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De-Burring 101...again :)

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Dave Martell

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I just finished an email marathon with an individual who was struggling with trying to grasp what de-burring is all about. This fellow had been reading many forums and blogs on this subject as well as perusing YouTube videos and had been completely jumbled up, confused, and somewhat mis-led by what he found.

I thought I'd take just a second to get something straight on this subject, make a short post that hopefully will be read by people who want the true skinny on what really works for de-burring and what doesn't and why.


Ok, first off we have two things to deal with as a consequence of sharpening....

1. Burrs

2. Wire Edge



Common ways to de-burr....

1. Strop



What works for de-burring.....

1. Stropping with a rough(ish) medium/substrate (such as leather) that provides physical drag/draw.
The action provided from using a strop that offers draw is that the burrs are physically pulled away from and off of the edge.

2. Running the edge through a material (that's not harmful to the edge) that offers some sideways grabbing action applied to the edge such as something that self heals. This action pulls burrs off of the edge from the lengthwise direction.



What doesn't de-burr.....

1. Newspaper, balsa, polishing stones, or anything smooth (even smooth leather).
These items serve to either refine and/or align the wire edge and/or burrs. They will not remove burrs from an edge. The reason why they don't remove burrs is because they offer no physical drawing/pulling/grabbing action - they abrade slowly and align micro-teeth.



How to remove a wire edge.....

1. Abrasion
Use finer and finer stones/strops/hones until the wire is so small that it becomes practically insignificant.



This is just a small and very general outline of my thoughts on this subject. I hope that it helps to make things clearer for people.


Dave
 
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mpukas

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Nice post Dave.

Can you define burr and wire edge and describe the difference between the two? Cheers! mpp
 

Jay

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:thumbsup:

The burr can be made to flop from side to side. That's a good sign that you're ready for the next stage of sharpening. I believe that flopping the burr from side to side fatigues it so much that it becomes very easy to remove it.

Sometimes a burr can be very stubborn to remove.
 

Dave Martell

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Can you define burr and wire edge and describe the difference between the two? Cheers! mpp


Traditionally burr and wire edge are used as one in the same thing and I wish we had come up with a different name altogether for what we call wire edges bu we didn't so we'll have to go on as if they're two separate things.

These are my definitions, my way of thinking on this.... :)

Burrs = The little cling-on bits of steel that are left over ex-edge. These little bits of steel will be seen hanging on to the newly created fresh edge/wire edge glinting in the light often folded to one side of the knife.

Wire Edge = A thin strip of steel found above the newly created cutting edge that is too weak to support a cutting edge. Like burrs, it is often folded to one side of the knife but unlike burrs it will not glint in the light.
 

JohnnyChance

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Anyway to tell the difference between a burr and a wire edge during sharpening? Or will you only realize you have had a wire edge after your edge doesn't last?
 

Dave Martell

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Anyway to tell the difference between a burr and a wire edge during sharpening? Or will you only realize you have had a wire edge after your edge doesn't last?

The quick failing edge is a sure sign of a wire edge but it's also possible to detect it before this. If you haven't done the light stroke to align the wire type of stropping then it should be bent to one side of the blade. It can be only the slightest difference in feel between smooth and curled over so be critical with what you feel.
 

tk59

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I hate to be the dissenter given that I've seen on the OP referred to as Yoda on more than one occasion BUT... :eek:utonlimb:
What works for de-burring...
Should really read, "The easiest ways to de-burr..."
What doesn't de-burr...
Should read, "It is more challenging to de-burr by..."
...Newspaper, balsa, polishing stones, or anything smooth... ...they abrade slowly and align micro-teeth...
These do, in fact, de-burr. A burr is the product of imperfect sharpening, among other things. More consistent sharpening will decrease the thickness of the metal attaching the burr to what is supposed to be the edge. For example, I generally can see and feel a bit of burr remaining after a 1k stone. I switch to a 5k stone and within a few passes, I generally have nearly no burr, as observed under 40X magnification. With a few passes on any 8k, I am pretty much burr-less. Then, I actually use the strop to do aligning, refining and taking care of the occasional bit of burr. If I have wire edge/burr issues for whatever reason (mainly sloppy), I will generally add a tiny microbevel to one or both sides of the edge. I've tried the newspaper, too. It works but only if your edge is pretty close to perfect. If your burr is attached by too much metal, of course, it will take forever (not fun but it still works).

With regard to "fatiguing" the burr, I don't know for sure if that is a good thing to do. I would imagine that half of that fatigued metal ends up being your primary edge. For that reason, I try not to "flip the burr" for the sake of doing it. I try to get the burr to fall off from abrasion rather than fatigue. I've tried to see if I can "prove" this but I can't say I'm sure about this part.
 

Chef Niloc

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You pull off the burr so you can get to the wire edge as to abrade it into a finer edge. I got caught off gard recently by one of these things, but I'll save that story for another post.
 

ceramic

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The quick failing edge is a sure sign of a wire edge but it's also possible to detect it before this. If you haven't done the light stroke to align the wire type of stropping then it should be bent to one side of the blade. It can be only the slightest difference in feel between smooth and curled over so be critical with what you feel.

I have been sharpening in a style that is essentially "monkey see, monkey do". In this I manage to somehow get a nice sharp edge but I have no feel for the burr itself.

In essence I've resigned to being burr blind as people are colour blind, or can I be shown the light??
 

ceramic

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Not sure, I dont really have a benchmark to compare it to- by the time I've finished on 4 fine stones, there isnt much left to feel during the stropping session. If I dont cut corners and am slightly aware of what I'm doing then the blades themselves come out capable of peeling hair strands (only true for the small petty I have) or cutting paper. The edge retention seems to be dependant on the beating the blades get- but I'd say I have to run them through a 6k stone at least once a month.

I was never concerned about the burr, but this talk is making be feel slightly devoid of sharpening experience- like a soul less child :(

Yday I pickled about 2 kilos of red chillies and 300 grams of ginger in mirin for a a friend's family as well as my own. That type of workload on a regular basis often expedites some type of sharpening. I tend to cook in bulk and do it quite often- any excuse to sharpen really; its bloody relaxing.
 

JohnnyChance

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You don't have to feel for a burr whenever you sharpen. On most of my knives I sharpen by muscle memory and I don't check for a burr, but I just know what angles their bevels already are. I do check after each stone by slicing through paper, for any spots where it hangs. Then I deburr on a felt strop and check again. When I sharpen someone else's knife or am changing bevel angles or something I check for a burr.

Well if you have a cheap knife you can sharpen, sharpen it on one side one your lowest grit stone. Once a burr has formed, the bevel you are grinding on has met the bevel on the other side. To check for a burr, hold the knife with side you were not just sharpening on upwards, and then rub your thumb across the edge. Not tip to heel, but from the spine across the width of the blade and off the edge. You dont have to start at the spine obviously, I hold my thumb right on the edge at a 45 degree angle or so and just rub off the edge. If there is a burr there, you will feel it. You can easily feel the little curl of metal coming off your new bevel and going "around the corner" to the other non sharpened bevel side. Try the side you just sharpened, your thumb should glide off no problem. I said a cheap knife and a low grit stone because that will create the biggest burr and be the easiest to feel. The finer the grit stone the smaller the burr and the harder to detect.
 

ceramic

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You don't have to feel for a burr whenever you sharpen. On most of my knives I sharpen by muscle memory and I don't check for a burr, but I just know what angles their bevels already are. I do check after each stone by slicing through paper, for any spots where it hangs. Then I deburr on a felt strop and check again. When I sharpen someone else's knife or am changing bevel angles or something I check for a burr.

Well if you have a cheap knife you can sharpen, sharpen it on one side one your lowest grit stone. Once a burr has formed, the bevel you are grinding on has met the bevel on the other side. To check for a burr, hold the knife with side you were not just sharpening on upwards, and then rub your thumb across the edge. Not tip to heel, but from the spine across the width of the blade and off the edge. You dont have to start at the spine obviously, I hold my thumb right on the edge at a 45 degree angle or so and just rub off the edge. If there is a burr there, you will feel it. You can easily feel the little curl of metal coming off your new bevel and going "around the corner" to the other non sharpened bevel side. Try the side you just sharpened, your thumb should glide off no problem. I said a cheap knife and a low grit stone because that will create the biggest burr and be the easiest to feel. The finer the grit stone the smaller the burr and the harder to detect.
I have a grin ear to ear after reading this, thanks so much for the tip. I'm very excited to try this out on Friday or over the weekend and will definitely let you know how it goes. I'd do it today but am too bogged down with work to concentrate and give it the trial justice- I also have just the knife for it. A basic stainless steel blade I've had for... 9 years or so. It could never really hold an edge, too soft-will see how we go with it.

MANY THANKS!
 

tk59

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Why wouldn't you be able to abrade the wire edge with the burr still on?
 

Dave Martell

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Why wouldn't you be able to abrade the wire edge with the burr still on?

You can from the side but the actual cutting edge of the wire never gets touched completely until the burrs are gone. If you remove the burrs early in the sharpening process the edge retention will be increased because the wire will be significantly reduced by the end of the sharpening progression/process.
 

mikemac

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...A burr is the product of imperfect sharpening, among other things. ...
Imperfect because you've raised a burr? Or imperfect because you haven't removed the burr?
 

tk59

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Imperfect because you've raised a burr? Or imperfect because you haven't removed the burr?
I was using Dave's definition of little bits of metal hanging off your edge. I'm just saying that if you're careful to hit your entired edge gently at the angle of your bevel, the burr pretty much comes off without any additional de-burring steps. You have to raise a burr to remove the damaged metal with any semblance of efficiency. You aren't suggesting I've been Schwartzified, are you? That's offensive...:mad3:
 

stereo.pete

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I have been sharpening in a style that is essentially "monkey see, monkey do". In this I manage to somehow get a nice sharp edge but I have no feel for the burr itself.

In essence I've resigned to being burr blind as people are colour blind, or can I be shown the light??
I had a hard time feeling the burr when I was starting out but I have recently found that I can feel it. Take your index finger and thumb and pinch the back of the knife (near the spine) and slowly draw your fingers towards the edge. You should feel something grab either your index finger or thumb depending on what side the burr is on. If you do not feel a burr at this point you probably have not created one. Keep in mind that I typically start with a 1k stone, which makes for an easy to feel burr and then I deburr on a felt block after that stone. My next stone is a 5k stone, which creates a much more subtle burr that is harder to feel. The coarser the stone, the bigger the burr in my experience, however I have only been sharpening for about a year now so I am no expert like many here.

If you cannot feel a burr at all on any stone you probably are not sharpening the edge but rather right above the edge so you may want to raise your angle a tad bit.
 

karloevaristo

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I read this at CKTG. It's the description for the DT ITK... "You will also find much better sharpening properties since AEB-L is less prone to produce wire edges that are so common when you sharpen most high end Japanese kitchen knives."

Does this mean that it would also depend on the type of steel? Are other steels more prone to develop a wire edge/burr than others?
 

Lefty

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Sometimes the edge of your nail can detect a snag from a burr when your tips cannot. I use the "corner" of my nail on finer grits.
I really like johnnychance's tip, because once you've felt a burr, you'll know it, and be able to pick them out almost all the time!
 

Lefty

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If you cannot feel a burr at all on any stone you probably are not sharpening the edge but rather right above the edge so you may want to raise your angle a tad bit.
This is also a really good piece of advice, but don't go too steep! The sharpee trick solves this problem really well.
 

mikemac

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....You aren't suggesting I've been Schwartzified, are you? That's offensive...:mad3:
Thats exactly what I was thinking....but I didn't want to diaparage you, so thought best to ask for clarification....:D
 

Dave Martell

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I read this at CKTG. It's the description for the DT ITK... "You will also find much better sharpening properties since AEB-L is less prone to produce wire edges that are so common when you sharpen most high end Japanese kitchen knives."
I would rather it state something like, "AEB-L, if heat treated by someone proficient (like Devin Thomas), is less prone to producing wire edges....."



Does this mean that it would also depend on the type of steel? Are other steels more prone to develop a wire edge/burr than others?
Yes it's probably true, sure feels like it sometimes but again it's not only the steel's properties but what the heat treater does with it that makes a difference.
 

karloevaristo

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For example, I generally can see and feel a bit of burr remaining after a 1k stone. I switch to a 5k stone and within a few passes, I generally have nearly no burr, as observed under 40X magnification. With a few passes on any 8k, I am pretty much burr-less.
I get the same thing... For quite some time I always thought that you should always have to feel a burr before you move up to a finer grit... ha! Nice to know I'm doing something right!

Question though, tk59: so you don't deburr at all before moving up to a higher grit?
 

tk59

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I get the same thing... For quite some time I always thought that you should always have to feel a burr before you move up to a finer grit... ha! Nice to know I'm doing something right!

Question though, tk59: so you don't deburr at all before moving up to a higher grit?
I do not perform an extra deburring step before going up in grit, in general. The trick for me has been to figure out how to decide to move to the next stone. For me, it's once the edge has been "improved" to my liking. I'll basically make a few passes on a stone and then evaluate. If the edge is a lot sharper than the previous stone, then I move on but it is a totally arbitrary decision based on experience. If the burr isn't coming off, I'll make a few more passes but 95+% of the burr pretty much always comes off by the time I'm done with the 5k.

With regard to wire edges, I definitely have more trouble with some steels over others. The A-type for example always takes a few extra strokes and most stainless takes a little extra. Dave may be correct on the early burr removal. I don't know. I've blind-tested different sharpening methods on other people including a couple of pros. They can't seem to tell a difference. However, I think it's really up to you and what works for you. Try both and let us know if you can tell the difference. I'd be interested. Better yet, do your own blind testing on someone else. :devilburn:
 

JohnnyChance

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Blindfolding someone and making them handle knives doesnt sound like the safest idea Tinh!
 

tk59

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Blindfolding someone and making them handle knives doesnt sound like the safest idea Tinh!
Yeah, maybe I should rephrase, lol. Sharpen someone else's knife maybe four or five different times, randomly switching and don't tell them if you deburred early or late and see if they can tell the difference.
 
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