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Yet another seeker of advice on sharpening stones

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

Though this question gets asked frequently, I'm am nevertheless going to request the help of the forum members on sharpening stone recommendations, since the array of choices and answers is dizzying, I've already poured over many threads, and I wonder if my particular situation will affect the recommendations.


My knives: 

Mac Pro MBK-95

Mac Pro PFK-60


Context: I don't use my knives that often. Maybe a few times a month. However, I enjoy knowing that I'm using quality pieces when I do cook. I also derive satisfaction from doing things the right way and knowing my purchase is well-informed, recommended, and highly rated, even if I don't end up using it all the time.


I'd like to be able to sharpen my knives so they're as sharp as possible (or at least very sharp without having to be an expert at sharpening) - the PFK-60 is now pretty dull. I have zero experience with sharpening, but it seems from my reading that learning to use stones will give superior results than a machine. So I think it would be fun to learn if it's not too hard. If something can give me 90% the results but is much easier to learn and use, I'd probably go for that, but if it would only give 50% the results, I'm willing to spend a little more time to get the better results. Hopefully that makes sense.


Budget: I'm not too concerned with budget but I don't want to spend too much for diminishing returns.


Given this context, should I try to learn sharpening technique with stones, and if so, what would be a recommended setup, including everything I'd need?


Thanks for any and all input!!

post #2 of 10
dave martell's stones on japaneseknifesharpening 3 pc. set up is ideal.

but you can start with a king combination stone like a 800 / 6k, 1k/6k stone for starters.
post #3 of 10

Your "90%, 50%" analogy makes sense for some things, but not really for sharpening.  Your MACs can take and hold a pretty good edge, which gives you a lot of acceptable options; for instance:   Expensive water stones, medium priced water stones; inexpensive water stones; an expensive tool and jig like an Edge Pro or a Wicked Edge; a $130 "Asian Angle" Chef's Choice electric; an $80 CC electric; an $80 Minosharp Plus3 pull through; etc. 


You can get a sharper edge on stones than you can on a CC electric or Minosharp, but only if you use the stones properly.  Now... when you read "use them properly," you're probably thinking about the "properly."  Unfortunately, the danger is reaching a level of defeat and frustration where they don't get used at all -- and that's no good. 


Learning to sharpen freehand isn't impossible, but it's not exactly a no brainer either.  You can learn to be a good sharpener if you're willing to invest the time and energy, but there will be bumps along the road as well.  And, fwiw, the difference between a good and an "expert" sharpener is pretty small -- especially when you're talking about a knife kit as limited as yours.


Bottom Line:

Your best choice is going to come down to how much you're willing to spend, and how much time and frustration are you willing to invest in learning to sharpen. 



post #4 of 10
Thread Starter 

Thanks both for your replies. Uh - let's say I'm willing to spend $150 and 3-4 hours. Is that enough to learn on stones to where I'll get a good edge? I understand everyone's different - just trying to get a ballpark here...


If it's like 10+ hours and you really need a one-to-one tutor, perhaps I'd be better with a jig or machine? I'm not sure - I'd love to try learning, but if it's pretty hard without a mentor, perhaps I shouldn't bother?


I just saw the APEX kit from Edge Pro - how would that compare?

post #5 of 10
hand sharpening when done right with a well maintained knife sharpening wise should only last 5-10 minutes.

learning takes months to years, if you're obsessive enough, it'll take more than that.

when i first learned to sharpen, it took me 30 minutes a knife, but then i didn't know how to do it properly and didn't have the right tools. and that's with a badly maintained edge.

it's up to you if you wanna go that route. it is more rewarding psychologically coz you can tell yourself, i did that. i made that knife sharp myself.
post #6 of 10
Haha I so far have already spent much more than 3-4 hrs learning to sharpen and I have barely sharpened two crappy knives into fairly crappy knives. I consider myself having just gotten started (by reafing and watching videos) and I think Ive spent at least 10 hrs.
post #7 of 10
took me over a year of practicing on cheap crappy knives getting them to pretty okay sharpness knives on cheap silicon carbide stones. then i finally splurged on stuff like knives and stones when i thought i was good enough.
post #8 of 10

It takes most people 4 - 10 hours of practice before they can reliably draw and detect a burr using a medium/coarse stone; another 4 - 6 hours of practice before they can reliably chase it and deburr; and another 4 hours of practice before they can reliably repeat the process on a medium/fine stone.  All in all, you're looking at between 12 and 20 hours of practice before you get good, reliable results freehand sharpening on bench stones. 


It takes about an hour to get consistent with an EP if you're reasonably ambidextrous; maybe two if you're not. 


You can put together a good, soup-to-nuts, three stone kit (you'll eventually need a coarse stone for thinning), with a good flattener and a good rod for a little under $200; less if you use a combination stone for two of your surfaces.  It will cost a little less than $300 for the EP Essential kit sold by CKtG (which would probably be the right kit for you), plus a steel, plus an inexpensive flattener.


If you can afford the difference, and want better results than you can get from a gag like a Minosharp Plus3 or a Chef's Choice, then get the EP. 


Since one of your knives is incredibly dull, it's safe to assume the other isn't much better.  I suggest getting them sharpened so that you at least have some sort of baseline while you learn to sharpen. 



Edited by boar_d_laze - 4/3/13 at 3:41pm
post #9 of 10
You need a flattener even for the edge pro? How many times can you sharpen before you need to flatten? How long do those stones (for the edge pro) last?
post #10 of 10

Yes, you need a flattener for just about any water stone.  And yes, that specifically includes the stock EP water stones, as well as the most common OEM water stones:  Chosera and Shapton GS. 


There's no set answer for how often you can sharpen before flattening; nor for how long EP stones will last.  The specific answer is contingent on a lot of things, mostly on the identity of the particular stones.  Softer stones usually need flattening more often than harder stones, coarser stones usually need flatting more often than finer stones, slower stones usually need more than faster stones of the same grit.  But there are other factors as well.  Some knife alloys are very slow to sharpen, you may sharpen a lot of very dull knives, etc., etc. 


But... as a general rule... if you flatten every second or third sharpening, you won't be too far wrong.


And... just like with ordinary bench size water stones... ALWAYS flatten any new stone before using it. 


Because stones wear, but wear at different rates, before your stones become unusable and need replacement, you will need to compensate for their varying thicknesses.  The easiest and most effective way to do that is with an angle measuring device such as the angle finder cube -- and a collet stop.  CKtG sells them, and Mad Rookie has a video on You Tube explaining how to use them.   


I have an EP, like it, but only rarely use it, and am no expert.  If you want to know more about it, and are using stock EP stones, your best source for information is Mr. EP his own bad self -- Ben Dale.  If you're using OEM stones, your best source here is probably "Phaedrus" (there may be someone else, but (a) I doubt it; and (b) it's certainly not me).  Another really good guy for EP knowledge is Mad Rookie, who contributes to the CKtG forum and Fred's Cutlery Forum (one of the Foodie Forums).  More generally, the CKtG forum has an entire section devoted to the EP. 



Edited by boar_d_laze - 4/4/13 at 9:51am
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