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What's the deal with this ELMAX???

Joined
Oct 15, 2014
Messages
31
I'll be the first to admit I'm a newb in this, so be gentle. Got into knives in the last few months and my learning curve keeps getting steeper, it seems.

Decided about 2 months ago to buy a nice knife. Not one I'd ordered off Amazon for $40, but one that most would consider to be at least mid-pack. Picked up a ZT 0566 and was just in awe of what spending 4 times my normal knife budget would get me.

Since I'd bought a non-throw-away knife, I figured I'd need to learn sharpening. All my other blades would dull, I'd try to use whatever "sharpener" I had available (read, "pull-through" - I know, I know!), have no positive results, then give up on them. This time around, I wanted to learn to sharpen properly, to maintain my new friend.

Started with the Lansky system, thinking a guided system would be perfect for my meager skills.

Feh. Couldn't even get to the factory angle without grinding off the surface of the blade-holding apparatus with the stones. Not optimal by any means. Eventually clearanced enough material off the holder to get to the edge. Still just really couldn't get that sharp, lasting edge I kept reading the ELMAX blades were supposed to be capable of.

Must be the sharpener system, right? (Insert eye roll).

Got the Sharpmaker. Sharpened ALL my other blades beautifully. Couldn't get much done with the ZT. I'd get a scary sharp edge, and from what I could tell I was removing any burr, but the sharpness would be noticeably lower after a day of work - which consists of opening a few (up to a dozen) packages, cutting up a cardboard box or two, etc. I'd need to touch the thing up daily at this rate.... At the same time, my other blades seemed to hold up just fine....grrrr...

AHA! Ken Onion Work Sharp! Figured that since the ELMAX is supposed to be super-steel, it simply must be harder to sharpen, and take more time. Let's combine a guided system with something that can do more work in less time! Solution, right?

Well..... sharpest knives I've ever laid hands on - except the stinkin' ZT. I followed the WS directions and set a 22.5 degree angle (45 degree inclusive) based on their recommendations and the mental picture I had of what I use the ZT for daily. Edge wouldn't last any better than with the Sharpmaker. It was sharper to begin with, but fell off like the other attempts.

I get a burr before going to finer stones/belts. I've gotten enough time with the stuff now to be able to detect and remove burrs (I'm thinking so anyway!). If there's a wire edge at play, I'd be surprised, since I seem to have at least acquired the skill necessary to find and correct them with my other knives.

Is ELMAX just going to take 3-4 times as much work to get truly sharp, or what? Or is ELMAX a clever way of getting me to pay more when it's not going to give me the performance of my pedestrian AUS-8A Cold Steel and Bokers? Or do I need to throw caution to the wind and set the angle to something like 15 degrees (30 inclusive)? I'm a bit hesitant to do so, since the time I did so using the SM and had the thing chip on me. Went back to 20 degrees (40 inclusive) after that..

Thanks in advance for the education I'm about to receive!
 

Jason B.

Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider
Joined
Jun 13, 2007
Messages
11,130
STOP BUYING DIFFERENT TOOLS!!!!!!

The biggest mistake you can make as a new sharpener is to 1) not buy quality tools capable of sharpening the steels you own or 2) buying a bunch of different sharpening tools and never mastering any of them. I would also recommend you step away from the WS as it can quickly damage a edge.

ELMAX like most super steels prefer a edge with some tooth, with my ELMAX blade I find a 800 grit waterstone or 600 mesh diamond plate provides the greatest edge detention for this steel. When finely polished I find ELMAX to dull quickly with very little use but with a coarser finish it's slightly better than S30V.
 
Joined
Jan 22, 2011
Messages
3,193
Hmmm I haven't noticed my ELMAX performing poorly, but it hasn't really wowed me either. But ELMAX is touted for its toughness not its edge retention so that may put some perspective on your observations. I would suggest seeing how long that "one day of use" edge lasts over a longer time. A lot of the high carbide steels lose their blazing sharp razor edges relatively quickly but maintain a working edge for a while. Maybe your ELMAX is dulling to the "one day of use" edge but won't degrade much more for a long time.



Oh yeah, there will be blood.
 
Joined
Mar 16, 2012
Messages
939
You need to continue buying sharpening devices until you find the device that works, or in your case doesn't.
You're continuing to beat a dead horse and now even the bones are dust.
I use Lansky and my 566 and 770cf, Elmax, are shaving sharp and my 770 is on the lowest, 17, angle on the Lansky.
Sounds like you are not placing the blade in the holder correctly either. While I have scuffed the tips of the holders a bit on some of my smaller blades and at the 17 degree angle I've not worn them down much at all. You need to practice using the sharpener and placement of the blade in the jaws.

All factory edges have to be reprofiled, or nearly so, when sharpened in a system because most if not all sharpening is done free hand at the factory and close to but not exact and repeatable. That is why using a Sharpie to try to determine the factory angle compared to the system angle is required. Then you use the closest matching angle on the system or reprofile to your preferred angle.

As Elmax is such a hard steel diamond hones/stones are needed for all but a light touching up of the edge...at least imo.
 

dalefuller

Gold Member
Joined
Feb 2, 2005
Messages
4,248
I'm gonna agree with Jason about not spending any more money until you've gotten a good understanding of what sharpening is, how it works on different knives & steels, and you can make a good system work on all your knives. The Lansky and the Sharpmaker will work for every knife you've mentioned if you have the right technique and patience. Personally, I'd stick with the Sharpmaker until you've developed the skills and technique to make it work. I've used a Sharpmaker on several ELMAX ZTs and they've all turned out great. I've used it on ZDP189, S30V, A2, and probably a dozen other steels. There's just no shortcut around the learning curve in the beginning of your sharpening "adventure".

Other systems can make your time invested pay off better for you after you've learned the basics and developed your technique. I have a range of strops, benchstones, a couple of Sharpmakers, and a Ken Onion Work Sharp. They've all done their jobs well. I pick the sharpening tool that's going to do what I want to do on a particular blade. I use the Work Sharp to do heavy steel removal and blade repair. I finish up by hand on the loaded & bare strops. I use the Sharpmaker for touchups on certain knives. For others, I stick with the strops. No one system is perfect for everything. But learning about sharpening comes first. Spend some time with the stickies at the top of the M, T, & E. subforum. Browse You-Tube for sharpening vids. Ask questions. Practice.
 
Joined
Oct 15, 2014
Messages
31
STOP BUYING DIFFERENT TOOLS!!!!!!

The biggest mistake you can make as a new sharpener is to 1) not buy quality tools capable of sharpening the steels you own or 2) buying a bunch of different sharpening tools and never mastering any of them. I would also recommend you step away from the WS as it can quickly damage a edge.

ELMAX like most super steels prefer a edge with some tooth, with my ELMAX blade I find a 800 grit waterstone or 600 mesh diamond plate provides the greatest edge detention for this steel. When finely polished I find ELMAX to dull quickly with very little use but with a coarser finish it's slightly better than S30V.

I'm finding I like the WS quite a bit. I believe I've found the "one" for my sharpening there, anyway. I'd admittedly gone clear up through the grits on my last outing, however, and the edge was a mirror. Wondered about the toothy edge thing for it... and that's hit on later in the thread!

Hmmm I haven't noticed my ELMAX performing poorly, but it hasn't really wowed me either. But ELMAX is touted for its toughness not its edge retention so that may put some perspective on your observations. I would suggest seeing how long that "one day of use" edge lasts over a longer time. A lot of the high carbide steels lose their blazing sharp razor edges relatively quickly but maintain a working edge for a while. Maybe your ELMAX is dulling to the "one day of use" edge but won't degrade much more for a long time.



Oh yeah, there will be blood.

That's an excellent point - "working edge" settling in...just bugs me that it's no longer what I know it can be :(

You need to continue buying sharpening devices until you find the device that works, or in your case doesn't.
You're continuing to beat a dead horse and now even the bones are dust.
I use Lansky and my 566 and 770cf, Elmax, are shaving sharp and my 770 is on the lowest, 17, angle on the Lansky.
Sounds like you are not placing the blade in the holder correctly either. While I have scuffed the tips of the holders a bit on some of my smaller blades and at the 17 degree angle I've not worn them down much at all. You need to practice using the sharpener and placement of the blade in the jaws.

All factory edges have to be reprofiled, or nearly so, when sharpened in a system because most if not all sharpening is done free hand at the factory and close to but not exact and repeatable. That is why using a Sharpie to try to determine the factory angle compared to the system angle is required. Then you use the closest matching angle on the system or reprofile to your preferred angle.

As Elmax is such a hard steel diamond hones/stones are needed for all but a light touching up of the edge...at least imo.

AND I'd had thoughts that the hardness/toughness of this steel is fighting my efforts....
 

Jason B.

Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider
Joined
Jun 13, 2007
Messages
11,130
It's not the hardness it's the wear resistance that's slowing you down.
 

SVTFreak

Gold Member
Joined
Mar 8, 2011
Messages
5,069
The heat treat on elmax is very particular. I've got 2 micro techs and a zt that get very sharp but don't stay there long. I've also got a shirogorov that gets and stays very very sharp. I'm not sure what they do differently, but it works. It's actually my favorite steel I own, but only in that one hati. I don't know how bad it would chip or crack, but it hasn't yet.
 
Joined
May 20, 2007
Messages
3,274
I wasn't that impressed with elmax until I got a couple of folders from Alan Davis. His heat treat is spot on and his blades take a great edge and hold it longer than I would have expected. Not that hard to sharpen in my estimation. Russ
 

Terry M.

Gold Member
Joined
Feb 5, 2006
Messages
586
May just be that Elmax isn't for you. It's not for me. I can't get my ZT0561 to stay sharp much past a day or so either and that's from some simple light cutting tasks. I can sharpen a blade too. No matter what I do, it won't stay sharp to my expectations.
 
Joined
Oct 15, 2014
Messages
31
UPDATE:

Must have just needed to learn some patience. Go figure. Went back to the start at the angle I thought I should run (20 degrees per side, 40 inclusive) and took my time making sure I got a really nice burr defined coming from both ways. Kissed the burr off then went to the next belts up, and so on. DID NOT use the finest belt (6000 grit, IIRC) but stopped at the X4 belt to get the toothy edge I thought would work best for my use (slicing).

Oh, my. This is even sharper than when I sent it to a guy here in Indiana who uses the Wicked Edge. He'd stated then that he had it super sharp when he returned it to me. It never held its edge in use, though.

Umm..... it's sharper now :) . AND it seems to be holding an edge like crazy...

Thanks for the great info, folks!
 
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