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Koop

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I'm just beginning - although I've sharpened my own knives since the 1980s, mostly hunting knives or pocket knives. But I started out with a Lansky system and used it for a few decades. About four years ago I switched to the Spyderco Sharpmaker 204. I have a small collection of Spyderco knives that I keep sharp.

Recently I discovered Japanese kitchen knives and I'm now on another journey. After buying a few knives, I ordered a Suehiro combination stone to try my hand at freehand sharpening. I didn't want to spend a lot of money on stones to start, so I thought a 1000 - 3000 would be good beginning.

I watched Jon Broida's videos and practiced on an old Henckels utility knife. This morning I spent some time on a SS santoku my wife abused a bit, then cleaned up the edge on my new Misono honesuki carbon steel which I previously used on one chicken. I wasn't entirely satisfied the OOTB sharpness of the Misono, but the polished edge sure looked impressive.

I took my time and it was a very satisfying experience. After the stones, I stropped with a couple of swipes on a leather strop loaded with green chromium oxide. They easily pass the paper test. Now I need to cut another chicken to see if I actually improved the performance of the Misono honesuki. I can see this as a therapeutic and addictive activity!

I flattened the stones when I finished. I was surprised - the stones still looked flat but with penciled grid lines I saw the 1000 had low spots after three knives. Enough of my rambling.
 

Benuser

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Have fun! All Misonos come with a weak, overly convexed and polished factory edge due to heavy buffering. Best get rid of it ASAP.
 

HumbleHomeCook

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Good for you Koop!

Although I've been free handing for a long time, I'm also on the beginning steps of my water stone and Japanese knife journey.

Never stop learning and accept the inevitable set backs as feedback toward being successful.
 
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KingShapton

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After the stones, I stropped with a couple of swipes on a leather strop loaded with green chromium oxide. They easily pass the paper test.
Keep practicing. Master the 1000. With patience and regular practice, a knife sharpened by you can shave arm hair after the 1000 and it easily passes the paper test.

It's really just a matter of patience, exercise, and muscle memory. And most importantly, have fun with your progress!
 

Kentos

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I’m getting into it myself, but just winged it when it came to sharpening angles. I just cut some wedges to give me a reference point for a 20 and 15 degree angle and realized I have been going way to low.
 

Benuser

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I’m getting into it myself, but just winged it when it came to sharpening angles. I just cut some wedges to give me a reference point for a 20 and 15 degree angle and realized I have been going way to low.
Not so sure. Common values are between 25 and 35° inclusive for the secundary edge, e.g. the right side ending at 12° and the left side having a narrow straight bevel of 18°.
If the area behind the edge is thin enough, sharpening a right side at 10 or 12° won't make any difference in the kitchen. As far as edge retention is concerned, or easy deburring, the difference may though be relevant.
 

HumbleHomeCook

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I’m getting into it myself, but just winged it when it came to sharpening angles. I just cut some wedges to give me a reference point for a 20 and 15 degree angle and realized I have been going way to low.
If you want to follow the original grind, mark the bevel with a red Sharpie. If you're removing it from the shoulder but not the apex, you're too low and vice versa. There will be some variation as that i just your hand vs. however it was originally ground.

Now, that original grind might be gone now but if your edge can hold up at whatever angle you have it at, then you can use the marker from here on out.
 

Kentos

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Not so sure. Common values are between 25 and 35° inclusive for the secundary edge, e.g. the right side ending at 12° and the left side having a narrow straight bevel of 18°.
If the area behind the edge is thin enough, sharpening a right side at 10 or 12° won't make any difference in the kitchen. As far as edge retention is concerned, or easy deburring, the difference may though be relevant.
Ah so when people refer to a 20 degree bevel you are sharpening each side at 10? If so I need to make new wedges lol.
 

cotedupy

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I'm just beginning - although I've sharpened my own knives since the 1980s, mostly hunting knives or pocket knives. But I started out with a Lansky system and used it for a few decades. About four years ago I switched to the Spyderco Sharpmaker 204. I have a small collection of Spyderco knives that I keep sharp.

Recently I discovered Japanese kitchen knives and I'm now on another journey. After buying a few knives, I ordered a Suehiro combination stone to try my hand at freehand sharpening. I didn't want to spend a lot of money on stones to start, so I thought a 1000 - 3000 would be good beginning.

I watched Jon Broida's videos and practiced on an old Henckels utility knife. This morning I spent some time on a SS santoku my wife abused a bit, then cleaned up the edge on my new Misono honesuki carbon steel which I previously used on one chicken. I wasn't entirely satisfied the OOTB sharpness of the Misono, but the polished edge sure looked impressive.

I took my time and it was a very satisfying experience. After the stones, I stropped with a couple of swipes on a leather strop loaded with green chromium oxide. They easily pass the paper test. Now I need to cut another chicken to see if I actually improved the performance of the Misono honesuki. I can see this as a therapeutic and addictive activity!

I flattened the stones when I finished. I was surprised - the stones still looked flat but with penciled grid lines I saw the 1000 had low spots after three knives. Enough of my rambling.
I learned on a Suehiro 1/3k as well, and still like it a lot, and use a fair bit. Gave me a very good grounding I think, and sounds like it has you too :)
 

Benuser

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Ah so when people refer to a 20 degree bevel you are sharpening each side at 10? If so I need to make new wedges lol.
Depends. With an Victorinox, 20° probably means 20° per side, often abbreviated as 'dps'. With a very advanced steel type, it could mean 10° per side. Better say then 20° inclusive.
 

inferno

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too be honest degrees dont make much sense when sharpening on stones. with guided sharpeners where you can set the degrees it of course does.

i usually just go either low, medium or high angle, depending on what steel and intended use. no need to get to exactly 20 degrees or 25..

lower angles for fine grained steel, tough steel, stronger/harder steel, and general light duty use. of course steel can be fine grained and hard/strong and still not handle low angles because its too brittle, too low ductility and toughness.

higher angles for when the knife chips out overly quick on the low angle :)
and coarser steel like most ingot ss, softer/weaker ss, softer carbon, heavy duty use, and regular abuse. i often pair this with lower grit stones.

this is not exactly rocket science or even science at all. you just try it out and see what works.
 

cotedupy

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What @inferno said ^

Surely nobody actually measures the precise angle they're sharpening at...? You just eyeball it, and then adjust after a pass or two if needs be, and depending on what you want. It's very easy to tell as soon as you put it on a stone (even for a relative novice like myself!)
 

Kentos

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What @inferno said ^

Surely nobody actually measures the precise angle they're sharpening at...? You just eyeball it, and then adjust after a pass or two if needs be, and depending on what you want. It's very easy to tell as soon as you put it on a stone (even for a relative novice like myself!)
Yep I get that, even though up until 2 weeks ago all my knives were done on an Edge Pro. I also shave with Kamisori so I have all the stones, nagura, etc., but despite all that no real sense of what a low, medium, or higher angle is.
So I need at least a reference for a starting point. And “2 ten yen coins” behind the spine is kinda vague depending on knife height etc. My smallest 10 degree wedge should begood enough for more than/less than I guess.
 

inferno

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the sharpmaker is 30 and 40 degrees total. thats like medium and high angles for a kitchen knife imo. and i think 20-25 and below total is a low angle.
a typical straight razor is around 16-17deg

lots of interesting things to see here Index

Cross-section measurements of a conventional straight razor, honed to a 16k whetstone, prior to stropping. The edge width is on the order of 100nm, less keen than the Feather Super Pro; however, the width at 3 microns is only 1.05 microns, significantly Sharper than the Feather blade.
 

Benuser

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A wedge can be helpful, as a reference, especially when dealing with an unknown knife. After a while you will hardly use it any longer.
Make sure to reach the very edge. Use the marker trick and a loupe to verify. With some steels a burr appears before the very edge has even been touched. And it helps not to overlook microbevels.
Knifes who have been sharpened with an Edge Pro will need some effort before working properly again. Think removing the shoulders and further thinning behind the edge. More in general, restoring a decent, often asymmetric, geometry.
Have seen a lot of knives sharpened with jig-systems. Fabulous edges, poor cutters.
 

Kentos

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A wedge can be helpful, as a reference, especially when dealing with an unknown knife. After a while you will hardly use it any longer.
Make sure to reach the very edge. Use the marker trick and a loupe to verify. With some steels a burr appears before the very edge has even been touched. And it helps not to overlook microbevels.
Knifes who have been sharpened with an Edge Pro will need some effort before working properly again. Think removing the shoulders and further thinning behind the edge. More in general, restoring a decent, often asymmetric, geometry.
Have seen a lot of knives sharpened with jig-systems. Fabulous edges, poor cutters.
You are on the money with the edge pro bevels. Not knowing any better and just going at it all my knives are pretty thick. Edges are razor sharp but don’t too well on anything but green onions and meat.
 

Koop

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Yes Inferno - Sharpmaker is 30 or 40 degrees inclusive. Sal likes thinning at 30 degrees for the primary bevel (he calls it "Back Bevel") on his knives with a 40 degree "micro-bevel" he calls the "Edge bevel."
 

cotedupy

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Yep I get that, even though up until 2 weeks ago all my knives were done on an Edge Pro. I also shave with Kamisori so I have all the stones, nagura, etc., but despite all that no real sense of what a low, medium, or higher angle is.
So I need at least a reference for a starting point. And “2 ten yen coins” behind the spine is kinda vague depending on knife height etc. My smallest 10 degree wedge should begood enough for more than/less than I guess.
Fair enough! That thing about coins has always struck me as rather silly too. (I didn't mean to sound critical btw, it's just what worked for me when I started).

The fact that you already sharpen razors and other things might actually make Japanese kitchen knives more tricky, as they're different; I know I find sharpening pocket and hunting knives for people a pain. And actually now that I think about it - it's the angles and grinds that I can't get my head around.
 

Kentos

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Fair enough! That thing about coins has always struck me as rather silly too. (I didn't mean to sound critical btw, it's just what worked for me when I started).

The fact that you already sharpen razors and other things might actually make Japanese kitchen knives more tricky, as they're different; I know I find sharpening pocket and hunting knives for people a pain. And actually now that I think about it - it's the angles and grinds that I can't get my head around.
I spent a long time trying to figure out straights so I didn’t have the stomach to try and figure out knives lol. That’s why I went with the no fuss no muss mechanical sharpening route. It’s been several years now and I’m ready for a new challenge :).
 

cotedupy

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I spent a long time trying to figure out straights so I didn’t have the stomach to try and figure out knives lol. That’s why I went with the no fuss no muss mechanical sharpening route. It’s been several years now and I’m ready for a new challenge :).
And tbh it sounds like you've done very well on your first outing... like you - I actually rather like sharpening, which makes getting better at it quite enjoyable. I'm a very long way from being anything like as good as a lot of people here, but the learning curve is fun :)

The Suehiro combi I learned on was great. And still one of my favourite stones (somewhat beaten up now, but still great).

Also - if you can get your beaten-up SS knife to a good level, then non beaten-up carbon will be a breeze!
 
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DavidPF

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this is not ... even science at all. you just try it out and see what works.
Just trying it out and seeing what works - while explaining the method you tried so that anyone else can try it the same way - is a good enough definition of science, certainly for sharpening knives and also most of the rest of the time.

Non-science basically comes down to either blindly following some wrong instructions, or not wanting to admit that evidence is evidence. (which in the end are both kind of the same thing)

But I get that you didn't need to read any special books to do what you did - you didn't need someone else's evidence, because there was enough evidence right in front of you and you were pretty sure you could come up with a good way to deal with it.
 

DavidPF

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(The other non-science is to just act for no reason, having no goal and taking no notice of the results. But as soon as you have a goal and a method - even a bad method at first - then as long as you're willing to learn from your mistakes and trust the evidence, you're a scientist again.)
 

JaVa

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If you're interested in maintaining the original angle. One trick you can do to find it is, and some might judge this, but anyway...
Slowly and very gently without any pressure slide your knife with edge forward on the stone in lower angle then you estimate the original angle to be. At the same time slowly and gently start raising that angle. When the edge starts to resist or slightly grab the stone, just lower the angle ever so slightly until grabbing and resisting stops. Then just go to town. (Remember to raise the angle a little when you get close to the tip.)

Yes if you're not careful you might slice a small piece from the stone or micro chip the edge or something else ungodly damage might happen. I think? Not sure since as I've done it several times and been careful, nothing bad ever happened and worked great.
But proceed at your own peril.
 
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HumbleHomeCook

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My advice to anyone starting out, or even for veterans with a new knife (I still do it), is to not worry about what the exact angle is. Whether it is 15dps or 20dps, right now, makes no difference.

Mark the edge bevel with a marker.

If possible, start on a higher grit stone so you're not removing a lot metal. This is just an exploration phase. Do two or three swipes and then study where the marker was removed. Adjust accordingly, repeat. When you've removed it all. Paint it again, and do it again. The second round is to ensure consistency. In the first round you might have been moving all over the place by the time it was all removed, so do it again. It won't take long.

Raise a burr and then do all that again on the other side. Then some very light edge leading single passes on each side and then a couple edge trailing.

How's your edge?

When you feel like you can hold a good consistent angle, regardless of what that angle is, then you can repeat the entire process on a lower grit stone (now or on the next sharpening). This will grind the edge in to your little, unique human quirks.

Use the marker every time you move up in grit. Lean on the marker. If you're new, this is a great visual aid to help you start judging the appropriate angle right off the bat. If you're a veteran, it will inform you about this new knife's edge.

Heck, use the marker for the rest of your sharpening days if you want to. No shame in that.
 

mpier

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If you're interested in maintaining the original angle. One trick you can do to find it is, and some might judge this, but anyway...
Slowly and very gently without any pressure slide your knife with edge forward on the stone in lower angle then you estimate the original angle to be. At the same time slowly and gently start raising that angle. When the edge starts to resist or slightly grab the stone, just lower the angle ever so slightly until grabbing and resisting stops. Then just go to town. (Remember to raise the angle a little when you get close to the tip.)

Yes if you're not careful you might slice a small piece from the stone or micro chip the edge or something else ungodly damage might happen. I think? Not sure since as I've done it several times and been careful, nothing bad ever happened and worked great.
But proceed at your own peril.
I generally do the same technique just on a cutting board to find the angle, less chance of damage to knife or stone, I use the sharpie method as well but when I’ve got a lot of knives to sharpen it just speeds the process up a notch
 

DavidPF

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Surely nobody actually measures the precise angle they're sharpening at...? You just eyeball it, and then adjust after a pass or two if needs be, and depending on what you want.
What you said is great when you already basically know what you're after; the first few times, having something to compare with, to assure me that I'm making a halfway reasonable guess and not a really stupid one, is probably going to be helpful.

I have "a good ear" that allows me to notice things in music that some people don't notice. (Nothing remarkable, just better than average.) However, I don't have "a good eye" - I'm going to need to cheat on that part. And just like with the marker trick, I'm going to cheat shamelessly. :)

Everyone learns from experience, which is obviously what you were describing. But since I have zero experience, and AFAIK little experience that even relates obliquely, I have nowhere to start from. Starting from a fake example can be helpful, even if we all agree it's not the best method for the future.
 
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cotedupy

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What you said is great when you already basically know what you're after; the first few times, having something to compare with, to assure me that I'm making a halfway reasonable guess and not a really stupid one, is probably going to be helpful.

I have "a good ear" that allows me to notice things in music that some people don't notice. (Nothing remarkable, just better than average.) However, I don't have "a good eye" - I'm going to need to cheat on that part. And just like with the marker trick, I'm going to cheat shamelessly. :)

Everyone learns from experience, which is obviously what you were describing. But since I have zero experience, and AFAIK little experience that even relates obliquely, I have nowhere to start from. Starting from a fake example can be helpful, even if we all agree it's not the best method for the future.
Yes, sorry - I didn't mean to be critical of people asking for advice! I've received a huge amount of expert advice on all sorts of different things here, including sharpening.

I was more that I personally didn't get overly worried about precise angles. One thing obviously is - when you're sharpening you have a bird's eye view so you can't see the angle anyway. I found it far easier to learn by feel, even right at the beginning. If you're angle is too low and you're sharpening behind the edge then you can feel the difference, and you should definitely be able to tell if your angle is too high when using edge-leading strokes, cos you'll stick into your stone.

I never tried it - but as you say - the sharpie trick probably helps loads on this, when you're getting an idea for that feel :)
 

Benuser

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Try the sharpie trick — with a loupe.
You may find that quite often you did not reach very edge.
 
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