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Japanese Water Stones - school me

Discussion in 'Maintenance, Tinkering & Embellishment' started by High_Noon, May 17, 2019.

  1. High_Noon


    Nov 14, 2014
    For decades, I have almost exclusively used natural Arkansas stones (with honing oil) to sharpen my knives; however, I have also used synthetic Norton stones when re-profiling a bevel or to remove chips. I have found that natural Arkansas stones are a marginal choice for sharpening these new "super steels" such as Elmax, M390, S30V, etc. due to the toughness/hardness of these steels. I am able to get a decent edge with medium & hard Arkansas stones on these super steels, but of it takes me many, many hours to due so and I am not overly happy with the final results & I feel I could do better if I had appropriate stones.

    Note: I have watched that Japanese Doctor on boobtube and although his sharpening technique produces good results, I'm not sure I agree with his method of back & forth sharpening at such a low angle - almost essentially flat. My technique (generally) is to take 2 "slices" across the stone away from myself and then 2 slices towards myself at a 15-23 degree angle (depending on the knife) as many times as necessary to obtain the desired results and then finish with a leather strop to remove the wire edge.

    I believe I would get better results sharpening super steel blades with a set of professional Japanese water stones and I would like to give them a try and I need to know what to look for. What brands of professional Japanese stones are the best quality and if I were to purchase 2 of them (i.e. a medium and a hard stone), what would be the best grit ranges? I would also like to get a decently sized stone - i.e. 3"x10". I also want a stone that will last a long time and will not wear quickly.

    From my limited research, it seems like the Japanese grit ranges vary considerably and I have difficulty equating these grit ranges to the Arkansas Medium and Hard stones with which I am most familiar - the best I have come up with is that an Arkansas medium is equivalent to a Japanese stone in the 3,000-5,000 grit range, and a Arkansas hard stone would be equivalent to a Japanese stone in the 6,000-8,000 grit range. Correct?

    What say you?
    Last edited: May 17, 2019
    BoulderTroll likes this.
  2. BoulderTroll

    BoulderTroll Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 28, 2009
    Sorry, I can’t help, but I’m anxiously awaiting the replies. I’m interested in the same thing.
  3. AntDog

    AntDog Gold Member Gold Member

    Apr 3, 2001
    For most super steels I’d recommend a good set of diamond stones. For stuff that’s harder to sharpen think more aggressive, not less.
    teudy, JC972, HwangJino and 2 others like this.
  4. High_Noon


    Nov 14, 2014
    AntDog: I have successfully and properly re-profiled the bevel of a few different super steel knives with a medium/coarse Norton stone (I do not know the grit count of my Norton stone but I would guess it's probably around 250), but the edge needed further refinement with higher grit stones - or in my case my medium/hard Arkansas oil stones.

    The issue at hand is that these Japanese water stones range from 120 grit all the way up to 30,000 grit. There are way too many options for the uninitiated to make a meaningful choice on either the brand of stone or the type of grits needed to provide a quality working edge for these super steels, which is why I posted the question in the first place.

    Diamond stones are certainly an option, but I believe I would prefer going the Japanese route as I believe the quality is much higher than most generic Chinese plastic encased diamond stones, unless someone can provide a meaningful argument in favor of diamond stones.

    Although I appreciate your reply,I am looking for a bit more information.
    Last edited: May 18, 2019
  5. Ourorboros


    Jan 23, 2017
    Depending on how the Arkansas black stone is worn in, it gets to about 8000 on the Japanese water stone scale.

    I learned sharpening on Japanese water stones, though I moved to novaculite for traditionals and Western cooking knives. I really wouldn't recommend water stones for wear resistant steels. It will do the job . . . eventually. Instead, though I hate the feel, I recommend diamonds.
    The slowest wearing waterstones I know of are Shapton Glass Stones, Chosera (Naniwa Professional), & Shapton Pro, perhaps in that order. While slow wearing for water stones, they will wear slower than a hard Arkansas. You will need a flattening plate and the will to use it.
    As for the scrubbing motion, it works. I feel it helps maintain a consistent angle too.
    Getting a 10x3 stone will be hard. 8x3(ish) is common, however. In that size you're looking at the Suhiro Debado. Excellent stones, expensive in that size, softer than you are used to.

    There is a Universal Grit Chart floating around the internet to help you equate grit ranges. At chefknivestogoforums.com, they have it in the sharpening forum and can also tell you a lot more than I can about water stones.
  6. High_Noon


    Nov 14, 2014
    Ourorbors: Thanks for the information. I will look into your recommendations. Why do you feel that Japanese water stones are insufficient for super steels? Considering the relative ease in effort that was required for me to re-profile my few super steel blades with my Norton stone, I was thinking that the "grittier" (for lack of a better term) nature of the Japanese stone would lend itself well to sharpening super steel blades.

    Regarding diamond stones - is there a brand that you recommend? I have used diamond stones before and I agree that feel is altogether different than Novaculite (Arkansas). I feel that with diamond stones I am not getting a "clean pass" or that the entire blade edge is not making full contact, which I guess is actually the case with all the diamond circles embedded into the plastic base, rather than a full diamond surface.

    Additionally, if I do decide to go the Japanese water stone route, the 8"x3" size would be acceptable.
    Last edited: May 18, 2019
  7. ShannonSteelLabs

    ShannonSteelLabs KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Sep 9, 2015
    Try diamond stones from practical sharpening. They have tons of grit ranges, and the stones do not have the tiny circles.

    The down side is that they need to be dressed with acid to re-expose fresh diamond. I recently bought some and am every excited to get them in. The owner explained how to dress the stones in a easy to understand manner.

    As for the reason the Japanese water stones arent a good choice for most super steels. The vanadium and tungsten carbides in the steel are typically Harder than the stone itself. Some steels have so many of these carbides that they will actually wear out the stone before it does much of anything. Diamond and CBN (cubic boron nitride) are the best for working with super steels. They will even work with super high alloy steels like REX 121, Maxamet. 15V, and other high carbide steels.

    Hope this helps!
  8. OldNavy


    Sep 14, 2013
    A couple of quick observations for high_Noon, the shallow angle you referenced is due to the intended use
    of "most" of the single bevel knives is slicing proteins. They are not going to be batoned through green wood.
    the most popular Japanese Kitchen knives are Hi-Carbon or Stainless Clad Carbon.
    the Brands & Grit Ranges I'd suggest for a Basic Home Kitchen kit.
    Chosera 400
    Bester 1200
    Suehiro Rika 5K

    After that it depends on how much cash you have to play with.

    Best of Breed:
    Chosera 800
    Chosera 3000

    Cerax 3030 1000 grit monster brick
    Cerax Debado MD-100 long & wide
    I have both of these, the 3030 will dish after a while so you'll need a flattening plate
    Kitayama 8000 very good hard polishing stone
    my selection, old pic so a few a missing

    a bunch of info on stones.
    HwangJino likes this.
  9. herisson

    herisson Knuckle dragging and mean minded Neanderthal Platinum Member

    Mar 11, 2013
    Just my take : the japanese water stones are great for maintaining an edge.
    Know the angle, maintain it through all the passes and you're good.
    If you are into reprofiling your edge and using more aggressive mediums, you'll have to resort to some more performing stuff.
    Ken Onion's Work Sharp has been my "go to" work tool for first acquaintance with a foreign knife. It's a great tool.
    When the bevel is set, I like to refine the edge by hand with stones ranging from 8000 to 12000 grit.
    HwangJino likes this.
  10. JC972


    Mar 17, 2015
    I know who you’re talking about. Watched a lot of his videos. In his video where he put a scandi grind on a ka bar knife I think he said it took like 8 hours. I don’t reckon he owns a flat file? I was interested in trying water stones but just stuck with my old diamond stones.
  11. AntDog

    AntDog Gold Member Gold Member

    Apr 3, 2001
    I believe I did provide a meaningful argument in favor of diamond stones. Water stones might reprofile a super steel blade, but it will take much longer than I’m willing to spend on it.

    I use diamonds to reprofile and sharpen super steels and a Sharpmaker or Syperco double stuff for touch ups. Between sharpenings I realign the edge frequently with a smooth steel and strop often. I can put a hair splitting edge on most any knife and prolong it a long time with the things I use.

    I think water stones would be best for sharpening simpler steels. Diamond stones will put an edge on fast. Good luck on your quest.
  12. katanas


    Jan 6, 2012
    I'm not saying I'm right, but I've always considered Japanese water stones to be more dedicated to...well, Katana. :D
  13. High_Noon


    Nov 14, 2014
    Colin: Thanks for the information. I briefly looked at the Practical Sharpening website. Most of their diamond stones seem to be exceedingly expensive, but I’ll take another look. I will also look at CBN stones. I understand your explanation regarding water stones being unsuitable due to the hardness of super steels.

    OldNavy: Yes, the shallow angle that Japanese Dr. uses on his stones would indeed be effective for his intended usage but would be a poor choice for general use. I get excellent results using my Noviculite stones on the simpler steels such as 1095, 440C, 154CM, etc. I will look into the stones you recommended, thanks.

    herisson: As I stated, I can re-profile a super steel edge with relative ease using my Norton stones, but these stones are somewhat unrefined and are quite aggressive. Many factory edges leave a lot to be desired, even relatively expensive knives that although sharp out of the box, have edge profiles (angles) that are not exactly consistent throughout the length of the edge. Once the factory edge begins to dull, I often will re-profile to a more consistent angle. Most factory edges are created by using a grinder or a device such as the Ken Onion device you mentioned. In my experience, such edges can be inconsistent, which I would like to avoid.

    JC972: What type of diamond stones do you use and are you happy with the results they provide?

    AntDog: Duly noted, and although I have no direct experience with Japanese water stones, based upon what other forum members have written here, I agree it will take too much time to get the results I am looking for with water stones, which is one of the main reasons I started this thread to begin with.

    katanas: Duly noted.
    Last edited: May 18, 2019
    katanas and AntDog like this.
  14. Alberta Ed

    Alberta Ed

    Jun 29, 1999
    So-called Super Steels with high carbide content sharpen most easily on diamond hones. Stainless grades with lower carbide content (12C27, 420HC, CM-154/CPM-154 etc.) will sharpen quite easily on manufactured or natural hones, as will high carbon steels. But diamond works on them all. I treasure a Black Arkansas bench stone inherited from a great uncle that puts a marvelous finishing edge on high carbon steels.
  15. Wowbagger

    Wowbagger Basic Member Basic Member

    Sep 20, 2015
    Here is a thread for you to chew on : LINK> > >

    Personally I PREFER water stones or at least the Shapton Glass stones. I enjoy the Shapton Pro stones more but they don't sharpen as high on the scale of complex / high alloy blade steels.

    That said here are a few thoughts / opinions / discoveries :
    • For the majority of my cutting I focus on high hardness (61-66) high carbon (White Paper Steel) or other alloys that tarnish or rust such as ZDP-189 and M4). for this I like water stones and or ceramic
    • The high vanadium alloys (S30V, S35VN, S90V, S110V) in general I don't like because they tend to do best for me (hold a very sharp working edge longer) sharpened with diamonds and I don't like using diamond stones though I have piles of the things.
    • I get polished edges on high vanadium alloys with water stones but the polished edges I like do not last as long for me as the other alloys I mentioned earlier .
    Shapton Pro stones for : A2, high quality stainless steel blades such as VG-10 and the plain high carbon blades.

    Shapton Glass stones for : M390, M4, ZDP-189 and S35VN sort of.

    Diamond Stones (I like DMT Aligner stones because the quality is higher as far a grit size and they go to 8,000 at the finest grit :thumbsup::thumbsup::thumbsup: : S30V, S35VN, S90V, S110V . . . probably best to use on M4 and ZDP it you are doing some serious reprofiling to.

    Here is a recent experience I had just last night. I was touching up a factory edge trying to get it into some kind of usable shape after the factory hacks got through with it . The steel is Cold Steel S35VN. I was using a brand new Crystolon 100 grit stone in my Edge Pro. I actually had better luck when I switched to a DMT fine stone (25 micron / 600 mesh) I seemed to be removing steel faster and more cleanly and the edge was more refined and sharper.

    There are super experts here who swear by Crystolon for high vanadium, especially for the initial coarse stone . . . heck if I know why.

    I will keep trying . . .

    ( :cool: diamonds dude, diamonds for the funny high vanadium stuff)
    Last edited: May 18, 2019
  16. Baron Mind

    Baron Mind

    Mar 30, 2018
    There is a certain allure to Japanese waterstones, that's for sure. They are exotic, they are attractive, they have historical value, and in my limited experience, and extensive research, provide the most pleasurable sharpening experience out there; the sound, the feel, etc.

    However, they are an older technology, for older cutlery. Diamonds are practically a requirement in this day in age, especially if you are in, or are getting into the world of higher end production knives.

    There are many properties of diamond plates that sharpeners find distasteful, so waterstones have persisted.

    Recently though, companies have begun producing new hybrid stones, diamond and CBN abrasive suspended in commonly used Japanese waterstone binders, the best of both worlds. The issue with these were like any new technology, there some bugs to be worked out, and they were much more costly to produce. Where as a diamond plate uses one layer of diamonds, waterstones consist of diamond abrasive all throughout.

    Both of these issues are improving. Products are getting better, prices are getting lower. This is where I'd suggest anyone looking to get into quality sharpening stones look. Diamond matrix stones, Venev stones, practicalsharpening.com, gritomatic.com.

    Save up, and invest. Buy once cry once.
  17. JC972


    Mar 17, 2015
    I've used DMT and Smith since around 2000 and old Eze Lap for a few years longer. I'm very pleased with the results with the DMT and Eze Lap, with a few caveats worth mentioning here; I'm not a steel or edge expert as some are here. As long as I get an edge that'll grab at my thumbprint when I drag it over the edge, like an aggressive bitey edge, I'm happy. I don't get crazy sharpening because I don't want to remove more metal than I have to so between sharpenings I strop with a leather strop loaded with Mother's mag and aluminum polish. If I need to use a stone on an already sharp knife I use an ultra fine stone and then strop. I shoot for mirror-like edges or pretty close. Most of the time I can maintain an edge for a long time just using a leather strop. I keep an old Norton India stone around and I can get good sharp edges with it by itself, the kind of fingerprint grabbing edges I like.

    Another thing is I don't care for ungodly hard steel in knives either. I don't like having to spend forever to sharpen a knife. I like AUS 8, case stainless and CV, Buck's 420HC and 440C , 154CM, 1095, stuff like that. I have no experience with S30V, S110V, BG42, or other new or new-to-me steels. I have a Spyderco Manix lightweight with a translucent handle and I cannot remember what steel it has but it took a while to get the kind of edge I wanted. So long, in fact, that I shoved it to the back of the gun safe and haven't carried it since. And it wasn't like butter knife dull when I started on it. It just wasn't where I wanted it. Like I said, I'm not a sharpening expert as a lot of guys here probably are.

    I like diamond stones because they seem to do a faster job, and less messy. I use them dry. They seem to make short work of edges on the steels I use. I have DMT stones in extra coarse, coarse, fine, extra fine and extra extra fine. They handle everything I need to sharpen and take up little room.

    EDIT; I don't know why most of my post is in big bold print?
  18. Wowbagger

    Wowbagger Basic Member Basic Member

    Sep 20, 2015
    In the row of tools just above the post creation box there is an upper case "B" . . . first tool on the left side. If you select some text then click on the "B" or click on the "B" and then start typing you will get bold like this. If you click on it again you will get text like this again. If you select your bold text
    then click on the "B"
    you will get non bold regular text again.

    PS: if you have diamond stones and want to get that Manix into shape try it again but get your butt into it until you get some slight bur then ease up and refine the edge and remove the bur. It won't take any time at all.
    I reprofiled a Para 2 in S110V in a very short time.
    JC972 likes this.
  19. JC972


    Mar 17, 2015
    Thanks, buddy. I’ll dig that thing out tomorrow and see exactly what kind of steel is in it. And the bold text thing. I’m not real tech savvy
  20. Wowbagger

    Wowbagger Basic Member Basic Member

    Sep 20, 2015
    me neither . . .
    hell my e-mail doesn't even work any more.
    I got a new Google e-mail with the help of The Chef . . . it's not working either.
    I can work the "B" thing because I practice everyday :rolleyes:
    JC972 likes this.

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