I got this nice note from a customer. With his permission I'm reposting it here:
Over the past several months I have been able to achieve much sharper edges using stones. I'm getting the edge as sharp as I used to but I needed strops. Now, the sharpness isn't increased using leather strops. This is new to me but I'm thinking it's because I have already gotten the edge as sharp using Shapton Glass stones (up to 8k) or even a DMT extra-fine grit stone. So this indicates to me that by increasing my skill on stones (free hand and EP both) I need strops less. Well, strops of a given material and compounds of coarser grits anyway.
So this situation prompted me to get out the 2"x6" nano-cloth strop I got from you months ago. I had given up using it because it would not improve the level of sharpness AT ALL. I have CBN .5 micron on it. I re-read your description abuot nano-cloth noting the fact that the cloth by itself provides no abrasion meaning it all comes from the compound. Anyway, after getting the edge sharp enough to glide through phone book paper super easy and also I can push the edge into the edge of the paper with the blade at a 90 degree angle with the edge. This works sometimes but the next cut may wrinkle the paper and not cut. Then I used the nano-cloth, .5 CBN strop. I didn't count but maybe 10 or so strokes per side. Now the edge push cuts (no slicing motion at all) into the edge of phone book pages every time. You know as well as anyone this makes life worth living.
Several years ago (and most of my life) I didn't even use a fine grit Arkansas stone. I had one but after I got the edge sharp on the medium stone the fine grit would would not improve it and sometimes would just dull the edge. Since then I have realized this was due to my skill level being low and now I've been getting great results on stones much finer grit than the Arkansas fine grit. I don't know the actual grit. I just knew the stones as medium and fine. When I got the nano-cloth strop a few months ago I got no results from it just like the fine grit Arkansas stone years ago. Now however I credited the lack of improvement to the fact that I hadn't gotten the edge sharp enough for the extremely fine grit to have any noticable effect. Like jumping from a coarse diamond stone to an 8k Shapton stone or similar. If that assumption is correct I've now reached the milestone of getting the edge sharp enough using fine grit stones for the nano-cloth with .5 micron spray to improve it.
Did this make sense and if so do you think my thinking and assumptions of improvement are accurate? If so, you can put another feather in your cap or notch on your belt for helping another person improve due to your experience, advice and products.
Here was my response:
What a great note! Very much appreciated!
Your thinking makes PERFECT sense. Sharpening with finer and finer grits requires higher and higher precision on the work done PRIOR to using the finest grits. PERFECTING each level of sharpness allows you to advance to higher levels of perfection with subsequent grits. I do get 'failures' from time to time from people who say it does nothing and I strongly suspect it is the technique at lower grits that's the culprit.
Now of course you must be wondering just how sharp it can get with even finer compounds
If you don't mind, I'd like to post your note anonymously on a forum with your permission. I'm quite sure (certain actually) that this is an experience shared by others.