Hand Tools Archive

Re: The fine ones aren't too bad...

david weaver
I think the sharpening is either not done properly or it's incomplete.

I still have two of the shapton stones. I can't say that i use them because I just like the way washita and suita (could write a song about them) feel, and if necessary, stepping up to finer with another natural feels nicer than going to synthetic stones.

But I have to admit that with the 1 micron diamonds, when I did this last test and moved the diamonds from cast substrate to wood and spent the time actually making sure there were no defects on the edge, the diamonds did as well or better, and the shaving reflected a more uniform edge. That wears off pretty quickly.

The real trick with diamonds would be to put them into a substrate that's as gentle on the edge as an arkansas stone. For practical non-finish work, I didn't find the small flaws that the cast introduces (any contaminants that settle on the surface take a tiny nick out, understandably so) to amount to much trouble, they generally actually wore off of the steel.

Point being, if you had the shapton stones and liked the way they feel, you would have no problem getting a good stable edge out of them. Even most razors tolerate them well at 16-18 degrees. The problem at those events is that the people involved don't know how to assess whether or not their sharpening method is good because they're not you and they're not finish planing. If you come up with any shortcoming, you will address it immediately because it will bring your work to a halt.

I'm fairly sure 1 micron diamonds last longer on all of the blades that I sharpen, but I am so comfortable with the washita that I have (a little finer than the typical) that I know I can get a uniform edge with it every time, and I know contaminants are very easy to get off of it if they ever get on it. I don't know what level of coarseness diamonds become detrimental to a finished edge typically, but I'm sure it could be found. I've had many irons that tolerate a 10 micron diamond then polished by a finish stone of finish diamonds, but some that just won't.

When I find a defect on an iron and look under a microscope, there is usually some other evidence with it - like unrefined scratches that terminate into the defect (deep scratch yields to the edge next to the scratch also failing). When I did this test and forced myself to get a photo perfect edge, the bad behavior disappeared.

I do think carbon steel is the best at weathering small things in wood that cause defects, but the beech didn't result in many of them on any of the irons that I tested.

There is also a level of touch and control with natural stones that, in my opinion, is lost when abrasives are judged by speed. We can bias the edge finishing toward the edge of the iron a little bit with a natural stone, finish the edge and do very little changing of geometry. The race toward fast fine stones results in more work at the next sharpening, in my opinion.

At any rate, I have confidence that it would take you, at your skill level, less than a week to achieve perfection with shapton stones. It would be culture shock and first, and there's no real reason to do it, and they still aren't (in my opinion) any good for gouges, etc, so there's no practical reason for a shift. If anyone else is using shaptons and pondering a move to other stones to address quality issues, I'd imagine they have about a 2 in 100 chance of the issue being the stones, with the rest being technique or bad steel.

I have probably sold about a dozen bad razors. Unlike most sellers, I list them as bad and tell why. I expect a good razor to take an edge off of anything remotely close to ideal, and then keep it on linen and leather, and improve on both. When a razor only works by adding a layer of tape or two layers on the spine, I consider it supbar and the only option is to sell it at a huge discount (half or a quarter of the price). Almost every single time, I get "ha ha" messages from the buyers "jokes on you, i got it to sharpen fine". I'm guessing that I'm at a fraction of your level as far as sensibilities go, but the typical user of anything (knives, razors, tools, etc) is at a level way below because they don't think this kind of thing is interesting. Those buyers who think they've pulled one over on me will find limitations that I honestly disclosed, but I don't expect they'll ever admit it.

I could go on at length with sharpening things and why I think it's lie nielsen and their use of guides, etc, but I already get a lot of negative feedback and I like LN as a company. The things that they don't know well enough are a product of their audience, and maybe some internal advice.

(even the issues with cast are solvable - break the plate in, diligently wipe the surface of the plate off every time you're in the shop, even if it was covered - just to avoid the issues, and finish with a light touch. Stones are a lot more forgiving for that, and diamond on wood - which wastes diamonds - helps to alleviate some of the extreme sensitivity to contaminants. The tiny ones that make super tiny lines just get pushed into the wood instead of remaining on the surface taking tiny bites of the edge each time the iron rolls past them. )

© 1998 - 2017 by Ellis Walentine. All rights reserved.
No parts of this web site may be reproduced in any form or by
any means without the written permission of the publisher.