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New sharpener questions

Mon Jun 10, 2013 7:49 pm

Hey all, just attempted to sharpen my first knife tonight. I purchased the new artifex wa gyuoto which is the Fujiwara fkm steel as I understand it. I used the 1.2 bester stone. When the knife arrived there was a nice mirror polish on the right side, on the left side I could almost not see the edge. I used the magic marker trick and started sharpening on the left side. I'm pretty sure my angle was correct based on the magic marker wear pattern. It was pretty hard to tell on the left side as it seemed as if there was almost no edge. Couple of question, I found it kind of hard to tell if I raised a burr. I'm pretty sure I did. When I raised a burr I switched to the right and raised a burr. What are the steps after this? When should I deburr? I didn't try the 5 k rika yet as I wanted some advice on these steps first. Thanks

Re: New sharpener questions

Mon Jun 10, 2013 11:50 pm

CHRIS <> After I raise a burr on both sides, I deburr. Then I strop on the stone I'm on. Then I move to the next stone.

A bur can be of varying sizes, making it more or less difficult to recognize for a beginner. Try dragging the edge on a towel with super light pressure so it just grazes the cotton loops. A burr will grab the towel.

Re: New sharpener questions

Tue Jun 11, 2013 7:38 am

Hey Chris. Regarding your comment, "I found it kind of hard to tell if I raised a burr", I have found that a microfiber cloth is one of my best tools. Other than constantly wiping the blade as I examine my progress during my sharpening session, it serves as a fantastic burr detector. Simply take the side of the edge where you know the burr should be and very lightly drag it along the microfiber cloth. If there is a burr present the cloth will give you immediate feedback as compared to the feeling of a smooth edge. I know some people use paper towel for this trick as well. With experience, your fingernail can actually be used in similar fashion as the cloth. The advantage of employing these types of techniques and developing feel, is that it allows you to generate smaller burrs and extend the life of your stones and steel. The other technique that helped me is grinding on both sides of the bevel equally to develop the burr verses grinding on one side only until you develop burr, then switching sides. I have found this helps the bevels maintain symmetry on both sides.

Regarding the steps after burr development, I don't focus on removing the burr until the finishing stones. Instead as you flop the burr from side to side it will become progressively weaker as you move through your stones. Then, when you reach your finishing stages you can remove the burr without destroying your bevel alignment. I personally find great success using genuine cork, not synthetic.


Re: New sharpener questions

Tue Jun 11, 2013 2:30 pm

I deburr after every stone.

With a 1200 grit Bester, you should be able to feel the burr fairly easily. If you're having trouble, pull the edge across a dry paper towel. A burr, especially at this grit level, will grab the fibers of the towel and you'll be able to feel that pretty easily.

Re: New sharpener questions

Tue Jun 11, 2013 7:11 pm

Thanks guys, the cloth or paper towel trick is perfect. Another question, I have some lower hardness knives in the house, typical German steel, are these fine to practice with on the bester and the 5k rika?
I want to practice as much as possible, should I just keep practicing on the artifex. I'm only a home cook so the need to sharpen isn't what it would be like for a pro

Re: New sharpener questions

Tue Jun 11, 2013 8:15 pm

When I first started to sharpen I sharpened every knife in the house and then started to get knives from anyone that would give one up. Practice, practice, practice.

Re: New sharpener questions

Tue Jun 11, 2013 11:20 pm

CHRIS <> It's great to practice on Germans, but they aren't really capable of holding a 5K polish... so it is truly for practice. I'd suggest getting your practice on the 1200, and then practice simply stropping on the 5k.

Re: New sharpener questions

Wed Jun 12, 2013 6:45 am

What exactly is stropping and what is the purpose?

Re: New sharpener questions

Wed Jun 12, 2013 7:13 am

Stropping in it's simplest form means to pull the edge trailing across a medium (stone, film, leather, felt, etc.). There would be no edge leading motion.

Re: New sharpener questions

Wed Jun 12, 2013 7:33 am

Well, towel aside...

The Burr:
The first thing to understand about a burr is that it's NOT on the side you just sharpened. The second thing is that burrs are an inevitable part of the sharpening process. You can't sharpen without creating burrs.

You can -- on the other hand -- sharpen in such a way that the burrs are dissolved as part of the same sharpening process which created them -- but it's extremely unlikely you're using the techniques which do that. If you're using full length of the knife strokes as your initial technique, STOP. DON'T. Use the short back and forth strokes Mark and Jon Broida show on their videos.

You don't need to use a microfiber or paper towel (although you certainly can), burrs are easy to detect by feel.

While there are other ways, here are the two easiest:
When you think you've sharpened the left side of the knife enough to raise a burr, either
  • Hold the knife edge up with your right hand and push your left thumb pad or left thumb fingernail (if it's long enough), CAREFULLY up towards the edge on the right side of the knife. If there's a burr, you'll feel it as a hook; or
  • Hold the knife edge up in your left hand and thumb drag the edge with your right hand, feeling for sharpness. If the right side edge feels more sharper or more "aggressive" than the left side edge, you've got a burr.

You may want to check yourself using the towel trick just to gain some confidence that you're actually feeling or not feeling what you ought.

Don't stop sharpening the first side of the knife until you've got an even burr along its entire length.

Keep feeling, and keep looking. Continue to refresh the ink from your marker so you can continue to see that you are (a) sharpening all the way down to the edge along the length of the knife; (b) the bevel width is even along the length of the knife -- up to the tip where it starts to widen; and (c) that the bevel width is actually increasing.

Use what you learn by feeling to work on spots where a burr hasn't formed. Use what you learn by looking at the inked knife to address any high or low spots.

When you've established a good bevel and burr, then and only then, flip the knife over and begin sharpening the other side.

Don't be in a hurry. What takes me seven minutes will likely take you forty-five. In not too long, it will take you ten.

Yes, you must "chase the burr" by flipping the knife every time you've pushed it to the other side until it flips very easily with very few passes and very light pressure -- before moving on to the next stone. Once you've flipped it three or four times, you might want to switch to your steel (quick passes, gentle passes, alternating sides, five passes per side is enough), to save time and ensure that burr fatigues along the line where it should break off. You might as well deburr completely after every stone for now. You can use the practice.

BEAR IN MIND: The actual, fresh metal edge you desire ONLY results from deburring.

There are a LOT of good reasons to strop. Let's hold of talking about them until you can create a good, finished edge with your Bester/Rika combination.


PS. Time to stop parallel posting sharpening questions in Chef Talk. There are a few good guys there, but there's a high likelihood that good advice will be mixed with some real off the wall suggestions. You'll get much better sharpening information here.
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