spend less on waterstones than Norton, but it's a false economy. As "mud" matrix stones go, Nortons resist dishing and flatten very easily.

The next step up would be to resin bound stones, and buy something like separate 1000# and 5000# Naniwa Super Stones. The pair will run you pretty close to $100 -- not counting a flattening system. In my opinion the 10mm stones on plastic bases (sold by Tools for Working Wood and Sharpening Supplies) are better learner's stones than the 20mm stones (sold by Chef Knives to Go), for instance. They're not ultimate, but close. And, among the most convenient waterstones at that.

Hope this helps,
post #6 of 21
Maybe. But Mark @ CKtG ships free on orders over $60, and a 5% discount is easily arranged. Also bear in mind your statement about false economy...the last little bit of a stone isn't usable. 2 x 10mm or 1 x 20mm is the same amount of stone, but not the same usable amount.

Disclosure: I'm biased. I've bought a lot of stuff from Mark (and, actually, from ToolsForWorkingWood- both are great vendors). Although both are fantastic dealers, I don't like stones on bases. So take my opinions with a grain of salt. You absolutely can't go wrong with either.

But one day you will want the Choseras...no gettin' around it.;)
"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 #7 of 21
Erm, nevermind. Realistically, the TFWW deal gives you 400 to 12k for just over $200. That's nice spread. For a nOOb you'll probably be ready for more before you wear those thin stones out. So I'll agree with BDL- that's a good deal.

You're still gonna buy Choseras, though, if you stick with sharpening. It's dicey to annoint anything as "the best" but the Choceras probably warrant it.
"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 #8 of 21
That would be a good price if they had inventory. Unfortunately as you peruse their site they are out of a lot of stock and have been for at least a few months.
Not many noobs want, let alone need 8k - 12k stones.
A single 1,000k Chosera and a flattner would be a better option IMO and less expensive. That's not going to be had for $30 so this may well be a case where a single mounted SS is one of the better options based solely on price. However IMO there is nothing convienient about a SS save for the fact that you don't have to soak them for a few minutes like a Chosera. The saving grace for SS's is the price on the 5k and up.
As far as vendors go I totally agree that Mark at www.Chefknivestogo.com is about as good as it gets.
I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
post #9 of 21
Thread Starter 
Well, I'm doing more reading right now than writing. So please excuse my delayed responses.

I'd first like to thank everyone for their honesty. If $30.00 isn't going to get me anything worthwhile then I'd like to hear that. $40 (ish) is still doable for adding a stone to my el cheapo Norton combo.

(this is what I'm currently thinking)
I have my chef's knife (which is linked above). I understand that it's nothing extraordinary, but I'm wanting a sharper edge on it. If I can do that without spending too much I think I'll proceed in that direction. But If some decent stones cost much over $50.00 I have to think about purchasing a new knife earlier.

I just don't want to invest too much into sharpening a knife that I don't plan to use for the long term. If I'm going to make an investment over $50, then I'm thinking that I'll want to look into getting appropriate stones for a new knife. But still ...if I could get a better edge on a budget...that would be my first choice.

If I get a carbon steel knife could I maintain it with a single stone and a good steel for a short time? I'm just weighing my options right now...but if were to buy a new knife I wouldn't be able to buy a whole compliment of stones with it. IF I got a new knife I am thinking that I would initially want to get the knife, a decent steel, a good stone and an end grain cutting board.

post #10 of 21
We're trying to kill too many grits with one $50 bill and it's getting very confusing.

One thing it's important to know is which Norton Combi stone you're using. If it's either 8" or the 11" coarse/fine India, that's "fine for now" when it comes to repair/profiling and raising a burr.

If it's one of the shorter India combis, or a Norton Crystolon, you should probably either replace it with a larger coarse/fine India or just go ahead and buy a decent 1000# stone.

Assuming it's an 8" or better -- it doesn't really make a lot of sense to buy a 1000# (JIS) waterstone, since the Norton is the functional equivalent of around 750# JIS. Given your budget, I don't think it makes sense to blow the whole thing on a Chosera 1000#, no matter how good a stone it is.

Choseras are great stones -- maybe even the "best," at any given grit level -- but they're very expensive compared to stones that will do as good a job and are fast, but not quite as fast; and very expensive compared to stones that will do almost as good a job and are still fast.

Given your particular knife kit and budget, a Chosera is just way too much stone -- for now. Later is another matter.

Also, there's a limit to how good an edge you're going to get with any 1000# stone. That edge is better than a fine India's, but a 1000# is a grit level for pulling a wire but not so much for chasing it and certainly not for polishing.

It's probably not worthwhile going beyond 5K or 6K on your current knife -- so no need to look at 8K stones. But you might as well hear the good news now -- if you can raise a burr and deburr it consistently, you can learn to polish at any grit level without too much more effort. It's simply a matter of doing what you're already doing with a lot of consistency, and possibly a little more "touch."

Getting back to your immediate situation, jumping from a fine India to 5000# or 6000# stone is doable, but it's a lot of jump especially for someone who hasn't polished before.

Your ideal stone is probably something like a Suehiro Rika -- a stone with which I have NO personal experiences. It's nominally 5K, but it's supposedly very fast for the grit level -- which means not so much of a jump from the fine India. On the negative side, it doesn't seem to polish quite as well as other high end, more expensive 5Ks. Still, if and when you do move on to hard-alloy Japanese cutlery it's supposedly a good transition to a true, high grit polishing stone.

You can find the Rika here: Hida Tool & Hardware Co., Inc., and Hida is a great place. Another stone Hida carries which might work well for you is the "synthetic blue stone." It's what's called an "aoto," and is meant to be used as the medium transitional stone before moving on to a polishing stone.

The aoto and the rika share some characteristics. They both mimic natural stones in that they combine a mix of grit sizes; they are both very soft stones; consequently, they make a lot of mud (which is going to be new to you); dish like crazy, and need a lot of flattening.

Perhaps a better solution than either of those mud bound stones, and still semi-reasonably priced, would be a 5000# Naniwa Super Stone from Sharpening Supplies. I especially like these stones for most beginners -- but actually not so much for you.

Worth considering is a Norton 4000# stand alone. Nortons are also mud-bound stones but they're extremely consistent and harder than most similar stones -- especially Kings. The stone is within your budget, easily "reachable" from your fine India, and a good choice to learn about waterstone maintenance.

The waterstone I'd most like to see you get is a Takenoko/Arashiyama (same stone, different names) -- which is sold as all sorts of different grits, but is actually 6000#. But, it's expensive (not as much as a Chosera, but still expensive), and even though it's got a lot of reach it's probably too much to ask someone who hasn't done much polishing to make the jump to an Arashiyama from a fine India.

Alternatively, if you're not going to move on to Japanese knives but stay with the Europeans, you could go pretty handily from the Norton fine India to a Hall's surgical black Arkansas. A Hall's black Ark (or Hall's or Norton translucent Ark) is as good an edge as your knife will take -- maybe better. In my personal set, I interpose a soft Ark after the fine India and before the black Ark. That combination of those two India and two Arkansas stones is a very fine kit indeed -- as long as you're not dealing with very hard steel.

One reason I like (and own) the kit is its evocative association with the way things used to be done. That might not cut much weight with you, and you may not want to invest in Arkansas stones for what will end up being a kit that has to be completely replaced when you start buying Japanese knives. Tough call.

When it comes to Arkansas stones, Hall's is both the value and quality stand out. On the other hand, Norton has nicer boxes.

It's worth repeating that you've got a couple of advantages going in. First, you already know how to sharpen. That's a biggie. And, don't be modest, there are few amongst us who couldn't benefit from more practice. Second, you've learned to sharpen on hard stones. When and if you do move on to waterstones you won't need soft stones as a training transition on your way to better stones held together with resin binders. That's why I'm not just pointing you to the Naniwa Super Stones.

Some thoughts,
post #11 of 21


On a related subject...

There's one standout for best all-around steel -- and that's the 12" Idahone fine ceramic. Under $30. It's the right grit, right diameter, well made, well priced, etc. Everything else is more expensive or not as good.

My own steels are an old (and consequently well-worn) Henckles "extra fine," and a HandAmerican borosilicate. The HA gets used to deburr and when the knives still have a lot of polish; then when its particular gris-gris isn't enough, I switch to the Henckles for a month or so before going back to the stones.

The HA is a wonderful luxury. No one needs it, but it's sure nice to have. The Henckles is perfect for my purposes, and I do mean perfect. But it's no better than the Idahone and because of hardness issues, is less versatile at that.

post #12 of 21
What do you mean about hardness issues between the 2 steels?
The two most common things in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity !
The two most common things in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity !
post #13 of 21
My Henckels is a very old hone, with a surface hardness of something like 55HrC, while the Idahone is about 65HrC. Yes, mass is more important than hardness, especially surface hardness; and yes, people tend to overrate hardness. But when you're talking about steeling a knife that's 61-62, I'd worry about scuffing the Henckels. I've never tried a knife that hard on the Henckels, I don't know it would happen, but it would give me agita.

You've got to remember that my knives aren't very hard at all, all of them below 58HrC.

There are several very good Japanese and European steel rod-hones which are hard enough to hone any knife it's appropriate to hone. But the ceramics are a lot less expensive, and they can fill a "very fine" niche -- say 1200# ANSI -- which is pretty much devoid of steel steels.

There are also a bunch of smooth steels, including a pretty reasonable Forschner, that are good for deburring and truing and won't scuff up a fresh polish.

If both my steels disappeared and I could only buy one, it would be a 12" Idahone fine. If I could buy two, the second would be the HandAmerican.

post #14 of 21
OK, Now I get it. We are talking about RC hardness of the steel. Wow, I just never even considered this factor. My knives are like yours BDL with my hi carbon being the strongest and my Forschners / Dexters being the mainstay in my work bag and most frequently used. My sharpening set up is almost identical to yours and I to agree that for the OP a Norton India course fine combo is a great start for this knife. If you must watch the $ Halls has a pretty good Arkansas soft hard combo which would be a pretty good finisher for starters.
The two most common things in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity !
The two most common things in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity !
post #15 of 21
Thread Starter 
To everyone who responded to help me with my stone selection, THANK YOU!

During my investigation of various stones I couldn't help but also research some new knives as well. I have decided to order a new knife instead of buying any new stone(s) for my current SS chef's knife. I will certainly keep my SS for breaking down chickens, etc. It does get a decent edge on it...but I have just been wanting a sharper edge.

I looked at and conversed with both JCK and Korin. Both places represented themselves well and I wouldn't hesitate to do business with either of these companies. JCK does have the new handles for the Masamoto HC Gyuto. In the end I ended up ordering from Korin, who has the ebony handle, but they also have a 15% off sale right now. After some questions with Korin I placed the order.

I can't wait!
thanks all,
post #16 of 21
Thread Starter 
I knife was delivered last night :p, only too bad for me because I was working all night and didn't get home until this morning. Once I got home I inspected the knife, held the knife...and starting slicing meaningless vegetables early in the morning :lol:

I had conversed with Mitsuko, from Korin, several times before ordering. I wouldn't hesitate to do business with him again. The fit and finish of the ebony handle was perfectly fine. I've found that Ebony wood machines more like metal than it does wood, this was some of the reason for my caution. That and talk of a few handles that were less than perfect. Again...the handle was fine.

I understand my inexperience...but I never really handled a knife that was this comfortable, this effortless. i can't even say that the knife is balanced well because that would insinuate a nice distribution of weight. When using a pinch grip the knife seems to disappear. Slicing is effortless. I've always tried to use proper technique, even if it has only been learned thru books and online. But having a capable knife seems to make proper technique more natural than anything else.

I knew this knife would be a good deal sharper than others that I've used before (or owned). But I was a bit taken back at how well I performed with it. Odd :look:

Thanks all,
post #17 of 21
Thread Starter 
I got the Idahone and an EdgePro Apex3...how sad.

I must admit, I wasn't thrilled that I was going to choose a guide type system. I really like the thought of going freehand. but I could be a bit particular about certain things and I'm just not sure about my abilities to freehand. I've gotten quite a bit better in a short time...and I've started to learn not to raise such a burr across the edge.

Even though I have improved in skill and working knowledge...I wasn't sure how much time I can set aside to learn another craft. Add into the mix the double bevels and I decided to go with a system that has a quick learning curve and offers good consistent results. Picking the EdgePro guide is something that I felt suited my current lifestyle, which is why I finally decided to purchase it.

With the EdgePro Apex3 system I get several EdgePro stones included. The set of stones that the Apex3 has is...a 120,220,320,600 and 1000. I didn't get any tapes at this time.

For some other reasons I'm going to choose to get some of the premium waterstones now, instead of waiting like I wanted to. I did order a Chosera 600 already. But what should follow? I'm unsure of the other stones that I should get. I'm thinking I'd go from the Chosera 600 to the 1000, 3000, 5000. I was initially looking at getting some of the EP Shaptons , but their availability looks to be a bit bleak at the moment. I've heard from some other EP users that the Chosera 400's are work horses. The 10,000 is another stone that I may want to get someday...but it's a bit pricey. I just don't know what the availability of these stones will be in the future (or current for that matter).

I almost forgot. So, why am I a bit sad?

I've got my new knife (simply awesome!), I've got my new steel and the EdgePro guide, so what's the bad news? I can't open steel or EdgePro until Christmas :rolleyes:. So things aren't really bad...I'm just a bit excited and I have to wait for Christmas day. LOL, makes you think you're a kid again :thumb:

post #18 of 21

Lots to chew on in your post. You raise some basic sharpening questions -- especially in terms of grits, how they work, and how they should work -- and a few prevalent misconceptions as well.

I'll get back to you on this, either in the form of a post, or because the issues are so basic and so common, as a blog entry. As you know, my last entry was a sort of natural lead in. Let me think about it over lunch anyway. Besides, you don't seem to be in any hurry.

One thing though, if you're going to keep a set of stones -- which may or may not be superfluous in your case. The Chosera 600# is a sort of neither here nor there stone, that is unless you plan to follow with a 2000# and finish with an 8000#. Three stone economy, at the expense of using one surface (the 600#) that's slow to profile/repair and very aggressive for pulling the wire.

At any rate, my impulse would be to turn the 600# around for the 400# before opening it.

An ideal progression for your knife would be something like mine: 400 or 500, 1000 or 1200, 3000, and 8000 or 10000. Of course, if there's some specific, idiosyncratic stone, like a Kitayama you want to finish with, you'd chose a the rest of the kit to feed into that one.

As you can see it's a highly interdynamic megillah. As a rule of thumb, you pretty much want the grit progression to go around 2X to 4X difference in screen size -- with the exception of certain stones. Too many stones, or too big jumps both increase your chances of screwing up the edge.

post #19 of 21

I can't speak to the performance of the EP Chocera stones, but I did manage to get three Shapton Pro stones for the EP before the stock dried up - a 220, a 2000 and a 5000. The 220 works great for profiling. I was worried about the big jump from 220 to 2000, but it turned out to work just fine. The 5000 puts a mirror polish on the edge. I've noticed under a 10x loupe that the bevels produced by the EdgePro are much more even than any I had produced freehanding on a the two stones I had been using - Steelex (Suehiro) 1200 and 6000.

I found that you need to flatten these custom stones before using them, unlike the stock stones for the EP that are ready to go out of the box. I recommend wet/dry 220 grit sandpaper on a granite surface plate. If you don't have a granite plate, a smooth marble floor tile from Home Depot will suffice.

I am on the fence over the Chocera stones for the EP, since one of the great things about the Shapton Pros is that no soaking is required.

BTW, when using the stock EP stones, after you've established the initial bevel angle with the 120 through 600 grit stones, you'll probably just need to use the 1000 when resharpening, unless you've chipped the edge. The 1000 grit stock stone puts a very nice, very usable edge on the knife, but will not produce anything approaching a mirror finish. For that you need the EP tapes or a high grit Shapton Pro or Chocera custom stone.

I think you will really like the EdgePro. Any chance you can negotiate opening it up Christmas Eve instead of Christmas Morn?
post #20 of 21
Thread Starter 
LOL :lol: I suppose I could, but what fun would that be?


Thanks for the posts Pensacola and BDL (other previous posters as well!) I believe I was a bit hasty when buying the 600, but you live and learn.

post #21 of 21
I'm guessing when you got the 600 there weren't many choices. BDL is right- it's not that there's anything wrong with it, it's just an odd grit to incorporate into your routine. 600 is probably a fine starting point but where from there? Probably 2k will be fine. I ended up getting an 800 because the 1k's were all gone.

The stock EP stones are very good for the most part. I don't have much use for the 120; I don't like the feel and a coarse stone that thin just plain wears out too fast. The rest of them are excellent, though.
"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
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