The last installment
After I was satisfied with the 220 stone, the bevel is set, any stone that follows this stage only refines the edge. I moved to the 1000 grit and completed 15, 12, 8, 5, and 3 laps to get the edge looking like this.
Notice that a lot of the deepest scratches are now gone. The edge is starting to look more refined and the knife feels sharp at this stage. If you only buy one waterstone, it should fall somewhere between 800 and 1200 grit. This 1000 grit stone is great, it cuts quick enough to do minor repair work but can also get the knife as sharp as would reasonably be required. With a few extra laps using light pressure and a careful hand, this stone can produce a finer edge than I was requiring at this stage.
After the 1000 grit, you are done, you have a sharp knife. But, (like I said to my wife years ago) I feel like there is no harm in going a little further
9. Fine Tuning with stability, pressure, and slurry
As the 4k/8k stone soaks, here are three quick fine tuning tips.
Stability - I want the stone to be completely stable when I sharpen and so should you. In sharpening videos, these stone holders seem to be pretty handy, another option is flat rubber mat. Luckily, for me, Norton stones come with this handy case that both elevates the stone and holds it in place while sharpening.
Notice that the bracing tabs built for the case are slightly larger than the stone itself. To snug the stone into place and ensure it stays steady, I just use a few toothpicks.
Pressure- I use pressure on the stones, the weight of the knife will not suffice when sharpening. Sometimes, for the final few passes on a particular stone, I will let off a little, but, in general, I use pressure.
According to the scale, I am using about 5 or 6 pounds of pressure to sharpen this fillet knife. I doubt I go over this weight, but also would not dip below it unless I wanted to give a final few polishing passes on a given stone. Here is a good video of a rare instance when a pro talks candidly about the necessity of pressure when sharpening.
Slurry- Japanese sharpening stones, unlike Arkansas stones, sharpening through the slurry created by the particles of the stone being released. Think of it as shaving into the stone with steel and then creating mud out of those thin shaved layers of stone, the mud particles then abrade between steel and stone to effectively sharpen the knife. So, donít spray or wash the slurry off your stones during the sharpening process. Lower grit stones create their own slurry just fine, but I find that the 4k and up stones do not. So, as you can see in the above picture, I use a nagura (slurry) stone for the higher grits. By rubbing the nagura on a higher grit stone before starting a lapping progression, I create a bit of a slurry to start the process off quickly, clean the stone of metal filings, and lap (flatten) imperfections out of the stone. It doesn't make a big difference, but I feel it helps.
Finer grit stones are really the glory stones. A sensible person stops at 1k and has a sharp knife. Going beyond the 1k creates a super keen edge that looks, cuts, and feels more refined in every way. The finer stones donít just enable your knives to cut through food, they allow your knives to slip through without food being any the wiser. The first time that an overripe tomato will even know you have cut it and placed the slices on a sandwich is when it feels the hot sauce splashed onto it
10. Going All the Way
After the 1k, I hit the 4k and did 15, 12, 8, 5, and 3 laps. This is what the edge looks like after that stone.
Notice the scratches are less pronounced than after the 1k. The edge is starting to look a little smoother and almost has a uniform matt finish at this stage. I really look at this stone as an intermediary between the 1k and 8k. It doesnít improve the edge enough to justify using only the 4k after the 1k. Yes, it is smoother than the 1k, but if I wasnít going to a higher grit after the 4k, I doubt the difference in edge keenness is enough to be noticeable. If I were to only have one stone after the 1k, I would make it an 8k or maybe a 6k. The jump from 1k straight to 8k is quite doable given a bit of extra effort.
Now the capstone! After the 4k, I switched to the 8k. I love what this stone does to knives. All the hard work that went into bevel setting really pays off when I use this stone to finish on. I completed a 20, 16, 12, 8, 5, and 3 lap progression on the 8k to get this edge.
Almost all the scratches are gone. The edge is smooth and reflective enough to do your makeup in (if you are into that sort of thing), notice how you can now clearly see my camera reflecting in the edge. The knife looks great and cuts better. At this stage, your knife is sharp to the extent that little mishaps that would previously have been harmless become bleeding cuts that you only notice about 30 seconds after the damage is done. Donít be surprised to see some red slurry later on in the 8k lap progression. Itís lovely to have this edge and most knives deserve to experience this keenness at least once.
Moving to a 12k stone or maybe a pasted strop can be a next step, but I donít think it does anything for the edge performance. I jumped straight to a leather strop, but also only did this for the picture. I feel there is some improved polishing.
All said and done, the edge looks like this.
11. Checking the Final Product
Notice the edge width is completely uniform throughout (save for near the bolster) and the edge finish is uniform throughout. Because of the sharpening method I use, 45* angle between tip and heel, knives with a pronounced bolster have this area of unpolished edge near the heel. It doesnít really affect performance, a smarter person may even call it a grind termination radius
There are some options if I wanted to overcome this minor concern. Option one is to sharpen that area without using a 45* angle, the next (my favourite) is to grind the bolster down a little and reduce it to the point where is does not affect sharpening, the third and smartest option is to buy knives that donít bother with the useless bolster in the first place.
All said and done, the edge should now be sharp enough for any kitchen needs. It can cut phone book paper without tearing at all. It can shave arm hair too if you like that test. I used this knife to take over half an inch off my sideburns (WTG) and had no irritation whatsoever. Most importantly, it is sharp enough to enjoy using during food prep and makes me look forward to doing more in the kitchen.
Hope you donít mind me sharing in such detail