Sunday, December 15, 2013

"Soft" waterstones for kitchen knives

A soft waterstone for sharpening knives.

 I like a SUPER flat bevel on tools so that I can be sure that I am finishing right to the edge. Also, then you know what you've got as far as bevel angle goes. If my plane blade is at a 30 degree angle and is still dulling too fast..... well, then I've got issues with the steel. I can't bring the angle any higher because I will run into clearance angle interference so that pretty well means that the plane is only good for certain woods...... The key is to know your angles.

With plane blades at least, flat is best for me. I like flat chisel bevels too, but that is more out of habit than anything else. A rounded bevel can be good on a mortising chisel, for instance, to give support to an edge that sees a lot of abuse..... Most of the Japanese tataki-nomi that I see with rounded bevels have VERY short handles, though. The westerns often have NO handles, and mushroomed ferrules, haha! I still can't get used to the feeling of wailing away on a chisel, using steel hammers no less!

I'm going off on a different track here, but one thing that I would like to write about, in the future, is how old tools have been altered by their previous owners. I have been joyously reading Stephen Shepherd's "Full Chisel" blog....

MANY years of wisdom here, both in terms of his experience working with period tools AND multiple years of blog postings. Great stuff! A recurring theme is the knowledge of those who came before. They did that stuff for a reason, you know. Wisdom of the ancients and all that, but also that the last guy to sharpen the tool........ he might have used that thing every day for 20 years. Maybe the bevel is set at 35 degrees because at 25 it won't hold. Do you REALLY think that you know more than he did, based on some generic "rule" that you read in some expensive magazine? Just sayin'...... maybe try it as it is for a while, then MAYBE change it. I would save a lot of time if I followed this advice.

On yeah, wisdom of the ancients. Finishing stone lore. Soft steel, hard stone. Hard steel, soft stone. Kitchen knives=hard steel=soft stone. This is algebra that I can understand.

Soft Akapin waterstone.

4 sides skin, lightly  varnished.

Test subjects, a small laminated kitchen knife and my favorite chisel. The chisel is to test for any unacceptable tendency to dish and to gauge the abrasive qualities ie: size, durability, consistency and slurry formation.

Pretty even water absorption.

8000'ish hazy finish.

This stone was soft enough to scratch with my fingernail, so I assumed that it would be ridiculously prone to dishing, but this was not the case. It firmed up and ended up being about as soft as my 5000 rika. Pink/brown slurry formed very quickly, turned black with iron particles, then just as quickly turned brown. VERY smooth, it feels like sharpening on a piece of velvet. Don't let your edges drag or you'll get gouges.

Time for the real deal. Baseline is synthetic 1000 king, 3000 suehiro rika, 5000 suehiro rika.

Easy as can be, the slurry cushions the action and lets the blade float, but keeps it from digging in. Tolerably fast, too. Jumping from a 5000 synthetic to this is a bit much. I would use an intermediate, maybe my jyunsyou.

This knife even has layered jigane, not ren-tetsu, but definitely layers. Old 1940's iron. The stone really brought out the definition between metals. The stone makes too much slurry to leave a mirrored finish, but it does leave a VERY fine hazy surface. Soothing, not harsh. 

Synthetic. Notice the lack of definition.

Smooth, hazy mirror. Nice.

Hopefully the next stone works as well. It WILL need a bit of work.....

Amazing what people will buy....


  1. Do you use these tools to build things? Or are you just wearing them out with your continual sharpening experiments?

    Thanks, Jeff :-) from Whitfish lol

    1. Jeff!! My oldest friend!! So good to hear from you!

      I'm not sure at what point the sharpening ceases to be a means to an end...... Whatever that is, I seem to have reached that point some time ago! For me personally, I first used a TRULY sharp tool only a year ago and though to be honest I was probably whacked out from chemo drugs, it made a profound impression on me. Sharp tools make easy work, if only I had figured this out years ago.... From that point on, it has been a game for me, to see just HOW sharp I can make the edges. It is a very zen-sense thought of pursuing an unattainable goal. Also, engaging in the first person, excruciatingly boring for everyone else, haha!

      For point of reference, this guy is my hero.....

      Give me a call some afternoon!



Like all of us, I am figuring this out as I go, so when you see something that is incorrect or flat out wrong (and you will!), let me know. This is a learning process. Real people and names, please. Constructive comments and questions are very welcome, but hate speak/politics are not! Life (get one!) is too short.

Thanks, Jason