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Using the Depth Key

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  • #55781
    Russ
    Participant
    • Topics: 3
    • Replies: 5

    Hi all, new user/owner here. I have the WE Commercial. I think I understand the concept of the unit and how everything is related to each other. You change one variable and the geometry of the other settings change as well. For example, the numbered angle settings are accurate when a blade is in the vise jaws and the edge of the blade is 5/8″ from the top of the vise jaws.

    Like many I have some 8 inch chefs knives that are tall from spine to edge, a few inches. So when you place the knife in the vise on the lower/bottom depth key setting, it is still about 1″ from the top of the vise jaws to the top of the edge, which is more than the 5/8″ height for the matched numbered angle settings.

    So right out of the gate the only way to know the angle in this case is by using an angle gauge, correct? I noticed that if you don’t use the depth key and set the blade all the way down in to the bottom of the vise you get almost another 1/2 inch of depth and in my case this knife now is about 5/8″ from the jaws to edge and the numbers would be accurate.

    Is anyone sharpening without the depth key and using the 5/8″ from vise to edge as the starting point?

    Because if your method is to use a marker and then record the settings once you find the correct angle, the numbered angle settings on your unit become somewhat irrelevant, don’t they? Because it appears it will be different between each model as well.

    As a noob I have just noticed that if I have the knife set in the vise and find the current angle using a sharpie marker and the stones, the numbered angle settings are not accurate and it’s more or less a reference point to remember on this particular unit.

    If that makes sense…

    Are you clamping without the depth gauge having the knife seated at the bottom of the vise? Thanks

     

     

     

    • This topic was modified 9 months, 2 weeks ago by Russ.
    • This topic was modified 9 months, 2 weeks ago by Russ.
    • This topic was modified 9 months, 2 weeks ago by Russ.
    #55786
    MarcH
    Moderator
    • Topics: 64
    • Replies: 2474

    Welcome Russ, many of the W.E. users do use a digital angle cube to set the bevel angles.  The inscribed numbers on the sharpener are as you said strictly for reference and may be irrelevant except in the 5/8″ situation.

    I use the depth key strictly to mount the alignment guide or the advanced alignment guide to record positioning references in my sharpening log. This allows me to reposition the knife the same for future touch ups.  Some times I rest the knife on the key.  Other times I don’t.  I use it when it helps to position the knife.  When it doesn’t help I clamp the knife where ever it’s best positioned to allow me to sharpen the knife well.  I pretty much ignore the inscribed angle delineations on my sharpeners and go just with the angle cube.

    I generally clamp knives in the upper part of the jaws.  It allows for lower angle settings without the stones contacting the vise or jaws.  Also it allows me to rotate the knife tip up or tip down in the jaws to achieve the best sharpening position.

    When I am determining the bevel angle using the sharpie method, when the angles are matched, I place the digital angle cube on the stone to read the relative angle I found removing the sharpie ink.  Again, I ignore the inscribed angle delineations on the blue base plate.  All angles I set or determine with a properly zeroed angle cube.

    Marc
    (MarcH's Rack-Its)

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    #55788
    MarcH
    Moderator
    • Topics: 64
    • Replies: 2474

    Russ, I will add if you choose to simplify things.  With a little practice and something to set your knives depth consistently at 5/8″ above the jaws line, (at least those knives you can clamp at the 5/8″ position), I don’t know why you couldn’t sharpen your knives based on the base plate angle markings.  It’ll be close enough to the measured relative angle you’d set when using a cube.

    To simplify angle adjustments I’d back the micro adjuster screws in all the way and lock them tight.  Then simply set your angles by the lever angle positions alone.  That should allow you to apply an angle +/- 0.5°.  It’s really about consistency and matching the same angle again, time and time again, for touch ups.  It’s not about the actual angle value.  20° or 19.5° doesn’t really matter as long as you can do it the same way each and every time and if the knife is sharpened well.

    If your clamping height is always at the 5/8″ and your front to back position is repeatable, either by recording that position or by just always centering the knife to the vise, there’s no reason that wouldn’t give you consistent angles and sharpening results once you get a good technique going.

    It just takes practice.

    Marc
    (MarcH's Rack-Its)

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    #55794
    Russ
    Participant
    • Topics: 3
    • Replies: 5

    Marc,

    Thanks for your reply, it confirms some things for me and it also brings up some things I had not thought about yet;

    You need the key in the vise to hold the reference guide if you plan to use it as designed.

    Using the edge height is a reference point for the geometry and settings of the machine, but it’s more valuable as a “theoretical” reference point than a practical one, because if you alter any one factor, edge height, blade length, stone angle, etc., then all the other values change as well. I also noticed even if you have a knife edge at a perfect 5/8″ height from the vise jaws, the length of blades vary and whether or not the blade is centered level in the vise front to back will change the angle of the stones so the reference marks will not match the actual angle.

    I have the the digital magnetic angle cube and noticed angle changes as I experimented with a knife in the vise as the stone passes from heel to tip. But since the stones are “floating”, I’m not sure why the angle doesn’t stay the same. That’s the whole idea. I might not be completely understanding this part yet, or I’m doing something wrong.

    The sharpie method makes a lot of sense to me, and Kyle at WE just made great a Youtube that demonstrates it. Using the sharpie method to find the current edge angle and then record the vise and numbered angle settings (whether the numbers make sense or not) is the way to go IMO. At least if you want to maintain the current edge angle.

    That brings me to another topic maybe for another thread that is related to my original question – if you want to re-profile a knife to say, a 20 degree angle, I would think you would need some sort of reliable “known” 20 degree setting. And that’s where the marked settings, the 5/8″ edge height, etc. come in.

    For example, if the knife is ground to say, 30 degrees, the sharpie method only allows you to sharpen at the current 30 degrees.

    I have an older Benchmade folder my wife found in the woods (Wow, thanks honey! – go find some more!) and the blade on it had been taken down by a grinder or something. I have been able to sharpen it with my Lansky. I just picked 20 on the Lansky and went to town until sharp not knowing what the actual angle is.

    I put it in the WE using the high angle adapter and started to try and re-profile it at 20 degrees based on the sharpie method and the WE marked settings. I wasn’t getting any sharpie off the top of the edge and man, those coarse stones were shredding the steel off so I stopped for fear of having only a Benchmade folding toothpick left!

    Got any tips on how I should approach the re-profile of this? I understand that it was modified to way out of OEM specs. I’m thinking I would like to use another tool first, one that I can afford to wear out, like my Lansky or whetstones to get it down to a workable edge angle before I use the WE machine. I don’t want to use my WE as a re-profiling grinder, I don’t think it is intended for that. Or be prepared to buy lots of stones…

    Thanks again for the feedback, I’m really liking this so far. -Russ

     

     

     

     

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    #55797
    MarcH
    Moderator
    • Topics: 64
    • Replies: 2474

    Lot’s to unpack here.

    First I don’t know which model version Commercial Series you’re using.  There’s a pre-2016 version with the vise locking lever mechanism inside the bottom locking cabinet.  The newer, post-2017, model version uses  the Gen 3 Vise.  The same  Gen 3 vise used in the WE130 and the Gen 3 Pros.  If it’s a newer model year Gen 3 vise it’ll have a blade tensioning feature incorporated in the vise, also.

    With the Gen 3 vise, the floating, self centering jaws and the design of this vise system allows the knife to be clamped while self-centered it in the vise jaws.  It will clamp the knife this same way and with the same position every time the knife is clamped.  The depth key and the alignment guide(s) are referencing tools to help you to position the knife predictably, the same way every time you clamp it.

    The geometry we use with the W.E. is a triangle, controlled by 3 factors:

    1. the height of the edge,
    2. the distance from the knife centerline to the guide rod ball end,
    3. and the rod angle setting as the stone contacts the knife edge.

    http://Pythagorean Theorem

    The length of the knife blade does not a factor into this geometry.  The angle is the same down the length of the knife…hence “fixed angle sharpener”.  I hope you’ll just trust me on this statement.  There’s been a lot of studies and discussions on this.  I won’t try to convince a new user, like yourself.  It’s been tested and confirmed to be correct.  Please accept it as stated.

    Watch this You Tube video.

    You may not be able to measure the angle down the knife’s length with your particular angle cube.  Realize the guide rod is rotating from a fixed centerline. Some of use a dual axis digital angle cube like a DXL360S.  It allows for added precision.

    Accepting the “fixed angle” geometry, we set our angles with the knife clamped securely in the desired sharpening position, with a properly zeroed cube positioned on the stone as it’s resting at the midline of vise, as it leans over and onto the knife edge.  As long as you set your angle in this same manner, with the same geometry, with the knife positioned and clamped in the vise the same, your angles will be consistent each and every time you sharpen the knife with those settings.  (Only zero your cube once at the beginning of the sharpening session).

    The W.E. sharpening stones require a good 8 to 10 knives worth of sharpening to break them in.  This is about the same amount of practice it takes most users to get the hang of sharpening with the W.E.  It’s suggested you break in your  stones on beater knives till they start to produce good, consistent results and you get the hang of the system.

    The new stones tend to shed off loose abrasives and maybe some plating material.  This compounded with steel dust removed when reprofiling knives is scary to see for the beginner.  It will seem like your grinding a knife into oblivion.  Rest assured the diamond stones have great longevity and will last you several years and hundreds of knives.  Only the hardest alloy stainless steels may increase their wear.  For those expensive modern steels other sharpening mediums may be preferred.  Use the W.E. diamond stones with confidence reprofiling.

    The 50/80 grit pair is the most aggressive set designed to remove steel quickly.  Exercise care with these they are aggressive.

    Take your time.  Practice on junk.  With practice and experience you’ll answer many of your own questions.

    Good Luck.

    Marc
    (MarcH's Rack-Its)

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    #55798
    MarcH
    Moderator
    • Topics: 64
    • Replies: 2474

    Russ,

    the sharpie method in theory is a good way to determine the existing bevel angles of a clamped knife. The bevel angles you’ll determine using your angle cube readings, after the sharpie is removed, should be a good representation of the existing bevel.

    There are several factors you need to consider:

    1. the bevel angles may be factory angles for a knife being sharpened for the first time.  These angles, in reality, often don’t match factory listed or specified angles from literature.
    2. for used and older knives, bevel angles may be the results of years of sharpening done in any manner of ways, so they may mean nothing.
    3. even new, high end custom made knives with expertly hand-sharpened bevels, may be determined to have uneven bevels from knife side to side.  Bevel angles more often then not, don’t match exactly, side to side.
    4. uneven bevels on each side of a knife are sometimes applied this way intentionally, for instance with uneven or asymmetrically ground knives.  There are 50/50, 60/40, 70/30, and 90/10 bevels to name a few.

    So if you’re knife makers literature says the factory ground edge bevels are 20º per side and you find something way different, don’t be surprised or concerned.

     

    Marc
    (MarcH's Rack-Its)

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    #55801
    Russ
    Participant
    • Topics: 3
    • Replies: 5

    Marc,

    Thanks that explains it all very well! Each knife individually different. Like in forensics.

    I somewhat understand the math concepts involved (well, from high school algebra anyway). That’s the reason why I was confused about the readings I was seeing on the digital angle gauge. Once clamped, I expected it to be the same angle reading all the way down the blade as I slowly slid the stone along the bevel from heel to tip and thought, “Wait a minute…it’s supposed to be the same…”. I suppose it is, just not on the digital device as it is moving.

    I do have the newer Gen 3 model commercial. I bought it used as you see here (attached). One thing I was wondering is if there is a factory “default” setting I should set it back to, for example, if there are a set number of turns the micro-adjusters come at? Like how carburetors have stock settings for jet screws, etc.

    I suppose having the micro-adjusters at a certain OEM setting isn’t critical as long as they are preserved the same for each individual blade. And your example of asymmetrically ground blades means each side can have it’s own, different setting even during the same sharpening session. The micro-adjusters on mine appear to be screwed and locked all the way to the outside (ball up against the holder).

    The guy I bought this setup from said those micro-adjuster Jam-Bolts always came loose and he had to use pliers to tighten them enough so they would not wiggle loose. There was some stone wear on the stock jaws, so I’m not so sure he took the time to learn how to use it and set it up properly or if he had narrow blades and wasn’t using the low angle adapter. It included a low angle adapter, but I suspect he learned about that later and bought one after he kept filing the vise jaws when trying to sharpen pocket knives. -Russ

     

     

     

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    #55803
    MarcH
    Moderator
    • Topics: 64
    • Replies: 2474

    Russ,  I can’t see the shaft end of the tensioning adjuster underneath your clamp locking lever.  Does your model have the clamping tension adjuster?  It’s a small lever on the back side of the vise labeled “Tension (+/-)”.  That feature helps to date your model and version.  It’s a helpful feature to have but not required for you to use the W.E. well.

    There are some known issues with the micro-angle adjusters coming loose while sharpening with some of the W.E. models.  W.E. is always working to improve product functionality.  They have made design upgrades to the newest model versions being sold now, to address that shortcoming. There are after market adapters made and sold by W.E. users that correct for these issues while enhancing the angle ranges and ease of adjustment with positive, secure locking.  Here’s the link to the forum post that lists these accessories.

    The standard 8′ long guide rods on your model are also a little too short to achieve the full capabilities of the sharpener.  Especially when sharpening tall knives or using the LAA.  Longer optional guide rods are available from W.E. The 12″ length are a good balance between range and ease of use.  There are longer optional rods if you find you still need more reach.

    IMO, there are two ways to use the W.E.  Work with it and let the sharpener dictate the results…the simple and convenient way.  Or use it as the tool it is, a quality machined knife vise with precision adjustable angle jigs.  Use all the sharpener’s adjustments, and accessories with your angle cube along with your gained user experiences and personal mechanical aptitude and intuitiveness to make you W.E. Sharpener work well for you.  To make it do just what you need it to do.  I call this a “power user”.

    First you need to learn to use it.  Then you can learn to use it well!  It’s not hard to use the W.E., but it’s not simple either.

    Marc
    (MarcH's Rack-Its)

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    #55806
    Russ
    Participant
    • Topics: 3
    • Replies: 5

    Marc,

    Yes sir, it has the (+/-) tension adjuster. Thanks for the links to other accessories being offered. And I agree with your views on how to approach using it. After just a few days I am more comfortable with it. I find that some knives that have been maintained well are best suited for the sharpie method and then some that are “used and abused”. In those cases, I am better off selecting a suitable edge angle for the particular type knife, set that with the angle cube and start cranking out a burr.

    I haven’t had many knives yet that have already been well cared for. I am finding that even the sharper ones are not uniform once I start in with the WE. I suppose if they were, I wouldn’t see them because they wouldn’t need someone else to do it!

    There is a charity food court were I live that I volunteered to sharpen the knives for. I did a few knives for them at first and when I went back they gave me a box with 9 of them. Some were very rusted and worn. Some had real deep dips in the middle, so bad you wonder how it happened. Now all the knives are scary sharp and I eat for free…LOL

    Here are some photos of what I mean. Some I had to hand file to get a straight edge at all! I don’t really know how to make a knife, but I just started in to it. Once “straight” to me, I started an angle (guesswork) with a mill file, then a cheap harbor freight stone, then to my “good” whetstones. I enjoy sharpening by hand on whetstones too, I find it very relaxing. One knife was an 8 inch chefs knife, high carbon, it was pretty rusty and the handle was nasty but when I got finished I think it was real nice. I used a baking soda past and elbow grease on the blade.

     

     

     

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    #55811
    MarcH
    Moderator
    • Topics: 64
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    Those knives look like great candidates to practice with on your Wicked Edge as you’re breaking in the diamond stones and developing your sharpening technique.  I hope you took advantage of that opportunity.

    Using a file is a good method some of us employ to remove badly damaged edge steel and reestablish knife edge geometry.  It works pretty quickly and saves unnecessary wear on the stones.  I use the file longitudinally along the knife edge.  Then I reprofile and sharpen those knives on the W.E. as I would any other knife.

    FYI: A variety of brand name whetstones are available that are cut and mounted on W.E. paddles.  They’re generally made by sharpening enthusiasts that do it as a hobby and/or a business.

    Looks like you’re off to a good start and on your way.  Enjoy the journey!

    Marc
    (MarcH's Rack-Its)

    #55812
    tcmeyer
    Participant
    • Topics: 37
    • Replies: 2030

    Marc’s comments are spot-on, as usual.  The “5/8″ above the vise” rule is only to give you a correlation to the angle bar settings.  If you use a digital angle protractor, they’re completely irrelevant and you are free to mount the blade in the vise any which way you think is appropriate.

    BTW, I have a 3/4″ riser block installed below my Gen 3 Pro vise.    I recently was doing  a batch of knives and noticed that in every case, my angle settings were off by 3 degrees, relative to what I would have expected.  The riser was installed to use more of the length of the stone faces when I do narrower knives.  When sharpening short, narrow blades, the top 1.5″ never touched the blade.  My Gen 3 Pro was a beta unit, so I don’t know if that’s true for later units.  If they are, maybe there’s a rule of thumb we could come up with, such as “Add one degree for each 1/4″ above 5/8”.

    Could one of you maybe give that a try to see if it holds water?  I would, but I’m 5 hours past bedtime.  Go Pack Go!

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    #55813
    MarcH
    Moderator
    • Topics: 64
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    Here’s the link to an old W.E. forum post for a hack I came up with years ago.  This was my attempt to help me work with the issue described in the OP.  It allows you to label your sharpener’s angle scale to match the angle cube measured relative angles for any height knives and for the type of sharpening stones you’re using at that time.

    https://knife.wickededgeusa.com/forums/topic/custom-variable-angle-guide-scale/

    I used erasable dry marker film marked with the angle delineations determined using a digital angle cube at the onset of the sharpening session.

    Marc
    (MarcH's Rack-Its)

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    #55816
    NotSharpEnuff
    Participant
    • Topics: 3
    • Replies: 112

    BTW, I have a 3/4″ riser block installed below my Gen 3 Pro vise.    I recently was doing  a batch of knives and noticed that in every case, my angle settings were off by 3 degrees, relative to what I would have expected.  The riser was installed to use more of the length of the stone faces when I do narrower knives.  When sharpening short, narrow blades, the top 1.5″ never touched the blade.

    Snippet from tcmeyer above.

    I also found using the Gen 3 on smaller pocket knives leaving too much stone face above the knife and unused.  I printed a 1.25″ riser block to raise the vise. I also cut the ball joint down .5″ so I could add a stone stop which is used to keep the paddle above the larger kitchen knives so it doesn’t scratch the blade.

    Additionally, I use a modified micro-adjustment setup for increased angle adjustment as well as a more positive secure lockdown. This keeps the desired angle settings from drifting during the sharpening session.

    Ed K.

    • This reply was modified 9 months, 2 weeks ago by NotSharpEnuff. Reason: More info
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