Am I getting worse at Sharpening?

Discussion in 'Sharpening Station' started by captaincaed, Sep 8, 2019.

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  1. Sep 8, 2019 #1

    captaincaed

    captaincaed

    captaincaed

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    For the past few years, I've been sharpening my own knives to good effect. I feel like my experiences have been on track with common wisdom, so my experience met my expectations.
    Eg:
    • Shun Vg-10 is chippy when sharpened at low angles, but performs well at more obtuse angles
    • TF Denka is chippy on first sharpening, then holds a very acute edge for a very long time.
    • Carter White steel is easier to get a refined edge than Murata blue, and is easier to sharpen on more stones
    • Raising a burr, weakening, then removing with Jon's horizontal cross stroke works well, got a nice toothy edge.
    But now I'm having issues. I've flattened my stones with Jon's recommended plate, but still feel like I'm having issues. Had anyone else gone through a similar hard spot?

    Of note, I've tried two new things based on a vendor's recommendation:
    1. Sharpening with both right and left hand for better left - side angle consistency (mostly successful)
    2. Sharpening at a slightly lower angle for a sharper feeling knife (maybe less successful)
    Weirdly it looks like right side angle consistency is worse than before, and maybe even worse than left side. Also, getting a nice toothy edge on the flat heel area, but less successful on the curved belly section.

    Stones :
    • King 220/1000
    • Togiharu 1/4k (most common)
    • Gesshin 2k (common)
    • Gesshin synthetic natural (common)
    • Naniwa 8k

    Anyway, any ideas or should I post some videos?
     
  2. Sep 10, 2019 #2

    gman

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    for the belly, are you using an arched or J shaped motion along the whole blade, or forward and back scrubbing?

    i've never had much luck with the former, except for final polishing. for actual sharpening, i like to work on small sections at a time (1/2" or so), but being careful to raise a burr equally along the whole edge, and frequently checking against the board with a light source behind to make sure i'm not creating any high/low spots.
     
  3. Sep 10, 2019 #3

    kayman67

    kayman67

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    I like using left right only if I go for very low angles, very close to the stone.
    Yesterday I was having my Chinese food, with chopsticks and it hit me. The way I apply pressure and control them is not far from the way I control the knife while sharpening like this. You need to make sure that all pressure points are correct and just using your fingers on the blade to pressure and guide it. In theory you should be able to have a very consistent pattern with both dominant and non dominant hand.
     
  4. Sep 10, 2019 #4

    JBroida

    JBroida

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    but what exactly are the issues you are having?
     
  5. Sep 10, 2019 #5

    captaincaed

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    "Weirdly it looks like right side angle consistency is worse than before, and maybe even worse than left side. Also, getting a nice toothy edge on the flat heel area, but less successful on the curved belly section."

    Thanks everyone for the replies so far. I'll post a video soon.

    • For the belly I go back and forth at a 45 degree angle initially, and try to finish with either a j-hook sweep or the belly technique where you're going parallel with the stone that Jon showed in his video. I sharpen until I feel a burr, then smooth the bevel, repeat on the opposite side then deburr with a horizontal stroke, as in Jon's video. No stopping on soft media.
    • I was told that using only my right hand on the handle for both sides, the left bevel was multifaceted (pulling trailing edge strokes toward me). I switched to left hand and agree the bevel is more even and consistent than before.
    • The heel area bites nicely into an apple skin at an acute angle (20-30 degrees blade relative to apple), while the belly section bites just a little but slips off much more easily. The finger tip test registers "danger" at the heel but the belly slides over my finger pads with only a sense of "caution" if that makes sense.
     
  6. Sep 10, 2019 #6

    mikaelsan

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    Its hard to tell exactly what the issue your facing is but
    Im thinking there is a chance that your knives are simply getting thicker behind the edge, and therefore takes longer to sharpen then anticipated, this is a problem i personally tend to run into when sharpening other peoples knives. This leaves a larger margin of error, maybe you put too high an angle somewhere on the blade. Then you might not realize you are not hitting the apex when your lowering it again. Does that make sense? this could be countered by thinning or creating a relief bevel.
    You can check if your hitting the apex with the marker trick. If you don't like that, i don't, you can also check how the current sharpening angle is throughout the blade and see how it looks compared to what angle your trying to put on, you do this by putting the knife on the stone at an angle you know is too low, then slowly move the blade edge leading towards the stone raising the angle until the knife "grabs" the stone, this will be your current angle.
    You can also play around with technique for sure, we are not machines therefore not perfect when it comes to these things, i moved my supporting finger near the heel of the knife instead of the middle as it made it easier for me to put a closer to constant pressure on the knife throughout the length of the blade
     
  7. Sep 10, 2019 #7

    KimBronnum

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    @Captain... I recommend you to wach Jons youtube videos on how to sharpen a few times - and especially the video about the trick to do the tip. I learned a lot by watching his videos again and again. Every time I became consistent in one area, I watched the videos again and learned new little things that I hadn´t even noticed when I was still struggeling with the basics. I think I´ve seen most of them more than five times :) Sharpening is mostly about practice and thereby learning the motorskills. As I read your post I understand what you´re struggeling with as inconsistensy from lack of practice. You need to spend a fair amount of hours before it becomes like riding a bike. :)
     
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  8. Sep 10, 2019 #8

    Ochazuke

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    Ah! I remember feeling this way about a year in to learning how to sharpen.

    I learned how to sharpen and how to *actually* cook roughly at the same time. As I got better, I kept thinking I was getting worse but really I just started being able to notice the things I had done badly.

    Basically the better I got at both sharpening and using, the higher my standards got as well. Is it possible this is the case for you as well?
     
  9. Sep 11, 2019 #9

    gman

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    mikaelsan raises a good point. if your technique hasn't changed, but the performance of the knife is slowly getting worse, then it could definitely be time for a thinning.
     
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  10. Sep 11, 2019 #10

    captaincaed

    captaincaed

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    Those are all great points. I can see a combination of two things happening:
    1. I'm getting harder on myself. I used to be thrilled with current results, but now I know a bit more.
    2. My knives are getting richer behind the edge. I did the pennies at the edge test and I need to stack three to get the edge apex to touch the stone. Isn't two a better benchmark for Japanese knives? If I only put two pennies at the spine, I can cut my finger on the edge lifted up from the stone face.
     
  11. Sep 11, 2019 #11

    captaincaed

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    Thank you yes I've watched many. I think it's a great time to revisit them with fresh eyes like you suggested. I agree about the motor skills. A lot is practice. The frustrating part is consistently getting different results on different parts of the same knife.

    Back to the grind stone...
     
  12. Sep 11, 2019 #12

    rob

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    I'm certainly no expert, though these two statements "Sharpening at a slightly lower angle for a sharper feeling knife" & "I can cut my finger on the edge lifted up from the stone face."

    would suggest maybe you are going a little too low on your angles and not actually hitting the edge? The good old "sharpie trick" will confirm this. Is it possible you are hitting the edge down towards the heel and are sharpening behind the edge once you get up towards the belly?
     
  13. Sep 11, 2019 #13

    Kippington

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    This is big one. People learning to sharpen tend to allow the knife to get thicker every time they go to the stones. Add to that they tend to remove too much metal each time, and you've got yourself a fat edge in no time.

    You'll either need to learn to thin the knife sooner or later, or your test cutting medium needs to be either soft or thin enough that thickness behind the edge makes no difference. It also means that each subsequent sharpening session will take a longer amount of time.
     
  14. Sep 11, 2019 #14

    M1k3

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    I like to do what I call "maintenance thinning". Every time I sharpen a knife, I hit the sides with the stones. Not a lot, just enough to remove some metal, just like the edge. But not overdone.
     
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  15. Sep 11, 2019 #15

    kayman67

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    +1. And I always considered this part of the sharpening process.
    But since you mentioned going to lower angles combined with left and right method, I wonder how high were they before and just how aggressive you used to remove metal.
    I assumed that you also develop and work at least with one initial burr on both sides. I'm not using pressure steps on my routine, but they have the advantage of concentrating things towards this very first step.
     
  16. Sep 11, 2019 #16

    JBroida

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    yeah... i'd love to see pictures of knives you've sharpened (especially closeups of the edge, choil shots, the tip area, and both sides)... i feel like that would help here
     
  17. Sep 12, 2019 #17

    captaincaed

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    This is fantastic feedback, I will post a couple pictures and a video of I'm really on top of it
     
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  18. Sep 12, 2019 #18

    captaincaed

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    Let's start with small, Ryusen R2 petty. The choil shot is naff, phone is struggling.
    Sharpened on gesshin 2000, synthetic natural as a touch up to start. If I can improve this part of the process, I'll feel more confident resetting the bevels.
    8F68476D-D6C7-43CA-821A-7820FA1E621A.jpeg 644389E4-473A-46D1-8CE9-F5665AC94228.jpeg D4BAD891-543A-4D3E-9610-74CD035F1954.jpeg E9840328-260B-4C83-9521-F31525EE8408.jpeg 0820243D-5B4A-44CB-BA82-E6072812FD46.jpeg 1D0932FF-2641-4F67-B702-32B3499002EB.jpeg 4A1CF14F-36EC-4D64-98E6-E170C60441DC.jpeg F485BB7C-DCEF-4465-9726-31E65FAD4DF7.jpeg D6E94806-8998-4C6B-9292-3FD8E6221C32.jpeg 90152AC6-A600-4A42-8748-460FA16D8DA9.jpeg
     
  19. Sep 12, 2019 #19

    captaincaed

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    Remaining right side shots. I don't know if I'm nuts but there may be a hair of burr on the right side.

    Sharpened, then just used to skin an orange (board contact involved).
    C1E5839D-0EB0-4EED-B29D-215B3525FD17.jpeg DDA0C3E3-5D66-4F54-90E2-B0AD3FA2479E.jpeg AD48F19B-24D6-423D-8E34-66B52C9A7B1B.jpeg 60B409A4-B9EE-46EF-BC7F-2D5F0AEB5E4A.jpeg
     
  20. Sep 12, 2019 #20

    Kippington

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    The good news is that there are no obviously glaring errors, judging from the photos alone.

    The following would be closer to a guess than a truth, without having the knife to see in person:
    Your angles seem a little obtuse, judging by the fuzzy choil shot and another thing which I won't go into detail. You mentioned pennies earlier, is this something you tried on this knife?

    Your angle seems to be changing from heel (acute) to tip (obtuse). Your edge testing appears to echo this.

    There seems to be a wire edge in the last photo that you need to deal with.
    You might want to consider stropping.
     
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2019
  21. Sep 12, 2019 #21

    captaincaed

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    Here's a video of edge bite. After cutting the orange it's there, but just. I don't think it's excellent yet.
    https://imgur.com/a/95zPm4h
     
  22. Sep 12, 2019 #22

    Kippington

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    Whoa dude, that's not how you do the test on your thumb! What you are doing is flat out dangerous! :eek:

    I'll post a description of the proper way to do that test in a bit, but you gotta stop doing it that way...
     
  23. Sep 12, 2019 #23

    Benuser

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    Do you strop and deburr before going to the next stone? Don't go to the next one unless you can't reduce the burr any further. In practice this means that you will stay the most time with the coarsest stones.
     
  24. Sep 12, 2019 #24

    captaincaed

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    @Kippington cool thanks I'm certainly open to suggestions! Hopefully it only looks bad due to the angle. It's on the thumb nail, not skin.

    I've been told my angle is a bit obtuse as well, but my bevel width seems normal when I look at other people's knives, but my scale may not be adjusted well!

    No pennies on this knife since it's so short, I didn't think the angles would work well. This was all by eye. I think I managed a more acute angle on the right, but it's easier to see in person.

    @Benuser I'm trying to lightly strop and deburr on the stone as in Jon's videos, without using leather, not just yet. Maybe more used to carbon steels so I'm not doing so adequately on R2...?
     
  25. Sep 12, 2019 #25

    Kippington

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    Here's the thumb nail test, using the lid of a plastic marker to similar effect.

    At the start I use the spine of the knife to demonstrate what a blunt knife will do -
    it just slides off.
    Using the sharp side, the edge catches and digs into the plastic (or the nail) and you can't push the knife forward without shaving or outright cutting into the surface.
    The tip of the knife I show in the video is blunter than the rest of the edge - you can see it in the test. However it is still sharp enough to shave bits off the plastic, you can see it on the knife at the end (don't do this to your nails though).
    The lower the angle that the knife catches, the sharper it is.

    You can get misleading results if you create a small cut in your plastic/nail and keep catching the same cut with blunter parts of the edge.

    You can test the two sides of the knife at the same angle to see if you have a burr left over, although asymmetrical sharpening will skew these results.

    There's a different finger test with which you use your skin. Murray Carter calls it the three finger test, you can look it up on YouTube.
     
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2019
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  26. Sep 12, 2019 #26

    captaincaed

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    @Kippington that's very cool thank you.
    You a fan of ZDP? I have one that I'm a bit hesitant to sharpen, but I'm liking it so far. Retention is quite good for me
     
  27. Sep 12, 2019 #27

    ian

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    Bevel width doesn't necessarily tell you angle, fwiw. Make sure your knives are thin behind the edge too. If they need thinning, an obtuse angle will give you a wider bevel than it otherwise would. (I'm not skilled enough to see your angles from the fuzzy choil like Kip, though.)
     
  28. Sep 12, 2019 #28

    Carl Kotte

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    Here is an honest question (I don’t claim to know the answer; that is why I’m asking ): is this quoted claim true? The reason I ask is that I thought that this data point about how low you can go tells you about a combination of two things: sharpness AND how acute the sharpening angle for the edge is. (Compare with the scenario when you sharpen the same knife with a total angle of say 40 degrees. Couldn’t it be as sharp, or almost as sharp at least, as the one in the video without catching at the same low angle?) thx!
     
  29. Sep 12, 2019 #29

    kayman67

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    Yes it could.
    What tests have showed us is that lower angles made knives cut longer and thus giving a better "sharpness" scale. So that won't necessarily be a sharpness test, but a performance test. I've seen knives unable to cut my finger and still perform way better than some that could, but were having really high angle values. Is this a bit confusing?

    LE: typos
     
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2019
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  30. Sep 12, 2019 #30

    ian

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    +1 to kayman

    If you decrease the angle to the point that your nail is contacting the shoulder of the bevel rather than the edge (ie if the angle in the test is smaller than your sharpening angle), you’ll fail the test no matter how refined and perfect the edge is. However, testing at small angles (larger than your sharpening angle, though) seems like a good idea, since you’ll be pushing in a direction that’s more likely to make the knife slide.
     
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2019
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