Let's Get Into Sharpening

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baffled
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Let's Get Into Sharpening

Post by baffled » Wed Nov 23, 2016 8:59 pm

Disclaimer:
Knives are tools before anything else. A sharp knife is safer than a dull knife, but only if you're not a dipshit or plan to do something illegal with your like new sharp knife. Don't do something stupid or illegal.


Shape had mentioned (maybe 2 months ago, or more) that a quick tutorial on knife sharpening would be cool. And since it's one of my favorite things to do, I've wanted to start a thread, but I keep getting sidetracked, and haven't had the time to figure out what would be most useful for folks who have decent kitchen knives (say, a Henckels or better).

edit: I should note that it doesn't really matter if you've got nice knives or a set you bought for $25. The nice knives are probably going to feel better in the hand, the blade may take a better edge, the blade will probably be straighter etc, but the fundamentals are always there.

I actually figured that while I could go through step by step, it would be pretty redundant given what's already out there. Also, I think video is the next best thing to having someone there with you, a couple stones, and a few knives to use for practice. Text can work, but I just don't think it's as efficient.

Here are the videos that I think are the best out there. He makes things easy to understand, his voice doesn't bother me, and I think he's a real middle of the road sort of guy. You'd be surprised how many people view sharpening as a topic that's on par with picking a religion. These apply to all knives, not just Japanese kitchen knives. I alternate between a Benchmade Griptilian in cpm-20cv and a Buck in S30v, and both are routinely sharpened either on diamond hones or Shapton Glass, ceramic water stones in a similar fashion to what you see in this video.


This playlist is solid: http://www.youtube.com/watch?list=PLEBF ... B3jkRi1dKs

This one is important


And this one goes over the basic movements:


Burr removal and "stropping":




Long wikipedia page of blade materials: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_blade_materials

Commentary to follow, probably in chunks, and may take some time.
Last edited by baffled on Wed Nov 23, 2016 10:17 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Let's Get Into Sharpening

Post by DrDonkeyLove » Wed Nov 23, 2016 9:10 pm

Keep this up.
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Re: Let's Get Into Sharpening

Post by baffled » Wed Nov 23, 2016 9:36 pm

Picking a stone:

I'm of the opinion that you should be able to get by without filling out the entire grit progression. Meaning, you don't need to go from a 180 grit stone to a 300 or 400, to an 800 or 1000, to 2000, to 4000, to 8000.

For kitchen work, you should be able to get by with 2 or 3 stones. You could go with the Murray Carter approach, and use a 1000 and 6000, but a 1000 grit stone as the rougher stone is going to be a little fine when you have a knife that needs heavier work done.

I'd figure something like a 400 -> 1000 -> 3000-> is plenty for most kitchen applications. You could probably stop at a 1000 and get by, but a little more polish has it's advantages, and something like a 2000 to 4000 grit finish should still leave a decently polished blade while retaining sufficient edge aggression.

My recommendations:

For kitchen work, I'm a fan of water stones. A Shapton glass 500 and 2000 is actually a nice set on its own. About $120 bought together. This is a cost effective choice and can cover pretty much every steel type you may have reason to sharpen, from tool steels on your chisels, to super stainless up to maybe S90v on your overbuilt pocket knives, and any steel your kitchen knives are made from.

They're slow to dish out, can cut most any steel and are splash and go. No soaking necessary, and the stones will actually break down and/or crack if they are soaked. Just a little water to get started, and a little water to keep going.

You could go with cheaper options, like King stones, but they require at least a short soak (I sometimes soak mine for hours, overnight or longer) and they are slow to dry out when you're done. A 1000 and 6000 is maybe $50 from Amazon.

Throw in a stone holder and you're working for less than $80. Maybe less than $70.

(You'll need a stone holder, and can get one for ~$18 from Amazon, or you can buy or make sink bridges, use towels to keep the stone from sliding around etc. Depends on how deep you want to go.)

Diamonds: I'd skip these, but you could get the Duo-sharp kit from DMT for something like $120. Diamonds always stay flat, but they are aggressive. Diamonds are the most time efficient option on the super steels you see in a lot of the upper end pocket knives these days.

Oil Stones: I hate these. They're messy, and unlike waterstones, tougher to clean up. I've found that oil stones need more maintenance since the surfaces both clog, and the abrasive breaks down, but doesn't break free as easily, requiring them to be lapped and reconditioned.

I guess I'd go with the cheaper options of a Norton Crystolon + India Stone for a lower grit set, then mix in either a Spyderco Fine or Ultra Fine ceramic, or maybe even a Hard Black Arkansas. Hard black Arkansas probably isn't really needed, but if you're trying to get really fine finishes, it'll do it.

You could probably get through all of these with a $100 to $150 investment and do fine, but it's just not my preference. If you've already got a couple oil stones, then just add on a couple ceramics from Spyderco and call it good.

Just make sure whatever stones you're using, they're in the 8" range as far as length.

^^^^^

There are plenty of other stones out there, but I don't have experience with all of them, and they can be tough to find a source for them.

--------edit 11/29-------

Relatively inexpensive, splash and go convenience, functional edges, minimal extra equipment required:

A Shapton Professional (sort of a step down from the Glass series) would do the trick. Either a 1000 ($52 or so at Chef Knives to Go) or a 2000 (~$65 at the same site) would do fine. The stone will leave a plenty workable edge for most kitchen use, and you're laying out a pretty affordable amount of green to get started.

Extra equipment needed:

Stone holder? No need to purchase or rig one up since the cases double as a stone holder, and are ventilated so you can just let them air dry for a few, then let them continue drying in the case.

Flattening? Get a flattening plate if you have the extra ~$75. Or.... get a spare piece of tile or glass, some loose grit silicon carbide (60 grit or so), and use that to flatten the stone.

Total layout with a Shapton Pro 1000 and silicon carbide: $62-$65. I'd assume most could find a flat piece of tile for free or find one for a few dollars.


Honestly, I'm a Shapton Glass fanboy, but I just overlooked the Professional Series.
Last edited by baffled on Wed Nov 30, 2016 5:09 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Let's Get Into Sharpening

Post by baffled » Wed Nov 23, 2016 9:49 pm

The burr:

I'm cautiously pro-burr. There's a video in the playlist I embedded, but it's worth a quick blurb.

A burr is absolutely not necessary to obtaining a scary sharp edge, but for a beginner, I think other methods that avoid a burr will have a really steep learning curve that just won't be worth it.

Raise that burr, remove it, raise it on the other side, remove it, and then refine that edge, set the apex or whatever it is you do to get things cutting like you want, and move along.
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Re: Let's Get Into Sharpening

Post by baffled » Wed Nov 23, 2016 10:10 pm

Angles:

"Edge" Angle: 20 degrees or less is probably fine for most people. Hold the knife perpendicular to your stone. Rotate the spine of the blade to a 45 degree angle, then cut that in half. That's ~22.5 degrees. Lower it a touch, and you'll dip below 20 degrees.

You can also use a matchbook to rest the spine of the blade and likely end up between 10 and 15 degrees, depending on the width of the blade.

If you feel comfortable, go for the lower angle, unless you notice chipping. If that's the case, you'll need to raise the angle a touch. This bring us to.....


Thickness:

Basic rule of sharpening a knife: Thinner will perform better than a thicker knife. Most knives, especially western knives, are too thick.

You may have a knife that feels really sharp, and may start a cut very easily, but doesn't seem to cut through things well. It's probably too think and needs to be thinned behind the edge.

It's not just a Japanese thing. John Jurantich's book puts an emphasis on the importance of a thin blade to cutting performance, and I'm guessing he never paid much attention to Shinogi lines, Japanese laminated blades etc.

I should note that you should be working on improving your edges before you start screwing around with the thickness of your blades.

Here's a video from the playlist on thinning your blades:


^^^^

If you are going to start thinning your blades, take a practice knife and watch this video a few times before you mess around on your own with nicer knives.
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Re: Let's Get Into Sharpening

Post by bennyonesix » Wed Nov 23, 2016 10:34 pm

Oh jesus christ my autism.

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Re: Let's Get Into Sharpening

Post by baffled » Wed Nov 23, 2016 10:43 pm

You don't know the half of it.

I've seen some discussions that have damn near gone Godwin over this stuff.
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Re: Let's Get Into Sharpening

Post by bennyonesix » Wed Nov 23, 2016 10:55 pm

My hands are sweating at the pics alone dude. I think I am lost.

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Re: Let's Get Into Sharpening

Post by Shapecharge » Wed Nov 23, 2016 11:06 pm

Baff this is about the most informative useful thread created by one person in the history of this site. Bravo brother. And thanks. I've been trying to do this and have been less than impressed with my efforts. Now I've got something to reference.

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Re: Let's Get Into Sharpening

Post by baffled » Wed Nov 23, 2016 11:58 pm

Shapecharge wrote:Baff this is about the most informative useful thread created by one person in the history of this site. Bravo brother. And thanks. I've been trying to do this and have been less than impressed with my efforts. Now I've got something to reference.
Thanks for the kind words.

I'll try to put an example video together of me getting a chefs knife sharp and maybe one of my pocket knives.

Everyone will end up with a personal style that's more in the vein of one general style or approach.

A couple other things I'm thinking of that I can try to comment on, but this is probably good for now. Benny's about to take a dump in his bathtub if I add much more.
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Re: Let's Get Into Sharpening

Post by Grandpa's Spells » Thu Nov 24, 2016 1:27 am

When I was carving a kayak paddle in one of the Chicago public wood shops, I spent a fuckload of time get out-of-flat water stones reflattened. This put me off water stones, and I got a Worksharp 3000 with knife belt attachment that is pretty sweet.

With glass-based and slow-rotation belt solutions so affordable, effective, and low maintenance, what is the draw of stones for you? I fully get that I wanted planes, spokeshaves, and knives kept sharp for projects, which is different than sharpening for its own sake.

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Re: Let's Get Into Sharpening

Post by bennyonesix » Thu Nov 24, 2016 2:26 am

FFS we are autistic fgt.

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Re: Let's Get Into Sharpening

Post by Pinky » Thu Nov 24, 2016 2:32 am

This is fantastic. I've been sharpening chisels, plane blades, etc.; but I've been wary of taking my stones upstairs to work on the kitchen knives. The knives that see the heaviest use are dulling too fast for the occasional Sharpmaker touch-up.
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Re: Let's Get Into Sharpening

Post by baffled » Thu Nov 24, 2016 4:01 am

Grandpa's Spells wrote:When I was carving a kayak paddle in one of the Chicago public wood shops, I spent a fuckload of time get out-of-flat water stones reflattened. This put me off water stones, and I got a Worksharp 3000 with knife belt attachment that is pretty sweet.

With glass-based and slow-rotation belt solutions so affordable, effective, and low maintenance, what is the draw of stones for you? I fully get that I wanted planes, spokeshaves, and knives kept sharp for projects, which is different than sharpening for its own sake.
Big reason is that I enjoy it, and a knife that's merely dull but doesn't need a ton of work can be taken care of in 10 minutes or less.

I also have an Atoma 140 diamond plate to flatten my stones. Only stone that's ever gotten noticeably out of flat was the King 1000. That's not to say that my Shaptons, Naniwa and other stones haven't gotten out of flat (they do), but they're so slow to dish that it'll take quite a bit of work to make a difference in the angle that would be noticeable to the naked eye.


edit:
Other reasons...

1) Keeping water stones flat shouldn't be a problem if they're your own stone. If you're in a public wood shop, you'll have all sorts of assholes who dish out a stone, and then just leave it for someone else to deal with. Just flatten before or after you sharpen with whatever your preferred method of flattening may be.

- You can buy a diamond flattening plate, like the above mentioned Atoma 140, or the DMT diaflat, or you can get another diamond plate, but they may stick to the stone, which is a nuisance, and sometimes if you're not careful, you can lift the stone, lose it and put a chip or crack into it.

- Cheaper and just as effective is to get a piece of tile, or glass, some loose grit silicon carbide (60 grit should work), and use that to flatten your stones. A baggy of SiC and the tile or glass should last years, and run $15 or less.

2) Water stones, by their very nature, are resistant to clogging at the low to medium grits. Since they work by constantly releasing fresh abrasive as the binder breaks down, you get a quick cutting abrasive, but you also get an added benefit in that most water stone brands will leave a higher polish relative to their grit rating.

As long as the stone still has abrasive left, it'll cut at the same speed, leave the same finish etc.

3) Since I like portability, splash and go stones work for me. I can keep maybe 10 stones and a flattening plate in a backpack, along with a couple spray bottles and not be overly burdened getting around.

Don't know why I'd do that, but I could.
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Re: Let's Get Into Sharpening

Post by Turdacious » Thu Nov 24, 2016 4:19 am

This is great stuff Baff. Thanks and keep it coming.
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Re: Let's Get Into Sharpening

Post by SubClaw » Thu Nov 24, 2016 5:25 am

I'm a big fan of the Spyderco's Sharpmaker. I just don't have the patience for freehand sharpening.

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Re: Let's Get Into Sharpening

Post by nafod » Thu Nov 24, 2016 12:36 pm

Like Pinky, I've been sharpening planes and chisels too, but not at the same time with Pinky while he stands behind me and gently guides my stroking. Nothing like that. But anyway, I have sharpening stones, but ended up using the method where you glue varying grits of waterproof sandpaper onto plate glass. Stays dead flat. From 80 grit to 3000. Seems OK for my needs. Thoughts on using it for cutlery?
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Re: Let's Get Into Sharpening

Post by Pinky » Thu Nov 24, 2016 5:52 pm

This turned honererotic faster than expected.
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Re: Let's Get Into Sharpening

Post by Herv100 » Thu Nov 24, 2016 5:55 pm

Thanks. I need to sharpen some stuff
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Re: Let's Get Into Sharpening

Post by baffled » Fri Nov 25, 2016 1:05 am

nafod wrote:Like Pinky, I've been sharpening planes and chisels too, but not at the same time with Pinky while he stands behind me and gently guides my stroking. Nothing like that. But anyway, I have sharpening stones, but ended up using the method where you glue varying grits of waterproof sandpaper onto plate glass. Stays dead flat. From 80 grit to 3000. Seems OK for my needs. Thoughts on using it for cutlery?
Sure. Don't see why that wouldn't work just fine. The SiC wet/dry sandpaper seems to work well for a lot of people.

I know some will convex their edges using a mouse pad as the backing, and then just water or WD40 to lubricate the surface. Think they usually use edge trailing strokes. I've cut into the sandpaper the few times I've tried to use the sandpaper on a plate of glass, but I grind an edge early with a scrubbing motion, may mix a few edge trailing strokes to hone, and pretty much always end with edge leading strokes to finish the edge.

edit:

Here's a guy using sandpaper and WD40. I remembered this one being posted elsewhere recently, but haven't watched it all the way through.

IIRC, he doesn't destroy the sandpaper, so it's obviously operator error on my part when I've done it.

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Re: Let's Get Into Sharpening

Post by baffled » Wed Nov 30, 2016 5:15 am

Updated the choosing a stone post to include a one stone idea.

Also expanded a little on why I prefer water stones instead of grinding setups, whether they're belts, wheels, water or air cooled etc. Still mostly preference, and I know there are folks out there who would rather stab someone with their knife than have it taken to a grinder, but sinceI enjoy sharpening by hand and rarely need an extended amount of time to get something shaving sharp, I don't see a reason to go another direction. Now, for an axe that's in disrepair, bring out the grinder.

Also, I'm going to migrate this information over onto a wordpress.com blog to make it easier to keep this stuff organized, so if people are looking for something, they can just click a link and find it instead of paging around this thread.

I'll put the link here and in my sig once I get the info transferred. I'll post the videos there, and once I switch out my phone, I'll try to get a couple videos of my own sharpening approach and put them.
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Re: Let's Get Into Sharpening

Post by bennyonesix » Thu Dec 01, 2016 7:55 pm

I liked this one. I never knew you could feel for the burr/wire-edge. But you can actually feel it.


https://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=-3suCV1UqMc

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Re: Let's Get Into Sharpening

Post by baffled » Fri Dec 02, 2016 4:34 am

bennyonesix wrote:I liked this one. I never knew you could feel for the burr/wire-edge. But you can actually feel it.


https://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=-3suCV1UqMc

That's a pretty good, short video on sharpening. I was actually thinking of adding a Kramer video, where he goes through the product line with the stones and sink bridge in the video above.

re: feeling the burr.

That's how you know it's time to move along. I should have gone into that in my first series of posts. I've got to get some sleep since I need to be up at 0400 tomorrow, but I'll think of whether it may be beneficial to get more into the burr than we've already got in the videos I posted and the one our friend Benjamin posted.


I would strongly suggest for almost everyone to go to Target or a similar store and get a couple of kitchen knives in the $15 range or so.

Line up and practice sharpening those blades in the fashion demonstrated by Kramer, and try to the grinding technique shown in the videos I posted at the beginning of this thread.

You'll probably notice in time that your technique begins to be a blend of approaches, and your instincts will probably kick in to tell you what is and isn't working quicker than you think.
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Re: Let's Get Into Sharpening

Post by bennyonesix » Fri Dec 02, 2016 5:20 am

Kramer has one where he recommends 5 lbs of pressure. I was using prob one pound. Except strop and the 5k stone.

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Re: Let's Get Into Sharpening

Post by baffled » Mon Dec 12, 2016 7:18 am

bennyonesix wrote:Kramer has one where he recommends 5 lbs of pressure. I was using prob one pound. Except strop and the 5k stone.
Yeah, pressure can be surprisingly tricky when you're starting to sharpen your own knives and tools.

In general, I would recommend people start with lighter pressure, and work up to a bit more as they figure things out. I'm talking about figuring things out during the course of a sharpening, not multiple sharpenings.


2 Main Reasons:

1) You can remove steel from a knife without too much effort, but you can't put it back on. Some stones go from decent cutting to eating through steel like it's nothing with a moderate increase in pressure.

2) You can't/shouldn't be using the same amount of pressure with your low grit stones as you do with your higher grit, finishing or polishing stones. I'll get into that in the next post I'm going to put up.
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