Advantages of Benchstones vs. Sharpmaker


Oct 11, 2003
For probably 8 years now I've been rebeveling with coarse/medium stones and finishing on my Sharpmaker. There was a while that I tried sandpaper, and Norton benchstones, and some other tricks, but I kept coming back to this. I use a microbevel and sometimes strop, but the white stones give me a hair whittling edge. I currently have a King 220/1000 grit combo stone. Is there an advantage to sticking with the waterstones and going to a 4000 grit, or possibly a 6000 or 8000? If so, what's the next step? Can I go from 1000 to 8000, or do I need to go 220, 1000, 4000, 6000/8000? I've never used really fine benchstones, since the 204 took care of it for me.
I use a 1000 grit and a 8000 grit stone, and like you said, I have tried many other methods including sandpaper and others, but my two bench stones do the majority of my sharpening. I get great results using just the two stones that I have. The 1000 grit stone cuts pretty quickly, so that stone, being the coarser of the two does the majority of edge reshaping that I need done. Then I finish it off with the 8000 grit stone to produce a hair popping edge. I don't believe there is a need to get that many different grits for bench stones. I've recently started using a leather strop loaded with green compound to finish off a few edges, and I still use sandpaper once in a while if I want to convex an edge, but I have not yet mastered either of these techniques so my results are only satisfactory to this point.

In my opinion, a 1000 grit and an 8000 grit stone can accomplish most sharpening needs. They are not ideal if you need to cut away a lot of steel, such as fixing a chip or broken tip, but they can do the job. I don't have any mechanized equipment in my sharpening arsenal at this point, but I have had a lot of my restaurant/chef buddies ask me to touch up their knives for them, so I was thinking about adding a belt sander at some point to speed up some of the edge re-profiling that needs to get done.

Also, Murray Carter has some excellent sharpening instruction out there, and he uses the coarse stone/fine stone method. Just two stones, no strop, and that's how he finishes all of his blades, and then he shaves with them. Machetes, neck knives, axes, everything is finished in the same method, and he can get the same results with just two grits of water stone.
It will all depend on the steels you sharpen. If you have a bunch of CPM steels then no the water stones won't do any better and often won't even work. If you have all carbon steels then probably. If its all stainless you have then not much will be better except a UF bench stone lapped with a fine diamond.

IMO diamonds win overall but that's a hard one for most to swallow.