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Newbie.. ok to practice sharpening on these knives?

Discussion in 'Maintenance, Tinkering & Embellishment' started by rickcr, Sep 29, 2012.

  1. rickcr


    Sep 5, 2012
    I'm just starting to get into knives and before I attempt to sharpen anything I care about I want to practice some. I purchased and watched Murray Carter's Blade Sharpening Fundamentals.
    I just received this 1000/6000 grit waterstone http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0000DD2C9/ref=oh_details_o00_s00_i02

    I figured I'd start with our cheapo set of kitchen knives, but I just wanted to make sure they aren't so cheap that I can't even learn from them I'm sure they're a cheap Walmart or target set but I have no idea... They are JA Henckles International. Stainless Steel 15550-200 (made in China.)

    Will it be ok to practice on these? I started with one the other day, and I noticed that it seemed to take forever to start grinding off the secondary edge (that Carter seems to first recommend.) It's easy to tell the secondary edge on these knives since they have some light vertical striations in the metal on that edge.

    Thanks for any info
  2. PB Wilson

    PB Wilson

    Jul 17, 2006
    A 1000 grit stone is pretty fine so you might want to start with a more coarse stone to get the geometry you seek.

    Starting with inexpensive knives to hone (pun intended) your skills is a great idea. When I got my 1x42 grinder I didn't start off with my finest blades. I rooted around for those cheapo knife sets everyone seems to have hanging around (and sometimes still using) to gain some muscle memory. Keep at it!
  3. mrdeus


    Mar 6, 2012
    There are plenty of mistakes to make and learn from while practising on cheap knives.
  4. bluntcut

    bluntcut KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Apr 28, 2012
    Cheap stainless kitchen knives (53-57 hrc) are most difficult to put a refine edge on them using grit higher than 600. These soft low alloy knives designed to be very tough which will dent & roll instead of chip, and then can take numerous steel/burnish the edge back to shape with virtually no steel fatigue.

    I would practice on a $70 Richmond Artifex 210mm Gyuto. It has decent hard steel core and fine-grain for easy burr/wire and big enough to easily see the feedback. You'll probably cut yourself a few times before you manage to grind 1/2 of its blade height away. Oh, just turn it into a $70 petty.

    OR as other said about low grit. Buy some wet&dri SiC sandpaper in 180, 320, 600 grit and practice. Avoid edge-leading strokes, otherwise you'll plow a pile of SiC from the sandpaper. btw - welcome to the land of burr.
  5. Jason B.

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

    Jun 13, 2007
    The knives will get sharp like any other steel it just won't perform the same as better/harder steels.

    You are over thinking the primary and secondary edge, it's all one with the knife you are using. With the style of knife MC uses it's a different method of sharpening. A secondary edge in your case would be a microbevel.
  6. rickcr


    Sep 5, 2012
    Thanks everyone. Very helpful forum.
  7. rickcr


    Sep 5, 2012
    Should I be able to get an edge the cheap kitchen knife that should be able to shave the hairs on my arm? Been working at it today and can get it pretty sharp for slicing through paper, but can't seem to be able to get it to shave the hair on my arm. It's definitely a sharp enough knife now for the kitchen, but using these to learn how to get things real sharp. I could just be spinning wheels though, since the type of cheap steel might be too difficult to worry about ever getting it that sharp?
  8. bluntcut

    bluntcut KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Apr 28, 2012
    The last 5% is the hardest to achieve with your steel & stones configuration. To get hair-splitting, you need to strop on newspaper/black compound/diamond/cro/cbn/etc... given that your edge is fairly clean <= tough to get a clean edge with cheapy stainless. Super-thin edge from these soft steel will roll if you breath on it :)

    Sharp congrats on your progress! Next, You can either buy more gears and or knives with fine-grain structure. Looping back to my earlier post.
  9. As mentioned earlier, even most 'cheap' steels will take a sharp edge, but the edge may not last as long. The steel is usually very soft (also as mentioned), which places a premium on using very, very light pressure as the edge becomes more refined. Too heavy, and you'll more likely scrub the fine edge off of it. Obviously, any variation in angle will also blunt the edge more quickly, with softer steels.

    The very first 'tree-topping' edge I ever produced was on an imported (Chinese) Chicago Cutlery kitchen utility knife, which I bought at Walmart for about $8 or so. I was actually surprised at how easily it took a sharp edge. So it is possible. There will be some real stinkers among 'cheap' knives (especially stainless steel ones), that occasionally just won't take or hold a fine edge at all, either because they're way too soft or too coarse-grained. I've seen two knives like this; both very cheap ones, out of dozens & dozens of knives that I've sharpened. But those are usually the exception.
  10. rickcr


    Sep 5, 2012
    Ok, last question for now. I do also have this old stone https://dl.dropbox.com/u/86998/images/stone.jpg that definitely seemed to be a much more coarser grit than the water stones , but I have no idea what grits the two sides are, or what type of stone it is? Any guesses? The stone was out in my garage... think I had it from back when I was in Boy Scouts a longggg time ago:) I assume the side that side that is 'softer' - more stone comes off when(the gray side?) is the side that is considered to be more of a fine grit?
  11. nopyo


    Apr 19, 2012
    That's just a normal (Aluminum Oxide?) combination stone. Can't really tell the exact grit, but the lighter colored side is usually the finer of the two.
    Now that thing is amazing for servicing "garage sale finds". For about $2 at a garage sale, you can find a decently sized chef's knife with decent steel, but with a butter knife edge, and you'll need a pretty coarse stone to get the new edge started.
  12. Brisket


    Aug 2, 2009
    Several years ago I bought a box of well used Forschner boning knives specifically to practice reprofiling, tip repairing and convex sharpening on my belt sander. I paid about a $1 a knife shipped and have given many away to friends and family after I worked on them and they were a huge hit. Some were worn down to about half of the original blade width but they have turned out to be very practical beater knives. I moded one to use as a leather cutter, another as a pepper corer and keep another in my hunting pack as a deer poop chute remover.
  13. aread


    Aug 8, 2012
    I tried the cheap knive approach to learning. But I guess that the steel was just too poor quality because I couldn't get even a half decent edge on them. In my ignorance, I concluded that it was me that was the problem.

    A few days ago, my son brought me a very badly abused Shun to sharpen on my EP. With this knife the EP Apex doesn't work well since I had to make a riser block. Even then I was getting the worst wire burr I've ever experienced.

    In desparation, I tried the 1000/6000 stone again. It was the easiest knife to sharpen that I ever tried free hand. I'm sure that there are a lot of guys here who could have done a much better job, but I didn't totally screw it up. It still has a couple of problems that I'll have to work out the next few times I sharpen this knife, but it's a functional knife again.

    Moral of this self serving story: If you are not getting good edges on the cheap knives, try one with better steel.

  14. rickcr


    Sep 5, 2012
    This isn't an expensive knife I just purchased - Mora Bushcraft Force http://www.survival-pax.com/Mora-Bushcraft-Force-2060.html, and I know it's probably not supposed to be sharpened 'super sharp' (since I think for bushcraft you'd want the edge a bit more durable), but I'd like to test on some better steel to see if I could get a knife sharp enough to at least cut hairs off my arm with ease. Is this an ok blade to try with (after I finish more practicing with my kitchen knives.) ?
  15. That Mora should be an excellent blade to 'test' on. The Sandvik stainless (12C27, if I recall) used on it will take a great edge, assuming one's technique is up to it.

    If you're looking at Moras anyway, you might also consider one of their carbon (non-stainless) blades, also excellent. Carbon steel is always a bit easier to learn on, and will sharpen up to a razor with a minimum of troubles, as compared to many stainless blades, which can throw in other 'variables' like stubborn burrs/wire edges, and are more abrasion-resistant (meaning they'll take longer to sharpen up).
  16. rickcr


    Sep 5, 2012
    Thanks for the recommendation. Just purchased one (The mora utility knife... carbon steel.. only $10)
  17. HoosierQ


    Feb 9, 2010
    I would not, as alluded to above, go the totally el-cheapo route. Get some Moras as David mentioned. They're cheap so you're not out a lot of money if you goof but you know they're made of good steel. Get some carbon steel ones and some stainless ones. The carbon ones are more or less like 1095 and the stainless ones are 12c27 Sandvik. They are heat treated correctly. The simplest Moras can be had for $10 a piece.

    I'd be afraid of practicing on junk knives for fear of "being lied to" regarding the feedback you feel, the experience in general, and in the actual quality of your edge in use.

    That is what happened to me. I fooled myself with crummy knives that just wouldn't take an edge. I sort of ran out of crummy knives and move up in quality and things started to go better for me. It was quite a while before I realized that some crummy knives just don't take a very good edge...I thought it was me. Of course to some degree it was. I will say this...crummy knives probably do just as good of a job as anything on learning to hold a consistent angle...which is a huge part of the skill. It's when you get to the burr stage that the crummy ones start fooling you I think.
  18. This is very true. The two knives I mentioned previously, that just wouldn't take a fine edge, were very strange ducks. One blade was on a very (very) 'inexpensive' multi-tool purchased in the fishing gear section of a popular big-box store. The factory edge was very obtuse, so I decided to thin it out a bit. Steel wouldn't have any of that; it would simply crumble away, like coarse sand, when the edge thickness went below a certain level. Left lots of swarf on the hone, but nothing to show for the effort. And the other knife was a cheap paring knife bought at the grocery store, on which the edge would just turn to mush, if taken very thin at all. Way too soft. In both cases, neither knife would go thin enough to produce anything resembling a burr.
  19. rickcr


    Sep 5, 2012
    My Mora utility knife came in ($10.00)... only problem is it's already sharper than I was able to make any of the old kitchen knives I was working with:)
    So how do I practice.. go out and dull it up first ? seems so sad to do that to such a nice little knife.
  20. Early on, when I was still trying to figure most of this stuff out, I spent a lot of time with fine/uf hones, or with a strop, just to see if I could improve upon already-good factory edges, often on brand new knives. It may sound sort of strange, but part of my 'goal' was just to practice the basics of maintaining the 'correct' angle and pressure, and doing so in such a way that I didn't leave the edge any worse off (this really was significant for me). The thing about 'bad' technique is, it'll give immediate feedback that's usually very difficult to ignore. So, if you can start out by very, very gently taking a pass or two on a fine/uf hone, and at least not see significant degradation on the edge, you'll begin to figure out that you're headed in the right direction. Test very frequently by cutting paper; if the edge changes either way, for better or for worse, you'll see it. Also a very good idea to use a good magnifier, with bright light, to inspect the edge before and after every couple or three passes. Then correlate what you see with how the edge performs after every few passes.

    Edges that start out already-good, such as on your new Mora, won't benefit right now from trying a coarse or xc hone right off the bat. Too easy to do too much damage, if you don't have a feel for it yet. Stick with the finer hones for now, mainly for training the hands to the motion/technique. And look for 'small' improvements in your edges, instead of mind-blowing leaps forward (unless you're one of the 'blessed' few who can do that ;)).

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