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We have a massive amount of Edge Pro products so we figured it would be good to have a whole section on how to use the machine and what to use on it.
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Edge Pro -- Do good freehanderes need one?

Tue May 22, 2012 9:03 am

So here is my question and I know it has been addressed elsewhere from time to time, but it is this: Do I need one? I am an above-average freehand sharpener with many decent stones and suitable progressions (500k to 16,000). In most cases, I seem to get my blades very sharp with minimal to moderate effort (yes, this is subjective, but they are sharp). I also enjoy the concentration and feel of working an edge freehand on stones. It's almost relaxation.

That said, I also like a screaming sharp blade—the sharpest possible given the complexion of the steel (and I have a range of very good knives). Is there anything one can do on an Edge Pro that one can't do freehand with moderate to advanced skills? I already have good stones, do I really want to invest in another system? I'm willing to bite, but only if I can convince myself that an Edge Pro edge is substantially better than what I can do by hand. Can the Edge Pro take my knives to some place freehand stones cannot?.

I do note that many experts who are clearly adept at sharpening (have it down to a science) seem to have such a system? Why?

Finally, part of me feels like I would be going backwards by getting an edge pro because I already have developed a decent freehand skill of sharpening. Isn’t sharpening by hand the apex of progression for the trade? Start with jigs, but ultimately for best results, learn to achieve great results by hand? Perhaps I just don't know what I am missing without an Edge Pro because I have never used one and have no decent point of reference? Any thoughts and advice, much appreciated?

Re: Edge Pro -- Do good freehanderes need one?

Tue May 22, 2012 9:40 am

Excellent question Chester,

I do both and here is my take on it. I like free hand sharpening more because it's fun and takes a little skill. That said, if I were entering a knife sharpening competition I would use the edge Pro since it gives you a small advantage. I personally use the edge pro if I'm doing lots of knives since it's easier and requires less concentration to get good results. It's an additive tool that gives you more consistant performance.

For you, if you're getting good results and you're enjoying sharpening free hand my advice would be keep doing what you're doing. How much improvement will you be able to sqeeze out of the edge pro if you are good at free handing? Answer is not much.

Re: Edge Pro -- Do good freehanderes need one?

Tue May 22, 2012 9:56 am

Thanks Mark and appreciate your sage advice. I almost was tempted to post this on the broader "General Discussion" section because I've got to believe that many others are pondering the same question. I will look forward to other good sharpeners offering their advice as well.

Oh, and the other point I left out.... If I don't purchase an Edge Pro, it only means I free up $$ for a few additional stones and the ultra fine B. glass honing rod! Hah!

Re: Edge Pro -- Do good freehanderes need one?

Tue May 22, 2012 12:55 pm

Without a shadow of doubt, a super tolerance free guided device will produce a more crisp, defined edge - I personally doubt that the human element can mimic this precision - not knocking free hand sharpening as it has it's place in society and works very well too - ultimately it's about preference.

The EP has a different learning curve, with other skills that need acquiring - other areas of concentration and focus - also has a sense of feel with the edge developing - also plays on the ears and finger tips...it is also soothing and balming......and very expensive.....

Use any method you fancy to get your tools nice and sharp - and if it works - then you are 99% there.


Re: Edge Pro -- Do good freehanderes need one?

Tue May 22, 2012 1:10 pm

Good insight there, M.R. I wonder if this makes sense: With an edge pro, I certainly could see how it would be very useful setting initial bevels and serious work with low grit stones. But, on periodic maintainence, particularly north of 2000k, would it then make sense to break out the stones and freehand from there? In other words, does it make sense to use both systems almost interchangeably? Once I have a nice defined bevel, I usually don't have much difficulty polishing the edge....Also, own quite a few finer stones (freehand) already and would hate to see them sit idle??? Could easily see how it would be easier if I use the E.P. to do the heavy initial lifting, then use the finer hones freehand and for periodic touch ups. Thoughts?

Re: Edge Pro -- Do good freehanderes need one?

Wed May 23, 2012 10:44 am

'Need' - well that is a bit extreme, in the sense that we don't need an extremely sharp knife, but rather that we want a really sharp knife.

The single biggest reason we want to have an EP - even if we are an accomplished hand sharpener - is to make us a better freehand sharpener. It gives us a 'Gold Standard' of what a consistent angle looks like and feels like that we can strive for attaining as a freehand sharpener. Have you ever wondered what a perfectly consistent 1k Shapton edge looks like done freehand vs on an EP?

Perhaps the biggest myth that freehand sharpeners will proclaim - most who have never used an EP, WEPS or Gizmo - is that it is not as meditative. That one is not as 'in touch' with the stones, that one doesn't focus on the stone as much, that one is simply mindlessly running the stone back and forth and after a required period of time, out comes this edge like a computer guided CNC machine.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

What actually happens once one gets past the first stage of its use is to realize that it ONLY holds your angles more consistently than freehand. But all the other aspects of sharpening are still present. The result is that, now that angular consistency is achieved you are free to concentrate on ALL the other aspects of sharpening - pressure applied, what areas of the knife need more work, if you want to apply differential pressure to one side of the stone or the other and most importantly, what the stone feels like, etc etc. Instead of a mindless mantra of 'Am I maintaining my angles, Am I maintaining my angles, Am I maintaining my angles, Am I maintaining my angles ..., you are now free to concentrate on the feel of the stone, the way the mud plays, etc etc. And, for each stroke, you get to SEE what you have done. With classical sharpening, you have to interrupt your progression turn the knife up, look at it and then go back to sharpening and reestablishing your angle from memory. So it is in fact a higher form of consciousness in your meditations about sharpening.

It isn't just me either. Some of the most insightful comments I get about both natural and synthetic stones come from EP users who 'get' what a stone is all about when they use it on an EP. This goes beyond stones to nanocloth, kangaroo leather, compounds, etc. Another group who 'get' this level of insight are those that use them on straight razors, where the angle guide and maintaining angles is built into the razor itself.

Now with less acute angles, if you are 'off' by say 2 degrees on a 20 degree angle, you have a 10% error, which results in a convex edge, with the edge at a more obtuse angle than desired. A 5 degree edge with a 2 degree error is a 40 % error (2/5 = .40), so clearly more acute angles favor the EP. Detailed analysis of freehand users edges using the Gizmo, an angle cube and a sharpie marker clearly show that freehand users claiming 5 degree edges rarely have even a 12 degree edge at the edge of the edge.

So yes proficiency with an EP will make you a better freehand sharpener, IMO.


Re: Edge Pro -- Do good freehanderes need one?

Wed May 23, 2012 8:47 pm

... Sigh... Well argued, I give in! No really, what you are saying is quite convincing and so I will give it a go and get an Edge Pro. I do really like the idea of having a reference point from which I can measure my freehand capabilities. Next I will pester you guys for EP stone advice if you will indulge.

Oh, and PS, Ken: Just curious. What jigs and other assists to the Japanese use to sharpen their knives? Obviously they have taken knife and steel development to perhaps the highest order of any country. They are also very respectful of tradition, but at the same time, very adept at technology. Do they have special systems like the EP that they have developed for their glorious knives? Do they have a certain approach to learning sharpening that eliminates the need for angles guides and other such devices?

Not meaning to get into an anthropological discussion on sharpening, but I am quite curious? They've been putting spectacular edges on blades for centuries. You would think that they's have invented their own version of the Edge Pro by now? Again, curious. And thanks for your answer to my earlier question. Well argued!

Re: Edge Pro -- Do good freehanderes need one?

Thu May 24, 2012 9:52 am

late to the party. The learning curve on the EP is smaller, but perfection isn't easy either. Rookie and I have challenged ourselves to making sharpening on the EP as scientific and precise as possible.

My edges are okay according to Mark ;-)

Re: Edge Pro -- Do good freehanderes need one?

Wed May 30, 2012 10:26 pm

Chester woodworkers in general and Japanese ones in particular use jigs all the time for various purposes. You see devices for holding a blade to the big circular stones during initial grinding of the blade's front bevel and forming the urasaki or hollow back, you see sword polishers holding their stones at angles and special shaped pieces of wood to hold their stones down with their feet, etc etc. Perhaps the single biggest jig concept is incorporating the jig into the knife itself! You see this in the design of single bevel knives, kamasori (Japanese straight razors) Chisels, etc. While the EP isn't a classic concept for a Japanese knife sharpener it has a sense of precision hard to beat. Jigs are just another more advanced form of tool and something humans almost can't ignore. When you compare a drill press or table saw to a hand drill or hand power saw, the precision in drilling - well that's a jig too!


Re: Edge Pro -- Do good freehanderes need one?

Wed Jun 06, 2012 10:19 am

So nice to chat with EP users. Some of the other forums really think its cheating. Curious though, does anybody have a repeatable method for sharpening traditional single bevels? I was told its not possible, so I started trying to learn to free-hand after 3 years of EP pleasure.

Madrookie, I know you are an innovator and EP Jedi, have you come up with a method? Also, how is your modified rod guide working out?
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