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New to sharpening – question about technique

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This topic contains 29 replies, has 6 voices, and was last updated by  tcmeyer 10/11/2018 at 5:47 pm.

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  • #47498

    MarcH
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    I’m glad you have the success your looking for.  It sounds like you took your time, exercised extra effort and attention to detail all through the entire process.  I believe this good technique along with extra care, the proper angle setting for you exerted stropping pressure and good stropping technique finally came together to give you the results you were seeking.

    It appears there is still plenty of emulsion remaining on the strop.  It looks like there is a lot of untouched or unused area on strop too.  Next time try to flip the strop around to use those portions that haven’t seen use yet.  Observe the surface of the leather as you do your stropping to identify where it’s contacting the knife blade.  This may help guide you to even out your applied pressure and to even out the leather contact across the entire width of the strop’s leather.  It looks like there’s about 1/3 of the leather area that never made contact with the knife blade.  I’d check to see if you can use more of the length of your strops and possibly the stones too, with your sharpening strokes.  As you continue to use the strop and pressure is applied to the leather the emulsion will rub in and spread more across the leather.  You should easily be able to strop 10 or 15 knives before needing to reapply the emulsion.   Each time you reapply the emulsion the leather will become better covered and better saturated.

    Marc
    (MarcH's Rack-It)

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    #47499

    tcmeyer
    Participant
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    Again Marc is right.  The diamond particles are embedded in the soft substrate of leather (or balsa or kangaroo or nanocloth).  Of the emulsion or paste used, some particles are embedded in the soft substrate, while the material which is left behind on the blade is just excess compound.

    One way to look at it is this: Unlike abrasives on a rigid substrate, which literally machine (scrape/scratch) the surface being honed, stropping compounds  on soft substrates do not actually remove much, if any, material.  They burnish the surface – rubbing the flexibly-held diamonds against the highest ridges of the target surface, leveling them out to a more continuous facet.

    Because the stropping abrasives are not as highly stressed by the contact with the target surface as with with hard platens, they tend to stay where they belong and last longer than you would think, with less wear on the sharp edges of the diamonds.  You needn’t add more compound until you are pretty sure it’s not doing its job.

    When you do load your strops with compound, take more care to distribute it evenly, with less of it left on the surface level, where it can be  scraped away.  This will serve to extend the period between paste//emulsion applications.

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    #47540

    Cameron
    Participant
    • Topics: 2
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    Thanks for the continued help!

    Couple more quick questions. How do I determine what the best angle for my knife is, and is there a good “failsafe” angle to sharpen at? I tried to sharpen a small CRK Inkosi at 15dps but kept hitting the clamp edges and was unable to strop it. I’m assuming I need the low angle adapter to do it at this angle, or just increase it a bit. Additionally, does anyone know if WE sells replacement clamps for the WE130?

    #47541

    MarcH
    Moderator
    • Topics: 53
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    The art of sharpening is to learn how to balance edge performance with edge durability and longevity.  I’ve found it’s best to start with wider angles for a more durable edge that maybe doesn’t cut the very best but it also doesn’t require a lot less steel to be sacrificed to apply the wide profile.  Narrow angle bevels are tall and thin bevels, with less strength behind them.  They require more steel to be removed to achieve that narrow profile.   20º is a good all around angle to sharpen a folding knife.    It’s a good balance between strength and performance.

    The only way to really know the best angle to sharpen a particular knife is by experience.  Trial and error with different settings and with that particular steel.  Then using the knife and observing the edge durability, longevity and failure type and failure rate.    Then after seeing how that angle performs the next time I may step down a degree narrower.  Then use it a while to see the outcome.

    You need to realize that in knife edges the difference between 20º and 15º is a very drastic change.   Narrower than 15º is pretty rare and generally only used in very hard steel, high end chef’s knives.

    WE does sell replacement jaws.  They do sell two different size jaws so you need to know which one you want.  Instead of replacing the jaws I’d recommend you paint the wear spot with a black sharpie  It’ll give you way to indicate when your angle is too low. Just keep an eye on the black paint. I’ve been sharpening with WE for over 5 years and I still every once in a while contact the jaws.  Unless you’ve damaged the jaws beyond their ability to function correctly, I’d just paint the scratches over and say “oh well”.

    A Low Angle Adapter, (LAA), is a must for trying to apply narrow angled bevels.  Also a Tormek Small Knife Holder is good to have in your sharpening arsenal.

    Marc
    (MarcH's Rack-It)

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    #47841

    Chico Neto
    Participant
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    Hello. This is my first post. I use WE for quite a while now. Im having a hard time to achieve a mirror polished edge + razor sharp. I got a decent polished (not as good as I see some people put it) but it doesnt get razor sharp. Afther 1000 grit I usually go to 1200 + 1600 ceramics then after the ceramics stones I noticed that the blade is getting dull, polished but a little dull.

    #47842

    Chico Neto
    Participant
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    Hello. This is my first post. I use WE for quite a while now. Im having a hard time to achieve a mirror polished edge + razor sharp. I got a decent polished (not as good as I see some people put it) but it doesnt get razor sharp. Afther 1000 grit I usually go to 1200 + 1600 ceramics then after the ceramics stones I noticed that the blade is getting dull, polished but a little dull.  After the ceramics I normaly use 14um + leather and then 0.25um spray + balsa.  What the experts thing of it? Thank you in advanced.

    Ps. Sorry for some english mistake. Has been a while since I dont practise/speak.

    #47843

    Organic
    Participant
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    Welcome Chico Neto!

    My best guess is that you have been missing the apex when you switch over to the ceramic stones. If you have a digital angle gauge you should use that to verify that the angles stay the same throughout your sharpening progression. I do this with every single grit change. The other thing you can do is to use a sharpie marker on the edge and then do a few passes and examine the bevels under magnification. If you are reaching the apex you will see no sharpie remaining at the very tip. If there is still sharpie remaining then your angle has changed and you need to correct for this.

    Another thing that you’ll want to consider is lowering you sharpening angle when using strops. If you sharpen at 18 degrees with the stones, try stropping with 16.5 degrees with the leather. The leather strops compress and can cause the knife to become dulled. Decreasing the angle can help compensate for this.

    The jump from 14 micron to 0.25 micron is very large. Generally you want to use a more gradual grit progression if you are trying to get mirrored bevels. The ceramic stones usually leave a hazy finish and will not give a mirrored finish on their own. The 14 micron strop is a good choice for after the ceramic stones. I would suggest you try 10 micron diamond paste, then 4 micron and 2 micron. If you do enough passes you should be able to get a nice mirrored edge with that progression.

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    #47845

    Chico Neto
    Participant
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    Welcome Chico Neto! My best guess is that you have been missing the apex when you switch over to the ceramic stones. If you have a digital angle gauge you should use that to verify that the angles stay the same throughout your sharpening progression. I do this with every single grit change. The other thing you can do is to use a sharpie marker on the edge and then do a few passes and examine the bevels under magnification. If you are reaching the apex you will see no sharpie remaining at the very tip. If there is still sharpie remaining then your angle has changed and you need to correct for this. Another thing that you’ll want to consider is lowering you sharpening angle when using strops. If you sharpen at 18 degrees with the stones, try stropping with 16.5 degrees with the leather. The leather strops compress and can cause the knife to become dulled. Decreasing the angle can help compensate for this. The jump from 14 micron to 0.25 micron is very large. Generally you want to use a more gradual grit progression if you are trying to get mirrored bevels. The ceramic stones usually leave a hazy finish and will not give a mirrored finish on their own. The 14 micron strop is a good choice for after the ceramic stones. I would suggest you try 10 micron diamond paste, then 4 micron and 2 micron. If you do enough passes you should be able to get a nice mirrored edge with that progression.

    thank you for the quick reply and such detailed info! It was pretty helpful.

    I got it good until I reach the 10um. I put 20 dps (checked with angle cube) when I got the leather and put 18 dps and started to stroke. How many strokes is it good? I think I passed a lot (around 50 on each side). Its pretty sharp, but again when I reached the leather I got it dulled, still sharp but not that razor sharp. I even think that before until the 14um was sharper. The mirror got ok, not even decent for what the WE can do. Thanks again! I attached a shot.

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    #47847

    MarcH
    Moderator
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    Chico, there is no exact number of stone strokes where you’ll be at your desired results.  This is all too subjective.  You are the one to determine what you’re looking for. The number of strokes that works for me may not work for you.  I do not count stone strokes.  I do everything based on visual results.  I quit when it looks like I want it to.

    Your issues I believe are about your technique.  You’re at the stage in your sharpening experience where you are able to recognize and judge the quality of the results.  Now it’s in your hands.  You need to learm where your sharpening technique is failing you and not giving you your expect results.  Then you need to correct those shortcomings.  It’s now all about practice, experience and refining your technique.

    If you feel your stropping is deteriorating the sharpness of your edge then you need to try doing it differently.  Try different angles or apply a different amont of pressure.  Maybe you need to use 2-1/2 degrees decrease or 1-1/2 degrees.  What we share with you are just broad suggestions.  You need to adapt these suggestions to your owm technique to get the results you’re looking for.

    Knife sharpening is very subjective and based on the sharpeners individual technique.  It’s up to you once you have the basic routine, motions and progression understood, to refine it, and essentially perfect individually to give you the kind of results you consider acceptable.  What works for me may not give you similar acceptable results.

    Other then changing your choice of strop grits in your stropping progression, like forum regular Organic suggested, I believe you’re using what it takes you to get the polished sharp edges you seek.  Now it’s up to you to put it all together by refining your technique.

    Keep practicing.  Make small, little changes, one at a time, while you look for subtle improvements.  Then go from there.  It’ll come together with patience.

     

     

     

    Marc
    (MarcH's Rack-It)

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    #47850

    Chico Neto
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    Thank you guys for such a detailed info!

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    #47852

    Organic
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    Chico,

    Every grit in the sharpening process is important and this becomes especially true when you are after a mirrored edge. You’ll want to make sure that you are fully removing the scratches of the previous grit with the new grit as you move through the process. For example, if you fail to completely remove the 200 grit scratches with the 400 grit stone, it becomes increasingly difficult to remove those 200 grit scratches with the finer grit stones. Visual inspection with a USB microscope or lighted jewelers loupe is very helpful in assessing the progress. I like to over do it when it comes to the number of strokes and will intentionally do an extra 20-30 passes with very light pressure after I am satisfied with the scratch removal from the previous grit. Sometimes I find it necessary to go back down a few grits if I can see scratches that I missed.

    I am in agreement with Marc that the strops will require some trial and error. If the blade feels like it has lost sharpness after the strop, go back to your finest stone (remember to set the angle back to 20 degrees) and give it some passes. Once the edge feels good again, make an adjustment to your technique and try again. I have found that I get results I like when using heavy pressure on the leather strops and 1.5 degrees per side reduction in angle. If you use more pressure on the strop than I do you may need to do more like 2.5 degrees reduction in angle. You might also try using light pressure and only reducing the angle by 0.5 degrees per side. You’ll know you’ve found something that works because the edge will feel substantially sharper after stropping. You can test sharpness while the blade is still clamped by cutting strips of thin paper like news print, magazine, or phone book paper.

    To give the edge that great looking mirror you will need to do a lot of strokes with the strops. 50 per side might not be enough. Like Marc, I never count strokes. Use your eyes and a magnifying device to guide your process. If you have been diligent with removing the previous grit scratches with each stone in your progression then I think you will find that the strops will bring out that bright and clear mirrored edge that you’ve been going for.

    All of this stuff takes time. It is best to work at a comfortable pace where you can be deliberate, controlled, and careful. It is normal for me to spend an hour or two on a single knife.

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    #47860

    tcmeyer
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    With all due respect, Organic, I think that more than an hour is unreasonable, unless you are being distracted by something else or pursuing the dream of an absolutely perfect mirror edge.  If I invest more than a half of an hour into a knife and I still don’t see the light at the other end of the tunnel, I will back off and consider taking another tack.  I feel that this is an unreasonably slow progression, costing me time as well as excessive wear and tear on my diamond stones.

    I do very little in the way of serious re-profile work on the knives I sharpen, so I tend to start out with my 400-grit stones.  If I identify significant dents or chips in the edge, I’ll file that part of the edge flat, using one of my 800-grit stones.  How flat I go with the edge depends solely on the depth of the dent.  I want to be able to visualize the centerline of the edge along the flat section and thru the area with the dent.  If this leaves the flat quite wide, I’ll step back to the 200-grit, or even 100-grit stones, or switch to the “other tacks.”  The steel above the root of the dent (or chip) has to be removed anyway and this is much, much faster.  When I’ve reduced the width of the flat to a very thin line, I’ll then switch back to my 400-grit stone.  Having then reached an acceptable apex, the following steps in the progression should be comparatively short.

    As for selecting what else might be my “other tack,” I’ll choose between file work (hardly ever), my WorkSharp rig or my 1X30 HF belt sander, using the Knife Sharpening Angle Guide attachment.  In the latter two situations, I’ll select a rather fine grit belt – perhaps 320 grit.

    I should issue one caveat…  I do not own a set of 50/80-grit diamond stones.  Maybe that tends to drive me to the alternatives.

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    #47861

    MarcH
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    I sharpen my knives to achieve the sharp edge each individual knife deserves.  Some of my knives are, I believe, a beautifully forged work of art and a fine cutting tool.  I do not keep a clock on the sharpening sessions nor do I consider a long effort an inefficient use,  or a waste of time.  It is not unreasonable, for me, to start a knife today, put a few hours of time in it and finish it with a couple more hours, tomorrow.  It takes as long as it takes and I enjoy every minute of it.  This is my hobby.

    I never feel as:

    this is an unreasonably slow progression, costing me time as well as excessive wear and tear on my diamond stones.

    Sometimes I get distracted and go off and do something else.  Sometimes I get into my sharpening and realize I need to back up a few grits, again, and have another go at it.  It doesn’t matter.  My time is my time and I have nothing better to do with my time then what I’m doing right now.  If my stones get worn out in the process then I replace them knowing I used them well while enjoying it.

    That’s the beauty of this hobby, for me.  It’s very individualized and done alone.  It’s quiet, serene, gratifying and self serving.  I get all the pleasure and benefit of my efforts, for myself.

    Because it is so individualized, Tom is certainly entitled to his opinion and his time.  Tom, I hope someday you find something you truly enjoy doing, enough, that you don’t keep an eye on the clock to make sure you’re being efficient with your time and effort.

    Marc
    (MarcH's Rack-It)

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    #47862

    Organic
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    With all due respect, Organic, I think that more than an hour is unreasonable, unless you are being distracted by something else or pursuing the dream of an absolutely perfect mirror edge. If I invest more than a half of an hour into a knife and I still don’t see the light at the other end of the tunnel, I will back off and consider taking another tack. I feel that this is an unreasonably slow progression, costing me time as well as excessive wear and tear on my diamond stones. I do very little in the way of serious re-profile work on the knives I sharpen, so I tend to start out with my 400-grit stones. If I identify significant dents or chips in the edge, I’ll file that part of the edge flat, using one of my 800-grit stones. How flat I go with the edge depends solely on the depth of the dent. I want to be able to visualize the centerline of the edge along the flat section and thru the area with the dent. If this leaves the flat quite wide, I’ll step back to the 200-grit, or even 100-grit stones, or switch to the “other tacks.” The steel above the root of the dent (or chip) has to be removed anyway and this is much, much faster. When I’ve reduced the width of the flat to a very thin line, I’ll then switch back to my 400-grit stone. Having then reached an acceptable apex, the following steps in the progression should be comparatively short. As for selecting what else might be my “other tack,” I’ll choose between file work (hardly ever), my WorkSharp rig or my 1X30 HF belt sander, using the Knife Sharpening Angle Guide attachment. In the latter two situations, I’ll select a rather fine grit belt – perhaps 320 grit. I should issue one caveat… I do not own a set of 50/80-grit diamond stones. Maybe that tends to drive me to the alternatives.

    No offense taken. If I was trying to blow through a progression I could probably spend ten minutes on a knife and get a very usable edge. I usually sharpen for my own enjoyment and work at a leisurely pace. A more focused and skilled sharpener could easily accomplish the same results that I get in a third of the time.

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    #47863

    tcmeyer
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    Sorry Gents, but I certainly didn’t mean to chastise you for taking your time in the enjoyment of your hobby.   You are clearly exceptional and happy users.  I didn’t want anybody to believe that such extended efforts should be considered typical for the Wicked Edge Sharpening systems.

    The only stone that should be expected to have extended use should be your first one.  Subsequent stones should be able to erase the scratch pattern of the previous stone in short order.  I’ve often said that five strokes per inch of blade length is a good guideline, and I think that is still a reasonable expectation.  You could double or triple that for any reason, including for your own enjoyment, but the practical improvement in edge refinement would be minimal, until you get to the use of your strops, where proper application can have significant benefits and heavy use relatively inexpensive in terms of effort or cost.

    I was also trying to emphasize that one should try to extract as many sharpenings as possible from each stone and that excessive use with no benefit is wasteful in cost.  This was driven home to me after a year in which I did perhaps several hundred knives for friends.  I was trying to accelerate my growth in skill and one result was that at the end, I had to replace the entire set of stones, setting me back something under $200 (at today’s prices, that would be nearly $300).  When one considers that a stone should last you about 300 or 400 or 500 knives, keep in mind that this actually means that the  300, 400 or 500 knives will consume an entire set of stones.  In my experience, stones last less than the 300 level.  I think I apply more pressure than necessary.

    By the way, I recently did a few Buck 105’s for a friend.  105’s are five-inch blade, fixed sheath knives.  They were quite dull and required a good deal more stoning than I would consider normal.  Buck uses 420HC stainless for their knives now.  Have any of you noticed that this steel is tougher – and therefor harder to sharpen – than 440C?

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