Archive for November, 2012

The Edge Pro and Taiwan’s Coast Guard

November 24, 2012

There aren’t too many Edge Pro users here in Taiwan, and I was quite surprised when I received an inquiry from Mr. Randy Chen asking about some of the Ken Schwartz Diamond Films for the Edge Pro. I immediately called him up to discuss his questions, and found out that he is a career officer serving in the Taiwan Coast Guard, and while he is stationed in Taipei, he is originally from Kaohsiung city. I extended an invitation for him to come over to my workshop the next time he visited Kaohsiung. As luck would have it, he was coming down to Kaohsiung for a ceremony, and our schedules worked out where we were could meet up and play with some of the Edge Pro stones!

Randy likes and collects folding knives as a hobby, and has gotten into sharpening and maintaining them as a way to reduce stress and relax. He doesn’t use them “on the job”  since he is on the administration side of things with the coast guard. He purchased an Edge Pro, and since the steels in his knife collection are varied, he was looking for something more versatile than the stock EP stones.

Randy made it to the workshop, set up his Edge Pro, and we profiled a new knife (sorry, I forgot the name and the steel type). We started off with the Atoma 140 plate, which made quick work of establishing the bevel on both sides of the knife. I chose the Atoma 140 over the 125 or 165 micron diamond papers because while both products are diamond abrasives, the Atoma plates are more aggressive due to the raised clusters of diamonds in a very controlled grid pattern which scratch deeper. Conversely, the more “matted” texture of the films will prevent chipping on more brittle steels, and do an excellent job of cleaning up the deeper scratches from the diamond plates.

From the Atoma 140, we jumped to the 74 micron diamond film. Randy was completely impressed with just how fast the Atoma 140 scratches were removed and the 74 micron scratches established. They are also quite uniform, and even though the edge is still rather unrefined (74 micron = approx #200 JIS), it was almost work sharp. That’s the major advantage to using guided sharpening – you get very sharp knives very early in the game because the shape of the edge is established so consistently and because the texture of the films won’t scratch as deep.

After the 74 micron film, we jumped to the 30 micron film (approx #500 JIS). We could’ve jumped to an even finer grit from the 74 micron, but Randy wanted more perfection in his progression. Once again, the 30 micron scratches were quickly established and I would call this knife work sharp, even though work sharp is generally considered 1K-2K JIS.  Then on to the 20 micron ( approx. #800 JIS). Honestly, the knife could’ve stopped here, but we took it to the 9 micron (approx. #1,500 JIS).  Randy was more and more impressed at each level of refinement, and his edge looked fantastic, and was easily shaving arm hair. For fun, and since our time was limited, we did a quick 5 strokes on the 0.5 micron CBN to give the edge of the edge just a little more “umpfh”.

Randy’s knife was never sharper! 😀

Unfortunately our time ran out, and Randy had to leave – but it’s good to know that Randy is now proudly serving his country with sharp knives at the ready!

Review – Haidu Ceramic Sharpening Stones

November 17, 2012

I recently received 3 sharpening stones for review from Attila at Haidu Ceramics.  These are Silicone Carbide stones that come in several sizes, which are indicated by either HCA  (230x65x20mm) , HCB (170x60x20mm) , or HCC (100x35x10mm).

These stones are rated with the FEPA grit rating at F180 (JiS 180), F280 (JiS 360), F600 (JiS 1200) and F1,000 (JiS 2600). The F1,000 comes in a Medium (M) and Hard (H) formulation. I received the F280, F600, and F1,00o M grit stones.

Haidu Ceramic Sharpening Stones

Since these stones were making their rounds for reviews from others, they were clearly used, and were slightly dished and uneven. So the first thing I did was lap them. I used the Atoma #140 diamond plate. Lapping the 280 was pretty straight forward – it is solid, but not nearly as hard as Spyderco Ceramic stones (which is good news!). The 600 was more difficult to lap due to it being more dense, and the 1K was about the same, if not just a little bit easier. Overall, lapping them is not impossible, but it is clear that they will keep their flatness well over time. I’d highly recommend not letting them get too far out of flat, though.

On to the sharpening 🙂 These stones are porous, so I gave them a good soak in the bucket for about 30 minutes since they were completely dried out. The bubbles were fine – like champagne. Once they were good and soaked, they only needed a spritz before using. I first started on a Maestro Wu D-4 Veggie Cleaver, which is carbon steel at around RC 57-58.

The 280 did not seem as coarse as it is advertised (JiS 360), but more like a JiS 1,ooo. The stone worked better with a more roughly textured surface, and there seemed to be more burnishing effects than cutting effects with this particular knife, although there is cutting action. On the 600, the action was smoother, and had more positive feedback that reflects the JiS 1200 rating, and left a very good, smooth working edge. The 1K reacted best with this knife – there was still some nice feedback with cutting action, and the polishing effects were more desired. The edge after the 1K was improved over the 600.

The next knife was a cheapo stainless steel paring knife in desperate need of sharpening, which I’d say is RC 50-52. The 280 stone really came to life, with aggressive action that easily reprofiled the very blunt edge. The 600 put a very nice working edge, with there being no real difference on the 1K – this is a characteristic of the softer steels, not of the stone.


I would rate the Haidu Ceramic stones as very good mid-range/ mid-price stones that are very well suited for routine maintenance and minor repair. Their hardness will resist gouging and stay relatively flat over time. The burnishing effects on the lower grit did help “increase” the overall grit of the edge, which is good if you want to finish on the 280, but has the opposite effect if you need to do repair work – but keep in mind that I didn’t try the F180, which should be the most aggressive stone.

I’d like to thank Attila from Haidu Ceramics for the opportunity to try these stones out!

Finding Your Sharpening Philosophy

November 3, 2012

There is a HUGE range and variety of sharpening products and methods out there, and before going any further down the sharpening rabbit hole, forming  a sharpening philosophy can help you save time and money in the long run.

When you first embark on your sharpening journey and start sifting through the usual pile of information that search engines, Youtube videos, forums, and blogs (like this one! ) spew out, it can be very overwhelming. In reality, there are only two constants when sharpening: the first is that the answer to every question is It depends; and the second is that The more you know about sharpening, the more you need to know.

The next logical question is What do I need to know? Well, the answer is, of course It depends! I’m glad we got that cleared up. 😀

Seriously, though, it’s not about answering “how to sharpen” (which is the easy part since the actual rules of sharpening are quite concrete) – it’s about asking and answering What do I want to achieve when I sharpen, and how do I go about it? The answers to these 2 questions are what form the backbones of your sharpening philosophy, and will guide you toward making purchases that are best for you.

The first major categories to think about are these:

  1. Speed vs. Cost vs. Precision
  2. Mechanized vs. Manual Sharpening
  3. Guided vs. Freehand Sharpening
  4. Maintenance vs. Full Service Sharpening

There are more categories to choose from as you progress deeper down certain paths, but these are the most important factors in the beginning.

  • Speed vs. Cost vs. Precision

The saying goes “Good, fast and cheap – Pick any 2”. Speed generally costs more, as do more precise results. However, if you are on a budget, less expensive products will still generally work. This is the is one major category that every decision will always boil down to. There is no “wrong” answer – it is completely subjective, and the answer can change at any time given the circumstances surrounding the decision(s).

Take a more in-depth look at cost vs. speed vs. precision here.

The second category will more clearly define the path of your sharpening journey:

  • Mechanized vs. Manual Sharpening

There is a definite split in the sharpening world between Mechanized and Manual sharpening. Both have many options to choose from, and both have their  pros and cons depending on the type of sharpening you are doing, and sharpeners can find a comfortable balance between them. Generally speaking, mechanized is anything with a motor – a belt sander, stone or paper wheel, grinders, etc., and are easily the fastest methods and are more aggressive than non-mechanized approaches.

Manual Sharpening is further broken down into Freehand and Guided sharpening, which are similar in terms of the types of sharpening mediums they use. They include sharpening stones, various abrasive papers, sprays, compounds, and stropping mediums, etc.. (More on this in a minute.) But overall, Manual Sharpening’s speed is slower, but results are generally more personalized and the process is more Zen-like.

So once you’ve decided where you stand in terms of Mechanized vs. Manual Sharpening, you will need to go one step further:

  • Freehand vs. Guided

With Freehand vs. Guided Sharpening, there is the obvious increase in precision with guides that makes them very powerful and almost idiot proof sharpening tools, however, the speed, skill and freedom of freehand sharpening has a large appeal as well. Note that both Mechanized and Manual sharpening can done freehand, or guided with various jigs and guides.

The final category to consider is:

  • Maintenance vs. Full Service Sharpening

In this case, Maintenance Sharpening is for someone who has several knives that are kept consistently sharp, and would like to simply touch them up here and there, with no real damage to repair or major sharpening to be done. Full Service Sharpening is being able to perform all aspects of sharpening from making repairs to chipped edges, profiling new blades, and maintaining edges over time.

This is not a black and white category – there is an overlap of abilities with many of the products and methods. Most Maintenance-minded sharpening products and methods will perform repair tasks, and Full Service-minded sharpening products and methods are perfectly suitable for maintaining edges.


If you’ve taken these 4 categories into consideration, you should start to have a better view of what kind of sharpening you want to do, and which products and methods you may want to consider given the specific things you want to sharpen.

Your philosophy is not set in stone – it will change and develop as you continue on your journey  – don’t forget – the more you know about sharpening, the more you need to know. For example, there are more advanced categories to consider, such as sharpening for Aesthetics vs. Functionality, “True grit” edges vs. Polished Grooves – just to name 2.

Remember – It Depends!