Archive for March, 2011

Guide to Using Wicked Edge (WEPS) Chosera and Shapton Stones

March 22, 2011

For those who are unfamiliar with the Wicked Edge Precision Sharpener (WEPS), its design delivers an extremely precise edge in a wide range of angles with ease. The stock WEPS platform comes standard with 100, 200, 400 and 600 grit diamond plates. Before going any further, it must first be clearly stated that the stock diamond plates that are supplied with the WEPS are ideal for repairs, maintenance, (re)profiling, and for creating very respectable working edges. It is highly recommended that WEPS owners first become familiar with using the stock diamond plates before branching out to any of the after market WEPS products, including the Chosera and Shapton stones along with the various compounds. As with all sharpening methods, there is a learning curve, and mistakes will be made along the way. Once a sufficient/comfortable mastery of the WEPS is obtained, the Choseras and Shaptons compliment the WEPS diamond plates, adding a huge amount of diversity to the already capable WEPS platform. More information about the WEPS and its products can be found on the Wicked Edge USA website:

OK, so once you have a solid foundation on your WEPS, understand the basics of sharpening, and have run out of knives in the neighborhood to sharpen, the next question is “What else is there?”

For those people who just want a sharp knife, with no frills, and no complications, you won’t need anything else. But for those who have been bitten by the sharpening bug, the answer is Choseras and Shaptons for the WEPS! (These options are just the beginning, too.  The WEPS has so much potential for versatility!)

With new products come new questions:

1. What makes the Choseras and Shaptons so special?

2. What is the best step to a Chosera or Shapton WEPS stone after the stock WEPS diamond plates?

3. How does the different thickness of theChosera or Shapton WEPS stones affect the angles?

4. How do I use and maintain myChosera or Shapton WEPS stones?

5. Why is the feedback so different on my Chosera stones?

Question 1: What makes the Choseras and Shaptons so special?

Choseras and Shaptons are the top-most quality synthetic stones on the market, and were previously only available in the full size stones. Think of them as Ferrari and Lamborghini in the synthetic stone world. They range in grits from #120 grit (120 microns) to #30,000 grit (0.5 microns). Not only do these stones extend the upper range of the WEPS plates and stones (since you need to switch to strops and paddles after the WEPS ceramic 1200/1600 stones), they are like adding Nitrous Oxide to your WEPS hot rod.

Different abrasives also abrade differently. The WEPS diamond plates are ideal for the hardest of specialty steels that are sometimes used in knife making. However, most knife steel types on the market do not require the use of diamonds in order to sharpen/abrade them. (Click here for a basic explanation of different abrasive groups, written by Knife Forum member PCM81). Diamonds abrade fast, wear slowly, and are not renewable (meaning they don’t expose fresh layers of abrasive as they wear). They also scratch more deeply than other types of abrasives of the same size. Choseras and Shaptons are renewable, and are made of Aluminum Oxide abrasive particles. While the Chosera and Shapton abrasives are still very hard, they break down at a different rate and scratch differently than diamonds, thus changing the resulting edge. When you start mixing in the effects of the different abrasives, their shapes, and a stone’s binders and matrices, things quickly get complicated.

Basically, results do vary from sharpening medium to medium even though they may have the same abrasive types or particle sizes. You will find that edges finished on 0.5 micron Shapton stones, 0.5 Mono Diamond paste, 0.5 micron H.A. Mono Diamond spray, 0.5 Poly Diamond spray, and 0.5 micron CBN spray, are all slightly different – some slice more smoothly while others tend to give an edge more grip. As you go further down the sharpening rabbit hole, it’s these minor, yet tangible differences that will give you exactly the type of edge you desire, and with the addition of the Choseras and Shaptons, the WEPS is now even more capable of delivering it.

Question 2: What is the best step to a Chosera or Shapton stone after the stock WEPS diamond plates?

Of course, the answer to any sharpening question is “it depends” . However, there are some terms that first need to be defined in regards to the grit rating systems that the WEPS uses and that of the Choseras and Shaptons. The WEPS diamond plates and ceramic stones use the ANSI grit rating system, then switches over to abrasive sizes in microns (μ) for the diamond pastes, and the Hand American and Ken Schwartz products. A micron is equivalent to one millionth of a meter, or 1/25,000 of an inch (25.4 microns = .001 inch ≈ #500 grit JIS). The Choseras use the New Japanese Standard (JIS), and Shapton Pros use the JIS standard while the Shapton Glass stones use both abrasive sizes by microns and their corresponding JIS numbers.

It’s a little confusing at the beginning, but becomes second nature after a few run-ins with it.

To make life a lot easier, below is a grit comparison chart using the abrasive sizes measured in microns as a common denominator. The chart is an approximate comparison at best. Actual results will vary due mostly to stone/plate performance and characteristics, and the user’s ability to maximize a given stone’s, plate’s or strop’s potential – but it is a good reference point to gain a firm grounding in the different grit systems and what the numbers all roughly mean in relationship to each other. I’ve tried to “line up” the grits of the Choseras and Shaptons with those of the WEPS stones on the far left. I also put the WEPS current product line into perspective based on their corresponding micron sizes. A full size version of the chart can be found here.

As the chart shows, coming off the #600 WEPS diamond plate, the nearest Chosera would be the #800 and the nearest Shapton Pro would be the 1K. This is a very good lateral move from the WEPS #600 because the coarser diamond plates tend to leave some deeper scratches that are often only revealed at higher levels of refinement (which often come back to haunt us as micro chipping). Due to the different abrasives and stone matrices, the Chosera #800 and Shapton 1K are excellent for removing those deeper scratches while preparing the surface of the metal for all finer grits. The 1K Chosera and #1,500 Shapton would be excellent as a step forward in the progression after the WEPS 600 plate. While these stones may be the slightest bit slower at removing metal, they leave better finishes for the next level.

For faster “cleaning up”, the Chosera #400 and/or #600 and the Shapton #220 and/or #320 will make quick work of establishing very consistent and even scratches. Even though these can be argued as being “steps back”, these stones should not be dismissed because they can actually speed up the sharpening process as a whole – especially if you are a perfectionist.

While there are other lateral moves from WEPS products to Choseras and Shaptons highlighted on the chart, I’m not addressing those moves further at this time because these are technically all already accessories. These will be addressed in future posts along with discussions and recommendations for Chosera and Shapton stone progressions.

Question 3: How does the different thickness of theChosera or Shapton WEPS stones affect the angles?

The Chosera and Shapton stones are 5-6mm thick, and that thickness will slowly reduce over time. They are also mounted to an aluminum blank, which allows for the stones to be used until there is nothing left. Consequently, this will change the actual angles of the paddles from those marked on the wings of the WEPS, and will require slight tweaking with each stone and paddle change.

Accounting for these changes isn’t as difficult as it may seem. A simple angle finder or angle cube (view Google search results) will take care of most of the headache. There is also the age-old Sharpie trick, where you “color” the bevel or edge with the sharpie, and adjust the angle of the WEPS arms until abrading removes the ink from the bevel and the edge. I personally like the better precision and speed the angle cube offers. Either way, it is best at this stage to “flip” the collars of the WEPS arms around so that the screw tightens to the smooth side of the wings. You can also flip the wings around from underneath the knife clamp.

As for actual numbers and degrees of differences, there is a rundown of my WEPS stock diamond plates and my Choseras below. I positioned one WEPS arm in the 20 degree pivot hole and measured each of the WEPS stock diamond plates and then measured my Chosera stones with the arm in the same position. Before interpreting the results, please note that except for the #400 grit, my Chosera stones had been used and lapped on several occasions prior to measuring the angles. The angle cube I use also advertises accuracy within +/- 0.10 degrees.

WEPS vs. Chosera Angle Comparison Chart

WEPS vs. Chosera Angle Comparison Chart

As the chart shows, the added thickness of the Choseras translates into a more shallow angle by roughly 2.5 degrees. However, the WEPS stocks and my Choseras were all within a .15 degree tolerance – quite acceptable in my opinion, as there is no such thing as absolute precision in sharpening – especially once you take into account stone and plate wear (trust me – I’m a propeller head when it comes to my guided sharpening devices ). You can also see that the minute adjustments needed for the Chosera stones (once your ~2.5 degree change is made) are not any different than those of the stock WEPS plates.

Question 4: How do I use and maintain my Chosera or Shapton WEPS stones?

The Chosera and Shapton WEPS stones work best when wet. Otherwise, they work exactly the same as the diamond plates.

To prepare the Choseras for use, it is easiest to place the stones in a small container with about 1-2 mm of water (do not use oil at all with the Choseras or the Shaptons). Do not submerge the paddles completely in water as any water that gets inside the holes for the arms can cause suction and hinder the smooth operation of the paddles. Letting them soak for 5-10 minutes is usually more than enough, and they will not dry out so readily once properly soaked. During use, it’s best to use a small spray bottle of water to keep the stones wet and to clean off swarf.

The Shaptons are “splash and go” meaning they require no soaking, just a small spray bottle with water to wet the surface and they are ready to go. Again, using a small spray bottle of water helps to keep the stones clean during use.

Traditional images of water stones may have you thinking that there will be swarf and puddles of water everywhere – but this is not the case. After initial soaking of the Choseras, there are only the single spritzes of water from a spray bottle. There will be some accumulation of water and some runoff of swarf, but it is only a wet version of the “dust” that the WEPS produces with dry stones. Putting a shop rag under the WEPS base should contain any water  and runoff. (Be on the lookout for a waterproof base in the future, too).

The Choseras and Shapton stones will wear with use. They will naturally begin to dish in the middle. In order to keep any changes in angles to a minimum and the stones in optimum working contidion, the stones will need to be lapped, or flattened. Lapping after each session is probably the easiest and fastest. There are many options for flattening, including wet/dry sandpaper, DMT plates, Atoma Plates, and Shapton Lapping plates, etc.. Since there are two stones of each grit for the WEPS, dishing is kept to a minimum, and maintenance is quick. Lapping these stones is easy- simply draw a grit with a pencil and rub the stones on the lapping medium (with water) with light and even pressure until the grid lines are gone.

Question 5: Why is the feedback so different on my Chosera and Shapton stones?

Like everything new, there will be a learning curve with these stones. You’ll most likely be too heavy-handed the first few times, trying to match to aggressiveness and weight of the stock diamond plates. The Chosera and Shapton stones feel much smoother and lighter than the stock WEPS diamond plates, overall. After a few knives, you’ll begin to trust the stones and you can lighten up on the touch.

The best way to acclimate yourself to the Chosera and Shaptons is to use them a few times without first using the WEPS diamond stones. This gives a more “clear” feeling rather than coming straight off the diamond plates. Do as you would normally do with the WEPS, first working one side until a burr forms, then work the other side.


I’m sure there will be a lot more to discuss about the Chosera and Shapton WEPS stones in the future. This introduction is admittedly only the top-most tip of the iceberg. The fun part is choosing idea progressions that center around the type of steel and the type of edge you want for a given knife. I will be addressing that, and other things in future posts. In the mean time, if there are any other questions concerning the Chosera and Shapton WEPS stones, you can ask questions through the blog, or you can find me over at the knife forums in the Keeping Sharp area as jendeindustries. There is a wealth of information and some very talented sharpeners over there (and we all get along! ). I hope to see some of you there real soon!

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Maestro Wu 2011 Trip – Bombshells, Knives, Food and Kao-Liang Liquor – Part 2

March 2, 2011

This is a continuation of my February 2011 trip to Kin-Men to visit Maestro Wu, the maker of the Maestro Wu bombshell steel knives. You can read Part 1 here.

It was a simple concrete structure resembling a mix between a small trailer and a small shipping container. The doors were closed and chained and Marc and I joked that it was the outhouse or the locker room. We asked Maestro Wu what it was, and he replied it was an entrance to the civilian underground tunnels/bunkers. The mood changed from joking to a keen interest in seeing more – after all, these were the tunnels that Maestro Wu literally spent every other day of his childhood in as the propaganda shells from China were shot across the water from after the bombing in 1958 until 1979.


Kin-Men Bunker 1

Kin-Men Civilian Bomb Shelter/Tunnel

I had heard about the tunnels and shelters, but imagined them to be more carved out of mountain rather than a rather conspicuous entrance like this…

We walked downhill a bit and rounded a corner of the village, and came to another abandoned home. Maestro Wu said this was another entry to the same tunnel we had seen earlier. We carefully made our way to the entry and took a picture. Maestro Wu insisted that we didn’t go down. We had no flashlight, and were wearing the wrong shoes anyway. But man am I keen to get back there and take a walk down those steps and look around!


Kin-Men Tunnel 2

Tunnel entry- concrete on the right

Tunnel Entry

Stairs to the tunnel

We got back into the car and made our way a little further into the center of the village, where there was a elementary school with beautiful courtyard just outside its windows with what looked like a medieval tower (school is behind me in the picture).


Interesting architecture…

Then we came to the other end of the tunnel that had started this little adventure. This was open, but there was an accumulation of water that actually had small goldfish swimming in it! (I imagine from the school kids) We definitely didn’t have the right shoes in order to look inside.


Other End of the Tunnel

Other end of the Tunnel

In part 1, I had asked Maestro Wu the previous night about the need for military now that things had eased diplomatically between China and Taiwan, and he had replied to my question very strongly that Kin-Men was still under threat of attack, despite the tourism. As we stood around in the light rain having gone from head to foot of one of many tunnel systems on the island, Maestro Wu started telling a story of how when he was a young man, he was enlisted in what was the “civilian defense” forces. Basically it was made up of the able-bodied, non-military male residents of the island. They had a drill where smoke grenades were supposed to be used, but somehow, the grenades got mixed up with tear gas and they gas masks they had weren’t up to par for the exercise. The doors at the exits had been sealed (since it was assumed for the drill that enemy forces had landed on the island, and were trying to root out people from the tunnels), and there was no immediate way out. Maestro Wu talked about the gas choking him to the point where he could hardly inhale at all, his eyes were completely stinging and teared up to where he could not see a thing, there was no light and real way to get out of the tunnel until the gas stopped. They were crawling as best they could, blind and barely able to breathe towards blocked off doors.

Luckily it was only a drill, but it was clear from his retelling of the story, he was reliving every single moment of it. It clicked into place for the first time that there really was a very serious threat to the residents of Kin-Men, and the lives they lived were under constant threat of attack for 21 long years. That kind of mindset doesn’t disappear with the allowing of  Chinese tourism by governments completely void of family ties to the island.

While I don’t mean to get involved with politics here, I must say I was actually happy that Maestro Wu wasn’t selling out that easily to the tune of cross-straight relations, Chinese tourism and the benefits it has brought to the island. I see the current success and revival of the island as long overdue payback of life owed to at least 2 generations of Kin-Men residents.

Afterward, we piled back in the car and went to a real bomb shelter – for the military. This was JhiaShan tunnel – a covered harbor literally carved out within a mountain in the shape of a “U”. It was used by light troop transporting ships to bring supplies and troops from US and Taiwanese Naval ships standing off the island. It’s more of a national park-like setting now, with displays of the boats, some anti-aircraft guns. Bicycles are provided free of charge, and there is a coffee shop. The tunnel is free of charge and open to the public. The harbor area has mood lighting now, but I was in awe of the sheer size of this project, and I could just imagine what it was like when it was in service. It’s the stuff of war movies.


Jhia Shan Tunnel 1
Jhia Shan Tunnel
Jhia Shan Tunnel 2
Jhia Shan Tunnel 2
Jhia Shan Tunnel 3
Jhia Shan Tunnel 3
Jhia Shan Tunnel 4
Jhia Shan Tunnel 4
Jhia Shan Tunnel 5
Jhia Shan Tunnel 5
Jhia Shan Tunnel 6
Jhia Shan Tunnel 6
Jhia Shan Tunnel 7
Jhia Shan Tunnel 7
Jhia Shan Tunnel 8
Jhia Shan Tunnel 8
Jhia Shan Tunnel 9
Jhia Shan Tunnel 9

After the tunnel, it was getting time close to the time to leave. We headed back to Maestro Wu’s shop and picked up our boxes of knives and headed to the airport. It was an extremely successful and fulfilling trip, and although we were freezing our bums off most of the time, I am really glad we went when we did.

As we arrived at the airport, Maestro WU and his wife handed Marc and my wife and I a bag, and wished us a safe flight.

Once we checked in, we took a look in the bags. Inside each bag was a bottle of Kao-Liang Liquor – 18 Year old. 😀