In the past year I tried (and succeeded) at improving the sharpness of my edges considerably. This was done by communicating on this forum, particularly Ken Schwartz and using new stropping compounds and material. The kangaroo is amazing. I have not had any success with nano-cloth and .25µ diamond spray (yet). I believe this may be due to when using the finer and finer grit tools my skill needs to be at a level to obtain results. Anyway, my skills have improved dramatically and I have reached a situation that I'd appreciate help with.
One poor thing about communicating like this is when I say "sharp" I may have one level of sharpness in mind and when someone else says "sharp" they think something else. So, to help anyone understand what I'm thinking I'll say this. All my life I have gotten my knives sharp enough to shave arm hair and stopped sharpening and was happy. I considered that "sharp". I'd even shave my arm and brag at work.
The knives have been pocket or work knives primarily. At that time I called that "sharp". Now I can get an edge sharp enough to whittle a single strand of hair which I never even considered before. If someone had suggested it a few years ago I'd have thought "only in a sci-fi movie".
For pocket knives I mean. Not edges like on razor blades, surgeon's scalpels and things like that. Those edges whittling a hair would not have surprised me. Now my pocket knives can do that (if I can hold my hands steady enough). This is where my understanding of "sharp" is.
I have been using an Edge Pro Apex for about 3 years and getting very good results. In the past year I decided to work on my free hand skills with stones and strops both. I've used Shapton glass bench stones (2k and 6k) and 5 EP stones up to 8k (and other stones). I have not worried too much about re-profiling free hand. I have worked on refining the edge sharpness on bench stones though. My sharpening preference ended up being re-profiling and getting the edge real sharp using the EP and then refining the edge with bench stones. I could feel the work being done more (if that makes sense). I enjoyed this for some reason. I have made and used strops of cow hide, horse hide, balsa wood, nano-cloth and I have one kangaroo strop that I use no compound on. The better compounds I use are CBN 15µ and .5µ, diamond spray .25µ and 1µ boron carbide. Using these materials and compounds I was able to get the edge much sharper after finishing on the stones I have. The stones I use most are DMT fine and extra-fine, Spyderco fine grit (bench stones) and the EP Shapton glass stones (500, 1k, 2k, 6k, 8k). I can get the edge equally sharp it seems, just with a different edge. Toothy or smooth. Keep in mind I have no way to test an edge or magnify an edge at laboratory or highly magnified levels. Arm hair and phone book paper is about it.My situation now:
I have improved my skill using the EP and especially using bench stones in getting the edge sharp. In fact, I can get the edge sharp enough that after stropping I CAN NOT GET THE EDGE SHARPER. The way I judge sharpness is by slicing phone book paper and "feeling" how easy the edge travels through the paper. I can also "feel" the difference when sliding my thumb across the edge. Now it almost feels like the edge reaches out to grab my skin before I actually touch the edge. This sounds and is impossible of course but I think you have probably felt what I mean. Anticipating my improvement over time I assumed when I could get the edge sharper on just stones I could still improve (get sharper) the edge by stropping. This has not proven to be true. One thing I had in mind was the bench stones I have are not the really fine grits that are available. To be honest I doubt if I'll EVER get a 16k Shapton glass bench stone or anything like that because of cost. My financial situation is one that I won't justify that expense. However, the next time a bag of $ lands in my lap I may get one or maybe even the 30k also. Since this is just for fun, groceries are more important. My questions now:
1. Can you (anyone) get an edge sharp enough off a stone USING ONLY PUSH STROKES that you can't increase sharpness by stropping? I forgot to mention I'm using only push strokes on stones. No trailing strokes on stones and no stropping at all.
2. I see possible reasons I'm at this point right now and would like to know your opinions (anyone).
A. Has my skill using stones and push strokes only improved enough that the edge can not be improved with any other method like stropping?
B. Does my skill or "feel" or "touch" need to improve using the other methods (trailing strokes and/or stropping using the super fine grits) until I'm getting sharper results?
C. Has my skill improved to the point that I can get an edge as sharp as anyone on the planet using stones or strops or whatever I choose? This is an attempt at humor although it is a goal.
Not a competitive goal, just want to get my edges as sharp as possible for the hell of it.
Opinions and advice is appreciated. Even if the advice involves expense I won't or can't afford.