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My WE experience

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  • #49419
    keith
    Participant
    • Topics: 9
    • Replies: 13

    This is just smashing: I’m finally in the WE party, special thanks to Chris! I grew up in restaurants, so I understand the value of a sharp knife. I love to cook, and a fine edged knife multiplies that pleasure. I made a crude jig with which I sharpened my chef’s knives for decades until I ran into WE. The jig worked better than freehand, but left much to be desired.

    Sharpening a knife is an exercise in micro machining, and it is very sensitive to error. I found a few  sources of error in my WE:

    #1: I noticed the stones, when slid onto the guide rods, had play/wiggle. This will cause variability in stone/edge angle. I saw where someone used drinking straws to shim out that play. I couldn’t find a straw of proper size, so I wrapped the rods’ entire length in scotch tape. I rolled the rod into the tape like rolling a cigar, ensuring the tape did not overlap itself. I slid a stone onto the shimmed rod, and the fit was perfect, until I got half way down the stone. The stone jammed, telling me the stone’s bore is not uniform along its length. I have a set of machinist’s drill bits, whose sizes progress by a few thousandths inch from bit to bit. It was a matter of gently reaming the stones’ bores bit by bit, test fitting after  each ream, until the stone smoothly  slid completely onto the rod. It took some patience, but now my stone’s sliding  action is very silky and consistent. When the tape wears out, I just clean the rods and reapply tape.

    #2: I noticed the the knife clamp can pivot in its saddle. This means the knife can shift during sharpening, corrupting the stone/edge angle. I removed the clamp and applied  scotch tape between it and its saddle. I trimmed off the visible tape for a clean installation. No more play.

    #3: Folks are familiar with this one. The jamnut on my angle micro adjusting screws kept working loose during sharpening, changing the stone/edge angle. I removed the jamnuts. I placed a tiny drop of thread locker on the screw threads. The thread locker permits me to adjust the screw, and the screw stays put.

    #4: This is a matter of convenience rather than error. I didn’t like the detentes on the horizontal rod bar. I wanted continuous sliding action when I changed my angles. The detentes were always too much or too little for me, requiring alot of cranking on the micro adjusters. I flipped the bar out 180degrees, permitting me to  put those guide rods  exactly where I want, minimizing the need of  micro adjustment.

    #5: I use peel and stick abrasives on my glass platens. I’m careful to clean the glass with acetone before applying new abrasives. I don’t want the glass to build up goo, preventing the abrasive from laying flat against the glass.

    My first  sharpening attempt on my WE was somewhat disappointing. The results were better than my homemade jig, but somehow didn’t justify the cost of the WE. My heart sank. I devoured everything in this forum and came up with the above fine tuning. The next attempt startled me. I couldn’t believe the improvement.  I promptly laid the knife on the cutting board and gazed  at it in terror. I can drop an overripe tomato 6 inches onto the knife edge, and it effortlessly slices in two, just like the TV commercials.

    There’s lots of discussion about whether this stone or that strop or this ceramic will improve an edge. Maybe your biggest gain in edge quality lies in shimming  out any  play in your WE.  See what a piece of tape and a drop of thread locker can do. If your stone/edge angle is shifting on you during sharpening, heavy  investment in stones may not  pay off.

    Another disappointment I had was failing to work out all the scratches made by the coarse grit stones despite considerable effort. I discovered this was no problem at all. Regular maintenance of the edge naturally worked out all those residual scratches. Put another way, my edge gets better and better. Every second week I go back to 1000grit to restore my  edge then  progress through the polishing. About every six weeks I need to go back to 800 grit, but never any coarser than that. A session of edge maintenance never lasts more than 20 minutes, and I was surprised how quickly the scratches polished out. Of course, show knives follow a different standard. Once I tuned my process, I was then able to intelligently select my inventory of stones. I built a kit  that is essentially the Propack 2 with glass platens.

    I tried to keep this short. Hopefully, it might help someone who is looking for a way to bring their sharpening process under control.

    Thanks, Keith.

     

     

     

     

     

    6 users thanked author for this post.
    #49429
    MarcH
    Moderator
    • Topics: 61
    • Replies: 2124

    Keith, which model do you use and how old is it?

    Marc
    (MarcH's Rack-It)

    #49430
    airscapes
    Participant
    • Topics: 13
    • Replies: 280

    After a few weeks with the WE120 I have seen and are familiar with #1,2,3 and 4.  Of course all of these put together are no where as hindering as my technique and ability to control the stone and Strops..

    The manufacturing tolerances kept between the rod and stone are not that great.  I have one stone that is tight in one spot and grabs.. starting to loosen up with use.. strops are very sloppy .. Will have to give the tape a try on the vice, noticed the movement from my very fist knife.

    On the UPside, Customer service has been excellent with some of the other quality control issues I had with new stones and emulsifier. All were replaced immediately which I greatly appreciate!   However, 2 stones from 2 different re-sellers both defective one plate bent before applied to the handle, a different stone from another vendor with the plate fallen off the adhesive (I just put it back on and informed CS of the defect) and 4 micron emulsion thin as water, all  seems to be a quality control issue for the manufacture of the individual part.

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 5 months ago by airscapes.
    #49432
    keith
    Participant
    • Topics: 9
    • Replies: 13

    My WE is a user, so I don’t know her exact age other than it had the  2017 L bracket. It was pretty much a Propack II kit. It was in new condition, so I made out like a fat rat. I added the micro adjustment fittings and later the glass platens.

    #49435
    MarcH
    Moderator
    • Topics: 61
    • Replies: 2124

    Thanks for that information keith.  Based on my personal experience and product knowledge, I suggest that most of the “play/wiggle” you noted between the stones and guide rods has been reduced in newer models with larger diameter guide rods and improved manufacturing techniques and the plastics used in the newer style W.E. platens.  There has been a marked improvement made to tolerances and precision in the more recent models manufactured.

    That being said:

    Of course all of these put together are no where as hindering as my technique and ability to control the stone and Strops.

    Marc
    (MarcH's Rack-It)

    #49437
    airscapes
    Participant
    • Topics: 13
    • Replies: 280

    Based on my personal experience and product knowledge, I suggest that most of the “play/wiggle” you noted between the stones and guide rods has been reduced in newer models with larger diameter guide rods and improved manufacturing techniques and the plastics used in the newer style W.E. platens. There has been a marked improvement made to tolerances and precision in the more recent models manufactured.

    Um.. please define larger rod diameter.. I just bought the WE120 and rods are .254″ in diameter.. that new or old??

    I assume that is new, at diameter did they start with?

    #49454
    MarcH
    Moderator
    • Topics: 61
    • Replies: 2124

     Um.. please define larger rod diameter.. I just bought the WE120 and rods are .254″ in diameter.. that new or old?? I assume that is new, at diameter did they start with?

    My new style, larger diameter rods are like your’s 0.254″- 0.2545″.

    The older rods were 0.25″.

    Also, the bore size on the “new style” plastic platens have been tightened slightly with an improved manufacturing process and materials.  The older style platens had black centers with color coded insert mounting plates.  The new handles are bi-colored and the colors meet at the center, no black parts.

    The combination has given the system a much tighter feel.  The slop it once had is much less noticeable, now.

    But like you said there is no substitute for experience and good technique.

     

     

    Marc
    (MarcH's Rack-It)

    2 users thanked author for this post.
    #49470
    airscapes
    Participant
    • Topics: 13
    • Replies: 280

    Thanks Marc, you are a wealth of knowledge!!

    #49478
    keith
    Participant
    • Topics: 9
    • Replies: 13

    I didn’t know those improvements occurred, Marc.  WE’s new enlarged rod diameter is right in line with the rod enlargement I made.   I admire WE’s desire to perfect their product. It’s a very clever thing to do, keeping the sharpener fiercely competitive. I can’t say that about every company. My ideas,  perhaps not new,  I hope, ought to help the “skinny rod people” keep abreast with the  “fat rod people”. OMG; I hope I don’t start a civil war. 🙂

    #49553
    keith
    Participant
    • Topics: 9
    • Replies: 13

    Gadzooks! How could I forget this source of error? When switching  grits of stones, the stone/edge angle can change, corrupting your  sharpening effort. Therefore, I check my angles with each grit change. I noticed that moving from stone pair to stone pair makes the biggest angle change. That tells me there is variability in the stone dimensions. This is no big deal. In a perfect world, changing stone pairs will perfectly keep the stone/edge angle. But nothing is perfect.

    I did once run my calipers along the  stone blocks to see if the two stone surfaces were indeed parallel. I was pleased to learn they were. This might explain why the stone/edge angle changed little when flipping the stone from 100 grit to 200 grit, for example.

    1 user thanked author for this post.
    #49554
    airscapes
    Participant
    • Topics: 13
    • Replies: 280

    Keith I have noticed this as well, however, the accuracy is only as  good as the measuring device …

    • Accuracy of ± 0.2 degrees
    • Repeatability of ± 0.1 degrees

    I rarely see more than .1 or .2 difference.. yes I do tweak it but in  the end I normally end up just about where I started.

    1 user thanked author for this post.
    #49555
    keith
    Participant
    • Topics: 9
    • Replies: 13

    That’s very true, and I think about that. I wonder how accurate those angle finders are. So, when I set my stone/edge angle, I measure the angle two or three times. It’s a simple matter of rocking the instrument back and forth. If the  angle readouts are the same, I begin to sharpen. Sometimes the readout bumps back and forth by 0.5degree. I’ll  accept that and continue. It’s just a kitchen knife. 🙂 The fun for me is in the chase of precision.

     

    #49556
    keith
    Participant
    • Topics: 9
    • Replies: 13

    I forgot to mention that my rods’ diameters  measure 0.254″, the same as yours. So they must the new type. When I wrapped them in tape, they grew 0.05″ in diameter.

    #49557
    MarcH
    Moderator
    • Topics: 61
    • Replies: 2124

    This is most accurate and the highest resolution Digital Cube I own and use.  The instruments along with better tolerance on the guide rods and handle bores do help with setting truer angles, and help remove or eliminate the slop between guide rods and platens.  Nothing though, contributes as much to precise sharpening results as good consistent, repetitive sharpening technique and attention to detail.

    Marc
    (MarcH's Rack-It)

    4 users thanked author for this post.
    #49627
    Tom Nikitas
    Participant
    • Topics: 2
    • Replies: 6

    Keith: Yes, variations in thickness of the mounted stones is an angle accuracy factor.  In the matched sets, (100-200, 400-600) but also from one set to another…think of a .025″ difference when changing to the next pair  :/ .

    Now here is the real kicker, rod to hole clearance not withstanding, how close to the true center line was the through hole drilled/reamed/molded?  If this is off by .010-.020 and not the same when moving to the next progressive pair….  Annnnd, if the 600 stone was mounted on the “fat” side of centerline and its brother has the 400 stone on the fat side of center….see what I mean?  This brings up another thought to this noob edge maker but retired Toolmaker.  We may want to label our stone, ceramic, platen and mounted strop holders R & L and also be mindful as to which end is “up”.  This would help when it comes to touching up an edge we have previously established.

    Also, how accurate to centerpoint on the the opposite end was the hole?  All of these variables can add up to edge angle variations as the original poster addressed.

    I realize this is addressing lack of perfection in a mass produced item.    BUT    we are also checking our work with magnification and because we are here, reading this, musing, we are by near definition, ANAL.  I am not bashing WE, only offering suggestions as to what we WE owners can do for more uniformity and less aggravation.  🙂 🙂

    One quibble….the tape thickness probably is .005″ and not 50 thou.  I would look into shim stock, maybe aluminum foil if not too thick….l’m thinking attaching would be the challenge.

    Tom out.

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