Let's see some honyaki (re)finishes

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Justin0505

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After spending some time enjoying the amazing technicolor patina's that my Gesshin honyaki took, it eventually evened out into a stable, but uninteresting muttled dark grey.
SO, I decided that it was time to clean it up and test out some different methods for bringing back that sexy hamon.

Here's the patina at the pinacle of awesome:

gallery: https://plus.google.com/photos/117600618285187025883/albums/5865785231854611057?banner=pwa

...and after sandpaper, stones, mud, etching, polishing, re-etching, and lots more elbow grease:

gallery: https://picasaweb.google.com/117600618285187025883/GingaRefinish#5915450253240785138

It's certainly not "traditional" but after many hours over several days of experimentation it was the most even, detailed and dramatic display of the hamon I could manage.
I haven't cut anything with it yet, but I'll be curious to see if the patina develops as brighty over the etched steel (even though it has been highly polished an the oxide mostly removed).

So lets see what ya got! This is the most difficult, labor intensive finish I've done on any knife so far, I'm interesting to hear the process of how other folks finish honyakis and the results that they get.
 

EdipisReks

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That looks great! I'm not really willing to spend more than half an hour on a kitchen knife refinish, so my honyaki looks pretty plain.
 

CrisAnderson27

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I have seen a blade sanded through to 2000, then dipped with multiple short cycles of ferric chloride (diluted!), having the oxides rubbed off with barkeeper's friend. This builds a food friendly patina base as long as you get ALL of the oxides off. Rub THOROUGHLY if you use your hands!!...but be careful and don't lose a finger lol.

The result is a lovely microscopically iridescent (in the right light) patina, with the hamon and habuchi (transition) brought out in high contrast. The hard edge is dark, while the soft steel above is lighter.
 

Zwiefel

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Good work Justin...you mind if I borrow that for a couple? (NOTE: Unit of time not specified.)
 

Justin0505

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That looks great! I'm not really willing to spend more than half an hour on a kitchen knife refinish, so my honyaki looks pretty plain.
Yeah this was not something that I'd ever do on a regular basis. It was all about not having any knives that needed work and an urge to listen to music, drink some bourbon and knerd out of a bit.

I have seen a blade sanded through to 2000, then dipped with multiple short cycles of ferric chloride (diluted!), having the oxides rubbed off with barkeeper's friend. This builds a food friendly patina base as long as you get ALL of the oxides off. Rub THOROUGHLY if you use your hands!!...but be careful and don't lose a finger lol.

The result is a lovely microscopically iridescent (in the right light) patina, with the hamon and habuchi (transition) brought out in high contrast. The hard edge is dark, while the soft steel above is lighter.
Yeah that's basically what my process amounted too: alternating cycles of etching and polishing. The etch really seemed to help even out the polishing scratches too.
If you look at the close up, you can see the transition almost appears like a shadow. In person, it's a super cool effect: looks almost like the hamon is floating and really shows it as being IN the blade, not just on the surface.


Good work Justin...you mind if I borrow that for a couple? (NOTE: Unit of time not specified.)
I already made the offer! LMK when you've got the time... you may also need to send a pen my way.


And thanks Dave! It mean's a lot coming from you. May I ask how you handle honyakis? Do you use acid or just all abrasion / polishing?
 

Dave Martell

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And thanks Dave! It mean's a lot coming from you. May I ask how you handle honyakis? Do you use acid or just all abrasion / polishing?

I handle them as little as possible. :D

That's actually a serious answer.

But anyway I have done it similar to you with mixed results. It's such a time consuming process.
 

Zwiefel

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I already made the offer! LMK when you've got the time... you may also need to send a pen my way.
I forgot you were looking for a pen! :doublebanghead:

I think my work travel is about to settle down...I'll know by mid-week. Then I'll send you a couple of Pens to play with, I might have some cartridges for you as well.
 

JBroida

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I handle them as little as possible. :D

That's actually a serious answer.

But anyway I have done it similar to you with mixed results. It's such a time consuming process.
lol... i've got 6 honyaki knives to refinish/sharpen in the next few days... sometimes i wish i could avoid them too... especially the really messed up ones. I'm rehabing a honyaki usuba right now. Someone took it from the owner, messed it up, tried to fix it on a grinding wheel, screwed up the profile, got rid of the shinogi line and messed up the finish. Its been a few days of work so far... an hour here, an hour there. :(
 

wsfarrell

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Just had to show a pic of the most three-dimensional hamon polishing I've ever seen, from Nick Wheeler:



As others have noted above, this required a ton of work.
 

cclin

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:doublethumbsup:most beautiful hamon I ever see.....what knife is this?? care to share how to polishing hamon like that??
Just had to show a pic of the most three-dimensional hamon polishing I've ever seen, from Nick Wheeler:



As others have noted above, this required a ton of work.
 

Justin0505

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Just had to show a pic of the most three-dimensional hamon polishing I've ever seen, from Nick Wheeler:



As others have noted above, this required a ton of work.
wow that's sick. Looks like the steam from the quench is still coming off of it
 

stereo.pete

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Nick Wheeler makes some amazing bowie knives.
 

mainaman

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Salty's Misono from the pass around. I did not polish to perfection, that would take way to long for just experimenting with different polishing methods.



 

Justin0505

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Interesting. I've noticed that the hamon almost disappears when high-polished like that, but it's still very visible in your pics. What did you use?
 

CrisAnderson27

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Interesting. I've noticed that the hamon almost disappears when high-polished like that, but it's still very visible in your pics. What did you use?
I've had results like that with many, and I mean MANY etches in steaming hot lemon juice or vinegar. Particularly the lemon juice. Put a few drops of Dawn dish soap into lemon juice, and either boil or microwave it until its too hot to touch. Apply with a sponge type makeup pad, trying to keep the blade wet. Once its blackened, polish it off with high grit (either one higher, or at minimum the grit you left off on...soft backed is better, and powder abrasives even better than that)...then re-etch. When you're done...rub it out with flitz or any other high or non-abrasive metal polish. The cool thing, is in changing light its a flash of white goldish gleam. Pretty cool stuff.

I learned the majority of the basics of a high polish hamon from a gentleman named Brian VonSpeybroek. I doubt many here will know of him...but he was a pretty incredible guy who willingly shared everything he knew regarding edged steel. The greatest lesson he imparted however...was to 'jiggle the handle' as he put it. He'd share his methods...but they were constantly changing, and he felt that if you were going to be successful, yours should too :).
 

mainaman

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Justin0505

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Nice post on the process you used for the Misono and the Nick Wheeler thread. Nick is insane.
I had no idea that using some type of acid etch was so common. It makes me wonder if there's a way to do it without the etch; I sure didn't have much success until I started using an etchant.
Next time I have time that needs killed, drinks that need drank, elbow grease to burn, and a honyaki that needs messed around with, I might have to pick up some of that WA powder.
So far though it's both reassuring (that I wasn't wasting my time / struggling with something that was easy for other people) and a little disappointing that there is no "easy" way to create this finish. Maybe using a power buffer to get the the initial sand-paper scratches out?
 

CrisAnderson27

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Nice post on the process you used for the Misono and the Nick Wheeler thread. Nick is insane.
I had no idea that using some type of acid etch was so common. It makes me wonder if there's a way to do it without the etch; I sure didn't have much success until I started using an etchant.
Next time I have time that needs killed, drinks that need drank, elbow grease to burn, and a honyaki that needs messed around with, I might have to pick up some of that WA powder.
So far though it's both reassuring (that I wasn't wasting my time / struggling with something that was easy for other people) and a little disappointing that there is no "easy" way to create this finish. Maybe using a power buffer to get the the initial sand-paper scratches out?
Buffers 'smear' the grain of the steel (much like some woods), and can actually make a hamon completely disappear until you re-sand everything to open it up again.

The Japanese technically don't use etchants, but the nugui (sp?) they use is formulated, if I recall...from iron oxide (forge scale basically) and mineral oil. This produces its own type of etch. I've also read that many of the natural stones used on traditionally polished katana have an acidic component to them. Add to that the fact that stones and the loose slurry abrasive they generate open the grain to light in a completely different manner as compared to sandpapers...and you'll see that the small differences add up. In my limited experience, the Japanese see 'Western' hardening lines produced with chemical etchants as an affront lol, garish and bright and overdone. Akin to a neon sign over an Elvis on velvet painting as compared to the Mona Lisa lol.
 

Justin0505

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Buffers 'smear' the grain of the steel (much like some woods), and can actually make a hamon completely disappear until you re-sand everything to open it up again.

The Japanese technically don't use etchants, but the nugui (sp?) they use is formulated, if I recall...from iron oxide (forge scale basically) and mineral oil. This produces its own type of etch. I've also read that many of the natural stones used on traditionally polished katana have an acidic component to them. Add to that the fact that stones and the loose slurry abrasive they generate open the grain to light in a completely different manner as compared to sandpapers...and you'll see that the small differences add up. In my limited experience, the Japanese see 'Western' hardening lines produced with chemical etchants as an affront lol, garish and bright and overdone. Akin to a neon sign over an Elvis on velvet painting as compared to the Mona Lisa lol.
That's really interesting. I figured that there must be a good reason why no one uses power buffers: guess there's just no free lunch. Still it makes me want to try buffing a blade to mirror, scratchless polish with a wheel and then taking it though the cycles of etching and hand rubbing.

I never even thought about a stone's pH as having an effect on it's finish, but that makes total sense.

I'm not surprised that the Japanese traditionalists would look at an etched hammon an throw-up a little in their mouths. That's why I thought I was breaking the rules by when I did it and I was surprised to see that so many other people are doing the same.
 

mainaman

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That's really interesting. I figured that there must be a good reason why no one uses power buffers: guess there's just no free lunch. Still it makes me want to try buffing a blade to mirror, scratchless polish with a wheel and then taking it though the cycles of etching and hand rubbing.

I never even thought about a stone's pH as having an effect on it's finish, but that makes total sense.

I'm not surprised that the Japanese traditionalists would look at an etched hammon an throw-up a little in their mouths. That's why I thought I was breaking the rules by when I did it and I was surprised to see that so many other people are doing the same.
Jnats are acidic by nature, just smell the slurry as you sharpen a carbon blade and you will recognize the smell, it is similar to cutting acidic foods. This not new notion, people have done tests, and in essence the hamon comes out due to the acid in the slurry, my take on the difference from vinegar or lemon juice is the strength of the acid.
 

Justin0505

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Thinking about this more, it also explains why natural stone mud smells so good to me.
 

jklip13

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I don't believe that It is acidity in the stone that brings out the Hamon because I have never seen any oxidation of any kind on any steel while using them. The arrangement and friability of the particles in natural stones (especially Uchigumori) produce very different polishes based on the hardness of the steel and I think it is this that shows the contrast at the Hamon
 

CrisAnderson27

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I don't believe that It is acidity in the stone that brings out the Hamon because I have never seen any oxidation of any kind on any steel while using them. The arrangement and friability of the particles in natural stones (especially Uchigumori) produce very different polishes based on the hardness of the steel and I think it is this that shows the contrast at the Hamon
You're partially right, the arrangement, friability, and even shape of the particles have a huge impact on bringing out the hamon. However...traditional natural stones have been proven to be acidic (not the stone itself, but the slurry)...its not a matter of belief at all lol. I'm sure not all of them are of course...but ones used by traditional togishi in Japan, absolutely are. To go deeper into my comment than I did previously...I have a friend who was classically trained IN Japan to polish Japanese swords. He has tested the slurry from his own stones and come up with the same result. When you mix water with the chemical makeup of the stones, the result is very often acidic (I'm sure the PH of the water impacts this to a greater or lesser degree as well, but my friend tested his with distilled water). This isn't just natural stones either. I know I myself have left a blade sitting on a stone in slurry for a few minutes when answering the phone, and when I got back to it and wiped off the partially dried mixture, everything under it was dark grey/black...and that was with a simple King 1000.

Anyhow, carry on...I'm probably treading on thin ice with the mod(s) for posting on a knife related topic outside of the hobbyist area anyhow. I just wanted to make sure that it was understood that some form of acidic reaction plays a part in almost every method of polishing to bring out hamon.
 

Justin0505

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Interesting stuff Cris, thanks for explaining further. I don't think that your post is even within sight of thin ice as it has nothing to do with promoting or discussing your own work and is contributing knowledge to and under discussed topic. Plus, this thread is already in the "handy work" sub forum and not the main TKF pile.

Since the topic of stone acidity was first mentioned here, I've kept it in mind and made a few observations while sharpening. Nothing as scientific as your friend, and, in the grand scheme of things not really relevant beyond knerdy curiosity. For one, I noticed the color change of the abrasive and carbon steel slurry on my diamond plate and a white stone. Even though the diamond plate was finer grit (smaller carbon steel pieces should equal more surface area and faster reaction) than the stone, the sturry on the stone went from dark grey to black to red while in the same time the diamond plate swarth never went beyond dark grey.

To jklip13's point I don't know how much this would actually be visible during normal use or polishing where the mud is not in contact with the stone for more than a few minutes at a time, and the steel is also being constantly abraded. However, when used in the traditional polishing method where there is prolonged contact and very light abrasion, I don't think that it's far-fetched at all to think that the acidity contributes to the finish.
 

jklip13

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I am not pretending to be an expert on sword polishing but I find it very hard to believe that patina build up (or any kind of acid etching) could occur while constantly being abraded. How could oxidation from acidic stones form as its being polished? Another thing that doesn't fit with the pH theory is that tiny amounts of Lye are sometimes added to the water by sword polishers and knife sharpeners (or they use that neon green anti corrosive water). These would counteract any minor acidity in the natural stones and prevent oxidation of the steel.
 
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