Freehand Sharpening - Practice Knives & Routines

Discussion in 'Maintenance, Tinkering & Embellishment' started by Glock Guy, May 26, 2020.

  1. Glock Guy

    Glock Guy Gold Member Gold Member

    Jul 28, 2012
    I just started freehand sharpening, and since I don't want to abuse our kitchen set just yet, I was wondering what you guys recommend for "practice" knives?

    I know that a lot of the cheaper knives have some pretty bad (soft) steel, but if all I'm concerned about at this point is learning the technique and building muscle memory, do I need to get some decent knives, or will ANY knives with different blade shapes work?

    My plan was just to sharpen them, dull them on a brick or file, and start over since I would like to get a lot of practice building my technique before I move up to some decent knives.

    I know the key is just going to be practice, practice, practice, but if you guys have any other suggestions, or practice routines, please chime in.

    Thanks in advance!
  2. Eli Chaps

    Eli Chaps Basic Member Basic Member

    Apr 20, 2018
    Pairing knives are great for practice.

    Don't fret steel too much. Any decent option will give you the feedback you need.

    Practice is only valuable if you're learning. Use a marker to paint the edge bevel and go slow. Don't force things.

    What lower grit stones do you have?

    Raise a burr on one side. Raise a burr on the other side. Lightly strop to deburr.

    That's the absolute basics.
  3. Glock Guy

    Glock Guy Gold Member Gold Member

    Jul 28, 2012
    I have an extra thick 500 grit Shapton Glass, and will probably add a 400 Chosera down the road.

    Right now I’m just using a cheap King 1K/4K combo stone for practice.
  4. Eli Chaps

    Eli Chaps Basic Member Basic Member

    Apr 20, 2018
    I don't do water stones so won't comment one way or the other there but in general, it's best to start with a lower grit. That'll raise up that burr and iron out differences between your hand and the factory grind.
    Glock Guy likes this.
  5. Glock Guy

    Glock Guy Gold Member Gold Member

    Jul 28, 2012
    @Eli Chaps
    I have some diamond plates in 300/600/1200 as well, if that helps?
  6. Eli Chaps

    Eli Chaps Basic Member Basic Member

    Apr 20, 2018
    Yeah...It gets dicey with folks and stone to steel preferences. I personally think diamonds on simpler steels like are generally found in kitchen knives can be too aggressive.

    I'm guessing folks will say the 500 Shapton is probably alright to start with.
    Diemaker and Ben Dover like this.
  7. Tjstampa

    Tjstampa Gold Member Gold Member

    Mar 25, 2019
    I bought my kids a couple cheap Walmart knives to practice with.
    Glock Guy likes this.
  8. Phydeaux


    Mar 4, 2006
    Started my son on some dollar store knives and a cheap HarborFreight stone. Showed him the basics the just left him alone. I'm going to up grade his stone to something like a Norton IB8.
    wardcleaver likes this.
  9. Ourorboros


    Jan 23, 2017
    A couple comments - the Shapton Glass 500 and Chosera 400 are fine stones. A double thickness SG500 is one of my go to stones. But unless you have a specific need/taste the two are two close in coarseness to be a useful combo. You end up using one or the other.
    Down the road you should get a stone in the 1000-2000 range.
    The second is that there are differences in cheap steels. A leaf spring, 1095, or white steel knife will be easy to sharpen and can get a very fine edge. Other low cost steels can have odd burr formation or give very mediocre results for the effort while having little edge retention. Those will be frustrating to learn on.
    You can get a VG-10 gyuto for $65 and there are white steel knives for about the same or less. The white steel/leaf spring/1095 knives won't have much edge retention should you can use them and sharpen soon.
    I don't think the blade shape is too big a deal. The simplest to learn on is a nakiri or Chinese Cleaver/Chuka-bocho, just because it's straight and you have hand clearance.
    I agree that diamonds aren't the best choice for softer steels, though they will work.
    Glock Guy, Eli Chaps and Troutzill like this.
  10. Craig James

    Craig James

    Oct 30, 2018
    You're going to need to be able to sharpen a curve at some point so I don’t see any reason why you shouldn’t practise on a knife with one.

    You’ve sharpened on a system before (EdgePro if I remember?) so all the basic theory is transferable to free hand.

    When I started out some angle reference blocks were invaluable to get the knife placed at the correct angle initially and develop that muscle memory.

    Dont worry about working just a section of the blade to ensure the burr is developed across the full length.

    For me, the hardest bit of freehanding is removing the burr on the stone and is something that still takes me far to long, for this I still occasionally use a sharpie to make sure I am hitting the apex cleanly. My advice would be to go slow at this point and check and recheck your angles. I also use a strop for the final clean up.

    I’d just sharpen those cheap SS knives at the outset - even if they are gummy. If you get them sharp you can get anything start.

    regarding stones - start with something in the 3-400 bracket at the outset. I found them quick enough to raise a burr and therefore aid learning but also quick enough to fix any mistakes you make (within reason).
    willc likes this.
  11. HeavyHanded


    Jun 4, 2010
    Kitchen knives and a machete. Doing a machete on a benchstone will be a big help in dialing in your grip, angle control etc - is so much easier to see the whole thing rocking and pitching.
    dantzk8 and willc like this.
  12. Glock Guy

    Glock Guy Gold Member Gold Member

    Jul 28, 2012
    I have the Shapton Glass in extra thick 500, and the 2K and 16K as I've heard a lot of great reviews on those. Plus, I have the same setup on another sharpening system.

    This is more of what I was asking: Should I get 1 or 2 really good knives IN ADDITION to the cheap, softer steel ones I'm going to build my technique with. The plan was to build technique as cheaply as possible (cheap knives on a cheap stone), then move up to higher quality stones and knives once I get the hang of things to see and feel the difference between them. I'll check Amazon to find some cheaper knives in a better steel. Thanks!

    Copy that, and thanks again!

    That was my thought, and why I wanted to pick up some knives with different style blades. I don't want to get good at sharpening just a Santuko, but pretty much anything I would run across in the kitchen.

    Yes, that and a Wicked Edge.

    Will Do!

    This was kind of my thought as well. If anything these cheaper knives should be harder to sharpen, so if I can improve my technique to get these sharp, I should be able to do even better on a quality knife steel, at least in theory.

    Nice! I like your thinking on the feedback both visually and tactically, and I'm sure my wife will feel safer with a machete around, just in case!
    Last edited: May 28, 2020
  13. Ourorboros


    Jan 23, 2017
    You don't need to get really good knives now, you might actually scratch up the sides a bit until you have the basics down. I think ideally you get a low cost knife that sharpens easily. It lets you see the results, good or bad.
    The real problem with bad cheap knives is that they take so long to sharpen you might not hold the blade angle the whole time. That will mean you need to sharpen longer and lead to bad habits.
    When you build the muscle memory, it won't matter what the steel is - whether the knives you want or a friend's cheap knife.
    Glock Guy likes this.
  14. Mr.Wizard


    Feb 28, 2015
    Where did you find a double thickness Shapton Glass stone?
    rpfarris likes this.
  15. PirateSeulb

    PirateSeulb Gold Member Gold Member

    Jun 6, 2017
    My kitchen knives are the cheapest and generally the worst knives in the house they are my practice knives. I have struggled with finding a suitable replacement set simply because I know how they get treated so I don't want to put a lot into them.
    Glock Guy likes this.
  16. Glock Guy

    Glock Guy Gold Member Gold Member

    Jul 28, 2012
    Chef Knives To Go
    Mr.Wizard likes this.
  17. Ourorboros


    Jan 23, 2017
    They used to be more common, even Amazon had them.
    They are also known as Shapton Glass 10mm or Extra Thick.

    Now the only place that seems to have them in stock is Chef Knives to Go, though Sharpening Supplies has a long (18 week) lead time.
    But I got them on a rare Shapton sale at Chef Knives to Go.
    Mr.Wizard likes this.
  18. Ourorboros


    Jan 23, 2017
    Until the end of June MTC Kitchen has them on sale @20% off. It's a store wide sale, but shipping is pretty steep. If you have over $100 in knives & stones ground shipping is free, but other stuff still costs to ship.


    Jul 14, 2017
    Good will and get some cheapies, I've actually found some decent knives there too like Wustof and globals.
    Glock Guy likes this.

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