Monday, June 30, 2014

Comparing two Kings, (waterstones, that is)....

Another eBay fail......"I've lost my Mojo!!"

Here's the original description.

Offered for purchase
Old Natural Very Fine White Sharpening Stone. Measuring 8 1/16" long, 2 9/16" wide, 1 1/8" thick, and this weighs 1 lb 14 oz unboxed. Not signed as to the maker. This is in decent shape, the only cleaning I did was to give it a quick wash with soap and water. There are some chips on the corners and a few small ones on the edges. There is some rust staining on the sides and a few on the top. The one face has a wee bit of a dish end to end, the other one looks fairly straight. There are a few light dings on the face but nothing too bad. This one ain't perfect but it sure is old. A decent collectible old sharpening stone for sure!

Not a bad description, compared to most of what you see on eBay. Natural, white, and old...... I was hoping for a Hindustan or maybe a Lily White Arkansas/Washita.

Not natural, white, or old. Well, it's actually pretty  white....for a sharpening stone. 

So what is this thing? 

The size is a direct match to my "King" brand Deluxe #1000 grit.

The corner shows some raised vertical lines, extrusion marks or molding imperfections.

Faint horizontal cracks, signs of shrinkage (There was shrinkage!!!). Again, sure signs of a man-made stone.

I sent the photos to the seller, but he still maintains that it is an old, natural sharpening stone. He did begrudgingly offer a refund, but I would need to open a complaint case with eBay/PayPal to get my shipping refunded...... How do you get  a 100% rating on over 11,000 tool sales, and not learn something about old sharpening stones?

Well, enough bitching.... my curiosity got the better of me, lets see what this thing will do!

What's a big Norton oilstone good for? Flattening waterstones, haha!

Actually, they work fine for the simple carbon steel used for old western tools. I support the theory that tool steel hardness matches the available sharpening technology. You can achieve an Rc-64 hardness with simple high carbon steel, but it will be brittle and you won't be able to easily sharpen it using traditional oilstones. To draw the temper down to a more realistic Rc-56/58 is practical. The blade become more tough, resilient to impact shock, and is easily sharpened. What good is a super hard tool that you can't sharpen?

My point is that it's not that they didn't know how to make hard steel blades, back in the day. To the contrary, it's that they were smart enough not to. Your average 18th century carpenter is going to be pretty pissed-off getting a blade that shatters the first time he hits a knot in the board he's planing!

Culturally, we have the unfortunate tendency to discount and discredit the knowledge of the past, assuming that "They just didn't know better". Don't get me wrong....I don't assume that everything old is better than the new stuff. I think that it is very important to study "HOW" things were done, because the "WHY" is still pertinent today. If you assume that you're the only smart guy in the room, it makes it hard to learn anything new.


Where were we? Oh yeah.....

This face I flattened completely. Underneath the old, soiled surface is an extremely smooth, ivory white (not pink, like in my crappy photo) material, most likely of an aluminum oxide composition. Some staining remains.

This big naga-dai (big-body) kanna has been sitting here for too long. This is the equivalent to a western jointer plane, like a Stanley #7.


After 15 seconds or so. 

I'm just looking at scratch patterns here, not trying to actually sharpen, OK?

The stone feels only slightly gritty/coarse, different from my King #1000 grit, smoother and moderately muddy. Fast-ish.

Now to compare it to what I do know.....

The suehiro #3000 is way finer.

The King #1000 is..... different.

I run this one so that the scratch pattern runs parallel to the edge....

.....then a few swipes on the new stone to see how the scratches compare. The white stone scratch pattern runs about 50° here, with the #1000 visible underneath and parallel to the edge.

They look about the same to my eye. The character of the scratches looks slightly different, though.

Now I do a side-by-side comparison. The red #1000 grit on the right, the white stone on the left.

While I would guess that the new white colored stone is close to a #1000 grit, the scratches have a different look to them. The red #1000 (right) shows lots of coarse marks that extend to the hard steel. The scratches from the white stone don't extend into the steel so much, indicative of a softer abrasive, perhaps?

Artificial waterstones are composed of a range of grit sizes to achieve a nominal finish number. The old-school Kings use a broad range of grit sizes because, for 80% of users, you just want something that is fast, but still inexpensive. The vast majority of users are sharpening knives, and these stones will give a good serviceable edge. Sharp, yet toothy enough for meat and soft veggies. There is also the thought that big scratches and little scratches can be beneficial arrangement, resulting in a more durable edge. Interesting, to be sure.

The white stone may have more finely graded particles but it feels faster than the red, on this relatively hard blade. One thing WAS apparent...... This white stone is much more resistant to dishing than the King Deluxe.

The King Deluxe #1000 grit was pretty dished after relatively light use, although this blade was fairly hard.

The gap measured 0.06" over 8" -or- 0.15mm over 205mm, take your pick.

This is the white stone, zoomed in to see the gap. Even though it saw much more use, the gap measured a more reasonable 0.0015" over 8" (0.038mm over 205mm). 

The amount of dishing (or lack thereof), is interesting, and I was quite surprised. This stone is rather muddy, and felt a bit like my suehiro Rika #5000, which tends to dish in use. I searched many different offerings of waterstones, and based on the size, color, and character of this stone, I'm gonna guess that it's a King Hyper #1000. The Hyper stones have a harder composition and evidently added a different diamond-like abrasive to their mix, to be more effective when sharpening hard stainless steel knives.

I can't complain too much...... The stone was cheap, and it's a decent stone, works well, all that. An old, fine, natural stone? That it ain't.

Ironic, that as I am trying to get away from the synthetic stones, they somehow keep showing up. Swimming upstream.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A pair of diamond sharpening stones for $4

Always questing for new ways to save a buck, I bought one of those inexpensive (read "cheap"!) generic diamond sharpening stones.

You can buy your own here, for the princely sum of $4.69 free shipping and all. The price on these types of products jump all over the place. I bought mine about 3 months ago, from the same vendor, and only paid $3.70 shipped. Talk about a low profit margin! 

So, what do you get for the equivalent of a decent latte? The stone measures 6" x 2", #300 grit on one side, #600 grit on the other and is actually two thin electro-plated sheets stuck to a 1/4" thick plastic spacer.

I've already used it a bit, so it's looking rather dirty already. It works just fine. As to be expected for less than $5, the quality is a bit questionable. 

It is NOT flat.

The plastic core readily deforms using a moderate amount of finger pressure. A precision tool it ain't. 

I plan to mount the diamond plates to a different substrate, if I can separate them from the plastic core without damaging them too severely.

REALLY simple! Just a little bit of heat from the heat gun caused the plastic core to bow upward...... It turns out that the sheets are just tacked on using a bit of thermoplastic adhesive.

No prying required, so no damage! When the core bowed, the diamond plate practically jumped off all on its own. In the amount of time that it took to grab the camera, the bowing had subsided a bit, but it was fairly dramatic.

The other side was just as accommodating.

So for less than $5, I've now got two surprisingly flat pieces of diamond coated steel. The plates are die-cut/sheared, so there is a touch of edge deformation, but very slight and only towards the back or uncoated side. A few swipes of a file on the back face and they're nearly perfect.

Now...... What should I mount them to?

In the meantime, I put them back to work, using them to flatten the bevel on a Japanese carpenter's hatchet. I had thought that this blade would be laminated, as so many of the Japanese tools are, but this appears to be of a solid steel construction. It grinds like a laminated blade though, sending lots of  sparks when grinding the edge, but very little when working the deeper bevel. I wiped the bevel with some vinegar looking for an obscured lamination line, but no miraculous revelations were forthcoming. I also tried phosphoric acid and ferric chloride, but no love there either.

Something about this steel REALLY tore up the diamond stones, and not just these, but two other diamond stones as well. The hatchet blade has a very hard edge, too hard to file, but still wanted to load up the stone, causing galling of both the blade AND the stones. It felt like it was dragging the diamonds off of the electroplated surface. Very annoying, and I'm glad that I didn't use my good Eze-lap stones or, god forbid, a DMT stone. This hatchet would've eaten a DMT. Expensive! 

As is clear in the photo, these plates will readily rust (I forgot them outside overnight.... Oops!),  so they should be dried after use. Or use WD-40 instead of water as the lubricant. Just to be clear, this blade was hard on my other diamond stones too, not just these ones. The picture makes them look awful, but the damage wasn't actually that bad, just a handful of scratches. 

I mounted the head of the hatchet at a slight angle, to give better knuckle clearance.

I've had hewing on the mind lately. I made an embarrassingly ugly splitting knife, to be used for making fan birds, obviously just a cheap kitchen knife reground to a single bevel. 

Break off the pointy end and mount a second handle, lash everything together, and call it good (enough). The thin blade does an excellent job of cleaving the wood fibers. With patience (and good eyesight!), a 0.25mm thickness is no trouble.

There is another cheap Chinese diamond stone that I've got my eye on......

These are a healthy 200 x 80 x 1 mm, so about 8" x 3"....Big! The same size as the Eze-lap, they have a number of different grits to choose from, and under $20 delivered. Glue it to a stable substrate and we might have something good here.  I wonder how substantial the electroplated coating is?

The Tsuboman Atoma diamond sharpening stones are a thin plate stuck to a machined aluminum substrate. Wouldn't it be nice if if we could make a home-brew version for less than $20?

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Forged carving tools and...... Sharp enough?

On Saturday some friends stopped by the house for a visit and one of their sons has been bitten by the wood carving bug.  The kid grabbed the nearest branch and got busy whittling, hard at work for nearly an hour, on making his perfect spoon. That was one of my first carving projects too, carving a spoon! Problem is, you need a knife with a properly shaped blade. Where does a kid get a good spoon carving knife?

Sunday morning I made these.

One is a curved, double edged carving knife, similar in shape to a yari-ganna (for him). The one on the bottom is a striking knife for marking layout lines (for me).

Both knives have cutting edges around 1-1/4" long. I used type O-F (Old-File) steel.

I might have to name this one "Nick".

This is the forth one of these knives that I have forged, of which two were immediately deemed too ugly to bear, and so ended up in the recycle bin. This one isn't terrible.

It has a pretty curve, but the sweep isn't dramatic enough. For carving spoons, I need to give the next knife a longer blade AND a more pronounced curve. I said the same after forging my last knife, but evidently this curve is etched in my brain, because this one turned out nearly identical to the last, haha!

The back of the blade is a bit hollow. The trick, for me at least, is getting the proper amount of curvature on the back, to support the cutting edge. The small land, in between the hollow and the edge, is what gives the knife stability. Too much flat and the knife will dive into the grain and will be hard to steer. Too little, and again, the knife will dive and be hard to steer. 

That weird, swoopy shaped, man-made aoto is coming in handy after all. The steel shows a beautiful lustre.

I actually like this stone! More later....

In use, the cut feels rather heavy. Part of that is due to poor sharpening....

...but mostly due to the bevel angle at the cutting edge.

The forged bevel angle measured at 32°.

My benchmark blade is a laminated steel Japanese craft knife.

This knife has the lightest cut of any knife that I have ever used. Nearly effortless cutting, moderate edge holding ability, and easy to sharpen, I assume that it is a simple high carbon/white paper steel.

The bevel angle of my craft knife/light saber measures at a far shallower 23°.

I gave the striking knife an extremely shallow bevel because I wanted to have a larger bevel surface to polish. This blade was clay coated prior to quenching, to temper the hardness of the steel. Mostly though, I was just trying to achieve a cool hamon effect (unsuccessfully, I might add).

It's there, just not very interesting. I like the clay quench, but need a lot more practice...... More knives!

This guy is a ridiculously low 13°!

I needed to put a 22° secondary bevel on this blade, both to stand up to use and to make a line thick enough to see.

My inspiration for spoon carving is Swedish carver Jogge Sundqvist.

Beautiful work.

Jogge Sundqvist spoon from Peter Follansbee ( humbly borrowed from his most excellent blog).

Speaking of sharpening....... How sharp is "sharp enough"?

Remember this guy? From the 5 part kanna restoration (Part 1), I have been using this kanna regularly, and though it showed early signs of edge wear, I figured that I would keep using it until it wouldn't cut any more. You need a VERY sharp edge to cut thin, but the ability to take a shaving of more practical thickness is a simple thing to achieve. That said, it's finally time to sharpen. 

This Red Cedar was pushing it.

You can see the shiny "Edge of Dullness", a bright line the full width of the blade.

 I would normally never let a blade get this dull, but this was a test, after all. This plane stayed functional for a LONG time, just not usable for the finest work. In some ways, a slightly dull blade cuts more effectively than a super sharp one. A sharp edge is temperamental, and will cause tear-out, just like a dull edge.

This still cuts pine, though. Cherry and walnut, too.

You can see how the shaving tears alternately, and goes from thick to thin. That would be caused by edge instability. The blade is alternately digging in, then popping out of the cut, signs of a VERY dull blade. Amazingly though, it will still cut!

Forging the occasional tool is a lot of fun, certainly more fun than buying something out of some catalog. Then again, for me the tools are more interesting than the projects. I need to work at the forge more.

The problem for me is that the laminated Japanese blades establish a VERY high standard, both in terms of edge durability, and the actual "sharpness" quotient. I find it very difficult to get a traditional western blade reeeeeeaaly sharp. There seems to be a point at around #2000-3000 grit where additional gains are negligible, and what little is gained is also quickly lost, generally after only a few cuts. I know that simple carbon steel can achieve and maintain a good edge, but the practice eludes me.

In my own forging, I want to work more at developing a good clay quench. Also to try a salt brine, to augment the basic oil or water quenches that I have been performing. And...... Swords. My daughter has requested a dragon sword, to be used for slaying knights! She wants it made with a nice cable Damascus, something with scales.

Someone's beautiful cable cable Damascus blade

What can I say? The kid has good taste in tools.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Sharpen the Miki hisa folding knife using the King man-made/natural waterstone

Inertia has set in big-time. I've been working on my blacksmithing (Tong forging mania!! Interesting, no?), the to-do list just gets longer, and some of my projects have been on the back burner so long that I've no idea where to begin (again!). In addition to all that, the shop is getting so packed full of stuff that it's getting hard to find room to move, yet alone get some work done. EBay, here I come! I need to work on my meager photography skills. Certainly no lack of things to do, but where to start?

I know! Let's sharpen something!

A while back, I bought a peculiar looking waterstone. You can't have too many natural waterstones (or kanna, or chisels, or odd bits of wood/rusty metal/screw's/nails/files....), right?

Odd looking, to be sure. I thought that it *might* be a Japanese natural waterstone....

.....but it's not :'( 

What I thought was a manufacturer's INK stamp (first photo), is actually an IMPRINTED stamp. Bummer!

It's a weird stone, though. The fractures are probably due to freezing, but might just be from sitting too long in the water tank. It has the feel of a stone that doesn't want to be permanently wet. The fractures *look* like something that you see associated with old aotos, showing vertical cleavage planes and a somewhat coarse structure. It doesn't have the uniform grain of most man-made waterstones. Now that it's all cleaned off, it's composition is obviously very homogeneous. Definitely man-made.

Prior to bidding, I did a fairly thorough search for artificial waterstones with similar color, size, and markings, but didn't find any matches, so I was somewhat optimistic that it would be a natural stone. Oh well. Since I already have more synthetic stones than I can use, I set the stone aside for a while. A few days ago, this popped up on one of the Japanese sharpening stone blogs that I follow.....

We have a match! The gist seems to be that it's an old, unusual, King brand waterstone that is made from reconstituted natural materials. I guess that I was partially right, haha! In any event, my interest was renewed. And, yes, I actual read blogs about sharpening.......

The stone is 210-68-40 mm and feels rather light in weight, with an odd grainy, soft feel to it. It puts me in mind of a big chunk of powdery chalk, and feels too soft to be very practical as a tool sharpening stone. You can see how dished it is. It's obviously been used for sharpening knives, so.......

For ages now, my pocket knife has been one of those plastic, breakable blade disposables.

Even a $-Store craft knife can be improved by a little sharpening. A couple of swipes on a fine diamond stone will work wonders! The problem now becomes that the plastic body of the knife wears out faster than the blades do. And..... Plastic.

I sharpen disposable blades. My name is Jason and I have a sharpening addiction.......

I  got this a few weeks ago.

A Miki-hisa folding pocket knife, nothing special, but decidedly nicer than what I have been carrying. Mass produced, but with a laminated blade and a Bubinga body, after a bit of massaging it seems OK. I relieved the sharp metal edges and reshaped the body some, until it felt better in the hand, and while I wouldn't pay full retail for one ($40'ish), I thought it worth the $12 I paid.

Amazingly enough, I have had this for 3 weeks and it STILL has the factory edge! It's time to try out the new "mystery" King waterstone!

But first, some ground work. I use the Po'boy #125 diamond lap (loose diamond grit on a maple wooden block) that I wrote about before.

T=20 seconds. A minute on this is sufficient to remove most of the coarse factory grind.

Before I get too carried away, I need to work the hollow ground back of the blade. I start on a #400 Eze-lap. On the right edge of the stone, you can see a strip of black electrical tape. This is to keep the upper (curved) back of the blade contact to a minimum, at least for the roughing stages.

This being a cheap knife, the blade has a pronounced curve or hook towards the steel side,  so not only is the back of the blade hollow ground, it's also bowed along its length. This makes it pretty well impossible to make the back truly flat without making the urasuki all misshapen and ugly. 

I go for looks, cheat a little bit, and only do the minimum required to establish a small flat at the cutting edge of the blade (the lower, straight edge). The back is still slightly bowed, but it is adequate.

From the #400 grit diamond stone, I go to the oddball King man-made/natural. It is a very open bodied stone and needed to be soaked for about 5-10 minutes before using. It's very porous. 

And interesting....... Nowhere near as soft as I was expecting. I thought that this guy would  fall apart and be a heavy mud producer, but that wasn't the case, at least with this blade. It felt moderately fast, but without being aggressive. A soft, rough stone. Weird. You can feel the grainy nature, but it isn't scratchy at all.

An analogy: If carborundum/ silicon-carbide is a handful of finely ground glass, a typical aluminum-oxide stone would be a handful of fine beach sand. This stone would be a handful of dirt, or maybe sawdust.

The finish is in the #1000-2000 range, but the scratches are shallow, not sharp. This thing serves the same purpose as a coarse aoto. It would act as a bridge to transition from a sharp and scratchy synthetic stone to a natural finish stone. I strongly suspect that was the intention of the manufacturer. 

I would like to try this stone out using a hard kanna blade, but both the top and bottom surfaces are WAY too dished. This thing is shaped like an "S"!

Sticking with the "odd" theme, I use one of my favorite Oregon beach stones next. This was a bit of a step back, grit-wise, but served to confirm the relative grit finish. I didn't want to wait for more synthetic stones to soak. Most of the natural waterstones are splash-and-go.

I consider this stone to be around #2000, but a touch scratchy and the density is uneven. I still like it though.

And another Oregon natural waterstone to finish.

Good enough for a pocket knife.