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View Full Version : Guided Sharpening Devices....Why?



Dave Martell
04-25-2013, 09:31 PM
*This is a re-listing of a blog post (http://japaneseknifesharpening.blogspot.com/2010/04/guided-sharpening-devices-why.html) I made back in 2010....





Here I am on Easter morning in my shop typing this when I should be inside the house with my family. I know, I know, but I just had to share this....

Last night I was sharpening, or rather repairing and sharpening, two chisels that belong to my father-in-law and while doing so I was struck with the notion of how easy this was going for me. I believe this hit me so strong because of my previous battles in years past with these chisels and how hard of a time I've had sharpening these tools and now here I was breezing through the task. The thing that was/is so striking to me is that in the past I had used sharpening aides in the form of guided clamps and even specialized machinery to work on these tools yet here I am now doing it all free hand on water stones and making better results in a fraction of the time.

I sat back and asked myself why is this? I think it can be easily attributed to all of the time that I've spent free handing on water stones and machines like a belt sander and flat hone. I've developed my senses in such a way that I can now work without the help of guides and jigs to produce superior results to what I used to get from the best that these devices can offer.

The really striking revelation, however, is that if I had never tried free handing and had stuck with the guides then I would only be as good as what they allowed me to be. I would be stuck using them forever, stuck buying their proprietary abrasives, and denied the ability to learn how to actually sharpen. I would never have learned how to actually sharpen a tool on a simple sharpening stone. This is crazy!

Now I'm not damning guided devices or those who use them because I can understand the whys and hows but it has to be said that these devices exist not to provide better results (as their manufacturers would have you believe) but are here to soothe our insecurities. Somehow man has lost the ability to see a problem and conquer it. Today we go for the easy way, take the short cuts, no matter what the cost. We'd rather spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars and get what we think is an answer to our fears than to spend $20 for a simple stone and get to work with it. I wonder why we've evolved into this pattern?

Yes I know all about this behavior, I've owned just about every guided sharpening device for knives, scissors, and woodworking tools including some serious machinery. I know why I bought these items and what I was hoping to get from them but what I got in reality was nothing more than wasted money, wasted time, and road blocks in my learning curve. I guess I needed to try them and see what I needed to see but looking back I sort of wish I had never bothered.

My point in all this babbling is to say that if you're someone who's on the fence between going with a guided sharpening system or trying free handing I would strongly advise you to take the road less traveled. If you have a suspicion that free handing is something you might like then you already know the answer, you already know where you're going to go, you just have to listen to yourself and take the first step, the rest is just some hard work and practice and you'll be sharpening great in no time at all. Remember the best things come from hard work, nothing worth having is given to you or bought easily.

Hey, did you ever wonder why sharpening tools on stones with your bare hands is called "free handing"? I believe it's because you're freed from the boundaries inherently built into jigged/guided systems and free to do your best work.

So give it some thought, maybe you have it in you to try..... I say go for it!

Happy sharpening! :)

Dave

cookinstuff
04-25-2013, 11:45 PM
Dave, this is exactly what Murray Carter says, I know some on this board don't agree with his methods. But, he is a huge advocate of looking at what you are about to do to your knife from sharpening, thinning, reprofiling, and then attacking it in an appropriate way. Messing it up and fixing it, if you don't train your hand and your eye and just trust some 'tool' you will never really 'know' what you are doing, can you make a knife sharp, sure, do you know why and how? not a chance. He says it only takes about 20 knife sharpenings to really get your muscle memory and eye trained if you are learning correctly to begin with.

I have never used any guided device but I have a lot of knives that are single bevel or assymetric, so I'm not sure how a guided device would even help with a lot of the knives out now, so I am really not sure why you would buy the tool, and all of these special little stones/abrasives, and it can only sharpen 50/50 bevel knives. Get a couple stones and you can sharpen anything you can press against it, without all that riffraff. Thanks for this little post Dave, I think a lot of people are snake oiled by these things, thinking they don't have the ability to use their god given tools, when funny enough I would imagine most people on this board make their livelihood with their hands.

Dave Martell
04-26-2013, 12:27 AM
Amen Adam :)

zitangy
04-26-2013, 02:32 AM
Dave, this is exactly what Murray Carter says, I know some on this board don't agree with his methods. But, he is a huge advocate of looking at what you are about to do to your knife from sharpening, thinning, reprofiling, and then attacking it in an appropriate way. Messing it up and fixing it, if you don't train your hand and your eye and just trust some 'tool' you will never really 'know' what you are doing, can you make a knife sharp, sure, do you know why and how? not a chance. He says it only takes about 20 knife sharpenings to really get your muscle memory and eye trained if you are learning correctly to begin with.

I have never used any guided device but I have a lot of knives that are single bevel or assymetric, so I'm not sure how a guided device would even help with a lot of the knives out now, so I am really not sure why you would buy the tool, and all of these special little stones/abrasives, and it can only sharpen 50/50 bevel knives. Get a couple stones and you can sharpen anything you can press against it, without all that riffraff. Thanks for this little post Dave, I think a lot of people are snake oiled by these things, thinking they don't have the ability to use their god given tools, when funny enough I would imagine most people on this board make their livelihood with their hands.

Yes> you succintly put it into writing. Thats what it is all about. You need to know where you are going. checking the edge for sharpness will let you know whether you have reached the stage you want and whenther to continue removing steel at certain parts, to even out the entire edge, deburr , do lighter finishing strokes, deburr etc Otehrwise , like the other post teh guy ith teh staysharp problem with his new knife, just 15 strokes per side adn hope that it becomes razorsharp.

A missile never misses its target because it always do error correction from the feedback. Checking your progress ( sharpness) is thus an essential process in sharpening and also in whatever we do.

An angle device. I may mistakenly believe that you can still make it work but not just by the number of strokes per side adn you are done, you must be hitting the edge and where you want to remove the steel. The angle that you need is the angle that is toughing the edge and it is thick, you need to thin the edge behind the edge . You still need to check your progress and adjust accordingly. Otherrwise, you are mindlessly shaving steel . an example will be overgrinding till you get a birds beak or change the profile .More importantly, the skill to remove burrs effectively is essential as if you cant tell what is a burr or even feel teh slightest burr or thickness of the edge with your thumb and fingers, you will have a serious uphill task!

Just like in cooking, if you are not able to engage on your sense of touch, you would be handicapped. IN sharpening if you dont use your sense of touch extensively, what other senses can you engage? Sight and hearing is applied but wont tell you all you need to know abt the sharpness. It is the primary sense that you will use for this activity and thus there's no running away from it. You may read all about the techniques but try to apply but you need to know what you need to do for a particular knife, apply the techniques or strokes and see where you are going ( attaining the desired objective), modify and adjust and stay on course to your objective. Seeing a problem is 50% of the battle won as you know you have to do something else. Don't expect a different outcome by doing the same thing over and over.

There is more than one way to skin the cat. IN sharpening.. do what it takes to make to angles meet and have the edge thin enough for your preference in sharpness vs edge stability and edge retention.

Whilst you are at it have fun and eventually you will get there... At the end of it.. your sense of touch will be heightened and will be useful in whatever you do... YOU will be surprised :bigeek:

have fun and stay sharp...
d

X-JaVeN-X
04-29-2013, 09:49 PM
I've thought about getting into sharpening my knives myself, but my biggest hang-up thus far has been my eyesight. It is quite poor (degenerative eye disorder - retinitis pigmentosa), and I'm not sure I have the vision required to see the enough to get the best edge possible using water stones. I've looked into some of the sharpeners out there but there just seem to be so many options. The one that peaked my interest the most was the wicked edge sharpening system. Is this option also a waste of money in my situation? Getting stones + some sort of sharpening tutorial/guide material will still be a decent start up cost which I wouldn't want to find out is a waste because I can't really see enough to sharpen the edge properly (not to mention the cost of any potential damage I do to my knives). Would you still recommend trying to sharpen by hand for me? Have you tried the wicked edge system at all? Not sure which direction I should go.

I apologize if this is an inappropriate question for this thread/forum. Thanks.

Pensacola Tiger
04-29-2013, 10:16 PM
I've thought about getting into sharpening my knives myself, but my biggest hang-up thus far has been my eyesight. It is quite poor (degenerative eye disorder - retinitis pigmentosa), and I'm not sure I have the vision required to see the enough to get the best edge possible using water stones. I've looked into some of the sharpeners out there but there just seem to be so many options. The one that peaked my interest the most was the wicked edge sharpening system. Is this option also a waste of money in my situation? Getting stones + some sort of sharpening tutorial/guide material will still be a decent start up cost which I wouldn't want to find out is a waste because I can't really see enough to sharpen the edge properly (not to mention the cost of any potential damage I do to my knives). Would you still recommend trying to sharpen by hand for me? Have you tried the wicked edge system at all? Not sure which direction I should go.

I apologize if this is an inappropriate question for this thread/forum. Thanks.

I have a friend who owns a couple of decent knives, and he got tired of asking me to sharpen them for him. I tried to talk him into freehanding on waterstones, even letting him borrow a couple of mine, but he couldn't (or wouldn't) get the hang of it. So, I lent him both my Edge Pro and my Wicked Edge for him to try. He favored the Wicked Edge, explaining that he felt that it was a lot easier to work with, as there was no water involved, it was quicker to change the stones and he only had to get the knife set up in the holding clamp properly one time rather than having to reposition it constantly. One of his knives has an asymmetric grind, and I showed him how to set the angles properly for each side to preserve the geometry. He has had his Wicked Edge for almost two years and loves it.

I will say that you need to be able to see well enough to set the guides to the proper index mark, and they are pretty small, similar in size to sixteenth inch marks on a ruler.

http://i758.photobucket.com/albums/xx226/Pensacola_Tiger/Misc%20Photos/file_zps25de12f0.jpg

If I can answer anything else, just ask.

Rick

cclin
04-29-2013, 10:32 PM
Rick, how do you set up Wicked Edge for less than 15 degree angle??:scratchhead:

X-JaVeN-X
04-29-2013, 10:43 PM
Thanks for the post! If need be, my wife can help set up the machine, but at this point I can read a ruler, so I feel like I'd be able to see the markings on the sharpener. From the videos I've seen, and knowing my own vision limitations...I feel like I could use the machine...it was really more of a question of how good of a job it did. Most everything I've read seems to put the machine in a positive light, but I'm always open for more feedback. When I saw this post from Dave, it made me curious to what his opinion would be given my particular circumstance.

Pensacola Tiger
04-29-2013, 10:43 PM
Rick, how do you set up Wicked Edge for less than 15 degree angle??:scratchhead:

Short answer is that you don't. You can move the clamps for the guide rods past the fifteen degree mark, and interpolate down to almost ten degrees, but there are no detent holes so you have to pay attention that the setting doesn't shift. Clay Allison has been promising that there will be a mod to allow less than fifteen degrees, but so far, nothing has come of it.

X-JaVeN-X
04-29-2013, 10:45 PM
I think they have an "accessory" kit that they sell for the standard Wicked Edge sharpener that adds a riser block and longer guide rods. The riser block is suppose to let you go down to 13 at 0.05 increments.

Edit:

Link to what I'm talking about - http://www.wickededgeusa.com/index.php?page=shop.product_details&flypage=flypage.pbv.v1.tpl&product_id=468&category_id=73&option=com_virtuemart&Itemid=53

Dave Martell
04-29-2013, 10:45 PM
I've thought about getting into sharpening my knives myself, but my biggest hang-up thus far has been my eyesight. It is quite poor (degenerative eye disorder - retinitis pigmentosa), and I'm not sure I have the vision required to see the enough to get the best edge possible using water stones. I've looked into some of the sharpeners out there but there just seem to be so many options. The one that peaked my interest the most was the wicked edge sharpening system. Is this option also a waste of money in my situation? Getting stones + some sort of sharpening tutorial/guide material will still be a decent start up cost which I wouldn't want to find out is a waste because I can't really see enough to sharpen the edge properly (not to mention the cost of any potential damage I do to my knives). Would you still recommend trying to sharpen by hand for me? Have you tried the wicked edge system at all? Not sure which direction I should go.

I apologize if this is an inappropriate question for this thread/forum. Thanks.


I haven't used the Wicked Edge but have used the Edge Pro a lot. I suspect that the WE has an advantage other the EP for a couple of reasons. I would think that it's clamping of the blade offers stability, that it can use independent angles on each side as may be required, and that it allows for minimum burr creation through alternating (right then left then right...) strokes being used.

I have no idea if it's lowest angle settings are low enough for our thin knives but I think that I heard that they were going to make the WE adjustable down to a very low angle, you'd have to check into that. The EP doesn't go low enough but you can raise the knife off of the table through the use of a riser block to get the lower angles needed.

As for eyesight issues, that's a problem for sure, but I'd suggest getting a lighted magnifying lamp and sharpening under that. I know this can be done because I used to do it. Also, many sharpeners and knifemakers use those magnifying flip down head piece things over their glasses, they have lighted versions too. I'm certain that you can get past your eyesight problems unless your sight is real bad to the point that magnification won't help.

Pensacola Tiger
04-29-2013, 10:50 PM
I think they have an "accessory" kit that they sell for the standard Wicked Edge sharpener that adds a riser block and longer guide rods. The riser block is suppose to let you go down to 13 at 0.05 increments.

Edit:

Link to what I'm talking about - http://www.wickededgeusa.com/index.php?page=shop.product_details&flypage=flypage.pbv.v1.tpl&product_id=468&category_id=73&option=com_virtuemart&Itemid=53

Thanks! It's been a while since I've visited the Wicked Edge website.

Dave Martell
04-29-2013, 10:55 PM
Thanks for the post! If need be, my wife can help set up the machine, but at this point I can read a ruler, so I feel like I'd be able to see the markings on the sharpener. From the videos I've seen, and knowing my own vision limitations...I feel like I could use the machine...it was really more of a question of how good of a job it did. Most everything I've read seems to put the machine in a positive light, but I'm always open for more feedback. When I saw this post from Dave, it made me curious to what his opinion would be given my particular circumstance.


I would always recommend someone to try free handing yet I realize not all can go that route and that you might be in that situation. I'm not so sure that you'd do well with learning free hand muscle memory if you can't see the gap between the stone and knife and notice that you're wobbling, you can't see what a mess you're making of the bevel and how to make adjustments to get things straightened out. I'm certain that using a jig like the WE will help here. The main thing is for you to get your knives sharp so in your case I'd say go for the WE if you feel that you might be able to use it.

X-JaVeN-X
04-29-2013, 11:09 PM
I haven't used the Wicked Edge but have used the Edge Pro a lot. I suspect that the WE has an advantage other the EP for a couple of reasons. I would think that it's clamping of the blade offers stability, that it can use independent angles on each side as may be required, and that it allows for minimum burr creation through alternating (right then left then right...) strokes being used.

I have no idea if it's lowest angle settings are low enough for our thin knives but I think that I heard that they were going to make the WE adjustable down to a very low angle, you'd have to check into that. The EP doesn't go low enough but you can raise the knife off of the table through the use of a riser block to get the lower angles needed.

As for eyesight issues, that's a problem for sure, but I'd suggest getting a lighted magnifying lamp and sharpening under that. I know this can be done because I used to do it. Also, many sharpeners and knifemakers use those magnifying flip down head piece things over their glasses, they have lighted versions too. I'm certain that you can get past your eyesight problems unless your sight is real bad to the point that magnification won't help.

The angle limitations were probably my biggest concern on the WE system and as mentioned earlier in the thread I heard it mentioned a long time ago that they were looking at adding a way to go below 15, which recently they have which lets you go down to 13. Honestly, I don't know how much of a difference this makes as I only own one japanese knife (which you have right now for a rehandle/sharpening lol). It is a Kumagoro which I believe has a 15 angle by default and it cuts like butter through everything I've tried it on. I buy my knives for use in the kitchen. I really only see myself getting 2 or 3 more knives, but I don't really know what typical edge angles are on them and if 13 would be ample enough for me. I will eventually be getting some sort of utilityish knife as well as a boning knife of some sort (posted in your thread about that potential future project) and maybe a nakiri. I'm just looking for an option to maintain these knives. I don't really have a "sharpening bug" where I want to play and get sharper and sharper edges lol. I use my knives frequently in my home kitchen and just want a way to keep them up with good working edges.

As for the magnifying glass/light idea. That is kind of what I have to do for many things now. My disorder is very light sensitive (I have to have a LOT of light). My acuity is also fading (and will just get worse as it's a degenerative disorder). I really just don't trust my eyes, even with magnification and light for something this...delicate? I wish I had someone near me that I knew that sharpened by hand so I could give it a whirl, but no such luck. Everyone I know thinks that the $20 knife on the rack at walmart is a "sharp knife". I have had them cut something with the one kumagoro that I own and then watch their reaction...pretty funny.

zitangy
04-29-2013, 11:47 PM
I've thought about getting into sharpening my knives myself, but my biggest hang-up thus far has been my eyesight. It is quite poor (degenerative eye disorder - retinitis pigmentosa), and I'm not sure I have the vision required to see the enough to get the best edge possible using water stones. I've looked into some of the sharpeners out there but there just seem to be so many options.

I apologize if this is an inappropriate question for this thread/forum. Thanks.

Mother nature is kind.. we learn to compensate with our short comings.

I too have problems with sight. Left eye had ruptured blood vessels adn has scaring adn hence seeing depth is an issue. I am not complaining as a "one eye Jack is still king in teh kingdom of the blind". I still drive 400km each way very often and at night.

As Dave mentioned a visor wld be good. I do have magnifying glasses around adn use them mainly when I need to examine the knife and edges before I start to determine what needs to be done. As I go along, I depend more on the sense of touch. I may be biased but for sharpening, you need to employ the sense of touch primarily.

The Key issue is if you rule out Free hand sharpening because of poor eyesight.. we are limiting your options for when you do that, we reduce the possibilities of things that are open to us and things that we may enjoy. If we are limited by our eye sight, then alot of things wld be narrowed for us leaving us with reduced possibilities.

IF you persist in free hand sharpening, you are working towards heightening your sense of touch and it opens another dimension. YOu can gain much information via sense of touch.. believe me...

ONly after doing free hand sharpening and it is not your thing, then by all means use what ever works!

By the way, I have seen and heard blind men doing guite regular normal things.. and they really excel just with their sense of touch.

Thus It is quite a major decision adn do it for the right reasons and not succumb to the limitation which can be overcomed.

Have fun adn enjoy what ever you do..

Rgds
d

X-JaVeN-X
04-30-2013, 12:13 AM
Mother nature is kind.. we learn to compensate with our short comings.

I too have problems with sight. Left eye had ruptured blood vessels adn has scaring adn hence seeing depth is an issue. I am not complaining as a "one eye Jack is still king in teh kingdom of the blind". I still drive 400km each way very often and at night.

As Dave mentioned a visor wld be good. I do have magnifying glasses around adn use them mainly when I need to examine the knife and edges before I start to determine what needs to be done. As I go along, I depend more on the sense of touch. I may be biased but for sharpening, you need to employ the sense of touch primarily.

The Key issue is if you rule out Free hand sharpening because of poor eyesight.. we are limiting your options for when you do that, we reduce the possibilities of things that are open to us and things that we may enjoy. If we are limited by our eye sight, then alot of things wld be narrowed for us leaving us with reduced possibilities.

IF you persist in free hand sharpening, you are working towards heightening your sense of touch and it opens another dimension. YOu can gain much information via sense of touch.. believe me...

ONly after doing free hand sharpening and it is not your thing, then by all means use what ever works!

By the way, I have seen and heard blind men doing guite regular normal things.. and they really excel just with their sense of touch.

Thus It is quite a major decision adn do it for the right reasons and not succumb to the limitation which can be overcomed.

Have fun adn enjoy what ever you do..

Rgds
d

hehe...yea...my sense of sight is far down on the list of which sense I default to...my sense of hearing and touch are much more trusted these days. I lost my license a couple years ago (the worst thing to happen to me...I am a huge car nut), and being in the country don't have the option of calling taxis, catching the bus, etc. I have virtually no peripheral vision, no night vision (virtually no vision in dim lit rooms). Really the only vision I have left is what I would call "ok" central vision or acuity and only in very well lit areas. With all of that said, I still have many things I enjoy doing (cooking being high on the list). Knife sharpening isn't really looked at as a hobby to me (as it seems to be for many which is perfectly fine). I really just want the most efficient way to maintain my knives and really learning the "art" of sharpening so to speak, while a nice thing to know, isn't really a goal of mine. If I was bent on whittling hair and making the absolute sharpest edge possible and wanted the challenge of learning to free hand sharpen...I'm sure I could because as you have mentioned...you'd be surprised what we can do with a vision impairment using our other senses.

I guess if I had a passion to learn sharpening, I would feel more inclined to do that option....and I still may if I find a way to try it out and see what kind of learning curve I would be on. But, again, I'm looking for the end goal of just being able to maintain my knives and the WE seemed like a pretty much zero learning curve option that would suit my needs. However, reading this thread made me second guess if this was a viable option. I don't want poor performance from my knives, and if I NEED to learn to sharpen by hand, then I would just bite the proverbial bullet and do so.

Sorry for derailing your thread Dave...

Dave Martell
04-30-2013, 12:21 AM
Sorry for derailing your thread Dave...


No derail at all. Hell, there's probably others wondering the same thing as well.

Gravy Power
04-30-2013, 12:29 AM
I bought some sharpening guides from SLT, along with my first stone, a Shun combo. Stupid things left crazy rubber residu on everything that they touched, and it wasn't easy to remove either. I've been free hand ever since. I don't claim to be good at it, but yeah though things were worthless, even aside from the residu.

Chef Doom
05-02-2013, 12:30 AM
So Dave, I have to ask, did you by any chance drop some LSD before sharpening? Have you gotten any feedback from your father-in-law about your work?

I once dropped some LSD once and thought I made a fantastic meal for myself one night. I thought I hit a new high (pun intended) in my quest for culinary perfection. When I came down, turns out it was nothing but burnt toast, desert level dry chicken, and overcooked rice.

Just wondering......

JohnnyChance
05-02-2013, 01:32 AM
I had an issue with my wrist when I first started sharpening. I had been using oil stones and I was in agony fighting the stone and holding the angle. So I bought an Edge Pro. It worked fine, it was serviceable. But like people said before, you are only as good as the EP let's you be. The biggest problem I had with it is that it takes FOREVER. I don't know why this isn't mentioned more when debating pro's/con's of the EP but freehand sharpening is so much faster. It's a bigger stone that you can put more pressure on and work faster, that simple.

I could put pretty good edges on my knives with little to no visual inspection. I usually adjust angle by feel and sound and test edges by feel. Granted, I am already experienced and know what I am looking/feeling/listening for. So could I learn to sharpen without my sight? I don't know. But once you learn you can certainly do it without it.

Stones are cheap. You don't NEED a sink bridge, stone holder, diamond plate, etc right away. Buy one ~1k stone, like a Bester 1200. I sharpen on a overturned rectangular pan from work with a nonslip pad on it. Try it out, if it isn't working, sell the stone on here and buy a WE.