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Living on the Edge

Mon Apr 22, 2013 4:11 pm

I have question for my learned friends; first some comments:

I often agonize over which stone/grit to finish a knife with. Although I have many finishing stones, I find that I am using them less and less and I rarely take out anything higher than 6k to work with.
First of all, the majority of knives I sharpen are Henckels, Wusthof, Victorionox, Shun, Global and MAC.

I always test the knives for sharpness with telephone book paper or a tomato and this is what I have noticed.
The knives are always very sharp right after my first stone, which is always a 400 Chosera or 500 Shapton Glass. At one time I would take all knives up to 8k or even 10k and while they were sharp and looked very nice, they had no bite on a tomato and of course we all know this and know the reason why. Cutting protein was great but not certain vegetables.
This is what I do now:

If the knife is used for vegetables ( I ask the owner) I stop at 2k, I am quite sure I could stop at 1k, the knife has a terrific bite and feel to it on a tomato.

If the knife is used for protein, I stop at either 3k, 4k, or 5k but usually 4k. I think I am even overdoing it with the 4k, I think 3k is perfect for meat, especially oily meats and fish.

Now if I get a nice Japanese knife I will go to 6k.

So finishing stones, the 8k and up are mostly used for polishing a Relief Face.

The reality of it is that I could finish the majority of knives off at 1k, if I have done my work properly with the 400 or 500, I rarely have the need to go higher than 3k on an edge.'

Again, these are mostly European knives I deal with, I'm asking myself often why I am going over 2k on these knives.

Am I making sense?

Re: Living on the Edge

Mon Apr 22, 2013 5:35 pm

SAILOR <> You make sense.

I stop at 2k on my Euros with a naked horse butt stropping, unless I'm bored and want to polish the teeth a bit with a 5k for shiites & giggles.

As for the "nice JK's" you get, I'd go to 8k in your shoes... unless you're stropping, too. I finish my hard steel with a Kityama, a Yaginoshima, or an Ozuku Asagi.

Re: Living on the Edge

Tue Apr 23, 2013 4:39 am

Thank you Melampus, I did 8 Euros last night actually and stopped at 2k, I strop with newspaper these days.

Re: Living on the Edge

Tue Apr 23, 2013 5:56 am


Now you're getting wise my man, so

....errr try stopping at the 1 200# Atoma EP mounted plate......now there is a lovely veggie edge for you - no need to even use a stone....save them.

Most of my customers knives only see a 2 x progression (using the EP Pro):

1 - setting the bevel with the 400 or 600# Atoma (I normally stick to the existing bevel/angle unless it appears way off)
2 - fine tuning with the 1 200# Atoma - STOP here - that is it!

You will be pleasantly surprised what a lovely shiny edge the 1 200# Atoma can give when used with lots of slightly soapy water & super light pressure.

I've gotten so lazy I just use normal distilled water without soap these days...

Yeah, go ahead & try it!


PS: Who needs stones....????

:ugeek: :ugeek: :ugeek:


Re: Living on the Edge

Tue Apr 23, 2013 6:47 am

Thanks MadRookie,
I will definitely give it a shot and use your suggestion, I get plenty of knives to do that are extremely abused and neglected, the beloved Atoma plates will do them justice. I only have the 140 so far and that has been invaluable.
Thanks friend.
Oh....... I need stones........it took years to build up my collection, I am not putting those coveted items away, how will I impress people if I don't show them my 16k water stone?

I see your point though and those plates are avail right here at Lee Valley, I pass that every day on the way home from work.

Re: Living on the Edge

Tue Apr 23, 2013 1:13 pm

If you find that a highly polished knife won't cut a tomato as well as a coarsely finished, it's more likely a product of your sharpening than the grit. Also, by using appropriate stones and/or compounds I can get plenty of tooth -- when desired -- at really fine polishes. 1/4u diamond for instance.

The scratch-hardness of Euro-style alloys is relatively low, so a very fine polish won't last very long. Too much polish for knives which will be used to cut through very fibrous foods or will be used against bones, is just a waste of the sharpener's time.

I finish sharpening most Euro-style alloys, specifically including 15XCrMoV15 hardened to the 55-58RCH range, with a Hall's Surgical Black Arkansas (Hall's in particular, because the quarry makes a BIG difference with Arks).

The Arkansas finish makes for an extremely durable edge; one which is both fine and will hold up pretty well against the frequent steeling that those alloys need; assuming, that is, an appropriate steel. In my experience, edges which are 2K or coarser, degrade faster under most conditions, than edges which are finished to 3K or finer. I also find that coarsely finished edges are more chip prone, than their smoother counterparts; and that the problem is magnified if the knife owner uses a honing rod with too much enthusiasm.

The abrasive in Arkansas stones is novaculite, and novaculite crystals are all pretty much the same size. That means that equivalent grit numbers (by whatever system) or screen sizes, are a shot in the dark. For comparative purposes, an edge created with my black will be slightly finer than one finished with a Chocera 3K, or Norton 4K; slightly less polished than a Chocera 5K; and about the same as a Suehiro Rika.

I lead in to the black with a (Hall's) soft Arkansas, and lead into the soft Ark with a Nortion fine India -- which pulls the first burr. The India is fine enough for the black to follow, but using the soft as an intermediary makes for a better edge, faster. I have two thoughts about why. My first hypothesis is that the soft "scrambles" the scratch from synthetic to natural. My second hypothesis is that my first hypothesis is full of crap.

In any case, the sharpening regimen has proved itself over a very long time with all sorts of knives. It's the one I used when I worked boucher and sharpened everyone's knife, when I catered and sharpened my employee's knives, when I gripped and sharpened the other brothers' knives, when I taught cooking and knife skills, and the one I used at home for decades on my own non-Japanese knives. I still have a bunch of Forschner by Victorinox, and carbon Sabs in my knife kit, and of all the various combinations of stones, strops, tool and jigs, gags, and other crap in my garage, that's the method which works best.

If Jim Bullman still keeps up with this thread, it would be nice to get some input. He sharpens these sorts of knives up to the level translucent Arkansas (also Hall's in his case), which is slightly finer than my black will go.


Re: Living on the Edge

Tue Apr 23, 2013 3:35 pm

<BDL> " My first hypothesis is that the soft "scrambles" the scratch from synthetic to natural. My second hypothesis is that my first hypothesis is full of crap. " :lol: :lol:

I like reading what you have to say, especially hearing a compare and contrast with some of the other guys on here(adam/shaun.etc..)
I have much to learn from you guys, keep it up!

Re: Living on the Edge

Wed Apr 24, 2013 4:59 am

If you find that a highly polished knife won't cut a tomato as well as a coarsely finished, it's more likely a product of your sharpening than the grit.

BDL thank you for taking the time to reply in such an interesting manner, I have some follow up questions if I may:

What do you mean by your product of sharpening, is there a techique in which one can achieve a toothy edge with an 8K stone for example? (Other than the application of micro bevel with a lower grit stone). Because there have been plenty of times that I have taken a knife up to 8K and yet it still had a good bite to it but I attribute that to the different steel.

Other than this, your reply is clear but I have never tried an Arkansas stone, Halls Surgical Black or otherwise and I don't know if they have them here at Lee Valley.

It's a very interesting post, a different perspective and I don't take your words for granted.

Thank You

Re: Living on the Edge

Wed Apr 24, 2013 8:44 am

On softer steels I use a fine India stone and a strop with 0.5 Micron diamond. Produces a stupidly sharp edge that will outlast other methods and takes all of 2 minutes to do. I might have a video up later this evening showing this exact method.

Re: Living on the Edge

Wed Apr 24, 2013 12:13 pm

Thanks, I will keep my eye open for that Jason.
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