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Spyderco ceramic bench stones vs. quality Arkansas stones? ( BDL?)

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

After much research, I decided to follow BDL's "whetstone used dry" route.  I received my Norton India combo stone and quickly put an old, crap grocery store knife to it. I boiled the stone in detergent water to jump start the "de-oiling" process first.  15-20 minutes of playing with technique, etc., a light steeling plus stropping on an old cardboard box and the crap chef's knife (probably 420 stainless) was sharp enough to shave hair. An old green pepper dropped from a foot or two onto the blade cleaved in half cleanly. Since I learned years ago on old, oiled up natural stones, this dry Norton India stone is a bit of a revelation.

 

I was planning on ordering a Hall's Soft Ark and then Black Ark as my skills progressed, but some intriguing info popped up. Remembering the crock sticks on my old Spyderco Sharpmaker, I Googled and found they now make 8x2 ceramic bench stones.

 

According to http://nihonzashi.com/SharpenGuide.htm#Grit , the Spyderco Medium is equal to a 1000 grit water stone and Soft Ark,  the Spyderco Fine is equal to 2500 grit water stone and a bit finer than a black Ark and the Spyderco Ultrafine is supposedly equal to a 4000 grit water stone.   The medium and fine ceramic stones can be had for $37 a piece (cheaper as a pair than a Halls Soft Ark and Surgical Black). The Extra/Ultrafine ceramic is around $70

 

The ceramics seem attractive because they're actually designed to be used dry and their aluminum oxide ceramic construction *should* make them cut harder steels better than a natural stone (I'm going out on a limb). Plus, I was pleased with the crock sticks in my Sharpmaker, even if they were slow as dirt on a rough blade.

 

I know that how natural stones are rated is highly subjective, varying from one source/mine to another.  I'm quite interested how these ceramics might stack up against good natural stones in terms of cutting speed, feedback, polish, lifetime, etc. I'm willing to trade slower speed (compared to water stones) for better longevity and ease of use as long as it's not ridiculous.  I admit there's also a bit of romance in putting one's steel to a rock that came from the earth, but in the end, I want the best tool for the money.

 

Any thoughts you can contribute would be greatly appreciated.

 

Thanks,

 

Doug

post #2 of 9

The Spyderco rods are somewhat slower in the opinion of many. I think they're pretty versatile and can produce a decent edge.  They;re short and narrow which makes them tricky to use on large kitchen blades.

Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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post #3 of 9
Thread Starter 

Yeah, but Spyderco now makes 8x2 bench stones of the same stuff...an order of magnitude more cutting surface than the sticks with a SharpMaker.  I was thinking of using them in a progression after the Norton India, instead of Arkansas stones. I'm curious how they compare.

 

Thanks,

 

Doug

post #4 of 9

Spyderco has been in the ceramic stone business for awhile, they've had good reviews from professional knife guys, but never seem to have caught on.  Seems like it's worth a try to me especially if it's your money and not mine. 

 

One quibble though.  Grit comparisons involving an Arkansas stone are very iffy.  A good (and not they're not all good) "surgical black" sharpens somewhat finer than a Japanese 2500#.  I'd put my Hall's Surgical Black as about even with a Norton 4000# water stone.  But these are very close calls, and they certainly call for a grain of salt.

 

I like the Arks as a known quantity which work very well -- although not very quickly -- with certain alloys.  If the ceramics work as well, work quicker, and are good with a broader range of alloys -- as is their reputation -- then why the heck not?

 

Does it count as nagging if I remind you that a big key to using any whetstone which doesn't wear away quickly (which includes your Norton Indias, Arks, Ceramics and whatnot) is keeping them clean and as free from swarf as possible?  That goes double if you're going dry or with just a spritz of water  A brass brush is a big help, and so is the dishwasher.  If you clean the stone, then hit it with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, you'll get all the surface dirt which should allow you to see how much swarf, if any, is left in the "pores."  Don't be afraid of cleaning your stones a few times to get them really clean.  Makes a big difference.

 

BDL

post #5 of 9
Thread Starter 

I'm still hmming and hawing about the Arks or Spyderco stones.  At this point, I've pretty much resigned myself to the fact that I'll eventually wind up buying both kinds of stones.  I'll probably get the Arks first though. I'm in no rush though, since I really need to improve my ability to hold a constant angle. Might as well get it right with the cheap-o Norton before spending time with a slower stone.

 

FWIW, I boiled the India and have run it through the washer a few times.  I've tried it dry and wet; I'll think I'll go the wet route. Used this way, swarf rubs off under the faucet with my fingers or failing that, an old tooth brush.  Much less messy than oil.

 

Thanks,

 

Doug

post #6 of 9

That is the nature of the enthusiast. Don't buy one or the other, buy both! 

 

I'd go with the spyderco stones first as they'll need less maintenance or truing. When they're dirty, throw them in the dishwasher. That's one of Spyderco's recommendations anyway.

 

The Spyderco stones are slow but respond to ever lightening pressure in positive ways. It's like giving the stone more reach. They do this better than other stones I've tried. The white fine ones are better for this technique.

Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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post #7 of 9
Thread Starter 

As it were, I have both an 8 in. Hall's soft and Spyderco Fine 8 in. bench stone on the way. Between those two and the fine side of my Norton India, I'm thinking there's a reasonable progression, though kind of close together and overlapping represented there.  It's really hard to find good data about these stone's grits since only the AlO India can be rated that way.  I've seen the Norton Fine listed anywhere as 380-400+ ANSI, an average soft Ark somewhere around 600 ANSI (effective) and the Spyderco fine from 1200 to 2000 ANSI (effective).  Interestingly, I've seen the Spyderco Ultra-fine compared to 8k to 14K water stones!. And the Surgical Black's effective grit? Forgetaboutit...  Such variability in opinion makes informed purchasing very difficult.

 

Since the Soft Ark and Fine Spyderco are the "cheap end" of their lines, I grabbed both for evaluation.  Besides, I used to own a Sharp Maker with the Medium and Fine sticks; that fine was pretty danged smooth. At least it's a semi-known quantity. Maybe with the next paycheck I'll grab a surgical black Ark.  Do I need these at my skill level? HA! No.  Will I outgrow them? Not likely (unless I switch to much harder steels). 

 

In the mean time, I've been sharpening everything in my blocks with degrees of success varying between "ok" and "wow".  Ironically, I have some stamped Bokers (labeled "440") that I can't put an edge on with any stone I have, including my Lansky Pro kit, to save my life.  They CAN'T be that hard. No 440 steel I can think of should beyond Aluminum Oxide stones.Maybe they're just crap steel, though they came sharp and have held an edge much longer than I would have expected. My Forschners are much better in every way though. And the Sabatiers? No contest.

 

Thanks,

 

Doug

 

 

post #8 of 9

If they just say 440, then they're most likely 440 A. This is a softer steel that is mega rust resistant. Crap at edge holding. It will take an edge, but you're probably overworking it for how soft it is. Work it lightly and slowly checking often. 

Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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post #9 of 9
Thread Starter 

The Spyderco Fine bench stone arrived. I played with it a while and can say on euro carbon steel and modest stainless (Sabatier and Forschner) it is anything but slow. The Sharpmaker sticks might have a reputation for being slow, but a 2x8 stone has an order of magnitude more cutting surface.  It cuts much faster than you'd think judging just by the texture of the stone. It also has really great feedback. I like my Norton India, but the fine side on it feels like gravel compared to the Spyderco. It does load up quickly, but is dirt simple to clean with a green scrubby and a little Bar Keeper's Friend. 30 seconds and it's squeaky clean. I wouldn't call the edge it'll put on scratch free, but gives a pretty good polish coming from a "fine" stone.

 

Now I'm really debating whether I'll get the surgical Ark or Spyderco Ultrafine next. I've never used water stones, but having used a fair number of oilstones of the the years (coming from that perspective), I'm quite impressed. Good cutting speed, nice feedback, no mess from oil or water.  It'll be an interesting test to match it up with the soft Ark when it arrives.

 

If you have any curiosity about the Spyderco ceramic stones, by all means grab one and try it out.

 

Doug

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