Archive for June, 2009

Failing Forward – Every failure is a success in waiting – even if it takes 7 years

June 29, 2009

I am about to embark on my first straight razor restore. I won a few old straight razors off of eBay, and I’ve been doing my homework on the SRP these past few days. The old razors will have surface rust, and possibly even some pitting.  It is my goal to get a really shiny finish on them, if possible. The problem is that some of the blades are very thin, so using a higher speed buffer or sandpaper flap wheel could easily overheat the blade, or damage it, and using wet/dry sandpaper will just plain take a long time.

So, I was driving to work, and it hit me – I had actually come full circle!

About 7 years ago I started getting into the reed knife business, I had absolutely no intentions of learning how to sharpen. I wanted to simply be a middleman. But when I got the knives from the maker, they had this nasty coat of polyurethane sprayed on the blades. The maker said that they would rust, otherwise.  I obviously couldn’t sell them that way, so I set out to find a way to polish the blades. I tried a lot of methods, but ultimately ended up getting these little slip stones and used them to polish the blades by hand. Each blade took about 3 hours to complete, but they were smooth, shiny, and they didn’t rust.

I realized after about 100 knives that it just wasn’t going to be economical, as much as it was pretty. A failure, if you will, because I wasted many, many hours trying  a solution that just wasn’t worth the effort. So I started looking into other polishing methods and materials. This lead to several things. First, I found that using a buffing wheel worked much, much faster in polishing up the blades. And even though the scratch marks on the blade from manufacturing were still quite visible, they were “polished”, and that stopped the rust from forming. This was a success, because my blade polishing time was reduced from hours to seconds – but it’s not why I am writing this post.

This is where failing forward comes into play. First, in my quest for knowledge on polishing blades, I ultimately got into sharpening because all of the information available was for polishing, as in sharpening. The failure of hand polishing the blades with slip stones lead me to make the market’s sharpest reed knives, to me becoming something of an authority on sharpening reed knives, and to me actually writing a reed knife sharpening book (with plans for a DVD in the works as well…).

But here’s the kicker. As I was thinking about how I would be polishing up the old straight razor blades, the idea of using the slip stones came into my mind. Here’s the full circle – 8 years ago, I spent a plethora of time trying to polish the reed knife blades using the slip stones – developing a technique that was uneconomical. It was abandoned for 7 years – until today.

So for my first razor restore job, I will already have the skills, and a considerable amount of experience to polish up a rusty blade.

So every failure is a success in waiting, even if it takes 7 years (or more) to reveal itself!

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Progressive Sharpening vs. Pyramid Sharpening on a Straight Razor

June 19, 2009

I’ve been a regular on the Straight Razor Forums lately, and I’ve been finding success with my razor (finally! A special shout out to JimmyHAD from SRP!) As an experienced sharpener of reed knives, kitchen knives, scissors, and even dental tools, I have always used a progressive method of sharpening. Using Shaptons, this makes sense because Shaptons are built with that in mind – they are meant to go to #30,000 (even if you don’t, that’s ok, though).

Shaptons and progressive sharpening  work on the idea that more scratch marks are added to an edge as the grit gets finer, eventually adding so many uniform and densely packed scratches that they form a mirror finish, and a very nice edge. So, if you begin shaping your blade with a coarse stone, say, a #320, or #1,000 grit, and then go to the #2k, 5K, 8K, 15K and finally the 30K Professional stones, the surface of the edge will have scratches that make a .5 micron finish. Sounds great.

But pyramid sharpening has been taking hold of my brain. As I explained in my Sharpening Epiphany entry, the pyramid method of sharpening eliminates the peaks formed by the previous stone’s scratches, essentially evening out the grooves to make a smooth edge. If you follow the same stone progression as above, the real final stone would be the 15K, followed by just a few passes on the 30K to even out the peaks formed by the 15K.

The interesting part begins here. I think the way you get to 15K, or your second to last stone doesn’t really matter much. I would guess that the pyramid is a little slower than the progressive  in getting there because you are going back and forth between stones – whatever. It is the last few 2 that will determine the final shaving edge, and are therefore, the most important.

On the pyramid sharpening, the 30K evens out the peaks left from the 15K, really leaving an even 15K edge, but in progressive sharpening, you will have a “straight” 30K edge, which sounds a little better to me. But the catch is that if you take enough (or too many) passes on the 30K, you will eventually create 30K peaks and valleys, which will be relatively smaller than the 15K peaks and valleys (about 1/2 the size in theory), but it will still be jagged. By using the pyramid, the smoother final 15K edge may be “thicker” and less refined than a 30K progressive edge that is jagged, but more refined.

So, I now come to the conclusion about which is better: It depends.

That is the answer to every sharpening question, BTW. : ) Here’s why: The pyramid, as explained, is a “safer” approach to a smooth edge without peaks. However it doesn’t mean that progressive is evil. What makes pyramid more appealing is the fact that you can easily overdo it on the 30K (or final stone) by using the progressive method. A good sharpener can compensate with the progressive method by taking fewer finishing strokes. This is where you can borrow from the pyramid, say 5 passes after the 15K. (This is borrowed from the SRP Wiki, and is meant for the Norton stones, but I don’t quite know if this same ratio is ideal for Shaptons glass or pro.)

I hope this helps show those who prefer one method over the other how they can both work, and why they both work.

So the argument continues. Is it coke, pepsi, or whichever is on sale this week?

Straight Razor sharpening w/out pressure

June 11, 2009

With my new-found knowledge that I was using too much pressure on my straight razor when sharpening, I set out to sharpen my Bismark Solingen from the beginning using the Shapton Glass Series Sharpening Stones.

I actually sharpened twice. The first time, I used the 2K, 4K, 6K, 8K, 16K, and finished with the 30K Glass. By 6K, I was getting some catching action from the blade as I passed it over the hairs hanging off my arm. By 8K, I was able to shave some hairs without much effort. I was satisfied with the results so far. When I finished using the 16K, I noticed I had missed a spot on the blade, that is, the surface of the edge wasn’t as shiny near the tip as it was along the rest of the blade. I took a closer look at the spine of the blade, and it was slightly curved, not enough to cause trouble, but it would easily explain the lack of shine.

I originally started sharpening by following Lynn’s method, where he puts the knife straight across so that the entire blade is contacts the stone. A slight bend in the spine would reveal a high spot. So started at 2K, and switched to pulling the blade straight off the stone, like this:

Straight Razor 1

At the lower grits, it was clear that this method was working favorably. But when I got to 16K again, the same fogging occurred. So I went out and bought a microscope – a Lumagny, which is a plastic jobber that has a removable base, a light source, and 60x, 80x and 100x magnifications. It only cost about $15.00. I put the blade under at 60x, and was surprised to see that that particular area of shading showed a considerable amount of pitting from rust – mind you, at room temperature, you can’t see the rust spots but once you know they are there, you know what you are seeing. This was no doubt a result of not using the razor for a couple of years, and living in a humid environment.

Anyway, I started over, using the same method of pulling the blade straight off the stone, but this time I checked my progress at 100x on the microscope. (BTW, those guys at the Straight Razor Forums are sick, sick, sick! And I am now infected. J) I could clearly see the uniform scratch marks  of the 2K, and quickly went to the 4K, where I started off with a little pressure, and gradually lightened it up so that the scratches would be completely even, and the traces of scratches from previous stones would be gone. I then went to the 8K and checked at 100x. Everything was looking good, and I went to the 16K. At this point, I saw the clouding of the blade again, but when I looked under the microscope, I could clearly see the rust spots, and the grain of the steel, but the scratches were actually gone. I realized that I was looking at the actual grain of the steel. When I finished on the 30K, it was clear when looking at the blade in the light without magnification that I had polished so well, that what I thought was imperfection, was actually the true face of the steel. This was confirmed by looking at the edge under 100x magnification.

I also started thinking about the different kind of shave that pulling the blade straight off the stone (giving a horizontal scratch pattern) would produce versus one where scratches are vertical. I did notice that the blade “caught” the hairs hanging off my arm better when the scratches were horizontal.

I’ll have to wait until this weekend to try the blade, but I am excited to see if it makes any difference now! I will also be looking for a new razor soon…

Adventures with my Maestro Wu pocket knife – Part 1

June 11, 2009

I went to the post office this morning to get boxes for some things I need to mail out. As I went over to the counter, there was an old couple trying to cut a box flap in order to make the box smaller.

The man was trying to use a box cutter, but he was first having trouble determining which side of the blade was used for cutting (it’s not as funny as you think! – well, yes it is!) Of course the woman was trying to tell him he was doing it all wrong and he was saying leave me alone ( I picture myself being like this with my wife in the future). He eventually found the correct side of the blade, and proceeded to try to cut the box, but he wasn’t doing very well. He put the blade to the box, but he flipped his arm out and the knife flicked forward while in his hand. His wife was standing dangerously close to the flicking, so I offered to assist them, while suggesting that the lady back up a few steps for safety. Naturally, the old man said he was ok, and proceeded to flick. He  had about 1 inch cut thus far.

I purchased my boxes, but by his time the man was no further along in his seemingly futile quest, so I said “let me help you, please, it will be much faster and safer“.  I took out my Maestro Wu mini folding knife and sliced the entire length of the box with one, very smooth stroke. They were all impressed with my little knife. and left the post office smiling, knowing that my knife and I had done our small part in making the world  a better place today.

True story – here’s a quick cell phone pic of the very knife. My Maestro Wu Mini Folding Knife – sharpened to #5,000 grit using Shapton Professional Series stones.

Meastro Wu Mini Folding Knife

My Meastro Wu Mini Folding Knife

Maestro Wu Mini Folding Knife

My Maestro Wu Mini Folding Knife

Shapton Glass or Professional for straight razors?

June 7, 2009

Here’s the latest about what I’m hearing from the voices in my head: With the revelation that I was using too much pressure to sharpen my own straight razor, I am switching my thoughts from the advantages of the glass to those of the pro, especially at the higher grits. Here’s why:

The glass stones create a more polished finish because of the slurry that comes off the stone. You get a more “residual effect”, somewhat similar to the effect of the paste from other stones. But you are cutting the steel with more fresh abrasives, getting deeper grooves because the glass stone wears faster, exposing the pointed parts of the abrasive.

With the pros, the abrasive particles don’t come lose as readily, so they shouldn’t scratch as deeply with successive strokes because the pointed parts become more rounded before coming lose – especially at the higher grits. If you apply this to the Pro 30K, (BTW, I am one of the few lucky people in the universe who has one!), then you should get a “better” finish than from the glass stone.

The only thing I don’t yet have the answer to is if the abrasives used in the pros are the same or different than the glass. The matrixes are different, but if the abrasives are different, then that will influence the results.

To be quite honest, the more I think about which might be better for straight razors, the more I get confused!

Sharpening Resources

June 6, 2009

I have a few books that really helped me out along the way as I learned to sharpen.  If you want to add a resource, please give a description of the contents (why is, or what makes the book a good sharpening resource?) and relative information (like the author and ISBN #) to make it easier to find on the net or at the store.

I know there are many great  “how to” books and DVD’s that focus on specific tools such as chisel sharpening, or even reed knife sharpening, but I am more interested in creating a list that offers substantial information on the subject of sharpening, not just techniques.

1. The Razor Edge Book of Sharpening– by John Juranitch. ISBN: 096660590X

Easy to read and follow, and is an excellent first sharpening book, IMPO. The book is in 2 parts. Part 1 answers the usual FAQs about knives and describes the basics of sharpening freehand and with a guide. Part 2 is geared toward outdoors men, and describes how to sharpen various tools, including folding knives, axes, plane blades, arrowheads, skinning knives, ice augers, fishhooks, scissors, fixed blades, chainsaws, and adzes. There are lots of B/W pictures and drawings.

2. Complete Guide to Sharpening – by Leonard Lee. ISBN: 1561581259

A must read for serious sharpeners. This book describes sharpening in much greater and more technical detail. The first 5 chapters are a wealth of information about sharpening, including chapters on sharpness, the physics of cutting, metallurgy, abrasives, and sharpening equipment. The rest of book primarily discusses how to sharpen woodworking tools, and there is a chapter on knives. There are also 2 very interesting appendixes, the second being a grit comparison chart. There are tons of high resolution B/W pictures, including microscopic comparisons of a chisel edge sharpened on different grits of sharpening stones, and of some of the stones themselves.

3. The Craft of the Japanese Sword – by Leon and Hiroko Kapp, Yoshindo Yoshihara. ISBN: 087011798X

This book is obviously about making the Japanese Katana, but there is a chapter on polishing (which includes sharpening).The description of the polishing process offers insight to how it is done, showing how the scratch marks are made and how each step progresses (with pictures). If you try to do this process on a regular knife, you will really appreciate how long sharpening can take. There is also some very interesting information about the metallurgy and the laminating processes, along with the different artisans involved in the making of the hardware and accessories for the sword. There are lots of B/W pictures and diagrams.

4. The Art of Japanese Sword Sharpening – by Setsuo Takaiwa, Yoshindo Yoshihara, Leon and Hiroko Kapp. ISBN: 4770024940

The Zen of owning this book alone will make you a better sharpener! This book is the sequel to The Craft of the Japanese Sword, and is a detailed journey of a single sword being polished from beginning to end. There is a lot of information about the anatomy of the sword, methods and materials (both traditional and modern), and the history of, including some profiles of well known sword polishers. Again, trying to apply these methods to your sharpening can take time, but results are worth the effort IMHO. The knowledge of what these polishers do really brings a deeper understanding of sharpening is really about – a delicate balance of function and beauty. There are lots of close up B/W pictures.

Sharpening Epiphany

June 4, 2009

I’ve been lurking around the straight razor forum and getting acclimated. I consider myself to be a good sharpener, and I know I like to analyze what exactly is happening when I sharpen. But sharpening my straight razor has always been a challenge for me.

I watched the video of Lynn sharpening his razor, and just as I was wondering why he would switch back and forth between the 4000 and 8000, he explained why, and said the edge is very “delicate” on a straight razor. That word stuck with me, and I immediately went to get my razor.

The explanation still didn’t make sense to me, but as I was trying to visualize what was going on as I was sharpening, it hit me. The way stones work is by making scratches (especially Shaptons). Each successive grit level makes wider and more shallow grooves in the steel. So here’s my theory on how and perhaps even why the pyramid sharpening works:

The coarser stone (whatever brand or grit) will make groves in the steel. By using that stone first, you end up with an edge that resembles peaks and valleys. The valleys are the part of the blade that you want as a finished product, but not the peaks. By then going to the finer grit, it reduces the peaks until, theoretically, they are even with the valleys from the coarser stone.

OK – this much is probably a given. However, this is where the term “delicate” started to really make sense.

If I use a Shapton stone (which I do) or any other, of any grit constantly, I would get the same version of the peaks and valleys descibed earlier from using the coarse stone, just at a different ratio. However, by making the peaks and valleys on the coarser grit (in this case, the second to last stone), and then smoothing them over with just a few passes on the finer grit (in this case, the final stone) WITHOUT establishing a new set of peaks a valleys, well… you should then have a very nice shave .

This method also seems to promote the very gradual approach to the thinnest possible edge without “going over”, and removing unneccesary metal from the edge.

BTW, I used a Shapton Glass 16K and 30K. I didn’t follow the pryamid per se, but I tried going between the 2 stones and I did notice a better finish on the blade than just using the 30K over and over. I didn’t strop. I got a good shave, but it still wasn’t quite what I am looking for, but it is definitely a step in the direction I want it to go.

I am going to take my blade back down to #2000 and work it back up using the pyramid “scheme”. I think the overall edge has been rounded over too much from all the previous stroppings on the barber’s strop. Unfortunately, I only shave once a week, so I will have to wait until next week to personally see if my theory is correct.

If anone is able to follow my babble, I would love to hear theories – either way. Of course if everyone else has already had this epiphany, I’ve just had it for myself.

June 4, 2009

I got a call yesterday from one of the sushi stores whose knives I service. They wanted me to sharpen a sushi knife. No, I don’t service them that often, those guys can sharpen their knives well enough. I get the call when their sharpening no longer works. Anyway, I went there and it was the same knife I had sharpened 1 week ago. They wanted it sharpened again…..

I was a little unsure of why, but I was in a rush the last time and admittingly, the knife was sharp, but the beauty was missing. So I set out to fix that problem this time.

The hollow ground back side of the knife was already perfect, so I started with my Shapton Pro #320 to even out the bevel, which had become uneven from their sharpening, and what I didn’t really do well the previous time. It took about 15 minutes to get the entire bevel even, but I stopped just before getting to the edge. I know a lot of guys like to sharpen the bevel flat, but I find the edge to be too fragile, so I always add a slight angle at the edge.

I then went to the Shapton Pro #1,000, #1,500, and #2,000. With each stone, I changed the positioned of the knife so by #2,000 grit, I was pulling the knife in a horizontal motion across the stone. At this point, I wiped off the burr that had formed by pulling the back of the knife flatly across the stone once.

I moved on to the #5,000 and #8,000 Shapton Pro. This is where I started to be more concerned about the aesthetics of the bevel rather than the sharpness. I spent a some time on both stones to really get the shine going. The knife came out looking much better than when I started.

I stopped at the #8,000 stoe because that is the highest grit the store has. The knife looked really nice, and I think the sushi guy just wanted his knife to look better since he is the senior slicer. I didn’t charge (they did just buy the #8,000 stone last week), and ended up taking an assortment of sushi home for lunch!

Jende Industries Blog

June 3, 2009

OK, Welcome to  the official Jende Industries Blog!

I want to start with the rules:

1. I will be posting things primarily related to Jende Industries, LLC, Jende Reed Knives, Shapton Stones, Chosera Stones, Edge Pro Stones, Maestro Wu knives, and general sharpening – but probably more about sharpening than anything else.

2. Nothing personal.

3. I will offer my honest, professional opinions while shamelessly plugging every item I sell.

4. I urge those who may respond or comment to stay on topic.

That’s about it. More to come as I figure out how to navigate through this site!

Tom