Ranelpia

Oil, water, or diamond stones for starting out?

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Ranelpia   

Hi, I want to get some sharpening stones for my tools, now that I'm starting to move on to actual blades rather than mainly disposable ones.  I want to clarify first that I have never before sharpened a knife on a whetstone in my life, but am willing to learn from YT videos and asking questions.  It was my birthday recently, so I decided to treat myself to a stone or two; the problem is, there are so many options out there, that I don't know where to begin.  I asked around in the leatherworking sub on Reddit, and got a bunch of answers that still haven't let me make up my mind.  I'm hoping I can get some more input from you guys.  Basically, I've gotten recommendations for all three types of stones, and I think I have the gist of what each of them bring to the table.  I'm Canadian, so availability and pricing might be a bit different than what's in the States.

  • Water Stones - The first ones recommended to me, they're reasonably priced, and really popular; I like the fact that there are lots of Japanese stones in this category, as it appeals to my Japanese ancestry.  I was initially advised to get the Naniwa Chosera stones as they're among the best, but since they're a touch more expensive than I'd prefer, I'd like to set them on the back burner for when I get super serious.  In the meantime, my options for this category are the Shapton Kuromaku ceramic line, with the 1000 grit being $55, and the 5000 grit (if I decide to get it) at $68.  I dont' know how the ceramic water stones wear in comparison to more traditional water stones.
  • Oil Stones - Another user cautioned me against using water stones, as they wore much faster, and required constant flattening.  He recommended oil stones, and referenced what he used himself - a coarse/fine Norton India combination, and a soft Arkansas stone.  I can find the Arkansas stone for about $34, but I can't seem to find the Norton for under $50.  I like the affordability of the Arkansas, and if I could find a Norton up here for around that amount, I'd be leaning towards this option.  I also like that they wear less quickly than water stones, but really am not that excited about cleaning up oil.  I feel almost that the cleanup effort might negate any benefits that the slower wearing and lower price point bring.
  • Diamond - This is the most expensive option, and while they seem to be at the top of some peoples' lists, I don't know if I can afford something like the DMT or Atomos plates, not if I want to get a set to maintain my blades.  I did find a Japanese brand called SK-11, which offers a 150/600 grit and a 400/1000 grit option.  On ebay, I'd be paying about $50 for each, which isn't too bad.  Now, I don't know anything about that brand, other than there are some favorable reviews for them, and some negative.  Would it affect sharpening to the point where I'd really notice?  I'd probably have to get the 150/600 option in any case, if I wanted a flat surface to lap any other stones.

So, these are my options.  I'm expecting to pay around a hundred to a hundred and fifty dollars on whetstones, although I'm hoping to keep it closer to the former.  I have some stropping compound already, it's this Flexcut 'Gold' Polishing Compound, so that's already taken care of.  I don't really want to buy cheap crap that I'll have to spend a fortune to replace if I actually get good at it, but neither do I want to go nuts and break my wallet getting the most expensive stuff, because I know that it mostly comes down to the skill of the user, not the stone, although they can certainly influence the result.  I'm fairly confident that I've got some good choices here, that strike a good balance between value and quality.  I don't know if I really need to go above 1000 right now, as long as I follow up with a strop.  I'd also like to eventually move on to sharpening woodworking and kitchen tools on these stones, but that's a lower priority right now.

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fredk   

You can pay a lot less for your stones.

Which ones? All of them, plus a couple of stropping leathers; one coarse & one fine

I start off on a coarse grade water stone, then work finer on a couple of oil stones finishing off on a strop, keeping a fine grade diamond for quick swipes to keep the edge keen whilst working

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js2rt   

Another option is a piece of glass and wet/dry sandpaper in the appropriate grits. Google "scary sharp" for the details. You could get a good start for $20 or so.

If you don't want to buy the glass a piece of shelf with Formica on it is flat enough.

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What Js said. I use sand paper on a piece of quartz or granite. It works great.

I watched a gazillion videos trying to figure out how to sharpen my pocket knife. I hated the fact that as a grown man in my forties I still couldn't sharpen a pocket knife.

After watching all the videos I could stand I still had a full knife. Then I found a video from a knife shop in Canada. What he said made it all click.

The first time you sharpen the knife it will take longer. He said your hands won't do exactly what the factory did to the edge, so you have to train the edge to your hand. After that you get to that point you can maintain that edge in short order.

Good luck.

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Ranelpia   

I have heard of the scary sharp method, it's what got me interested in sharpening in the first place, watching Paul Sellers' video. The initial price point was attractive, but the more I read about the pros and cons of the method, the more I started leaning away from it. I can't see myself making a sheet last longer than a single sharpening, and while I can get a 20 pack of assorted wet dry sandpaper from Amazon (my most likely source as I can't find any in my local stores fine enough) for $12 plus shipping, only a few sheets would be usable from it, I don't need all those grits.  That'll get way too expensive far too quickly.

I might be better off with a proper stone to start with, it'll last much longer. I can use sandpaper to flatten the stones, but I don't think the scary method is for me.

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I learned a loooooong time ago how to sharped chisels and plane irons for my wood working. Nothing sucks worse than dull tools!

The best thing you can do is get yourself a DMT 10" 2 sided diamond stone with Course and Fine grits.

These will get the initial angle set and bring the edge to shape and straight. It is also used to flatten the faces of your wet stones when needed.

Then go buy yourself the Norton 8" set of wet stones in 4 grits. 220, 1000, 4000 & 8000 grit. You will seldom use the 220 because of the diamond stones, but it's the cheapest way to buy them.

When you get done going threw all the grits down to 8000 your edge should shine like a new chrome mirror, but the edge isn't done yet.

If you really want a good edge, get a 15,000 or 16,000 grit Jap wet stone. A good one is an easy 100 bucks. Myself, I don't use one. I shave with a straight razor and never have a problem getting a shape enough edge to cut to the bone without even feeling it.

You need to get yourself a nice piece of 1x4 about 8 to 10 inches long and glue a piece of nice veggie tanned leather to it. Poplar is good, but make sure it's flat before you glue your leather on it. You tape (or use self adhesive) 220 grit sandpaper on your granite block and sand away at the one face of the poplar, or other hardwood.

Get yourself some white and/or green jeweler's rouge and rub that all over your leather. Stropping block. Pull towards you, with the edge away from you. Do both sides evenly.

Set the edge down, pull, pick straight up, turn over, Repeat. Keep the same angle as you pull or you'll round your angle and you don't want that.

It takes a little more stropping when stopping at 8000 grit than 15 or 16 thousand grit, but it gets just as sharp. That's why I haven't bought one yet.

My Norton wet stone set I bought for $120 some 15 or 16 years ago, and they are still going strong. Same for the diamond stone which was around $70.

The Norton set will run you around $250 these days, and the diamond stone about $100.

Keep your wet stones stored in water, that's the key to longevity. If you let them dry out after each use, they ware faster. And keep the slurry. You can use it to polish something sometime or another, but only what you wipe off the blade. Keep the slurry on the stone as much as possible as that's what does the cutting.

I made what I call a Wet Bench. Has a tank in it with a mini drain like a sink for changing out the water that I keep my wet stones in. Routered out a piece of bullet proff glass (plastic) to hold the stones when in use over the tank.

Norton does make a kit box that holds water, stones, rages and has a 3 sided stone vise that rotates inside the box. That's about $300.

Once you learn how to hold your angle when sharpening on the wet stones, there won't be a dull knife in your house.

Nothing bothers me more when I go to cut up a pork back strap and the cleaver don't cut clean with little downward pressure.

It's an up front investment that will pay for itself many times over in the years to come. You'll just have to take my word on that.

Pics posted upon request...

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Woody, you sound waaaay smarter than me on this topic. But I can still cut stuff ok. Lol

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There is many different ways to get to any one result. I've tried many, not all, and what I stick with works and it's easy for me.

I just try and share what I know, and learn what I don't.

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Ranelpia   

Thanks for the reply, Woody.  I think the 4000+ grits might be a little extreme right now, though I'm certainly willing to try for finer grits when I become more experienced.  I've read that keeping the stones soaking in water is good for only some water stones - it depends on how they're bonded, and if they're the wrong kind then keeping them immersed can lead to the binding degrading over time.  Stones like the Shapton Kuromaku line are only meant to be sprayed with water, for instance.  I'm not sure what soaking them for long periods of time would do to them.

At my local Lee Valley a 220-8000 set would run me around $330 plus tax, which is a little more than I was hoping to pay, even for a long term investment.  I can get two combo stones covering the same grit range from the same store for about $175.  Or, if I was adamant about stopping at 1000, $60.  Not including the DMT stone, of course.  I'm still weighing the merits of the cheaper water stones against the slightly more expensive ceramic water stones.  The baking process or whatever it is that they do lets them wear nearly as slowly as the oil stones, apparently, and keeping flat is critical for sharpening, at least if you're doing a flat bevel.  I can't get them for the same price, though.

I do have a strop on a piece of maple; it seemed flat enough when I checked it, but I can't be completely sure.  Can a stop be put on something that's guaranteed flat, like a polished marble/granite chunk of counter, or some such?  An adhesive bond might not work as well as with wood, but it would be guaranteed flat.

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I can't say about other wet stones, I've only owned the Norton's and that was their recommendation to keep them submersed. I did have a el' cheapo Harbor Freight Jap water stone in the 6000 grit range. It seam to fall apart as soon as water touched it. Not a slurry, more wet chalk. I wrote it off to another bad lesson with Harbor Freight and moved on.

If you look up Norton's website, get the part numbers and do a search for the Norton Part Numbers (same with DMT) and spend a little time you'll find them in the price range I stated.

I looked them all up a couple months ago out of curiosity as I was thinking on getting a second kit in the box. (wish I would have bookmarked it) I was thinking on hitting the local watering hole at happy hours and see if I couldn't make some thirst quenching money while I was there, buck an inch seamed fair at the time.

I did have a 16,000 grit stone on my watch list on Ebay for a long time, but it sold out last week and deleted the listing last night when going through it. It was at $125 w/free shipping.

It would take an awful large amount of jewelers rouge to off set an investment like that. If I was a barber it would be a different story. But the only hair I cut is off the back of my arms to test sharpness.

If you want, since I ain't doing much due to back pain, I wouldn't mind looking it all up again (bookmark it this time for myself) and post here for you.

But you find that the difference between 1000 and 4000 is like a moonless night and the brightest day. With 4000 you will start to see a mirror finish as with the 1000 it gray and no shine.

Meaning at magnification, the edge still looks like a saw blade, not a clean edge.

NOTE: Serrated knives are a joke and a gimmick to trick you into thinking they do not need sharpening.

A lesson on using a steel upon request.

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YinTx   

You don't have to pay big bucks for a really nice set up.  I am really happy with my Cerax combo stone and Atoma diamond plate.  See this post, and my comments on research and pricing:

The Cerax stones only soak for 30 mins, you are not supposed to leave them wet.  The diamond plate is splash and go.  The fine grit as I have learned is necessary to get a clean edge that really helps your leather knives do what they should be doing:  cut clean and easily.  

Woodyworkshop:  I really like your method of creating a flat strop:  I hadn't put a lot of thought into it, and just assumed that my board was flat:  likely not.  Time for a new one!

YinTx

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Just my opinion, but I'd go a little cheaper on a coarse stones- You only use them occasionally to establish the initial edge, or to clean up dings from dropped/damaged edges.  Something that you don't need to do often.  Finer stones should be better quality - you'll use them for edge maintenance far more frequently.  Stones all should be flat for a real precision edge.  By the time you get to the strop, you're only removing a tiny amount of metal to produce a finely polished edge, so I wouldn't get overly concerned about flatness.  The leather will have a little give anyway, and again, you're removing very little metal there - just enough to polish and knock off the burr from stones.

The experts may have a different take on things, but that's how I see it!

 Bill

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1 hour ago, YinTx said:

You don't have to pay big bucks for a really nice set up.  I am really happy with my Cerax combo stone and Atoma diamond plate.  See this post, and my comments on research and pricing:

The Cerax stones only soak for 30 mins, you are not supposed to leave them wet.  The diamond plate is splash and go.  The fine grit as I have learned is necessary to get a clean edge that really helps your leather knives do what they should be doing:  cut clean and easily.  

Woodyworkshop:  I really like your method of creating a flat strop:  I hadn't put a lot of thought into it, and just assumed that my board was flat:  likely not.  Time for a new one!

YinTx

I have a bunch of adhesive backed 3M gold colored products in a wide range of grits left over from my Auto Body Tech days. I also have some pieces of melamine coated particle board, which are about as flat as you can get.

The 2 work really good together. I use them when finishing out fins for my model rockets and lately they have been handy to clean up wood for my leather molds.

I have rolls of 2-3/4" wide and 6" diameter, ranging from 80 to 400 grits. I also have quite a hoard of w/d 3M sanding paper from 240 to 2000 grits.

People call me a pack rat, so be it. But even back in the day that stuff was expensive. No way was I going to part with it!

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Ranelpia   
On 01/09/2017 at 10:04 AM, YinTx said:

You don't have to pay big bucks for a really nice set up.  I am really happy with my Cerax combo stone and Atoma diamond plate.  See this post, and my comments on research and pricing:

The Cerax stones only soak for 30 mins, you are not supposed to leave them wet.  The diamond plate is splash and go.  The fine grit as I have learned is necessary to get a clean edge that really helps your leather knives do what they should be doing:  cut clean and easily.  

Woodyworkshop:  I really like your method of creating a flat strop:  I hadn't put a lot of thought into it, and just assumed that my board was flat:  likely not.  Time for a new one!

YinTx

In regards to your 1200 Atoms, wouldn't 15 microns be close to 700-750 grit? What do you do for coarser grits? Lee Valley sells the 1200 and 400 for $136, and the 140 for $146. The 140 would be closer to a 320 grit, or coarse India, and I'd think better suited for roughing out an edge before going at it with the 1000 cerax.

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YinTx   
15 minutes ago, Ranelpia said:

In regards to your 1200 Atoms, wouldn't 15 microns be close to 700-750 grit? What do you do for coarser grits? Lee Valley sells the 1200 and 400 for $136, and the 140 for $146. The 140 would be closer to a 320 grit, or coarse India, and I'd think better suited for roughing out an edge before going at it with the 1000 cerax.

Not sure what the grit equivalent is, I'd have to look it up.  What I do know is that I had a cleaver that was major banged up with dings you could see, and a round edge.  I was able to remove the dings and re-profile the edge on it with the Atoma 1200 plate.  I suspect the 400 would have made things move along faster, I think the 140 would just be way to rough for  it or any leather working tools.  None of my tools, even the old ones, would warrant the gouging that would impart to them.  I agree, the 1000 Cerax is a fairly smooth stone that would get damaged by a bad edge, which is why I profiled on the Atoma first.  If you have an edge that bad, absolutely get a coarser stone before honing on the finer stones.

The prices you list for the Atoma plates seem a bit high to me, I'd shop around.

YinTx

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Ranelpia   

Keep in mind that the prices are in Canadian dollars; of course, Lee Valley tends to be a little on the expensive side. Here's a comparison chart I found for comparing micron size, ANSI/CAMI (sandpaper), JIS (Waterstones), and comparable stones like Arkansas.

http://www.hocktools.com/temp/15hgritchart.pdf

I did make a mistake, however. It would have been the 400 which would be closer to a 320 grit, not the 140. I've also found a medium and a coarse for under $100 each, but I'm not sure if they're rip-offs. The seller is named 'generic', which fills me with dread.

Edited by Ranelpia

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