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Do I suck at sharpening? - Videos

Discussion in 'Sharpening forum' started by captaincaed, Oct 12, 2019.

  1. I'm cross-posting this from another forum because I value the tone of suggestions over here.

    I feel like I've gotten worse over the past couple months, but I also think that may be changing personal standards. I can still get knives to push-cut printer paper, cut paper in a circle, etc.

    Where I'm feeling trouble is progressing from middle grits to higher grits. I get good tooth and cutting up to about 2k/4k, then when I go up to the Synthetic Natural or 8k, I feel like I'm sliding off tomato skins instead of cutting in. Also feel like I'm having particular trouble sharpening a Blazen R2 petty up to a polished synthetic natural edge. My edges on carbon steels feel better.

    Current setup is some combination of:
    • Togiharu 1k/4k (generally get good luck here)
    • Gesshin 2k soaker (good luck, but loads quickly)
    • Gesshin synthetic natural soaker (having less luck)
    • Naniwa 8k, Knifewear branded (don't use often, seems a bit too polished for food)

    I'm trying to "nail" my technique after casually home sharpening for a couple years. Before anyone asks:
    • Yes, I have watched J.Broida's video series, and continue to re-watch :D
    • Yes, I have flattened my stones with a diamond plate
    • No, I'm not crazy (yet)
    So now I'm crowd-sourcing for other opinions.

    So, here is a Mizuno DX sharpening from 1k to 2k to synthetic natural. Following are two videos taking a careful look at the edge after sharpening (I think you can see things better than still photos.)

  2. Taylor

    Taylor Professional Craftsman Founding Member

    The belly of the knife can be a tricky spot, since there's much less surface area touching the stone. Even with the same force used on the rest of the edge, the pressure can increase exponentially (Pressure = Force/Area). What I find helps me at this spot, is to pick up speed, and the hand that's used to press down, is used just to keep the knife from coming off the stone. Most likely you have a wire edge that isn't fully being removed. I would almost suggest if you are having a hard time, to strop on a piece of cardboard very lightly back and forth, and then doing a light cutting motion on the edge of a soft piece of wood.

    Your technique doesn't look bad. There's obviously a little wobble here and there, and I may have seen the edge dance near the end of the stone a few times, but nothing that would be causing the problems you're having at the belly. Hope that helps, and try not to be discouraged, as even us pro's can get frustrated at times.
  3. Taylor,
    Thank you, that was just the type of eye I was hoping for. I like the cardboard idea, and I will say that I do sometimes draw the edge lightly through some end-grain pine to remove burr.
    I'm trying to work that wobble out. Playing around between having a locked wrist, and just relaxing and breathing. Haven't quite found a sweet spot. Trying to practice a few times every week as a habit.

    When you say 'saw the edge dance near the edge of the stone,' could you say more? What did you see?

  4. Taylor

    Taylor Professional Craftsman Founding Member

    It was only like once or twice towards the end of the stroke at the far end of the stone. Looks like the pressure was on the part of the knife off the stone, picking up the heel of the knife just briefly. I'd have to watch it again to really see, but just something to be aware of.

    On flipping the burr back and forth. You could probably spend a little more time on each side at the beginning weakening it. Those buggers can be tough to take off if they aren't set up properly (meaning that even though you don't feel it, there could be a wire edge fooling you into thinking it's gone).
  5. Gotcha, I see the 'off the stone thing' looking back - thank you, I'll be aware of that.

    I think you're absolutely right about spending more time weakening the burr. I did that with my R2 knife recently, and got better results. I was treating it like plain carbon, but it definitely needed better deburring. It's a bit of a turd to deburr compared to white/blue/V2. I'm a little apprehensive about what ZDP and HAP are going to be like then their times finally come...
  6. Toothpick

    Toothpick #2 since day #1 Founding Member

    I can offer no help other than to say nice vids and wish you luck. Luckily we got some talented folks here who will offer advice!
  7. I was not deburring nearly enough in the belly region. Nice spot. Got a better light source, and there it was.
    Seems like deburring may take several passes. More than I was expecting it to take.

    Final edge was still a bit weak, but no I have a better idea how to go about this

    I shot another video but I think it's probably boring. I'll take another when things get better
  8. I feel awkward jumping into this string because there is no doubt ........ I know I suck at sharpening. I
    am a decent craftsman comfortable with power and hand tools. I am patient and routinely do projects that take months if not years to complete. By way of example I am currently building a mountain home with one helper.

    I am driven to this forum out of frustration. Despite having accumulated good knives, numerous diamond and ceramic plates ,an assortment of high quality water stones and several strops, I have not been able to develop hair cutting sharp knife edges freehand. On the other hand, I routinely sharpen my plane and chisel edges to a razor sharp finish. Over the years I have watched well over 25 sharpening videos, have tried edge guides to make sure my angle of approach is correct and, and have spent many hours trying to hone my freehand skills.

    It has come down to giving up several times and forcing myself to accept useful, but not razor sharp edges on my EDC and chef's knives. Last straw was just today. After another failed effort to get my 5 chef knives really sharp, I pulled out a Henckels 10" which was a recent gift and is (or rather was) hair cutting sharp. It cleanly shaved my forearm until I gave it 30-40 strokes on a 3,000 grit Naniwa. It will now cut a tomato but will not shave a hair.

    I have tried raising and lowering angles, leading and trailing edge pressure, burr and no burr. Nothing I try gets my knives as sharp as they were out of the box!
    Any suggestions/thoughts would be welcomed. Oh, forgot to mention.... I am apparently stubborn, as a refuse to get a Lansky or similar system. If I can't master freehand technique, I will muddle through with half sharp knives as I have been doing.
  9. First, what I've found to help is looking at the edge straight on with a really bright light, even a headlamp if that's all you have. Be honest without yourself if you see small reflections as places that need additional refinement/deburring/edge leading strokes. Cut some phone-book paper and see if it snags. If it snags in the areas you see light, you've got two pieces of tangible evidence of a place that needs some work. Any remaining burr will prevent hair-shaving types of sharpness. This is an area I thought I was doing well, but actually not. See Taylor's comments above regarding sharpening the belly - it requires less pressure then the heel, and using too much pressure will create a large burr that's harder to remove. After going back and putting in more focused effort, that was absolutely true. Maybe not the whole game, but an important part of the picture.

    Second, a 3000 grit edge is great for tomatoes, not so great for hair. Try a 6-8k stone for hair. They're just two different cutting tasks. Yes, you can get a 1k edge to pop hair, but other stones are better suited to the task.

    Finally, there is some back and forth at the very end of the sharpening process. The final few passes are: deburr, edge leading, deburr again, edge leading, deburr, edge leading, strop (if you want). Kind of an organic process. Keeping pressure very light and angles very steady. Lots of focus. I've found the last few strokes are responsible for 75% of difference between 'sharp' and 'awesome' (which I'm still personally chasing, by the way!). Setting the bevel at a consistent angle is very important for consistent results along the entire edge. However, the very very apex is what does the actual cut, especially when you're talking about paper or hair.

    All this to say, I'm still chasing this dragon myself, but those things have been helping! Best luck brother, throw up a short video with results.
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2019
  10. And don't feel awkward at all! This should be a good place to throw it up and get some help
  11. Taylor

    Taylor Professional Craftsman Founding Member

    I'm now up to sharpening over 30k blades. I suppose I'll go over how I approach each blade, as it has become somewhat mechanical for me.

    First, I evaluate the blade. I check the edge, looking at it in the light, and even pointing the tip towards my eyeball, and looking down the edge to see if the blade is straight. I inspect the edge visually, to see if there are some spots that are more worn than others, and I feel the edge from both sides of the knife by running my finger pads from spine to edge and off. The fingers help me feel burrs that I may not be able to see with my eyes. Sharp edges will offer the same "bite" on both sides.

    Once I've evaluated a knife, I come up with a game plan. Do I need to focus more time and energy on one spot than the other? Does the tip need re-shaping? Are there and chips that need repair? Tips and chip repair come first with going at a diamond stone at a 90 degree angle.

    Once the knife is done with the above steps, I get to sharpening. I go to my coarsest stone, and I work on one side until I've raised a burr completely on the other side. I'm checking this with the pads of my fingers. Any wobble in your sharpening stroke at this time, is going to limit how sharp you can get the knife later on down the road, so pay particular attention to maintaining the same angle.

    After a burr has been raised on one side, I flip the knife over, and start working the burr back to the other side. Only difference here, is that I'm now checking both sides for burrs, as it is possible to flip part of the burr, while leaving some of the original going the other direction (this is usually a byproduct of uneven wear on a blade). When done, you should not be able to feel a burr on the side you were working on, and it will be even across the entire edge of the other side. Again, focus on maintaining an angle, as wobble will affect the results down the road.

    Now we move on to burr removal. With the burr raised and flipped, we start repeating the pattern we started with. Switch to the other side, but remember, it's going to take a lot less strokes to flip the burr again. Stop often to check your work, feeling both sides of the knife, and try to take a mental note of how many strokes it's taking you to flip the burr back.

    The amount of force you're using should be reducing drastically by now. Where you started off using around one pound of force, you should now be using a fraction of that to flip the burr. Repeat flipping the burr, which will take less and less strokes, and less and less force. I'll take a moment to point out that while you're pressing with one force, that pressure you're creating at the edge is going to vary depending on the surface area touching the stone. So varying your force will become necessary as well when working on the belly and tip will be necessary. Lighter strokes when less surface area is in contact with the stone.

    After flipping the burr back and forth a few times, you'll start getting down to one to two strokes per side, and eventually you won't feel the burr. I tend to use edge trailing strokes at this point, as having a bevel tends to steady the strokes. Just realize, that on rough stones, you will be creating a wire edge that you may not be able to feel, but the knife won't feel as sharp as you'd like it.

    I now switch to a medium grit stone and start the process over again. It should be quicker by now, since you've done all the major work on the course stone, and now you're just refining the scratch pattern. The finer the scratch pattern, the easier it will be to remove the wire edge. Just try to think of a super rough sandpaper in use. It's digging in deeply, but may not be hitting the entire surface. When trying to produce an even finish, you may find it incredibly hard to keep the scratches the same depth without creating new ones.

    Most problems are going to occur with the wire edge. Pretend like it's there, but first worry about forming and flipping the burr, while making it smaller and smaller.

    The trick to removing a wire edge comes down to stropping. At this point, I like to go to a cheap leather strop loaded with chromium oxide, though I also don't mind natural veg tanned leather, or even a piece of cardboard placed on a hard backing. With these, I do edge trailing strokes, with not even the weight of the knife used. I try to hold the knife just above the surface, and lightly, at a medium pace, one pass at a time before flipping over to the other side and repeating. After a few strokes, I run the edge in a slicing motion through a soft wood or even hard felt with barely any pressure, and check the edge for sharpness. If I'm not satisfied, I strop again, while double checking for burrs that I may not have removed properly. The edge should feel very aggressive, biting into the finger pads evenly.

    If you have any questions, please feel free to ask away. The main trick is to set up your bevels correctly with the first stone, which will aid you throughout the entire process. Next, the other thing to remember, is that the pressure at the edge needs to gradually decrease until it's as light as you can get it. The more force you use, the more likely it is that you're going to weaken the edge that you're building, and it won't ever feel amazingly sharp.

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