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Mac Pro Vs Mac Chef series

post #1 of 26
Thread Starter 
 I found a store that carries both these series and the Chef series seems to be on average 2/3 of the price compared to Mac Pro.

What are the major differences between the 2 series?
Is the metal on the Pro stronger?
one holds an edge longer then the other?
post #2 of 26
The MAC Pro and Chef series are very different knives.  The Chef's are made very thin and from a "lesser" alloy than the Pros.  They are not as easy to sharpen.  They also don't have bolsters, and balance somewhat differently.

The Pros are all around nicer knives.

BDL
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post #3 of 26

Would I be correct in assuming that the chef and superior series use the same steel (seemingly similar prices)?  Also, how do these knives compare to the cheaper forschners and dexter russels?

post #4 of 26

I think (but don't know for sure) that all MAC knives are made from one Takefu V-Gold steel or another:  The Chef and Superior series are both made from VG-1 or 2, the Professional series is VG-5, and the Ultimate series is VG-7. 

 

The "inexpensive" MACs and the Forschners are very different knives.  MACs are made from much better steel than the Forschners and Dexter Russels, and better hardened too.  On the other hand, if you think Forschners and Dexters are too thin and not stiff enough, you'll hate the MACs.  They are thin enough to fall into the whippy category.  An artifact of their flexibility is that they can be a bit of a bear to sharpen.

 

Flexibility does not carry through the MAC lines.  The Pros and Ultimates are very stiff as western-styled Japanese knives go.  That stiffness is one of the reasons so many western cooks fall in love with MAC Pro, and one of the reasons I'm so comfortable about recommending it.

 

Getting back to the knives in question, Forschners certainly take an edge faster and with less fuss, but it's not quite as good and they lose it quicker.  Dexters' edge qualities tend not to be as good as Forschners. 

 

It's really hard to beat the Forschners and Dexters for serious meat work, if for no other reason that they have such a wide variety of profiles.

 

Price aside (the MACs are more expensive), and allowing for their whippiness, the MACs' edge characteristics are so much better than the Forschner's they're in a class above Forschner for any of the four basic knives (chef's, slicer, petty, bread); and several classes better than Sani-Tuffs.    

 

It's worth mentioning that MAC Superior bread knife may be the best bread knife ever. 

 

The MAC Original, Chef's and Superior were all ground breaking for their time.  The first contact a lot of chefs had with Japanese knives was their line cooks' MACs.  Rounded points and all.  But with affection and nostalgia, for the other three profiles there are better Japanese knives at or near the price than these MAC lines. 

 

Bottom Line:  If you can all afford it, the real sweet spot in stainless kitchen knives is in the range which includes the MAC Pro.     

 

Hope this helps,

BDL

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post #5 of 26

Thanks for the insight, BDL.  it looks like the pro and ultimate are forged against the original, chef, and superior series being formed of a thinner/more flexible stock?

 

Is there an advantage, (marketing or otherwise) to those rounded points?

 

After the Pro chef, and Superior bread, Could you clarify which three profiles you are referring to? (slicer, petty, ...?)

 

 

on a related note, would a norton IB6 combination coarse/fine india stone be able to do justice to the forschner, dexter, and mac knives?

 

 

Your posts are always very informative, thank you.

 

JBD

post #6 of 26

JBD

 

It looks like the pro and ultimate are forged against the original, chef, and superior series being formed of a thinner/more flexible stock?

 

The Pros are blocked (stamped), and I believe the Ultimates are as well.  The Originals, Chef's and Superiors are quite a bit thinner.  Some people really like that, by the way.  If I'm not mistaken Pete McCracken and Petalsandcoco are both addicts.  While I enjoy fooling around with one now and then, they are not among my own top choices.

 

Is there an advantage, (marketing or otherwise) to those rounded points?

 

They're safer, especially at a crowded prep table.  They have holes, which allow them to be hung on hooks on lines strung above the hot or cold lines.

 

After the Pro chef, and Superior bread, Could you clarify which three profiles you are referring to? (slicer, petty, ...?)

 

I was a bit confusing.  Sorry.  I've had this conversation so many times I forget that everyone else hasn't had it as well and I tend to shortcut. 

 

It's a common belief that there's a Platonic Ideal of a minimum basic set for the working pro or home cook with serious pretensions; one which allow the cook to perform any common task without too much difficulty.  In my opinion, the set is a 10" chef's, 10" - 12" slicer, 4" - 6" petty, and an 8" - 11" bread.  You could certainly make a very nice set of knives with a MAC Superior 10.5" bread, and MAC Pro everything else.

 

Comparing bread knives is rather silly.  The practical distinctions are slight, none of them are easy to sharpen, and the better, cheap ones work pretty darn well.  Still if you want the best, it's probably the MAC Superior or perhaps the long Gude (German and very expensive).

 

It's worth mentioning that while I like MAC Pro quite a bit and recommend it frequently (constantly even, especially the chef's knives), they aren't the knives I own.  And even if I were buying new, stainless knives (unlikely!), the MACs wouldn't be the knives I'd choose for myself.  Those would most likely be Tadatsuna and/or Masamto.    

 

On a related note, would a norton IB6 combination coarse/fine india stone be able to do justice to the forschner, dexter, and mac knives?

 

The IB-6 is pretty short for chef's knives.  While it's good for schlepping around in your kit for emergencies, 8" is minimum for your main bench stones. 

 

India (Norton's trade name for manmade aluminum oxide) stones are good enough to do basic work on Forschners and Dexters but you'll find it very slow and frustrating on anything as hard as a MAC.  I've sharpened quite a few MACs on my oilstone kit (coarse India; fine India; soft Arkansas; surgical black Arkansas), and thought it was doable but not unpleasant.   Also, a fine India is not nearly fine enough to be the final stone for a MAC.  They can and should take a lot more polish.  A fine India is roughly the equivalent of 750# JIS.  You want to take a MAC to somewhere in the 6K to 10K range -- unless you're reserving it for red meat, then something around 2K would be a nice minimum.

 

One of the hidden costs of stepping up to Japanese knives is the expense of stepping up to a better sharpening kit.   I'm using a Beston 500, Bester 1200, Chosera 3K, and Naniwa SS 8K (my Sabatiers won't really take more than that).  There are other ways to put together something just as nice; but if you were to substitute the Chosera 3K for a Naniwa SS 3K and perhaps a Naniwa Pure White or SS 10K for the SS 8K, it would be pretty close to that ol' debbil Ideal at a (relatively) controlled price -- figure about $250.

 

I believe Dave Martell at Japanese Knife Sharpening is currently recommending the Beston 500, Bester 1200, Suehiro Rika 5K (but acts more like a 3K) and either a Naniwa 10K or a Kitayama 8K.  

 

BDL


Edited by boar_d_laze - 5/26/10 at 10:30pm
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post #7 of 26

I applaud your endless patience as I've seen many variants of the same questions being asked and you taking the time to address each question individually rather than a canned response in a level of detail that is not to leave one wanting.

 

My impression that the Pros and Ultimates were forged were based on the presence of bolsters, are those welded?

 

I recall you mentioning at one point that the Forschner has lower quality carbides that cannot take a high level of polish, what would you say is the maximum level of polish that should be used in its sharpening?  Also, would it benefit from any asymmetry?

 

It sounds like the difference in water an oil stones is primarily one of speed for the harder steels?  Is there a point in HRC or steel type that it is no longer meaningful to sharpen on oil stones?  So far, I've shied away from water stones because they've seemed to be expensive and consumable whereas oil stones don't require flattening or, ironically, oil. (Similarly, I've amassed a collection of many lower end knives and few gems.  Penny wise, pound foolish, I suppose.)

 

I know that you use and have full kits of both styles of stones, which do you tend to reach for when sharpening? Is it knife dependent or do you have a preference?  Also, are my fears or wearing through water stones warranted?  Do you replace stones in your kit once they reach a minimum thickness on a regular basis?

 

Thanks again,

 

JBD

post #8 of 26

MAC bolsters, like nearly all Japanese made western-style knives, are sintered to the blade/tang.  In a way, that's not too differerent from nearly all European and American made knives which are forged separately than forge-welded to the blade/tang blank. 

 

The alloy Forschner uses actually has a relatively fine grain structure, and carbide size don't really represent a problem one way or the other.  The real issue is something called "scratch hardness" (which by the way is not measured by Rockwell Hardness but usually parallels it very closely).  What that means is that even if you can get a high polish on the knife (and that's limited by other factors), it wouldn't last long enought to be meaningful. 

 

An honest 5K grit size (on the JIS scale) is probably pushing it.   In oilstone terms, I think the practical limit is somewhere between my Hall's soft Arkansas (the equivalent of about 1200# JIS) and my Hall's "surgical black" Arkansas (about 5000#). 

 

The best pracitical level would probably be a hard Arkansas (don't own one, but they run about 2000#) and a 3000# (like my Chosera).

 

My experience, and I don't think this is universal, is that knives made with the particular alloy Forschner uses (X50CrMoV15) and similar alloys like X55CrMoV15 (also used by Wusthof and many others), Henckles' proprietary alloy, and the very few others commonly used for German, American, French, Swiss, and other German type stainless, actually sharpen faster and better on oilstones than waterstones -- especially at the lower grits. 

 

Most knives work better with some degree of asymmetry.  But for most western-style knives there's no one perfect degree of asymmetry.  You have to balance the amount against whether you want to maintain the knife on a steel, the actual hardness of the knife, whether it will be used by righties and leftys, the acuteness of the bevel degree, etc. 

 

By way of example, my wife is right-handed while I'm southpaw; I'm a fairly skilled cutter with an excellent and forgiving grip, she's more what you'd call naive.  All of our frequently used knives are one sort of antique (okay, old) carbon Sabatier or another, hardened at 56RC ish -- knives which benefit from frequent steeling.  So... I sharpen around 60/40 righty with a 15* flat bevel, bevel shoulder blended into the blade.

 

Your Forschners and your folks' Wusthofs are probably best sharpened to a very similar geometry.  The Forschners will actually sharpen a bit easier, get sharper, and stay sharp longer than the Wusties -- largely a product of the Forschners' thinness.

 

 

My knives actually sharpen better and faster on waterstones than on oilstones, and that's what I use.  Well, that's the good reason.  To be honest there's a certain amount of post hoc propter hoc,and practical superiority wasn't the entire reason for recently purchasing a high-end waterstone kit.  I was using oilstones because my waterstones had either been stolen or given away; and went back to waterstones because I was writing so much about them I felt like a hypocrite as a non-user.  When I did buy the new kit I was surprised at how much better they were than the last, all Shapton, waterstone set I had.    

 

If your ambition is to own good knives and keep them sharp yourself -- as clearly it is -- you're going to have to buy a decent set of waterstones at some point.  But for now, no hurry.  In fact, as I've said several times, oilstones will likely outperform waterstones for your family's knives, and are certainly cheaper and easier to maintain.

 

Sticking with the idea of freehand sharpening for the meantime, you're best bet is something like a Norton combination India and a Hall's hard Arkansas until you're ready to drop the couple of hundred bucks it takes to buy a good waterstone kit.  The alternative is a Hall's commercial "Wetstone" tri-hone with two synthetics and an Arkansas hard, or medium manmade, a soft Arkansas and finishing with a hard Arkansas.   I don't know enough about the synthetic stones Hall's uses to give you a definitive answer on which would be better.  One argument in favor of the "trihone" setup is that you could just leave it at your parents when you outgrow it.  Don't buy stones shorter than 8" for "bench" use. 

 

By the way, if you do decide to purchase oilstones I recommend you not use them with "honing oil" or oil of any type.  We can talk about what to use when it's timely, 

 

Hope this helps,

BDL


Edited by boar_d_laze - 6/1/10 at 1:20pm
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post #9 of 26

I've boiled and dishwashed my stone a few times so that the majority of the oil seems to be gone (based on some of your prior posts) and now typically use a bit of water on it when sharpening.

 

When I finally bring myself to pick up a new stone, I'll probably try to get a decent japanese waterstone that will serve as the fine stone in my three grit kit and can move along to my final Japanese knife ready kit as a medium stone; maybe something in the 4000 range? Is that too big of a jump from the ~750?

post #10 of 26

Sorry not to have responded to your question until now.

 

If you're going to use a combination of oilstones and waterstones, you definitely want the waterstones at the fine end and the oilstones at the coarse.  The question of course, is where to make the transition.  For particularly tough alloys like the German X50CrMoV15 (used by Wusthof, Forschner, etc.) you may even be best off staying with oilstones like Arkansas stones rather than going to waterstones at all.  

 

My father's girlfriend dropped a couple of Henckles off for me to sharpen.  I won't use my waterstones at all.  I'd sharpen Wusthofs and most other Germans in the same way.

 

On the other hand, I use an all waterstone kit for my Sabatier carbons. But in addition to the old Sabs, we also have a few Forschner Rosewoods which see some use.  The most efficient transition seems to be from the fine India (about 750 ANSI) to a Chosera 3K (JIS).  Yet, the Forschners are made with exactly the same alloy and hardned to around the same

 

It's very alloy and hardening dependent -- and rather specific to individual knives.  I know it's confusing, but in my opinion there's no good system for putting together a mixed kit of oil and water stones without referencing the particular knives.

 

Another thing to consider is that polish above 4K (JIS) probably won't last very long on Euro stainless because of its low scratch hardness.  

 

And of course, there's budget.  

 

BDL 


Edited by boar_d_laze - 6/7/10 at 8:45pm
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post #11 of 26

Thank you for the reply, I acknowledge that people have lives outside of answering my every ponderance; it would be out of line to begrudge the timing of a response.  Particularly if they are all as well thought out as yours

 

I feel that eventually, I would like to transition to a collection of primarily Japanese and old carbon knives.  This was my primary reason for asking about a 4k waterstone rather than the hard Arkansas or similar.   

The brief look I have taken at waterstones give me the impression that a coarse stone can be had for little more than pennies, but if I want a polish on my knife, I would have to budget for the cost of another knife into the stone.  If this is a requirement, I had thought I might as well do it in a way that eases the transitional cost. 

If there is no easy to go about it, a look at oilstones which appear to be somewhat more reasonable of an increase in price even when reaching the surgical grade stones.  Is there any need to bother with the soft and hard arkansas when moving from the fine india to surgical? (I seem to recall you mentioning a recommended minimum/maximum jump in grits, but I can't seem to find it at the moment)  With your most recent comment, it's beginning to look like a better plan to finish an "oil" kit (about $40 if I throw your advice regarding length to the wind and get a 6" surgical ) or start from scratch with waterstones (for an order of magnitude more).

 

I have to wonder is there any reason that the consumable waterstones are so expensive compared to the oilstones which should last for the better part of eternety?

 

One think I am not clear on is brand preference.  Would a 3k Chocera not be equivalent to a 3k by any other brand, eg naniwa, king, beston, bester, or others (if they are available in the same grit)?  Or is there a particular aspect like the grit type or binder that makes one better than another?

 

As a side note, is there any way to distinguish between an old carbon henckles and sabatier?  I have a knife with no discernable markings that I would like to identify.

 

Thanks for the insight,

 

JBD

post #12 of 26

My own oilstone set is coarse India; fine India; soft Arkansas; surgical black Arkansas.  So, you can see that I do see a role for the soft Arkansas after the fine India. 

 

To some ewxtent, that role is as the lead in for the black; but mostly it's about my view of sharpening as a "four-stage" process.  I use the soft as the third stage in the overall process -- chasing (or refining) the burr and deburring.  That is the stage which follows initial sharpening, pulling the wire; and precedes the final stage, which is polishing.   

 

Unless you want to build a full on oilstone kit, I suggest skipping the soft and black Arkansas and going with a hard.  I think Hall's Pro Edge and Norton are pretty much tied for quality anhd value when it comes to hard Arks.  That said, you might as well order from Hall's because of the customer service and because he's such an all around great guy. 

 

Save yourself a lot of grief and get an 8" stone.

 

Arkansas stones are not the easiest stones to learn.  They are all of them very hard feeling and none supply much feedback.  Furthermore, you're going to have to use almost all of them a few times before you get the factory lap roughed up enough for the stones to become effective -- and even then they're slow as heck.  However the ultimate edge quality is fantastic, so worth it.

 

Since you eventually foresee yourself using a knife set which will be maintained on all waterstone sharpening kit -- if you want to avoid waste, you're going to have to plan the entire waterstone set and then choose the stone which will fulfill your current and future needs.  The rough equivalent of a hard Arkansas, something in the 2K - 3K JIS range would probably be best. 

 

I like the Naniwa Super Stone series quite a bit for beginners.  The thin ones (10cm and mounted on their own little stand) are very reasonably priced, enough so that if it turns out to be wrong for you it's no tragedy. 

 

BDL

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post #13 of 26

Self Follow Up:

 

My dad's girlfriend -- don't worry, they're in their eighties and I'm as old as you thought I was -- had a couple of her knives sharpened at her knife store.  The sharpener did a horrible job with a very uneven bevel resulting in what looked like lots of chipping -- which it might as well have been -- as a result (guessing) of a very dirty and worn flat-stone small-orbital machine.  

 

In any case she brought the knives to me to see what I could do.  My experience with Henckels (not X50CrMoV15, but something very much like it) is that oilstones are best.  So I flattened the bevels on a coarse India, pulled a wire on the fine India, and finished on a soft Arkansas. 

 

I usually use a "steel" as part of my deburring process, but felt the burr was so thin and flexible that the hone was unnecessary.  Instead, I drew the knife across the corner of a wood cutting board twice.  I usually do final deburring with a wine cork, but that was unnecessary.

 

The stones weren't particularly clean and because I figured there would be so much swarf,I used soapy water to float the swarf prevent further clogging.  Because I was using water, I took the Ark out of its cedar box and used my Norton IB-50 (plastic sharpening station) for all three 8x2x1 stones. 

 

Time, less than ten minutes altogether.

 

SHARP! 

 

BDL

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post #14 of 26

BDL,

 

Thanks once again for the advice and sharing your knowledge.  The Hard sounds like it makes sense for the for what I need now in my progression as far as the forschners are concerned, but I still wonder if there a purpose could not be served by the surgical?  Would I be able to substitute a waterstone from the other side if need be at that grit (once the time comes)?  I see myself in a  position, where (even at my current skill, and particularly if I actually become good) I am the go-to sharpener of my friends and family's knives.  As a result, I begin to see the virtues of having both an oil as well as a water kit.

 

As you so strongly time and time again advise, I will likely have to bite the proverbial bullet and whichever stone I finally get will have to be an 8 inch.

 

Just to clarify, swarf is metal particulate coming off the knife and should be cleaned off frequently, and slurry is the grit of the (water)stone suspended on the surface of the stone and aids in sharpening, correct?

 

Could you give me an idea as to what are the signs are that a particular knife will respond better to one method or another?

 

Cutting my teeth,

 

JBD

post #15 of 26

I wrote a huge response to your question, including a lot of "materials" science and engineering, but the computer gods decided it wasn't to be.  I didn't have the heart to rewrite it yesterday, but here's the "Reader's Digest" version.

 

In discussing "materials" there's a distinction made between strength and toughness.  Strength is the quality of resisting bending; toughness of resisting breaking or tearing.  They're related which you can see if they're described reciprocally.  That is, a strong metal will break or tear before it bends, while a tough metal will bend before it breaks or tears.

 

Hardness is a quality so related to strength that serves fairly well as a metaphor.  There are three kinds of hardness, scratch, rebound and iindentation.  Of those three scratch and rebound are directly related to knife performance, especially edge characteristics.  Unfortunately, only indentation hardness is usually measured and published -- as Rockwell hardness.

 

Knives made from tough alloys wear slowly but deform easily.  They don't need to be sharpened very often, but do require frequent steeling.  Most stainless, European and American made knives fit into this category.

 

Strong alloys resist deformation but do wear.  Although even very acute edges don't bend easily, they do bend and require truing.  Some of them are too hard and/or sharpened too asymmetrically to steel at all.  As a class, they also need regular sharpening.  Fortunately, even a relatively brief "touch up" on a fine stone will retrue the blade as well as freshen the edge.

 

Actual construction and edge geometries also effect knife maintenance.  There are certainly some rules, but nothing beats experience.

 

Better European and American made, stainless knives (which I'm going to go call "Euro stainless") are almost always made from an alloy called X50CrMoV15, or one very much like it.  They are hardened in the range of 54-56HrC, but sophisticated hardening processes.  Edge geometry is 50/50 15* flat bevel (or very close).  These are forged knives.  Forged, western made knives tend to be very thick.

 

For reasons mostly related to abrasion resistance (largely a function of the toughness/strength levels and balance), at the coarse grits, Euro stainless knives sharpen slightly more efficiently on certain types of silicon carbide and aluminum oxide oilstones than waterstones.  Furthermore, because high quality stones of these types -- notably Norton Crystolon (SiC), and Norton India (AlO) are both relatively inexpensive and so easy to maintain, they are the obvious choice compare to waterstone for coarse work.

 

Euro stainless scratch hardness is quite low.  Although they polish beautifully, and German knives especially are objects of gleaming perfection, the actual working edge won't hold a high degree of polish through much work.  Consequently, polshing with very fine grit stones is something of a waste of time.

 

The most common oilstones used for fine sharpening and polishing kitchen knives in the US are called Arkansas stones.  In my opinion, Arkansas stones have better synergy following up manmade oilstones than do even very good waterstones.  Waterstones are "faster" (it's actually a technical term, but just hold on to the common meaning for now) and are available in just about any grit you desire.  On the other hand, Arks don't require any regular maintenance other than cleaning.  When you add everything up, if you're going to have oilstones in your kit at all, you might as well complete it with one or two Arkansas stones.

 

Arks come in five grades.  From coarsest to finest they are: Washita; Soft; Hard; Black; and Translucent.  Well, sort of.  The abrasive in Arkansas stones is something called novaculite, and novaculite crystals only come in one size.  So when I said "coarsest to finest," I meant "act like" rather than actually are.  Also, because these are (a) natural stones, (b) because most of the good deposits are played out, (c) most of the best stones are long gone, and (d) for a lot of other reasons I can't articulate or think of...   there's a lot of overlap from quarry to quarry, from vein to vein and even from stone to stone.  

 

Washitas -- especially "Lily White Washitas" -- just don't come around anymore.  Too bad, they were as close you could come to a single stone solution as ever there was.  

 

The best black Arks are pretty much a thing of the past as well, especially from Norton's quarries.  "Pretty much" being highly operative, because Hall's Proedge is mining some incredibly good "surgical black" stones.  As far as I'm concerned they're as good as a translucent.

 

Without getting into quarries and qualities let's talk about soft and hard a little. Within the context of an oilstone set, these stones are extremely useful for "chasing" (i.e., refining) a burr.  That means you use the stone to make the burr extremely thin at the point where it will be broken off and create the new edge, and to polish the bevel above that point.  Consequently, when the edge is deburred, it will itself be very sharp and fine (free from tooth). 

 

Everything else being equal, and assuming consistent grading, a soft is considerably faster than a hard.  If you're going to go on to a finer stone -- whether black or translucent -- a soft is a fine platform.  If on the other hand you're going to stop at this stage because you don't want to a very fine polish on the edge, it makes sense to skip the soft and go to the hard -- which will produce a finer but still workable polish than the soft would on its own.

 

So, do you want to stop with a hard Ark or is it worth investing in a soft and a black?

 

If it's all about practical sharpness and economy, stop with the hard.  If you're someone who loves tools, fooling around with hardware, doing the best possible job regardles, and so on... you might as well bite the bullet and go with the soft and black stones.  The Hall's Proedge black is a real standout compared to what else is available, and their soft is good enough that it's not worth buying from anyone else.    

 

Lower cost, stamped knives tend to relatively thin.  Forschner Fibrox and Rosewood split the diff, in that they are stamped, but made with the same alloy hardened in the same way.  F. Dick Eurocuts, too.  Because of their thinness, they sharpen faster than their betters, and act sharper longer; although they need just as much truing on a rod-hone (steel).  I'm not sure why, but they tend to hold polish longer as well.

 

Now, when it comes to non-stainless (what knife guys call "carbon") and the stainless alloys employed by better Japanese knife makers, oilstones won't do the job.  You need waterstones.  Since we're not there yet, I won't go into the ins and outs.

 

Okay, "need" is relative.  I certainly sharpened a lot of hard Japanese knives on oilstones.  But, it's slow and annoying.  And slow has consequences.  Slow means more strokes to do the same work and more strokes multiply the possiblity of error.  So, slow stones put a premium on technique.  Faster stones are better for everyone, but much better for beginners.

 

Also, you can do a perfectly fine job on good Euro carbons (e.g., Sabatier carbons) with oilstones.  Perfectly fine, but not as good as with waterstones.  Years ago, I used to sharpen my Sabs up to a Norton translucent, and until recently I went with a Hall's surgical black.  But the Naniwa SS 8K (waterstone) does a much, much better finish.  No comparison really.  What else can I say?

 

As to integrating waterstone and oilstones into a single kit.  You can, but with a lot of caveats.  If you use oil or soap on your oilstones you don't want your waterstones anywhere near them.  Oil will wreck a waterstone.  While soap isn't nearly as bad it's not a good thing either.  For whatever reasons, an Ark is a better follow up to an India than any waterstone. 

 

Then, once you've switched to a natural stone you don't want to follow up with a manmade.  By virtue of their inconsistencies natural stones create complex surfaces that are very advantageous in terms of actual use.  You don't want to lose that by switching to a synthetic waterstone simply to gain speed, save money, or simplify your kit. 

 

Speaking of money, coarse stones, even most of the best coarse waterstones, are not very expensive.   And, as long as you stay away from the translucents, Arks aren't terribly expensive either.  It's the finishing quality waterstones that are going to hurt -- and you don't need one for your current knives.

 

Swarf... Right in one -- pretty much.  Swarf is the metal filings which come off the knife during the sharpening process.  Slurry is the mix of binder, friable abrasive which comes off the stone during prep or sharpening and mixes with the sharpening liquid (if you use one).   Slurry mixes with swarf.  If it aids in sharpening, it's still slurry.  If it's climbing up the side of your knife and making scratches it's swarf.

 

BDL

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post #16 of 26

My lack of timeliness can be attributed to time to digest the wealth of information you've provided as well as other callings of life.  If this is the abbreviated version, I can't help but wonder what the long version was like!   The material sciences appeal to the engineer in me, it is nice to see how well the academic study of metallurgy applies to a finely crafted tool. 

 

Do you find a purpose for the Norton Crystolon in your kit (I would assume for extremely coarse re-beveling, shaping, and the like.), or is does the India suffices for your needs.

 

Along those lines, would it be foolish to attempt to use the oil stones at the extreme end for shaping and repair of the knives that one would ordinarily care for on water-stones?

 

That Lilly White sounds a like a little bit of a holy grail.  By one stone, do you mean it served in place of the four stone kit?  In any case, you've persuaded me to seek out a complete oil-stone kit, at least somewhere down the line.

 

I've read about the forming of a burr and removing it, refining the edge argued against creating a wire edge which crumples and tears off after the first use.  is this edge any different from having deburred through a cork, board, steel or simply working on the stone?  I've also read about sharpening single beveled knives  and the sharpener only working on the beveled side and only flipping the blade over at the end to bend, fatigue, and snap off the burr.  Is there virtue to this method, or is the blade duller than it could be?

 

I have to admit that I am somewhat confused by the soft vs. hard argument.  When  you say "which will produce a finer but still workable polish than the soft would on its own."

I understand that the hard is a finer grit and thus gives better polish than the soft, is the soft still a workable polish, or is it a stone that requires followup with a black or translucent?

 

You say the finish of a Hall's Black doesn't compare with a Naniwa 8k, would the translucent not have made a better (finer) comparison as far as finish is concerned?

 

I'm not sure what you mean when you say that the natural inconsistencies are advantageous, how is this possible that it would be better than a uniform man made stone?

 

When seeking out a coarse stone, is it true that the coarser the stone, the faster it wears?  If that is the case, would it still be ill advised to use the Norton Crystolon for both hard and softer knives?

 

As far as slurry is concerned, I often see it being created with a lapping stone or otherwise, other times I see it being created solely by the sharpening of the knife, is the additional stone necessary, wouldn't the sharpening stone wear down faster? Or is the increased rate of wear negligible?  How often should one expect to replace a water-stone?

 

JBD

post #17 of 26

black,

 

Wow.  You have a very systematic and organized mind.  You sure ask all the right questions.

 

In some ways it would probably be easier to answer these by phone than with a post.  But if you don't mind I'm going to take the opportunity to set them down to help organize my own thoughts, and then (probably) use the response as the basis for a blog post.

 

Also, apologies in advance for the bandwidth this is going to take.

 

Do you find a purpose for the Norton Crystolon in your kit (I would assume for extremely coarse re-beveling, shaping, and the like.), or is does the India suffices for your needs. 

 

Compared to Indias (AlO), Crystolons (SiC) are slightly faster at equivalent grits but leave a significanlty coarser scratch pattern and are far more likely to create undesirable scratches up the side of the knife.  If I did that sort of sharpening, I'd own a coarse Crystolon for lawn mower blades and axes but use Indias for everything else.  I'm good enough at holding an angle that the slight advantage extra speed gives there, isn't worth the drawbacks.

 

Along those lines, would it be foolish to attempt to use the oil stones at the extreme end for shaping and repair of the knives that one would ordinarily care for on water-stones?

 

Foolish?  No.  Somewhat counter-productive in terms of efficiency though.  And since coarse stones are relatively inexpensive, there's not much advantage to it.  As an economic (in the fullest sense of the word) proposition it's a good idea to use the better stone type for the task.

 

Since we're talking about maintaining a not inexpensive complete oilstone set, and a similarly not inexpensive nearly complete waterstone set, saving the $35 a Beston 500 would cost you doesn't make a lot of sense.  At least not to me.

 

I have to admit that I am somewhat confused by the soft vs. hard argument.  When  you say "which will produce a finer but still workable polish than the soft would on its own."  I understand that the hard is a finer grit and thus gives better polish than the soft, is the soft still a workable polish, or is it a stone that requires followup with a black or translucent?

 

It depends on the level of polish you're trying to create.  If all you're doing is cutting raw red meat, a soft Arkansas finish is nearly ideal.  If you want a good all-round polish, what used to be called a "housewife's finish" (which, by the way, also pretty much maxxes "German" stainless), then it's a hard.  If, on the third hand, your knives can hold a polish longer than a typical German, it's worthwhile to go to a black or even a translucent.

 

I can't tell you whether to top off your kit with a hard or a black.  I can only give you the information that will help you make your own decision.  But, if you do decide to go with a black or translucent as your final stone, you'll want a soft as a lead in.  If you're finishing with a hard, the soft isn't really necessary.

 

You say the finish of a Hall's Black doesn't compare with a Naniwa 8k, would the translucent not have made a better (finer) comparison as far as finish is concerned?

 

Not really, at least not as far as I can tell.  You may want to call ProEdge and talk to Dick Hall about this, but my impression is that a Hall's Surgical Black polishes as well as a Norton Translucent. 

 

One of the most important things to understand about Arkansas stones is that the abrasive particles (novaculite) are always about the same size and that their size has nothing to do with the quality of the final finish.  That's a matter of concentration of the novaculite within the natural binder.  Different quarries, different veins within a single quarry, and even particular stones from different locations within the vein can be pretty different. 

 

Some think the binder itself (for instance "translucent" vs black) is also very important.  If it is, it's not nearly as important as the sheer concentration of novaculite. 

 

What makes Hall's special is that they're leasing a quarry on federal land that's not nearly as played out as the other three major producers'.

 

Arkansas stones will not give you the sort of ulitmate mirror (or even cloudy) finishes you can get with the higher grit Japanese synthetics.  That's not saying you can't get there, for instance by following an Ark with stropping compound or billet polish.  But that's pointlessly OCD. 

 

I'm not sure what you mean when you say that the natural inconsistencies are advantageous, how is this possible that it would be better than a uniform man made stone?

 

I don't have a sure answer to this quetion.  At a guess, it's something to do with stiction.  But my ignorance nothwithstanding, most good sharpeners see that inconsistency as the real advantage to natural stones.  Keep some perspective though, it's just one factor and not the be all and end all of stone choices.  The identity of the "best" stone is highly dependent on what you're trying to do and what you're trying to do it on.

 

When seeking out a coarse stone, is it true that the coarser the stone, the faster it wears?  If that is the case, would it still be ill advised to use the Norton Crystolon for both hard and softer knives?

 

No.  A lot depends on the binder, and a lot depends on concentration.  I prefer the coarse India to the coarse Crystolon even though the Crystolon is faster because the India is less prone to damage the knife and because it's a lot easier to take the India's scratch out as you move up the grit ladder.

 

I think the coarse India competes pretty well with most of the coarse Japanese waterstones because it doesn't require nearly as much maintenance or prep.  On the other hand, it's far more likely to scratch and it's slow, slow, slow.  I use a Beston 500 as my "coarse" choice for routine work with "waterstone knives."  If wanting something significantly faster in order to move a LOT of metal, I'd probably go to a Naniwa Omura rather than back to the India or a Crystolon. 

 

In fact, I've used the coarse India on more than a few Japanese made knives with adequate results.  Just not a first choice.

 

As far as slurry is concerned, I often see it being created with a lapping stone or otherwise, other times I see it being created solely by the sharpening of the knife, is the additional stone necessary, wouldn't the sharpening stone wear down faster? Or is the increased rate of wear negligible?  How often should one expect to replace a water-stone?

 

This is all extremely contingent on the particular stone in question. 

 

There are a couple of ways to create slurry.  One is to break up the surface of the sharpening stone itself with a diamond plate, for instance. 

 

The other is to use a "nagura."  The nagura usually doesn't directly raise a slurry from the stone, but instead creates it's own slurry; and in turn, the abrasive action of the nagura slurry plus the knife raise a slurry from the stone.

 

You can raise a slurry quickly on some very soft stones with the knife itself.  Some stones, even a few that aren't that soft, work best that way.  The surface of the stone is coarse, and moves metal quickly.  The slurry is finer and polishes.  In that way the stone performs two functions and in their correct order.  Aotos are an excellent example. 

 

Whether it's brought up with a plate, nagura, or just the knife, Naniwa Super Stones -- at any grit -- give great mud.  I love them for it.

 

Longevity is also highly contingent.  For ordinary home usage (including sharpening for friends and family), a medium/coarse, 8x3x1 (about), synthetic binder, flattened as often as necessary and not abused waterstone will last four or five years at least.  Everything else being equal a coarse stone won't last as long (but they shouldn't be used as often), while a fine stone will last longer.

 

Magnesia binders last longer than ordinary resins which last longer than mud binders.  The more packed with abrasives, the longer the stone will last (and the quicker it will cut).

 

You'll get half the life out of a regular King (mud binder) compared to an Ice Bear (high quality mud binder), and only a third compared to a Naniwa SS.  

 

A black or translucent Ark stone should last a life time.  You can probably get 20 years out of a coarse India, flattening every two or three years, and thirty out of a fine India.  

 

In other words, very complicated question and no good, single answer.

 

BDL

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post #18 of 26

Heh, Thank you for the compliment, but I fear that it is not that my mind is organized, but that I've been stockpiling information and generating questions for quite some time now.  Your responses have been wonderful in helping me sift through the rubble heap in my mind and (attempt to) ask relevant questions.

 

I'll tell you now that I am far more articulate in text than in person; verbal bumblings smooth wonderfully with a minimal of editing. (Though you might note that my editing don't often extend to conciseness and linearity.)  That said, you have my open allowance to to use what I say in any way you might feel the need.  It would appear that it is likely too late for either of us to apologize for bandwidth usage of anyone foolhardy enough to pop their head into this conversation, so I will instead thank you for the thoroughness of your replies.

 

(as an aside, how is your book coming?)

 

Now, back to the business at hand:

 

It would appear that there is no great calling for the Crystolon in the kitchen, is that correct?

 

At the coarse end, are waterstones still not all equal? A quick look through amazon brings up brands like steelex and king with cheap coarse stones.  I have to wonder if I'm not being rather shortsighted again.  Also, given that the coarse would wear quicker, but be used less frequently, would you bother looking for a stone that is significantly thicker than usual (also, how would one determine the binding material of the stone and abrasive density (in case that is not the same thing as grit))?

 

It sounds like I'll be looking for a soft eventually, to be followed by a black or translucent in the ever distant future.  I see myself as enough of a polisher that the four stone kit will be more of a hobby than a chore.

 

When you talk about the concentration of novaculite, I assume that higher concentrations equate to a finer effective (and literal, I suppose) grit?  Do the different stones have binders that form matrices of different sizes in which to hold the novaculite particles?  Going back to the Lilly White for a moment, I assume it has an extremely high concentration of particles, and that it would polish well at the end.  Would it then be the binder that allowed the stone to cut quickly early in the process?

 

I will have to do further research on the advantages of the natural stones inconsistencies.

 

I had been under the impression that the nagura stone acted in a similar manner to the diamond plate's action you descried, thank you for the clarification.

 

As the preferred method of slurry formation varies from stone to stone, is that information that is specified when purchasing the stone, or is it something that one learns through use and experience?

 

What would you recommend for use in flattening the India when it finally needs it?  I get the impression that it has the toughness to wear away another stone before the job is done, and drywall screen or sandpaper don't seem like they would fair particularly well either.  Perhaps the only way would be to use a diamond plate?

 

On the topic of diamond, given that it removes a great deal of material very quickly, and leaves many scratches, it seems like a better crystolon.  Would it not make sense to use it for extremely coarse profiling of both German and Japanese knives?

 

Perhaps there is not an ideal single answer, but thank you for bearing with me.  I believe that good answers address every point that the question raises; great answers address not only the question itself, but the basis and roots of the question and (in my case) lead to a flood of more questions.

 

JBD

post #19 of 26

Aside: 

 

Book going poorly right now, so is the blog.  Call it writer's block.

 

Crystolon vs India:

 

You've done a good job of incorporating my prejudices. 

 

As you know Crystolon is Norton's name for Silicon Carbide and India for Aluminum Oxide.

 

I don't like Crystolons as much as Indias, but other people do.  India equivalents are actually one degree finer than Crystolon.  For instance a Medium Crystolon and Coarse India are actually equivalent screen size.  Everything else being equal, Crystolons are slightly faster than Indias.  However, Indias are plenty fast, leave a lot less scratch (which makes the whole process go faster) and last longer.

 

Coarse Waterstones:

 

All coarse stones suck.  However, they do not suck equally.  Some are significantly better overall than others -- Beston 500 for instance; while others are excellent single purpose stones -- Naniwa Omura by way of example. 

 

Thick stones -- like the pink brick -- aren't currently in great favor.  It's not a function of their thickness per se, but most thick stones dish very easily and require a lot of flattening.  The time taken to flatten makes the stones very inconvenient despite any other advantages they may have -- and they usually don't have any. 

 

I'm afraid there are no hard and fast rules.  It's all about knowning the individual stones.

 

As the coarse stone in a four stone set, I recommend (and use) the Beston 500.  There are a few others in the same class.

 

Arkansas:

 

If you're going to buy a soft Arkansas now, plan on buying a Hall's (brand is important) surgical black or a Norton or Hall's translucent later.  There's no point buying a soft to follow it with a hard.  If you think you'll be happy with a hard as a final stone, just buy it now and forget about the soft.

 

Four Stone Kit:

 

A four stone kit makes an enormous amount of sense in terms of  efficiency, as well as facilitating sharpening according to a particular understanding of the process.  That is: (1) profiling and repair; (2) pulling a wire (and sometimes deburring); (3) refining the wire (and sometimes deburring); and (4) polishing.   It's not a hobbyist's choice.

 

Binder and Novaculite:

 

The quality of any Arkansas stone depends both on the density and concentration of novaculite (chirt) and the density and composition of the sedimentary binder.  One of the things which makes Arks different from most other natural stones and all synthetics is that the novaculite abrasive particles are always about the same size. 

 

"Lily Whites" are an unusual combination of a high concentration of novaculite set in a particularly soft binder.  There are currently no quarries producing enough lily whites to give them anthing other than a rare and sporadic appearance on the market.  So don't get your heart set on one.

 

Similarly, there are very few quarries producing quality blacks.  To my mind the Hall's ProEdge is not only the best black by far, but the equal of translucents.  Not as pretty though.

 

Natural Stones:

 

Good luck with your research, it's a bottomless subject.

 

Naguras, and Slurry Formation, generally:

 

Some manufacturers specify, others include a synthetic nagura, but most leave you on your own.  Talk to the retailer and/or ask in one of the knife forums. 

 

Flattening India Stones:

 

All good, cheap news.

 

If you're only using your Indias for sharpening kitchen knives you probably won't flatten more than every five years or so. 

 

Flatten on concrete or cement such as a flat piece of driveway or sidewalk; or use a cinder block.

 

This is true for Arkansas stones as well, but you will have to "lap" your Ark on your fine India.  You don't want to leave the surface rough.

 

Don't buy a diamond plate.  At least not for this purpose.

 

Diamond Plates for Sharpening:

 

Good plates like DMTs are expensive and wear very quickly.  Very good place like Atomas are ridiculously expensive.  Other stones do a better job, last longer and cost less. 

 

Diamond Plates for Flattening Waterstones:

 

You didn't ask, but I thought I'd raise the issue sua sponte.  They do work well for this purpose -- especially the DMT XXC and DMT XC.  Expensive though.  For what it's worth, I flatten my waterstones wet on drywall screen set in a baking pan.  It's not just that screen is so inexpensive, it's easier to flatten on a surface larger than the stone itself.

 

Hope this helps,

BDL

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post #20 of 26

I think some DMT plates wear quickly- there seems to be a lot of variability, if you can believe half of what you read on the interweb.  I have a DMT C that's been used frequently for flattening & sharpening for at least three years and it's still going strong.  That may be the exception or the rule, I don't know.  They're sure nice while the last, though!

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post #21 of 26

It would appear that thick stones are thick not so much as a great benefit in terms of longevity to the consumer, so much as a requirement of the lower quality nature of the stone that would otherwise cause floods of angry mail?

 

I recently took the opportunity to reread your blog post on sharpening knives, and I suppose I meant something along the lines of a three-four stone system vs the two stone system where there would be a very large 'reach' when switching grits.  This tells me that it is in fact possible to jump around almost at whim up the grit count chain, but that there is a way to avoid the madness by carefully selecting the grits within an individual kit.  That said, a less than perfect transition of grits if one were to have to temporarily combine kits would not be the proverbial end of the world.

 

It really seems like stones are as much of a case by case basis as (and perhaps even more so than) the knives themselves.

 

I sometimes feel that I have fallen for the 'forever' of the DeBiers et al. of Diamonds, they seem to be rather expensive for what you get, less of a bang for your waterstone buck, if you will.  In this regard, it sounds much more reasonable to use your drywall screen and large flat surface. 

 

Many thanks to BDL, and also thanks to Phaedrus for a first hand product usage report.

 

--JBD

post #22 of 26

Some stones work better with some types of steels than others.  It's more about efficiency than grit size and is more generic than case by case.  But for a lot of reasons it sure seems that way. 

 

The tough* steels typical of European knives sharpen better on oilstones than waterstones.  Oilstones aren't "fast" enough for the hard*, *strong* steels typical of Japanese made knives.  Some waterstones -- Shaptons in particular -- are made specifically for either carbon or stainless, and don't work nearly as well on the "wrong" type steel.

 

*** "Tough," "strong," and "hard" are "materials science" terms of art.  Tough describes a resistance to tearing or breaking; i.e., bends before it breaks.  Strong describes resistance to permanent deformation; i.e., tears or breaks instead of permanently creasing, scratching, or dimpling.  There are three types of hardness related to strength: impact, scratch and penetration.  Unfortunately, the one that is least related to knife performance, penetration, is the one most often supplied (as Rockwell "C" hardness).  

 

It's fun to talk about this stuff, but don't let it fool you.  It seems like there's just sooooooooo much to know about knives and sharpening.  Remember you don't need to know it all, just what works.

 

BDL

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post #23 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by blackjettison View Post



 

I sometimes feel that I have fallen for the 'forever' of the DeBiers et al. of Diamonds, they seem to be rather expensive for what you get, less of a bang for your waterstone buck, if you will.  In this regard, it sounds much more reasonable to use your drywall screen and large flat surface. 

 


If you're just a regular guy sharpening his own knives at home and flattening your stones as needed, I truly think a DMT XXC might last you the rest of your life.  Unless you get a bad one; that does happen.  But a truly bad one usually fails ASAP and will be replaced under warranty.  Man, I just wouldn't want to dink around with the drywall screen (even though I have a granite reference plate) when the DMT is so dead simple, fast and easy to use.

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post #24 of 26

When I was talking about DMTs wearing quickly, I meant as coarse sharpening stones, and not purely as flatteners.  DMT plates are very good flatteners.  The XC is very good, but a little too expensive; and the XXC is better still, but way too expensive. 

 

A method which uses a stone larger than the stone so the entire surface of the stone can be rubbed against the flattener without any part of the stone ever leaving the flatteners surface makes flattening more "automatic." 

 

I use wet stones on wet drywall screen on a baking sheet, pausing now and then to clean the mud out of the screen.  It's very easy, if not quite as fast as a DMT plate; not to mention messy.  A two years supply of screen is about $10, while a DMT XXC is around $75. 

 

Yes.  DMT plates are excellent -- fast and easy to clean -- work great if you move the flattener over the stone, pay attention to the angle of the plate, and frequently check for flatness.  It's a different method and a good one.  I just can't see spending that much extra money on maintenance for something that's only maintenance itself and already significantly overpriced -- at least not when there are other effective and far less expensive options.  But that's me.  

 

When it comes to this stuff, I'm not trying to get anyone to do as I do, or even as I say.  Demystifying the options is more like it.  

 

BDL

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post #25 of 26

Yeah, there're lots of ways to flatten.  I'm drawn to the neatness and simplicity of the DMTs; I can have stone in one hand and DMT in the other and just flatten under some running water most of the time.  When used just for flattening a DMT will last a long time.  You may be right about them for actual sharpening.  I've had good luck but we'll see in another year or two if they're still going strong since my current practice is to skip my coarse stones much of the time and use the DMT XC & C instead.

"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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post #26 of 26

BDL,

 

I agree that the topic is fun; though it may not be the most efficient means of learning the process, I feel that knowing the background and roots gives a better understanding of the reasons behind the technique. If I lose the woods for the trees, I don't feel that too much is lost if one is still having fun.

 

As far as flattening goes, I think it will be a bridge that I will cross when I get there.  At my current rate, flattening will be a task to contemplate in the distant future.

 

Phaedrus,

 

Do you mind giving me a bit more insight and explaining your own knives and sharpening process?

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