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Sharpening stainless steels with the Green Brick

Sat Mar 29, 2014 11:23 pm

Hi Guys,

My name is Ryan, and I'm new to the forum and to knife sharpening. I found Chef Knives To Go while shopping for a CCK cleaver, which I'm enjoying quite a lot. I recently purchased the Naniwa Green Brick, the universal stone holder, and the basic 140 grit diamond plate for lapping.

In addition to the CCK I have a very cheap set of OXO knives (stainless) that I bought as a broke graduate student. I plan to upgrade, likely to carbon Sabatiers, but I want to build a strong foundation for my sharpening skills before investing in new, more expensive cutlery.

I've had the green brick for about a week, and I make it a point to sharpen at least one knife every day. I figure it's necessary to build muscle memory effectively. Even with my lack of experience I was able to put an edge on the CCK that slices through paper with ease (that knife just feels sharp). I figure this is more a function of how easy it is to sharpen the CCK than my precocity.

I have not had as much success with my stainless kitchen knives or my folders (AUS-8 and 14C26N). The edges I'm able to attain aren't bad, per se, just nowhere near as good as I can achieve on my cleaver. Where is this coming from? Is it the relative toughness, or strength, of the stainless alloys as compared with carbon steel? I know my technique is a variable at this point too.

My intuition is that this discrepancy in edge quality can be resolved by adding a coarser stone to my kit, something in the 300-500 grit range, which I was planning on doing anyway. I'd prefer that stone to be the Latte, but since it's currently out of stock I am considering the Chosera 400. Is my line of thinking correct here, that for stainless knives the Green Brick provides a great polish, but that something more aggressive is required to make the knife truly sharp?


Re: Sharpening stainless steels with the Green Brick

Sun Mar 30, 2014 4:06 am

It's not so much that the CCK is a carbon steel, but that it is a SOFT carbon steel, so it will take an edge quickly and give it up relatively quickly too.

Try generating a burr with your diamond plate first and then follow it with your stone. This isn't an ideal solution, but it will get you started. It sounds like the initial geometry on your stainless knives isn't too well defined. Let us know how that goes and then after a tuneup of your technique, we can address adding some more stones to make the jump from the 140 to 2k less dreastic.


Re: Sharpening stainless steels with the Green Brick

Sun Mar 30, 2014 1:44 pm

Hi Ken,

Thank you very much for your reply. I've always appreciated the thoughtful advice you provided elsewhere in this forum. Your suggestion crossed my mind previously, but I had been hesitant because I've heard coarse stones can be unforgiving, particularly for beginners.

I took your advice and sharpened my cheap 8" chef's knife starting on the 140 grit diamond plate. After the first few strokes, I turned the blade over to look at it and thought, "Well, I'm committed now." I really went to town and reprofiled the knife to what I think is roughly 15*. This was an incredibly valuable exercise. I feel like every newbie sharpener should do this to a beater knife at some point.

After this step the knife edge was hairy. That's the only way I can describe it. I swiped the blade through a wine cork a few times and cleaned it with some Bon Ami and a Scotch Brite sponge. Then on to the Green Brick.

I used the Green Brick the same way I have been previously. I've watched some videos made by Jason from the Phoenix Knife House, and I try to replicate his technique as closely as possible, only I switch between my right and left hands. I finished with some edge trailing strokes and stropped it a little bit on the 3x8 bovine pad.

And Holy Moly! I got that sucker pretty sharp. It slices through paper just as cleanly as my cleaver. Now, the edge isn't perfect. In some places the grind is a little wavy, and I wish I had been able to keep the bevel width a little more consistent. My trouble spot isn't the belly or the tip, but the quarter inch right near the finger guard. The knife has a full bolster on it, and it's tricky for me to get that last little bit right near the bolster.

Overall though, I'm pretty pleased. It was cool to watch the edge go from totally scratched up to nice and shiny. In the future I won't have as many reservations about taking a knife to a coarse stone.

Re: Sharpening stainless steels with the Green Brick

Mon Mar 31, 2014 10:24 am

Nice going Ryan! IMO if you can cut a clean edge bevel on a 140 diamond plate, you're doing great. You'll a find a 400-500 grit stone much smoother than the plate - not a smooth as the Green Brick of course :-). I try to use the finest stone that will do the metal removal job I need in a reasonably short amount of time. If you have a knife with a decent edge on it, 400-500 grit stone might cut/clean up that bevel pretty fast. It depends on the steel and the shape of the edge bevel. If you've got a knife that has no real edge anymore, the 140 plate will grind that metal fast. A good coarse stone will let you refine that 140 plate edge pretty quickly to then move on to your Green Brick. The idea is to not spend a ton of time on any one stone, if possible.

If you can look dead on at the edge with a bright light above you and see the edge itself reflect light, you've got some work to do. A bevel that comes to a true point "V" should not reflect any light when looking directly at the edge towards the spine. This is also a good way to see if you've got more work to do on certain parts of the blade when sharpening a really dull knife. Those areas that need more work will reflect light.

Re: Sharpening stainless steels with the Green Brick

Mon Mar 31, 2014 1:12 pm

Steve: I'd never heard that one before. That's a neat trick.

Re: Sharpening stainless steels with the Green Brick

Mon Mar 31, 2014 1:58 pm

It works pretty well for me. Next time you're at someones house check out a few knives - I'll bet you can clearly see the "edge", or what used to be the edge :-). That is, unless they're nicely sharpened ;-). It also works to see if you've got dings or other damage on an otherwise nice edge. You can usually just feel these, though.

Re: Sharpening stainless steels with the Green Brick

Mon Mar 31, 2014 10:36 pm

Thanks, Steve! I appreciate your encouragement. I was pretty excited about it. And that is a fantastic technique for detecting a dull edge. Thank you for sharing that highly useful diagnostic.

Tonight I used the same 2-step process to sharpen two of my steak knives (from the same OXO kit). That diamond plate is effective, but it's not a ton of fun to use. I scratched up the pads of my fingers in a few places, but hey if that's the price of a sharp knife so be it! It also takes quite a while to get the 140 grit scratches out using only the Green Brick.

I used the diamond plate more effectively tonight, since I learned that it cuts so fast that it doesn't require a lot of strokes or high pressure to do its job. The resulting edge quality was quite a bit better than I achieved on my chef's knife. The bevels are more even and the sharpening angle more consistent from one side to the next.

I finished up and found Steve's reply when I hopped on the forum. After reading his description of the light trick, I went back in the kitchen and held one of the unsharpened and one of the sharpened steak knives in each hand with the edges pointed up toward the light. Sure enough, the unsharpened blade reflected light at various places along the blade, indicating that it was both dull and dinged up. And on the newly sharpened knife, the edge vanished!

I am having way too much fun with this...

Re: Sharpening stainless steels with the Green Brick

Tue Apr 01, 2014 6:42 am

Keep it up! It only gets better as you get better :) I'd recommend a 'tweener' stone for sure though. The 140 leaves nasty scratches that IMO would be more easily removed at the 400-500 grit level.


Re: Sharpening stainless steels with the Green Brick

Tue Apr 01, 2014 7:57 am

Ryan - that's great to hear you're having fun while learning a new skill! It's pretty cool making progress and getting knives sharp. Sound's like you are picking up on this quickly - well done :-).

A middle grit coarse stone like these would help the transition from the 140 to the G.B. -

Latte 400: http://www.chefknivestogo.com/la400grst.html or
Beston 500: http://www.chefknivestogo.com/beston500.html or
Chosera 400: http://www.chefknivestogo.com/ch400grstwib.html or
Shapton Glass 500: http://www.chefknivestogo.com/shgl500gr.html

Re: Sharpening stainless steels with the Green Brick

Tue Apr 01, 2014 2:25 pm

It is certainly encouraging to hear about the progress. I am new to sharpening and was afraid my first few times, but I was actually still getting decent results! Just take your time.

One other thing to add about your folders. I have quite a few folding knives and even on my nicer knives (>$100), the grind is not always even on both sides which makes the angle different on each side of the edge. Until you can thin the knife to get the right angle, you at least want to make sure you are getting to the edge. Another trick I have used is to sharpie the edge and see where you are grinding it away. This works for any step in the process too, of course.

The CCK does just feel sharp :D
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