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How long does it take you to sharpen on a benchstone?

Discussion in 'Maintenance, Tinkering & Embellishment' started by KennyB, Nov 19, 2010.

  1. KennyB


    Jan 19, 2010
    Read "on a benchstone". I'm not interested in how much faster it is on your beltsander or paper wheels. No offense, I just know they're faster and don't need to hear about it.

    Anyway, I'm curious about what kind of speed people grind in what types of edges at. I'm always hearing people say, "Oh, well, I won't spend more than 15 minutes on a touch-up," and think, "Wow, you must have some pretty sloppy edges," because it takes more like 45 minutes to an hour for me to get them sharp and deburred again. I saw one guy mention that he sharpens his up to shaving sharp in 30 seconds, and it seems impossible to me that he could mean reprofiling.

    So yeah, just kind of curious how long it takes people, what they think the key to their speed is, etc. I just don't think my arms move very fast, because even when I use a jig and go as fast as I can it still takes me 3 or 4 hours to reprofile and finish to shaving sharp on my 220/1000 water-stone. Though in the past I've noticed myself finish much sooner free-handing and getting those slightly convex free-hand edges that are still very sharp, so at times I wonder just what types of edges people are getting with these ultra fast grind jobs.

    I kind of want to see someone that does the really fast jobs post a video so I can get an idea of the stroke speed. I remember seeing Murray Carter use a 1000 grit benchstone and he looked like a machine, so I'm not really doubting any one that says they're doing it this fast, I just don't understand what's holding me back, or if there is an inherent difference in the edge quality, etc. Even with a jig and stroking as fast as I can ( while still actually maintaining equal pressure and all that ), it doesn't seem very fast at all. I still get a wickedly sharp edge in a couple of hours, but when I hear people say, "I can get a hair whittling edge in an hour," it makes me wonder what the hell is making me so slow.

    Either way, it doesn't really matter to me since I'm not really ever in a rush to sharpen and I can do quick touch-ups (they're just not ever up to my usual standard), I'm just curious about it. Everyone seems to have their own pace and set of standards for what is sharp, and how long it should take.
  2. Jason B.

    Jason B. KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Jun 13, 2007
    It really depends on the stones you use, condition of the edge, type of metal, and method you use.

    If I want too touch-up my S30V millie (EDC) I usually make 3-5 passes per side on my diamond finishing hone. Time spent, 2 minutes?

    When I reprofile its a completely different story and many more factors come into play. If speed is needed and the steel is not too difficult to work with I'd say 15-30 minutes and you should be able to finish while still maintaining control and not being too sloppy. If perfection is the goal time is no longer a factor and working to the best of your abilities is the only concern.

    Its really a hard thing too put a number on because of all the different factors, experience being a big one. I could tell you how long it would take me to sharpen a edge but that number might be useless to you simply because we use different tools.
  3. THG


    May 18, 2008
    If my blade is pretty dull, I start with my XC stone, move to F, and then finish with EF. The process takes me about a half hour.
  4. hardheart


    Sep 19, 2001
    what kind of knife, and what kind of 'shaving sharp' (arm hair, hair splitting) for the 3 hour times?
  5. eKretz


    Aug 30, 2009
    When I get a new knife I pretty much immediately do a full reprofiling, and that initial sharpening can take anywhere from an hour to a few hours with diamond stones, depending on the length of the blade and thickness of the bevel, and on how nice of a job I want to do (on the longer side of the range for mirror polish, shorter for a quick and dirty job). For touchups after the reprofiling is done though, I usually just use microbevels about 3-5 degrees per side more obtuse than the main bevel, so a touchup is measured in minutes...usually no more than 15 minutes unless there is major damage. All freehand on diamond and Shapton water stones.
  6. tabeeb762


    May 18, 2007
    As long as several hours, and as quick as a few seconds.
  7. KennyB


    Jan 19, 2010
    The 3-4 hours was an Izula with a factory edge, V beveled to the same geometry (40 inclusive) in a jig on my Norton 220/1000 water-stone. I worked the bevels a lot longer than just raising a burr in order to get uniformity, and then on the fine abrasive I raised a burr from both sides, then removed it and sharpened to arm hair-popping with light alternating edge-leading/edge-trailing strokes from one side to another at decreasing increments. The profiling took about an hour, all the work on the fine abrasive about two, and then my final stropping on MDF loaded with CrO was about 30-45 minutes.

    Maybe there's some way to compare that to other people's times. Popular knife, probably a popular angle for it, but I think there will still be some differences in tools as knifenut said.

    I haven't really kept the same process for every knife and have mostly done their factory edges in different ways. I free-handed my Kershaw Need Work from facory in 2 hours, but I used a jig on my Benchmade Kulgera to re profile the factory bevel and it took more like 8--I don't know what angle I was grinding at back then though. I know I reprofiled it again by hand later to 30* inclusive and it took about 6; had a much more convex bevel though.

    For touch-ups I usually just raise a burr on a fine abrasive. That seems to take anywhere from 30-45 minutes depending on the knife and what kind of grind I'm using. I mean, I have a kitchen knife I keep convex that I spend about 5 minutes on, and don't get it anywhere near as sharp as the other knives I'm talking about.

    So yeah, I think you guys are right in saying there's far too much variability. That's why I was wonderinf about stroke-speed though, as at least that's one thing that could be measured constant. If I moved my hands to a stop-watch based on muscle memory of what I did with the Izula, I get like 170 strokes per minute. Which seems right as I was trying to match Murray Carter's pace in the video saw and that was about 200 strokes per minute from what I can tell. Here's what I mean:


    So, is that generally the speed people are going? Faster, slower? I thought it was pretty fast and was just trying to keep up.
  8. tabeeb762


    May 18, 2007
    Don't aim for a particular speed.
    Sharpening should be done in a natural motion, not forced in a any way.
  9. thombrogan


    Nov 16, 2002
    Raised and removed a burr and OCD-polished the edge on a 9.4" kitchen knife blade using two stones and a strop in barely less than 10 minutes last night. Stone one was 180 grit, stone two was 2,500 grit, the strop was 1ยต polishing paper glu-sticked to a piece of float glass. Probably had a much faster time because above the edge is probably a lot thinner than your Izula.
  10. KennyB


    Jan 19, 2010
    Well, the problem is that I'm getting a lot of people that want me to sharpen their knives, and I don't really have that much time. I guess I can just start telling them it's going to take longer and take my time, but I want to figure out a way to go faster without buying different equipment.
  11. unit


    Nov 22, 2009
    Raise your price slightly and keep doing so until your workload is more to your comfort.
  12. Jason B.

    Jason B. KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Jun 13, 2007
    The faster of the two hand speeds Murray uses is not for sharpening but profile, you can move faster because there is no worry of edge contact. In the second step of what that clip shows when he raises the angle for bevel contact and slows down is about the speed you should work, but only if you feel comfortable with it.

    When your setting edge profile (unless there is a major miss-grind) you shouldn't need to work much past the point of raising a equal burr. I actually just sharpened a izula and starting with a Coarse DMT I don't remember it taking more than a half hour to work through to EF before heading to water stones. My use of diamonds makes very little difference with this steel and actually your norton should cut faster. I'd blame the guide on this one, sometimes they can actually make it a longer process.

    I wish you luck with any CPM stainless and water stones....... and CPM-M4 too.

    I don't think you should worry yourself with the time it takes and keep your focus on how well you are doing. Make corrections to your technique and continually improve your skills at creating a bevel, with time speed will follow and before you know it setting a profile and basic sharpening will be the easy part. If you feel comfortable with freehand I'd say try it more, water stones have great feedback and feel, you would be surprised how straight of a angle you can hold just from feel.
  13. tabeeb762


    May 18, 2007
    Well I can't say much other than; go faster and harder and see what results you get.

    At one time I was acquainted with this 'butcher'. He basically gave me knives to sharpen in return for meat. It was good meat too, stuff you couldn't find anywhere else. Equine mainly.

    One of those knives was a WWII era Elwell cleaver. 1/4" spine, with a 12" long 7" wide blade. And a two foot long handle made from a piece of galvanized pipe.

    The edge of this thing was thicker than the spine of an old Hickory. No wonder he needed a 2" handle to swing it.
    So there I am trying to work this thing down with a 10" file. Before I knew it 6 hours had gone by and I was far from finished.

    I figured it wasn't worth it. So I grabbed an angle grinder and went back to work. 5 minutes later I'd set the bevel and was cleaning up with the file.

    Moral of the story is some knives aren't worth the trouble of a good sharpening job. Return On Investment kind of thing.
    Don't hesitate to run knives over a grinder, or turn them away altogether.
  14. HeavyHanded

    HeavyHanded KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Jun 4, 2010
    From a reprofile to the best I can do might take two hours or more - I seldom do th ewhole thing in one sitting. If its already at the angle I want and I need to redo the primary and secondary bevel (assuming it has two bevels) it might take a little over half an hour. If the secondary bevel is good and I'm doing a job on just the primary, or if its a single bevel and I'm just touching up, maybe ten minutes. I'm mostly using Arkansas stones and they're pretty slow compared to other stuff, but not as slow as one might think. Lots of variables, but in general it takes about ten to twenty minutes per stone.
  15. KennyB


    Jan 19, 2010
    I'm not really sure if I would call the Izula missground from factory, but then it was pretty convex and some parts of the bevel were lower than others. So actually working in a burr and a relatively new bevel was fast, but grinding them in completely flat and uniform took the extra time. I got a burr down the whole edge faster than I can remember, but the edge I was grinding in was only on half the edge--as in, the bevel on the tip took up the entire previous bevel, where as it was still covering only a portion of it at the belly. So most of the profiling was ( and is for most of my knives) evening things out when I get to that point. Should my bevels be grinding in evenly over the entire portion of the blade with good technique? I always figured that was just part of the process of grinding out uneven portions on worn or factory grinds because it doesn't happen on knives I've already reprofiled.

    I'm not sure what you meant about the Carter video. Did he change the angle when he started sharpening? You say he raised it to make conact with the bevel; was he grinding in a relief before, or was he just setting the angle a little low to avoid the edge, and then raising it only slightly to make contact when sharpening? Not really sure what he was doing now...

    I think you may be right though, because I've noticed I'm usually done much sooner when I free-hand. The edges I get with free-handing are pretty flat, but I can generally perceive just the slightest bit of convexing that I can't when I use the jig. Because of this I free-hand more than I use the jig, but for my personal knives when I get them new I like to reprofile them in the jig so it's very flat. I free-hand for everyone else for speed's sake since it's never seemed to effect the sharpness, but from what I've been able to tell it's usually only moderately faster--at least on the profiling part. Cuts down the whole process by a couple of hours on those more stubborn blades like my Kulgera; it took 8 hours to reprofile in the jig, but 6 to do by hand. I can't think of what would make the jig slower though. I suppose just because it's harder to move the blade around in a way that makes the most contact at once--when I free-hand I notice I can kind of maneuver the angle in such a way to cut some parts faster, and then bring it back up to the angle I was set at to set it flat... If that makes any sense.

    tabeeb, yeah I've sacrificed what I would call a "good job" just for the sake of speed before and never got any complaints, I just never feel right about doing it. I mean, for some people I sharpen for when they bring me a lot of knives I'll just make quick jobs of them because they don't want any more than that, but some people I grind for only bring their blades to me because I get them so sharp; I figure with these people I can probably just start telling to expect a longer turn around. With others though I'm always worried that I'm letting an unsatisfactory edge go out when it's a quick job; I suppose I just need a somewhat lower standard that will satisfy most but is substandard to me. So far I've just been calling the quick jobs done when they cut photocopy paper and no one has been dissatisfied.
  16. hardheart


    Sep 19, 2001
    Carter does a zero grind then microbevels it.

    ETA-others may disagree, but I also find the Norton 220 waterstone to be pitifully slow. The sheer amount of mud it generates does not help in sharpening speed.
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2010
  17. Any Cal.

    Any Cal. Banned BANNED

    Jan 1, 2006
    I have spent hours on some knives, and spent 10-20 minutes on others. For me it has depended on what level of sharpness I am trying to achieve and what angle it will be at.

    For an EDC work knife, I won't necessarily spend long enough on each stone because I am not trying for an ultimate edge, so it won't matter if there are a couple scratches when I am done. It also won't matter if I throw a microbevel on it towards the end, as heavy cutting will destroy the edge in short order anyway.

    For play, it may take hours to make sure that each stone has done its job, and perhaps stepping back up a grit or two to fix tiny mistakes. I will also play with ultrafine abrasives to see what happens.

    It seems like each additional level of sharpness comes at an increased cost in time over the previous one. It doesn't take long to get a nice, sharp knife, but getting one that is truly hair whittling will take considerably longer, and you will spend even more time trying to get past that.

    Also, don't forget that it is the internet. Every person on it uses cinder blocks and an old belt to get hair whittling sharpness in minutes...
  18. hardheart


    Sep 19, 2001
    need to break out the belt :)
  19. Any Cal.

    Any Cal. Banned BANNED

    Jan 1, 2006
    I was waiting for someone to post one of those...:D

    I guess it goes back to the 80/20 rule, where 80% of the results can be accomplished in 20% of the time.

    I think in many cases here it is the 99/1 ratio, where we spend 99% of our time trying to get the last 1% of performance. :)

    It really isn't surprising though, to get widely varying results. I have spent huge amounts of time reprofiling 3V on a bigger knife, and have used a pull through sharpener and an economy stone to get a sticky edge in a couple minutes on a Buck 110.

    IMO, it takes what it takes to get your particular knife to your satisfaction on your equipment, regardless of what anyone else is doing. Knowledge and experience would help,(at least I assume it will when I get some..:D), but there are an awful lot of variables that come into play when people talk about how long it takes them to sharpen a knife.
  20. thombrogan


    Nov 16, 2002
    That last 1% eats up all the time. I've spent hours with one folder and 20 minutes total with two chef knives and all three ended up as sharp as each other (hair-whittling). Spent tons of hours with a Busse Sar-3 on the stones and its belly still isn't sharp (the point and rest of the blade are).

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