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Thread: How fine do *you* sharpen?

  1. #1

    How fine do *you* sharpen?

    After reading the many informative responses in the other sharpening thread currently going on, I'm curious: What fineness of stone/film/grit do you sharpen to? I usually go to DMT extra-extra-fine (3 micron/8000 grit), unless it's a roughing plane like my scrub, in which case I might stop at extra-fine. I'm generally happy with the performance of my tools at the 3 micron level, so I'm curious whether people who go beyond that notice a difference in performance.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
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    Depends on the tool and what it needs to do.

    I generally use the following media:

    Diamond stones, #150-#600 or a coarse, friable hardware store stone for repairing or reprofiling tools.

    A fine India or other Aluminium Oxide stone, for lighter repair and grinding work, or for really dull tools (I like the prefilled Norton India stones and highly recommend them as a basic all around beginner stone. The fine India is a good all around stone, quick cutting, stays fairly flat, and leaves an edge that is, while a tad coarse and in need of refinement, serviceable and easily refined on a strop or natural stone)

    Natural Oilstones: (True / Vintage) Washita, Soft Arkansas, Hard (not true hard) Arkansas, and Black / Transluscent / True Hard.
    In particular, I have a little blue black, semi transluscent arkansas stone that gives an insanely good edge which I absolutely love. Got it used on Ebay, no idea of the maker. I use it for razors as well as tools, and it gives me a more comfortable shave than any other sharpening media that I've tried.
    The Vintage Pike Washita, and the (not true) Hard Arkansas are my second favorites.

    For a lot of work, the Hard Arkansas (a little finer than a soft) is a good all around stone -- just coarse enough to remove the scratches from a coarser stone or resharpen an edge that is dull but not chipped, but just fine enough to leave a satisfactory edge for most planing and chiseling tasks, and certainly for any pocket or kitchen knife.

    If a tool is slightly dull, I go straight to the Hard Arkansas or the Washita, strop it slightly on bare leather, and end with that. One stone.

    If there's some damage or chipping I may go to the India or even Diamond plate, depending how bad it is, and will then go to the Hard Arkansas.

    If I need a really fine edge, I'll go to a black, or that awesome blue black that I mentioned.

    If I know I'm going to a finer stone like a Black Arkansas, I may refreshen the blade on a Soft Arkansas instead of the Hard, as it's just ever so slightly coarser and quicker, but it depends on the steel.

    Different steels behave differently on different stones. On some of my Japanese tools, even a Soft Ark gives a really fine edge, yet is still just fast enough to do the job quickly, provided the edge isn't too far gone. If I'm doing rough work, I may not go any further than this.

    Three more things I'm playing with, but aren't my go to are:

    Jnats, particularly a Binsui and some cheap, common green colored natural finishing stone just sold as "Tennen Koppa"
    I love the Binsui, but want a better finisher. Maybe I'll try a Kiita or Suita.
    Also, a Kanaban and loose silicon carbide grit for flattening the backs of Japanese chisels, flattening oilstones, and intense bevel work / repair, all of which are activitiies that have completely destroyed many of my diamond plates. Diamond plates have a real issue with durability, and once the grit is worn off or worn down, which is surprisingly easy to do, they're of no more use.

    Jnats are just a fun fascination for me right now, and not my go to, though. I still like my Arks... Mainly because I don't have the money to sink into really nice Jnats, and because my Arks work just fine as they are.

    In the past I've tried synthetic waterstones, which I didn't like for a few reasons: they dish really quickly and require constant flattening, they're way messier than oilstones or diamond, and they often (depending on the stone) require soaking before use. There's also the need (sort of) for a sink. All of these things make them really a chore to use, and I don't like the feel and feedback of them so much, at least not the King stones that I used to use. Natural stones just feel better to me, and natural waterstones are splash and go, no soaking required, and don't dish so badly. They don't require quite so much water either, I feel. Less headache all around.

    Diamond stones were my go to for a while but I got annoyed with them for a few reasons:
    1) they wear out quickly
    2) I couldn't find a liquid to float particles off of them that worked well, and didn't want to buy some specialized product to do so. Neither oil nor water work well on them.
    3) they don't "feel" good when in use
    4) they leave really deep, coarse scratch patterns, and hence a much coarser finished edge that isn't so nice as a finishing stone, and not so easy to refine on other types of stones within a progression. An india or especially a natural stone will cut much shallower scratches and leave a surface that is both much finer, and much easier to refine in a progression.

    That said, Diamond stones have a ton of advantages in that they are low maintenance (until they inevitably wear out), dead flat, can cut any steel imaginable (though they will wear out on hard steels. I ruined a few on the backs of Japanese chisels), and are just all around reliable and fool proof. It's the durability aspect more than any which caused me to move away from them and utilize them only for specialized tasks.

    Occasionally, sandpaper plays a role in coarse sharpening or flattening of stones, and I'll also occasionally make use of a loaded strop (green polishing compound), but I do less of this recently.

    Long winded answer, I guess...

    But, if I were to start over, I'd just go with a single coarse diamond stone, a combination Norton India, and a Hard Arkansas. And maybe a strop. With those three stones, you can do most sharpening that you'll ever need to, unless you get into straight razor honing... And even then you can use a loaded strop to get a shaving edge, though I prefer not to as it rounds off the edge of a razor too much for my liking.

  3. #3
    I go to a Shapton 8000 stone.

    Depending on the condition of the tool, I may shape the primary bevel on a WorkSharp with a diamond disk. I also have DMT plates from extra coarse to fine and Shapton stones of 1000, 4000 and 8000.

    For carving tools, I power hone with green compound.

    Mike
    Last edited by Mike Henderson; 10-20-2021 at 1:19 AM.
    Go into the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good.

  4. #4
    For planes and chisels, assuming they have been already prepped, back polished, and so forth, I do a hollow grind on the Tormek, freehand a secondary bevel with a 4000 grit water stone, and then hit them briefly on the leather strop wheel on the Tormek with that abrasive toothpaste that comes with it. It's a friable abrasive, so who knows what grit it ends up at.

    For touch ups, I freehand on the 4000 grit water stone for maybe 30 seconds and hit the strop again. When I get too impatient on how long it takes to redo the secondary bevel, I grind a new primary on the Tormek.

    To fix small dings, I might use a fine diamond stone, otherwise for larger ones I just regrind the primary bevel.

  5. #5
    Depends on the tool. Generally Chisels and handplanes up to 8k.

  6. #6
    Join Date
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    What fineness of stone/film/grit do you sharpen to?
    With water stones it is an 8000 Norton, 3µ.

    With Oilstones it is a somewhat grey translucent or a surgical black.

    Depending on my feeling at the time these may be followed by a hard leather strop charged with green compound.

    jtk
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2019
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    Madison, Wisconsin
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    I sharpen everything to the highest level I can; a refined edge is a more durable edge as well as being more pleasant to use. I previously sharpened only as far as I deemed necessary for a task, erroneously trying to save time. Then, a while back, Tom King pointed out to me that there’s no such thing as “too sharp” in a woodworking tool, and after testing his assertion myself I believe he’s correct. For what is now only a little extra effort I get more (and more pleasant) use out of a tool before resharpening, even though I resharpen earlier in the wear cycle than I used to. Part of this is certainly technique and part of it is the more refined edge to start.

    Depending on the steel, I go to either a Sigma Power 13k or a Dan’s hard black Arkansas stone. Depending on the tool, I then either lightly use a buffing wheel charged with Formax green compound or a piece of flat (planed) hardwood charged with Autosol as a strop. I most often use the buffer much less aggressively than for David Weaver’s “unicorn method” but I have experimented with that as well.

    I originally purchased my Arkansas stones because I wanted to have something better than diamonds and more appropriate than waterstones for my carving tools (which can quickly leave a rut in a waterstone if you’re not careful to use the full face of the stone-DAMHIKT), but as I gain more experience with them I find that I am starting to prefer oil stones for most steels.

  8. #8
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    I go to 2,500 grit....then either the strop or the cloth wheel, with the Green Compound....Single,flat bevel....first 1/2"-1" of the back is also flat. tain't Rocket Science....

    One can get a mirror polish on a butter knife...and it would STILL only cut butter.....maybe.

    I tend to keep the strop handy, for quick touch-ups....strop at one time, was a "Work Belt" I hung my Carpenter's Nail bags from....for about 6 years. Got too old to do Concrete form work..retired. Belt was "recycled" into a strop....after over 15 years of use as a strop...I might have to spend the $10 for a new belt.......someday..
    A Planer? I'm the Planer, and this is what I use

  9. #9
    As usual it depends on the tool, the sharpening angle, how it's used and on and on.
    I sharpen sufficiently for my needs, not beyond.
    A freshly sharpened cutting edge begins to wear the moment you start to use it.
    An edge that is sharpened to 10k grit will quickly dull down to the equivalent of an blade sharpened to 4k when put to use. The ultra fine razor sharp edge may be great but it doesn't last long under normal use.
    I sharpen to get my tools working sharp, not to shave hair off my arm.

  10. #10
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    Shapton 16000 followed by a few swipes on a horse butt strop charged with a scant bit of Flexcut Gold Strop Compound.
    Sharp solves all manner of problems.

  11. #11
    DMT 300 -> DMT 1000 -> strop with green compound.

    I never go back to the DMT plates unless there’s damage or I feel the need to correct my bevel.

  12. #12
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    One of my books on carving suggest if a gouge is sharp it can make a clean cut across grain.

    For a standard chisel the test is taking a clean shaving across end grain.

    For me it is usually not a problem to get to this level of sharpness.

    jtk
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

  13. #13
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    What're we doin'? Paring work or scraping a board? I'll go to 14k shapton with some of my favorite chisels and marking knife, 6k king on most planes, blue honing paddle on my turning tools(mostly), 1200 dmt on my card scrapers. XXF dmt on everything would be nice though :-)

    Someone made that argument of "that fine of an edge dulls quickly yada yada". Well those cuts while the edge holds rock, and it only takes a few strokes to get back there. When ya need it, ya need it. Paring end grain without spelching is a sweet thing.

  14. #14
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    Forgot about the turning tools… Often they are only worked up to a hard ark sometime they are used off of a much coarser abrasive.

    Years ago there was something going around about someone asking Frank Klausz about what angle he honed his chisels. His reply was that he honed them to sharp.

    jtk
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jul 2019
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    Northeast WI
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    I have a Norton double sided India stone (coarse/fine) and a leather strip with green compound.

    Most of my tools are vintage, so this is sufficient.

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