After practising to sharpen on the Japanese water stones that I bought nearly two months ago, I’ve learned a few things. First of all, it’s much easier than I thought it’d be. I thought it’d take longer than this to get acceptable results. Then I’ve adjusted how I wet and dry the Chosera stones. I also thought I’d show what my sharpening setup looks like and what I think I need to add.
Again, this isn’t K-pop related, but it’s a project I’m spending time on right now, so I thought I’d share some ramblings. Perhaps someone finds it interesting.
I’ve practised sharpening about once a week (1-3 knives at a time) since I got the water stones and I recently realised that I’ve been using way too much water. Especially on the 1000 grit stone. I’ve been watching Murray Carter’s Blade Sharpening Fundamentals (which I recommend, especially for the motivation) and he splashes quite a lot of water on his stones. I know his stones are thirstier than the ones I’m using, but I was still using too much water.
Now I only use a small squirt bottle (or my fingertips) to add a few droplets of water at a time after the initial splashing. Instead of keeping a pool of water on top of the stone, I just make sure it’s moist. That seems to work much better as the slurry (stone and metal particles and water that forms a mud on the stone) doesn’t wash off and the stone doesn’t get as soaked in water. I got some hairline cracks in my 1000 grit stone (and I was worrying about the 5000 stone) that I’m guessing were caused by using too much water. The cracks don’t affect the performance though. There’s one crack on the side that looks a bit worrying, but it’s probably fine.
I’ve tried some different ways of drying the stones after use, both wrapping them in a wet cloth and leaving them with nothing but a dry paper towel on top. The way I feel most comfortable with now is rinsing off the stone (with room tempered water) when I’m done, wiping it lightly with a towel (leaving the surface a little wet) and then leaving it to dry in a folded cloth. Then I flip the stone over once every few hours. Seems to work well.
The reason I’m fretting about wetting and drying the stones is that the Chosera stones are magnesia based, so you have to take extra care compared to other water stones (some of which can be left in water permanently).
Sharpening freehand is much faster than using a guided system like the Edge Pro. The stones I use don’t require soaking, so you can get started quickly. It’s also easier to freehand sharpen knives with belly/curve towards the tip. I thought the tip would be the hardest part of freehanding, but it’s surprisingly easy. Of course, you don’t get the exact angles you want, but after a while you become more consistent.
One trick, that I can’t believe I didn’t think of sooner, is to tape up the blade (excluding the edge with some margin) with painter’s tape to avoid messing up the finish when you slip or go at too low of an angle. I often tape up blades when using the Edge Pro, but it didn’t occur to me to do that when freehanding for some reason. I haven’t tried it yet, so I’m not sure how much it would actually help, but I’m pretty sure the thickness of the tape will save the exposed part of the side of the blade from scratching.
I thought I’d show the setup I’m using for freehand sharpening right now. I have made a sink bridge to place the stone on. I don’t use a stone holder, just a damp cloth to keep the stone from moving. When I sharpen on the stones I switch hands instead of flipping the blade over in the same hand. What’s funny is that I get a more even edge using my left (weak) hand.
I’m using a 1000 and 5000 grit Naniwa Chosera water stone. I’ve considered getting a rougher (600 grit) one, but I don’t think I need it. The 1000 stone cuts very quickly. Maybe I’ll need a rougher stone when I start sharpening knives with more high end (harder and more abrasion resistant) steels, but for now 1000 is enough.
After finishing on the 5000 grit stone, I could just strop the edge on some newspaper and call it a day, but I’m a sucker for very refined and polished edges, so I finish the edge on a compound loaded leather strop. I have Bark River black and white compound, but I go straight to the white from the stones. I also have chromium oxide, which I’ve been using on with the Edge Pro, but I normally stop at the white compound when freehanding. When I strop on leather I generally hold the paddle with my left hand and the knife with my right. When stropping on newspaper, I place the paper on the stone and alternate hands.
The problem I’m having right now is finding a good balance between a refined edge and an aggressive one. Straight off the stones the edge is very sharp and very aggressive. The risk of it slipping on tomato skin is zero. It barely whittles hair, but it’s not refined enough to “pop” paracord (push-cutting paracord/nylon line on a cutting board should result in a piece of the cord popping off with very little force). When I’ve stropped it so that it pops paracord, the risk is that I’ve rounded off the edge too much so that it’s lost some of it’s “bite”, which is nice to have when cutting tomatoes and stuff.
To solve this I could either improve my stropping technique to minimize the rounding of the edge, improve my finishing touch on the 5000 grit stone or get a finer finishing stone. I’m considering getting a 10k stone, but the 10k Chosera is super expensive. I’m thinking about a Naniwa Super (8, 10 or 12k) or an Imanishi 10k. They’re about the same price, but I can get the Imanishi from a Swedish store. I’m also curious to try a different brand.
I’ve seen that some stores here in Sweden that sell kitchen cutlery have started selling water stones as well. Some of the Japanese knife brands have started offering combination stones (two thin stones glued together). I think that’s a good idea, since it’s one of the better ways to maintain knives, but the consumers may be tentative because they think it’s very difficult to use water stones. The rebranded stones also seem a bit overpriced to me. The Minosharp stones look suspiciously similar to Naniwa Super (don’t quote me on that though), which is a high quality stone, but I can get the original Super stone way cheaper.
Another issue I’m having is that my kitchen knives are a bit too “low end” to keep the super sharp edges for a longer period of time. Most of them are too soft and the edge rolls or dents too easily if I’ve sharpened it at an acute angle. Now I’m just practising so it’s fun to resharpen, but later on I’d like to have knives that keep the edges for a while. I’m looking into some budget friendly alternatives that have harder and better steel (stainless). I’m also thinking about trying a cheaper carbon steel kitchen knife, since the knife I’ve gotten the absolutely keenest edge on is a cheapo carbon steel Mora utility knife that I bought at the hardware store.
I’ll end with a technique I picked up at a forum, that I’ve been trying lately. Instead of trying to remove the wire edge with stropping or deburring by pulling the edge through cork or wood, you can fold the wire edge over to one side by scraping it against wood and then cut it off with an edge-leading stroke on the stone. Seems to work well.