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Sharpening Methods - Which way do I turn?


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#1 Onboard

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Posted 29 October 2011 - 04:12 PM

Prior to purchasing a set of hand tools to start my woodworking with (planes, chisels, saws, etc.), I wanted to purchase the components of an economical sharpening system for plane irons and chisels. One less thing to think about after I get my hand tools, and I’ll have it in place and ready to go.

Since I’ve never sharpened before I’m at a standstill as to which sharpening “camp” to subscribe to for purposes of purchasing supplies for that method. Would you please tell me what sharpening method you use and why you like it.

#2 MikeM

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Posted 30 October 2011 - 11:37 AM

Having used the scary sharpening, it is pretty straight forward for sharpening chisels and plane blades. The quote you posted appears to be for sharpening carving knives which I don't personally have any.

The upfront cost for scary sharp is actually pretty minimal, as sandpaper is not that expensive. The other piece to scary sharp is putt the sand paper on a flat surface. I use a granite block, but plate glass works well too. Scary sharp does start to get expensive when you start having to replace the sand paper. I eventually ended up buying a sharpening stones. However, I still use the sandpaper and granite block to flatten the stones. Either way, the process is the same, use low grit for grinding the metal to shape, the work your way up to fine grits to hone the edge.

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#3 Onboard

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Posted 30 October 2011 - 12:27 PM

Having used the scary sharpening, it is pretty straight forward for sharpening chisels and plane blades. The quote you posted appears to be for sharpening carving knives which I don't personally have any.

The upfront cost for scary sharp is actually pretty minimal, as sandpaper is not that expensive. The other piece to scary sharp is putt the sand paper on a flat surface. I use a granite block, but plate glass works well too. Scary sharp does start to get expensive when you start having to replace the sand paper. I eventually ended up buying a sharpening stones. However, I still use the sandpaper and granite block to flatten the stones. Either way, the process is the same, use low grit for grinding the metal to shape, the work your way up to fine grits to hone the edge.

Mike, thanks for your reply. Scary sharp sounds reasonable enough. I have heard comments about the cost of sand paper over the long term can get a little expensive, but after reading your reply it may be the way for me to start. As far as the comment I copied and pasted above, I noticed he talked about knives, but he did mention chisels, and the kit being sold was pitched to the woodworker. I guess I was wondering about his method in principle. However, re-reading my post, I can see that it is distracting from my original request, so I went ahead and deleted that section. I may get a few more replies now (hopefully).

#4 john@verona

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Posted 30 October 2011 - 02:21 PM

I think that in the long run stones (oil or water) work out cheaper. However, for the amount of sharpening I do, I'm not yet ready to make that plunge.

I started with sandpaper, which goes up to about P2500, quite satisfactory, but I did get through quite a lot of it. I'm now using 3M lapping film on a marble tile, which lasts a whole lot longer. I bought the sample pack, 40 micron to 0.3 micron.

I'll also get some 100 micron film as this is great for grinding or rehoning the primary bevel - I'm still using P100 sandpaper for that.

Just be careful not to scratch the film, it tears fairly easily. Hone one way only. DAMHIKT.

Right now I'm just sharpening the flat stuff, chisels, plane and spokeshave irons.

I'm sure you can find this stuff cheaper in the US of A.

John
Più imparo, più dubito - The more I learn, the more I doubt

#5 Wilbur Pan

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Posted 30 October 2011 - 03:25 PM

I've posted this before, but I think it bears repeating.

All the sharpening methods work just fine. They will all put an extremely sharp edge on your tools. I think that what ultimately decides what sharpening method you wind up with depends not on how well they work, but on what downsides you're willing to put up with.

Scary sharp requires replacing the sandpaper often and dealing with getting rid of the spray adhesive on your flat surface. With waterstones, you have to deal with containing the water and flattening the stones. Oilstones don't cut as quickly as the other methods, and some people don't like dealing with the oil. Diamond stones lose their initial cutting action quickly, and some feel that it is harder to erase the grooves from the coarser stones as you move up through the grits.

Much more important than the method of sharpening is just practicing with a method and sticking with it until you get proficient. For the record, I like waterstones, because I would rather deal with the water and flattening than any of the other sharpening systems' issues. But that's just me.

As far as the initial expense, although it's always good to save money where you can, one thing to keep in mind is that a sharpening system is something you'll use every time you're in the shop, so trying to save money on this is probably not as critical an issue as making sure that you have the sharpening system that works for you, even if it costs a little more than a cheaper alternative that you have to struggle with. Again, this is a tool (yes, a sharpening system is a tool) that you could potentially use every single time you're in the shop.

giant Cypress: the best Japanese tool blog in existence :::::::: Hail St. Roy, Full of Grace, The Schwarz is with thee. / Blessed art thou among woodworkers, and blessed is the fruit of thy saw, dovetails. / Holy St. Roy, Master of Chisels, pray for us sharpeners now, and at the hour of planing. / Amen.


#6 Onboard

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Posted 30 October 2011 - 05:09 PM

I think that in the long run stones (oil or water) work out cheaper. However, for the amount of sharpening I do, I'm not yet ready to make that plunge.

I started with sandpaper, which goes up to about P2500, quite satisfactory, but I did get through quite a lot of it. I'm now using 3M lapping film on a marble tile, which lasts a whole lot longer. I bought the sample pack, 40 micron to 0.3 micron.

John

John, thank you for the suggestions. I found the 3M film you were referring to here. I’m not sure how much sharpening I could do with the “sample pack, but it would be a start. Between you and Mike, the scary sharp is starting to sound more like a launching point for me, but I’ll have to withhold a decision for now until I can collect some more input.

I've posted this before, but I think it bears repeating.

Wilbur, sage advice. I guess I should consider water stones. I did find this Norton kit. Would that be a good place to start? Currently $129 is a little steep. I may start with the sand paper and a flat surface to get started and then go to the Norton kit before the cost of replacing sand paper starts getting out of hand. Or, I might give the 3M film a try as a starting point as John suggested, and then go to the Norton stones at some point.

#7 ChrisG

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Posted 31 October 2011 - 04:40 AM

So let me first say the personally I hate scary sharp, not saying it won't get you there or that there is anything wrong with it, but I don't like if for reasons already mentioned above...

So that brings us to stones. I started with the Norton 1k/8k combo stone, then got some Arks, and now mainly use some Sigma Power ceramic waterstones and here's what I can tell you.

Arkansas/Oil Stones are wonderful - they are definitely the lowest maintenance system I've used, generally they are very nice to use, relatively inexpensive, and if you follow with a strop get you a nice edge. The downside is that they are slow, but there is a way to improve this. Either use a Med/Fine india for your coarse stone instead of a soft Ark, or if using a soft ark scuff/dress it with a diamond hone before each use to "refresh" the surface and it will cut MUCH faster. I have a soft ark and surgical black from Halls Proedge, which are great, and I use often, but I think the best bang for buck out there for oil stones is this set from Tools for Working Wood which includes a Med India and a hard/trans ark.

For Nortons don't bother with that set, the flattening stone and the 220 are fairly useless. The 1k is a pretty good stone, but there are better for the money, and in my opinion the 4k and 8k are pretty nice stones. If you're going to go the norton route my advice would be to order a 4k/8k combo stone (about $80) and then buy some type of ceramic 1k (Imanishi Bester, Shapton, Sigma or other) instead of the norton 1k. A cermamic 1k will run you about another $45-$60. For about the same price as the $130 norton set (or maybe $10-$20 more) you will have something much better in my opinion - folks tend to focus on high grit stones, but a good 1k stone is VERY important. Another thing to consider if money is a concern is to get just a 1k and an 8k in either nortons or, even better, in modern ceramic stones. I used a Norton 1k/8k combo stone alone for 2-3 years and while it left somethings to be desired it got the job done. In either case you can always fill in with coarser stones and in between stones as you need to later on. If money's no object (yeah right) and you are inclined to go with water stones get a full set of modern ceramic waterstones, once again shapton, sigma, or imanishi-bester all have advantages over Nortons. Nortons or Kings will get you there and can be very nice to use, but the modern ceramic really are much nicer to use and easier to maintain .

BTW for flattening oil or water stones, I recommend getting a coarse diamond stone, but you can use sandpaper on tile or glass for waterstones if you're looking to save some money upfront.

So my final ranking

1. Full set of ceramic Water stones Or Norton 4k/8k with a modern ceramic 1k Or just 1K and 8k (or 10k or higher) pair of modern ceramics (also a diamond stone for flattening). They are just that good, REALLY, but not cheap

2. Oil stones - Med India/Hard Trans from TFWW plus strop/honing compound. This is a VERY close 2nd for me, and given space, money, and whether or not one is willing to invest in a diamond stone for flattening, oil stones could easily be a first choice. I still regularly use my oil stones even though I have a full set of ceramic water stones.

3. Full set of Nortons or the 1k/8k Norton combo stone - Good, but in my book, not enough faster/better then oil stones to warrant the extra maintenance. Don't bother - there are better options out there for the money. Check out ChefKnivestoGo.com - lots of very good waterstones for good prices.

4. Scary Sharp -Meh, don't bother (sorry folks that's just how I feel), but yes it, like all sharpening methods will get you there. If you are inclinded to go with this method do your homework on abrasives and get PSA backed paper. In all fairness, I failed to do my homework during the brief period I used scary sharp which may be part of why I hate is so much.

Just one mans opinion.

EDIT_ BTW I have this set that I got from Stu at Tools from Japan. I also have the Sigma 10k but the 1k/6k/diamond flattening stone in the set are all that you need. The 6k cuts faster and gets things sharper than a Norton 8k, and if you want to take it up a notch you can always strop with compound.

#8 Onboard

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Posted 31 October 2011 - 01:25 PM

So let me first say the personally I hate scary sharp, not saying it won't get you there or that there is anything wrong with it, but I don't like if for reasons already mentioned above...

So that brings us to stones.

Chris, thank you for taking the time to provide so much information on sharpening products. I was concerned that I may not have many replies to my post, but I’m very happy you added yours. I was beginning to feel like I was spinning a pointer to see what sharpening system it points to. However, as I see the opinions on sharpening methods posted above I have hope now, that I will be able to come to some sort of conclusion before very long.

#9 Brian Glendenning

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Posted 31 October 2011 - 02:26 PM

ChrisG -

Any comments about diamond stones? I currently use DMT extra-fine (green, ~1k grit) and Norton 4000/8000 stones, and they all seem kind of slow, especially on A2, but it might just be my technique I realize (relative Newbie).

Cheers,
Brian

#10 ChrisG

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Posted 31 October 2011 - 05:17 PM

ChrisG -

Any comments about diamond stones? I currently use DMT extra-fine (green, ~1k grit) and Norton 4000/8000 stones, and they all seem kind of slow, especially on A2, but it might just be my technique I realize (relative Newbie).

Cheers,
Brian



Personally, I don't like them for sharpening - just for flattening. Although I know of several folks (on other forums) who do like them for coarse and medium work. I had a DMT Diasharp Fine (600 grit) diamond stone that I used for a while in place of my Norton 1k - the convenience was nice, but I didn't like the feel when I started learning to freehand. Also, the center lost its aggressiveness very quickly. They may not need flattening, but they do wear, so to speak. I love my iWood 300 for flattening and I've used duosharps and like them too, but once again, there are other methods I prefer on blades. Also, I think the diasharps in particular (perhap all DMTs) are less aggressive then their grit ratings let on, but my experience with them is limited. I can say that my "fine" 600 grit diasharp was comparable to a norton 1k (which incidentally is actually 800 grit) in terms of speed and scratch pattern.

You could probably benefit from a water stone in the 800-1500 range or if you want to stick with diamond something one step coarser than you have. Also, there are a number of water stones out there in the 800-1500 range that are VERY good and relatively inexpensive - if you don't want to soak, get a Shapton. If you're ok with soaking there a several other options. Really you could probably benefit from anything that is just a bit coarser than what you have. Of course, if your not already using them, hollow grinds and/or micro bevels speed things up too.

#11 Darnell Hagen

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Posted 31 October 2011 - 09:43 PM

dealing with getting rid of the spray adhesive on your flat surface.


That drove me nuts for a long time until I started prepping my granite with paint thinner. I've got a spray bottle to show figure to clients, a couple of squirts before it's applied and the PSA sandpaper peels right off, no problem. I'd imagine that it would work for spray adhesive, too.

#12 Brian Glendenning

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Posted 31 October 2011 - 10:45 PM

ChrisG - I don't mind soaking, and I don't find flattening the Norton's to be a big hassle. So what would you recommend for a 1k stone? The Sigma Select II's that Lee Valley now sells?

Cheers,
Brian

#13 ChrisG

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Posted 01 November 2011 - 03:31 AM

ChrisG - I don't mind soaking, and I don't find flattening the Norton's to be a big hassle. So what would you recommend for a 1k stone? The Sigma Select II's that Lee Valley now sells?

Cheers,
Brian


Haven't used the select IIs, but no, for general sharpening that was not what was recommended to me. They are really for High Speed and other super steels, I'm told that most folks would want something more dish resistant. The sigma power 1k (same maker as the Select II but different stone line) that Stu Tierney at Tools from Japan sells is phenomenal and its what I have. Since it comes from Japan you need to wait a few weeks to get it but its worth it and Stu is a great guy to deal with. Haven't used the Shapton 1k, but I have not doubt that its every bit as good. I believe Wilbur has both the Shapton Pro 1k and the Sigma 1k and if I recall his thoughts from another forum he likes them equally well. I have Shapton Pro 120 and its a great for very very coarse work. A friend of mine has a Bester 1200 which you can get at ChefKnivestoGo, that he says is very, very similar to the Sigma 1k. That same friend has a Chosera 1k also, which I've used, but personally didn't like as much.

Really the only ceramic that I have enough experience with to personally recommend is the aforementioned Sigma Power 1k - it takes the Norton 1k out back and beats it senseless - really, it's just that good, and at the end of the day the Norton 1k is highly mediocre especially considering what you can get for similar prices. Not saying that people who have the Norton 1k need to replace or anything - it works just fine, it's just that there are, in my opinion, several superior options out there for the same price.

If you want to spend a little less and not wait as long as you would need to for the Sigma, my guess is you'd be just as happy with a Bester 1000 or 1200 from either ChefKnivestogo or Lee Valley.

Not sure if you've seen this but a while back Stu did some pretty intense testing/comparing of a number of 1k stones. Pretty informative - check it out: http://www.toolsfrom...ordpress/?p=672

Hope that helps...

#14 ChrisG

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Posted 01 November 2011 - 03:45 AM

Chris, thank you for taking the time to provide so much information on sharpening products. I was concerned that I may not have many replies to my post, but I’m very happy you added yours. I was beginning to feel like I was spinning a pointer to see what sharpening system it points to. However, as I see the opinions on sharpening methods posted above I have hope now, that I will be able to come to some sort of conclusion before very long.



Glad it helped. Let us know what you end up with.

#15 jwatson

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Posted 01 November 2011 - 06:47 AM

I say use oil based stones. sharpening shouldn't be such a mystical thing. its getting the tool sharp enough to work from. you don't need to get gossamer shavings from your jack or jointer. I have water stones currently and find it a messy venture and seemingly backwards to use water around something that rusts. the sand paper methods seem like such a waste to me. and oil stones are the proven sharpening method for hundreds of years. oil stones are inexpensive simple to use. sometime I may end up switching.

#16 Brian Glendenning

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Posted 01 November 2011 - 07:14 AM

ChrisG -

Thank you very much - very helpful. On the one hand I'm trying to resist the temptation to flit around from one system to another, on the other hand I have convinced myself that my current system is unnecessarily slow (although it works - I get sharp tools). Thanks for the link which I had seen but not absorbed. I'll probably get a 1k Shapton or Sigma Select per your recommendation. (Thanks also for the recommendation for the Shapton 120 - I have spent way, way, more time flattening chisel backs on my 220 DMT than I want to).

Cheers,
Brian

#17 Joraft

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Posted 01 November 2011 - 08:20 AM


I say use oil based stones. sharpening shouldn't be such a mystical thing. its getting the tool sharp enough to work from. you don't need to get gossamer shavings from your jack or jointer.


I agree that sharpening needn't be mystical, but I also think there's no such thing as too sharp for a plane or chisel. A blade that is well-honed to a mirror-like finish will slice more easily through the wood fibers, reducing tearout and requiring far less effort in using the tool. It's a simple principle, the finer the grind on the surface of the blade the sharper the edge will be. If it looks like a mirror, you're probably in good shape.

I do have a Tormek T7, which I really like. I use it for sharpening just about everything from garden shears, to kitchen knives, to lawnmower blades. But when it comes to plane irons and chisels, I only use it for major repairs to the edge (accidents do happen).

For regular sharpening I use Japanese water stones, starting with a #1000 Bester (when agressive material removal is needed), then move up to a #4000 Takenoko, and a final honing with a #8000 Takenoko. Some folks think of them as "training wheels", but I always use a honing guide. My favorite guide is the Veritas MK II. And I'm not ashamed to admit that I can't get a better, more consistent edge without the guide, no matter how much I practice. :)



I have water stones currently and find it a messy venture and seemingly backwards to use water around something that rusts. the sand paper methods seem like such a waste to me. and oil stones are the proven sharpening method for hundreds of years.


The reason for the water is that it creates a slurry with the fine metal particles removed from the blade, and often other elements found in the stone. This can polish a metal surface to a level you'll never achieve with oil, a dry stone, or abrasive paper.

In the case of Japanese stones, they contain special clays, varying from stonemaker to stonemaker. Without the water these clays cannot work their magic. The mirror finish easily achieved with a Takenoko is unbelievable. If you keep your blades well maintained, it only takes a few strokes on the stone before each use to have it "scary sharp" (barring accidents of course).

Another great thing about the Japanese stones is that they don't require soaking, a few squirts with a spray bottle now and then during use is all that is needed.

To prevent rust, simply wipe the blade immediately after sharpening with a cloth and your favorite rust preventative. My favorite is Lie-Nielsen Camellia Oil.

#18 ChrisG

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Posted 01 November 2011 - 09:49 AM


I agree that sharpening needn't be mystical, but I also think there's no such thing as too sharp for a plane or chisel. A blade that is well-honed to a mirror-like finish will slice more easily through the wood fibers, reducing tearout and requiring far less effort in using the tool. It's a simple principle, the finer the grind on the surface of the blade the sharper the edge will be. If it looks like a mirror, you're probably in good shape.

I do have a Tormek T7, which I really like. I use it for sharpening just about everything from garden shears, to kitchen knives, to lawnmower blades. But when it comes to plane irons and chisels, I only use it for major repairs to the edge (accidents do happen).

For regular sharpening I use Japanese water stones, starting with a #1000 Bester (when agressive material removal is needed), then move up to a #4000 Takenoko, and a final honing with a #8000 Takenoko. Some folks think of them as "training wheels", but I always use a honing guide. My favorite guide is the Veritas MK II. And I'm not ashamed to admit that I can't get a better, more consistent edge without the guide, no matter how much I practice. :)




The reason for the water is that it creates a slurry with the fine metal particles removed from the blade, and often other elements found in the stone. This can polish a metal surface to a level you'll never achieve with oil, a dry stone, or abrasive paper.

In the case of Japanese stones, they contain special clays, varying from stonemaker to stonemaker. Without the water these clays cannot work their magic. The mirror finish easily achieved with a Takenoko is unbelievable. If you keep your blades well maintained, it only takes a few strokes on the stone before each use to have it "scary sharp" (barring accidents of course).

Another great thing about the Japanese stones is that they don't require soaking, a few squirts with a spray bottle now and then during use is all that is needed.

To prevent rust, simply wipe the blade immediately after sharpening with a cloth and your favorite rust preventative. My favorite is Lie-Nielsen Camellia Oil.


When I was researching water stones I read a lot about the Takenoko 8k on the knife forums - the knife guys really like it, nice to hear a woodworkers perspective - I came very close to buying that same stone. Just an FYI - my understanding is that the Arishyama 6k that CKTG sells is the same stone as the Takenoko 8k, just labeled differently - everything I've read about it (on the knife forums anyway) is that its a great stone and a very good price.

I agree, no shame in a honing guide, whatsoever - I don't use one much anymore, but honestly don't think free handing has sped the process all that much for me - I anticipate as I get better at freehanding things will get faster. I sold my MK II, but keep an eclipse around just in case I need it. If nothing else, free handing is a nice skill to have, but once again, I would never tell anyone that they need to learn to freehand. Tom Fidgen sharpens with an MKII on Nortons - and I think his results speak for themselves.

I tend to agree that people do get too esoteric about sharpening but also that theres no such thing as too sharp. Even on a Jack plane the sharpest blade possible is beneficial - not a necessity, but beneficial, since a sharper blade has the potential to cut with less effort, reduce tearout, and give a longer lasting edge. That said, depending on what a tool is for I may or may not bother to go the extra mile in terms of edge. For example, the chisels I use for chopping dovetails often get refreshed on my surgical black without even bothering to strop, whereas all my planes go up to 10k on my ceramics.

Unfortunately, I've often seen discussions on sharpening disinigrate into an argument between the "who cares/not worth discussing camp" vs. the "esoteric, whats best according to an electron microscope camp". Really discussions on sharpening equiptment should be no different than discussion on any other tool. There are different products out there, for different prices, all with different strengths and weaknesses. It pays to be informed on what those are when making a purchasing desicion, and pays to know how to make the most of what you have.

#19 Wilbur Pan

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Posted 01 November 2011 - 12:38 PM

you don't need to get gossamer shavings from your jack or jointer.

No, but the sharper the blade is in your jack or jointer plane, the easier it is to use.

giant Cypress: the best Japanese tool blog in existence :::::::: Hail St. Roy, Full of Grace, The Schwarz is with thee. / Blessed art thou among woodworkers, and blessed is the fruit of thy saw, dovetails. / Holy St. Roy, Master of Chisels, pray for us sharpeners now, and at the hour of planing. / Amen.


#20 Wilbur Pan

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Posted 01 November 2011 - 12:50 PM

I believe Wilbur has both the Shapton Pro 1k and the Sigma 1k and if I recall his thoughts from another forum he likes them equally well.


I do have both, and they are very close in performance. I think I would give a slight edge to the Shapton Pro 1,000 grit because for me it's slightly more aggressive, and the Sigma Power 1,000 grit stone seems to load a bit if I am not paying attention. But these are very small differences. I certainly would not sell one for the other, and I think the only reason I notice a difference is I have them side by side.

For the record, I first learned sharpening using Scary Sharp. The first sharpening set up I bought was Shapton Pros, 1,000, 5,000, and 8,000 grits. I now use the Shapton Pro 1,000, then an aoto, which is a natural Japanese waterstone that's about 4000 grit, and then finally a natural Japanese waterstone that is finer than an 8,000 grit waterstone, maybe in the 15,000-20,000 grit range.

I certainly am not recommending everyone to go out and get natural Japanese waterstones. What I would recommend to people today is to get Shapton Pros in 1,000, 5,000, and 15,000 grits, especially since Craftsman Studio in San Diego sells the Shapton Pro 15,000 grit for the same price as the Shapton Pro 8,000 grit. Assuming that your budget allows it, of course. Getting a set of Sigma Power waterstones would be a good alternative as well.

giant Cypress: the best Japanese tool blog in existence :::::::: Hail St. Roy, Full of Grace, The Schwarz is with thee. / Blessed art thou among woodworkers, and blessed is the fruit of thy saw, dovetails. / Holy St. Roy, Master of Chisels, pray for us sharpeners now, and at the hour of planing. / Amen.






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