How To disappointing Sharpening results

Joined
Sep 12, 2019
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So I recently decided to move away from my Lansky system into the realm of Arkansas stones. I have invested in three stones (soft, hard, black) and I made a strop for finishing. I have a lot of fun sharpening on them, but I'm not getting the results I'm after.
What I typically end up with is an edge that can cut paper and even shave a little bit, the edge even has a mirror shine. but I can run a finger down the length of it and not get cut. Am I doing something wrong? Is this actually a sharp knife? What am I missing?
Any help would be appreciated.
 

AntDog

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Apr 3, 2001
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21,032
Spend more time on the finer grits and strop, strop, strop. Sounds like you might have a little tiny wire edge you need to knock off.
 
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The 'little bit' of shaving may just be the effect of a burr (wire) on the edge, which can shave hairs, but won't be strong enough to cut much else without rolling over.

Depending on the steel type of your blade, i.e., if it's very wear resistant at all, the Arkansas stones may not be cleanly cutting the steel, and instead just burnishing or polishing it more. Arkansas stones can sharpen simple carbon steels like 1095 and CV pretty well, and some low-alloy stainless like 420HC or 440A. But, anything more wear resistant, like 440C and beyond, will begin to challenge the stones a bit.

At the very least, it sounds like you're polishing the edge to a degree that may not be ideal for slicing cuts, i.e., might not be aggressive or toothy enough. The lack of any 'bite' as you run your finger along the edge suggests all of the toothy aggression has been polished away.

Could also be that the edge geometry (angle) is pretty wide as well, which impairs easy & effortless cutting & slicing, UNLESS the apex is just perfectly crisp.

Any one or a combination of the above factors could be causing the trouble.
 

JJ_Colt45

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Sep 11, 2014
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first question I would ask is ... what types of steel are you trying to sharpen?

if it's any of the more modern high carbide steels Arkansas stone won't work ... you will need to have stoned that can sharpen the higher carbide steels

aside from that free hand is all about angle control ... and it just takes some time and practice to build up that repeatable muscle memory and consistent angles ... it can be frustrating but if you stay the course you'll be so glad you did IMO ...

you can look through the stickies about sharpening to get a lot of good tips and reading old threads on it ...

and you may want to not go for a mirrored edge but stop at a coarser grit ... a toothy edge will cut better in most cases unless you are push cutting ... that may account for not feeling the edge start to bite your skin.

good luck and stick with it you will get there.
 
Joined
May 20, 2007
Messages
3,257
The 'little bit' of shaving may just be the effect of a burr (wire) on the edge, which can shave hairs, but won't be strong enough to cut much else without rolling over.

Depending on the steel type of your blade, i.e., if it's very wear resistant at all, the Arkansas stones may not be cleanly cutting the steel, and instead just burnishing or polishing it more. Arkansas stones can sharpen simple carbon steels like 1095 and CV pretty well, and some low-alloy stainless like 420HC or 440A. But, anything more wear resistant, like 440C and beyond, will begin to challenge the stones a bit.

At the very least, it sounds like you're polishing the edge to a degree that may not be ideal for slicing cuts, i.e., might not be aggressive or toothy enough. The lack of any 'bite' as you run your finger along the edge suggests all of the toothy aggression has been polished away.n a nutshelln

Could also be that the edge geometry (angle) is pretty wide as well, which impairs easy & effortless cutting & slicing, UNLESS the apex is just perfectly crisp.

Any one or a combination of the above factors could be causing the trouble.
Dave, you should get an award! You have consistently given great answers to many sharpening questions over the years and many times the original posters do not realize the quality of your reply.
In a nutshell, thank you...

Russ
 
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Nov 15, 2006
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9,287
I concur with most of the above. For me it boils down to:

wrong stones for the job

And/or you don’t have a proper edge before you get to the Arkansas stones.

If it is neither of those:

then you are harming the edge on the Arkansas stones instead of refining and finishing it (wrong/inconsistent angle/pressure).
 
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Dave, you should get an award! You have consistently given great answers to many sharpening questions over the years and many times the original posters do not realize the quality of your reply.
In a nutshell, thank you...

Russ

Very kind of you. Thank you, Russ. :thumbsup:
 

Bigfattyt

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Jun 23, 2007
Messages
18,571
Spend more time on the finer grits and strop, strop, strop. Sounds like you might have a little tiny wire edge you need to knock off.

I would use this advice with a bit of caution....... depending on your skill level/knowledge with the strop, and what edge you are getting on the lower grits before moving on.


Often, in sharpening issues, it is partly not taking enough time to apex the edge fully on the lower grits, and moving on to higher grits before the edge is fully apexed that causes frustration.

Stropping is it's own deal, and frequently, people who are stropping are actually rounding their apex.

Leather density, pressure, technique and even leather orientation (grain out or rough out) affect it.

I've had people send me "scary sharp" edges that were over stropped and actually a bit rounded in all their polished, shiny glory. Cut very poorly


One thing that helped my stropping, and understanding proper technique was using sandpaper on a hard glass backing. It removes the "rounding" and pressure issues from leather.

A hard, cased/compressed leather strop is a completely different animal from a softer thicker piece of leather glued to a piece of wood.

I have a strop that I made, with whole grain thick leather belt. It is not cased/compressed and has a night and day different feel from my proper, designated strop (barbers razor strop).

I have to use a much lighter touch, less pressure, and pay more attention to angle and technique with that "ghetto" home made strop than I would with a quality one. Very easy to overstrop/round the apex on a knife.

I find that once I get a proper edge on stones or ceramic, the strop does not add "bite" to the edge. If I use it, I will do fewer passes, paying more attention to technique and get better results than if I do a bunch of stropping.

I also find, after some time maintaining an edge with a strop, I need to freshen the edge up to re-establish the crisp apex and get a better preforming edge for my cutting.
 
Joined
Apr 3, 2013
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1,024
What kind of steels are you sharpening I never found Arkansas stones to be that fast of cutting stones or very aggressive at all.

So I recently decided to move away from my Lansky system into the realm of Arkansas stones. I have invested in three stones (soft, hard, black) and I made a strop for finishing. I have a lot of fun sharpening on them, but I'm not getting the results I'm after.
What I typically end up with is an edge that can cut paper and even shave a little bit, the edge even has a mirror shine. but I can run a finger down the length of it and not get cut. Am I doing something wrong? Is this actually a sharp knife? What am I missing?
Any help would be appreciated.
 
Joined
Sep 20, 2015
Messages
6,975
move away from my Lansky system into the realm of Arkansas stones.
Am I doing something wrong?

Yes.
You moved away from the sharpening jig.
Get the stones cut to fit in the Lansky or get an Edge Pro and use them in that.

As some have said depends on the blade alloy. Without serious stone prep and talent sharpening the hard stuff (high alloy steel) is challenging (nearly impossible) on the finer Arks.
What alloys are you sharpening ? ? ?
 

Tjstampa

Gold Member
Joined
Mar 25, 2019
Messages
370
Have you used a loop to look at your edge. A 10x loop will help you see the edge and any burs you are not feeling. Also as mentioned above you need to match your stones to your steel.

Also you may want to take a sharpe and color your edge before you sharpen. This will help you see if you are honing the edge or not. Also don’t do what I did the first time I tried the sharpie which made me scoff at it. Let it dry before sharpening. The first time I did it I colored the small edge and went right to the stone. The oil on the stone and my hands took it all off. After coloring your edge let it dry for a minute or two. If you color too much alcohol will take it off.
 
Joined
Sep 12, 2019
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3
Ok, so for those who asked (@wade 7575 and @jjcolt45 ), the knife that has been most recently vexing me was my Composite Kershaw knife, so the steel I was sharpening on was D2 and my reading (because I wasn't just sitting here waiting for the answer to come to me) has told me that D2 laughs at Arkansas stones. I have attempted carbon steel, 440 stainless and a few others including my Kershaw Rainbow leek and had similar results with all of them. They were really good at polishing the edge that was already there but I needed something a bit more aggressive to get the blade shape I wanted. Looking at the blade under a magnifying glass I had a bevel that formed between the edge I was trying to create and the actual edge of the knife so that was what was keeping the thing rounded so kudos to Obsessed with Edges Obsessed with Edges who was right on about the notion that the edge I was looking at was too fat and also that the stones I have been using weren't getting the job done.
However, and this is not an advertisement, I had forgotten that I had ordered a Kershaw Ultra Tek sharpener from Amazon until it arrived today. Just on a whim I decided to give the knife a try on it and I was not disappointed. Holy crap that thing was super aggressive and took down that second bevel like you wouldn't believe. After it put a decent edge on the knife I took it back to the stones for polishing only and now I have a knife that is scary sharp, likely the sharpest edge I've ever done and I used to think I was pretty decent at it.
Thanks everyone for your feedback it actually did help a lot.
 
Joined
Jul 17, 2018
Messages
682
I had the same problem with the D2 on my composite Kershaw Leek. I have the same progression of Arkansas stones and I spent some hours on those stones trying to sharpen my admittedly abused blade. I had to switch to a progression of DMT stones (coarse, fine, xfine, xxfine) to get it cutting again, but it still wasn't as good as it was new. I found the D2 responded very well to my bonded diamond stones and I was able to get it back to where I like it with very little effort.
The Arkansas stones just burnished the blade and removed almost no steel at all. Diamonds were way more effective. There are probably other stone materials that would do the trick, but I don't own any. But I can say that diamond worked for me.
 
Joined
Apr 12, 2009
Messages
12,123
Ok, so for those who asked (@wade 7575 and @jjcolt45 ), the knife that has been most recently vexing me was my Composite Kershaw knife, so the steel I was sharpening on was D2 and my reading (because I wasn't just sitting here waiting for the answer to come to me) has told me that D2 laughs at Arkansas stones. I have attempted carbon steel, 440 stainless and a few others including my Kershaw Rainbow leek and had similar results with all of them. They were really good at polishing the edge that was already there but I needed something a bit more aggressive to get the blade shape I wanted. Looking at the blade under a magnifying glass I had a bevel that formed between the edge I was trying to create and the actual edge of the knife so that was what was keeping the thing rounded so kudos to Obsessed with Edges Obsessed with Edges who was right on about the notion that the edge I was looking at was too fat and also that the stones I have been using weren't getting the job done.
However, and this is not an advertisement, I had forgotten that I had ordered a Kershaw Ultra Tek sharpener from Amazon until it arrived today. Just on a whim I decided to give the knife a try on it and I was not disappointed. Holy crap that thing was super aggressive and took down that second bevel like you wouldn't believe. After it put a decent edge on the knife I took it back to the stones for polishing only and now I have a knife that is scary sharp, likely the sharpest edge I've ever done and I used to think I was pretty decent at it.
Thanks everyone for your feedback it actually did help a lot.

Good to hear you've got it under control. Nice work. :thumbsup:

One thing to consider. If you've also had some trouble on the Arkansas stones with simpler steels, it may be the stones have been glazed by the attempt on D2. By 'glazed', that basically means the hard carbides in D2 have actually 'polished' the natural grit (novaculite) in the Arkansas stones. D2 has a whole lot of big chromium carbides, which are nearly 2X as hard as the grit in your Ark stones. It also has a little bit of vanadium carbide, which is even harder. That's the secondary downside in trying to use natural stones with very wear-resistant steels. It'll wear the stone itself to a degree that it'll also become very slow or ineffective on simpler steels as well, as the cutting surfaces/edges of the grit become excessively worn & polished by the harder carbides in your blade. If it looks like the stones' surfaces are taking on a 'glassy' sheen to them, that's a sign they've become glazed.

Natural stones can be lapped or resurfaced to restore their cutting efficiency after glazing, so they won't be permanently ruined. That takes some work, but it's doable to restore them. There are a lot of discussions & posts about that here on the forum as well.
 
Joined
May 22, 2019
Messages
337
I find that once I get a proper edge on stones or ceramic, the strop does not add "bite" to the edge.

I'm concerned that stropping may be taking "bite" away from the edge.

I've read many times that stropping helps to remove burrs, but that it also smooths, polishes and can round off the apex. I have a bit of a dilemma here because I want to remove as much burr as possible, but I like toothy edges (400 grit and below). I don't need smooth, polished edges or want rounded apexes.

I'm careful about removing burrs at every grit I sharpen with, so if there is one left when I'm done it's got to be tiny. Personally, I don't think it's worth risking smoothing out a toothy edge or rounding off an apex just to remove a tiny burr that might not even be there, but I'd like to get feedback about this from those who are more knowledgeable than I am.

Thank you...
 

AntDog

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Joined
Apr 3, 2001
Messages
21,032
All I can tell you is when I’ve sharpened a knife and got results like the OP did, I went back to the fine stone, then the strop and it worked for me. I routinely get edges that could circumcise a gnat, and no problems with rounded apexes.

The rounded apex thing only happens if you don’t know how to use a strop and use too much pressure, the wrong angle, roll it over, stuff like that. As long as you pull it back, with light pressure at the correct angle, then lift it off, you’re good.
 
Joined
Mar 30, 2018
Messages
129
There is a world of nuisance to sharpening, but poor results typically result from failure to execute the basics; form a full length burr on one side, form a full length burr on the other side, cleanly remove the burr. Certainly not as easy as it sounds, but you're probably not executing one of those steps properly.
 
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