Recommendation? Sharpening stones or sharpening systems?

Discussion in 'Maintenance, Tinkering & Embellishment' started by onionsninja, Feb 24, 2021.

  1. onionsninja


    Jan 30, 2021
    Hi all, apology for the long post. I'm after your recommendation what sharpening systems or stones I should buy (little to no real world freehand experience). I currently own a Spyder Sharpmaker with their default ceramic (mediium, fine + ultra fine) rods. I picked up a tiny Fallkniven DC4, two leather stops, one with compound and one without, some diamond compounds. That's about all I have to sharpen with. My current blade steels are:
    • SK5 (scandi, currently using 600, 1200, 2000, 3000 grit sandapapers)
    • S35VN
    • 12C27 (scandi)
    • VG-10
    I'm waiting for a couple of small to medium length blades in 1095 (flat / saber grinds), CPM-CruWear (full flat grind), and 3V (convex). Should I look at getting the Spyderco Medium and Fine ceramic bench stones, a large DMT Diamond Stone, or a sharpening system like the KME, or Wicked Edge Pro (I feel this one is rather expensive for someone who sharpens a blade or two every other week like myself) that will do the same job but more reliably?
  2. danbot

    danbot Gold Member Gold Member

    Oct 31, 2009
    Learn to freehand sharpen. You won't regret it!
    Get an 8" Norton India stone for the regular steels and a couple of combination grit DMT stones for the "super" steels.
    Mr. Chips and MtnHawk1 like this.
  3. FullMetalJackass

    FullMetalJackass Gold Member Gold Member

    Apr 10, 2016
    Systems work on smaller knives/folders, KME being the smart, savvy choice IMO.

    For bigger kitchen knives, camp knives etc, learn to freehand sharpen. Invest in some Naniwa!
  4. Alberta Ed

    Alberta Ed

    Jun 29, 1999
    Diamond hones work on any steel, don't need any lubrication and will last for decades -- I've used DMTs for three decades+ and have yet to wear one out. I prefer freehand sharpening -- an angle guide that clamps onto the blade works as well as the guided systems, at least for me.
    MtnHawk1 and kobold like this.
  5. kobold


    Aug 23, 2020
    Freehand on diamond plates, then Spyderco UF finishing stone, then strop on diamond spray or paste.
    Works on every steel.
    BUT: I recommend water. You might inhale steel and diamond dust if you are doing it dry. The water will capture that dust.
  6. Easyrider

    Easyrider Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 31, 2000
    I am a big fan of Spyderco’s ceramic benchstones. I also have and older Spyderco Sharpmaker system and a WorkSharp Ken Onion belt sharpener. All of them are great but I do prefer the benchstones. I guess like I have accomplished something when I get a good edge by freehand sharpening. The issue I always had was getting the angle. Another member here explained how he did it and it was genius. It should be easy to place the knife 90 degrees to the stone. Cut that in half and you have 45 degrees, still pretty easy to do. Take the 45 degree angle and drop that down until it appears to be half of 45 degrees. That is around 22.5 degrees and that is good enough for me.
    Another member posted that method and it is simple to execute!
  7. Alsharif

    Alsharif Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 8, 2018
    Get the Wicked Edge. Buy once, cry once. I tried a number of different options until I settled on the WE, that was a waste of money. Just break in the diamond plates as they instruct.

    Unless you sharpen consistently, freehand sharpening isn't for you. The skill can be lost without practice. A fixed angle system would be much more reliable.
    wvdavidr and 000Robert like this.
  8. MH150


    Feb 17, 2021
    I'm still trying to learn. What do you consider "regular steels and "super" steels? Just the common ones in the called out category

  9. danbot

    danbot Gold Member Gold Member

    Oct 31, 2009
    Not really. It's like riding a bike. You never forget how to do it. The muscle memory comes back really quickly.
    MtnHawk1, FullMetalJackass and kobold like this.
  10. danbot

    danbot Gold Member Gold Member

    Oct 31, 2009
    A regular steel, whether stainless or not is just steel that is not a "high wear resistance" steel IMO.
    Here is a very good article about the topic by one of our metallurgist members @Larrin :thumbsup: if you are interested.
    gordyt, FullMetalJackass and MH150 like this.
  11. c7m2p3


    Apr 20, 2018
    Freehanding takes time and if you are searching for that coveted mirror finish, a guided system is going to get you there without the months or possibly years of trial and error to train your muscle memory to hold an angle. To this day, I still use my KME when I am working on my high vanadium more expensive pocket knives because I know exactly what angle I am working with and they are idiot proof. Freehanding can be rewarding though and if you go that route make sure you get diamonds for anything over 400 grit ANSI for those higher carbide steels.
    Bwana1, wvdavidr and onionsninja like this.
  12. MarkN86


    Sep 3, 2012
    I see both sides of this. A mechanical system will make it easier to get a sharp edge and a good looking, even bevel. Freehand sharpening is valuable because you aren't tied down to a system, and freehand develops a natural convex edge. I'm a user and a freehand sharpener, my edges don't always look perfect but they cut, and it's pretty relaxing to sharpen freehand once you develop the skill a bit. I can't say for sure which produces the best edge in the end, it depends on the skill of the sharpener, and likely how well made the system is.

    In a pinch I was able to sharpen M390 and S30V on coarse Aluminum Oxide stones, then finish on an Arkansas stone. It was not ideal and it took a while, but it did work. I feel like I could have gotten a better edge with harder abrasives. My diamond plates tear through premium steels really fast and I can restore an edge in no time. If I were starting from scratch and I wanted to get a sharpening setup, I'd get a Coarse Diamond, Fine Diamond, Fine Ceramic to finish, and possibly get some diamond strop compound for when I wanted to really make the edges shine. As long as the stones are decent quality, free hand sharpening really ends up being more about skill.
  13. onionsninja


    Jan 30, 2021
    In some YouTube videos, people sharpen by sliding from edge to spine, from tip to heel.

    But I also see people rubbing the edge backward and forward, from tip to heel. Then keep working different parts of the blade edge. Usually seen when they work on convex and scandi grind blades. Is this method only best done with a water stone? I don't think I've seen anyone sharpened like this using a ceramic or a diamond stone.
  14. bolabeenz


    Jun 23, 2012
    My advice would be get an inexpensive guided system and a 8" stone/plate for free handing.
    Use both and see how you like them.
    MtnHawk1 likes this.
  15. jumpstat


    Mar 9, 2007
    I started out with a Spyderco sharpmaker and then progressed to a WE system. Reason being, I wanted a system where it is easy to operate, exact and repeatable with minimum material wastage. My rig is the Gen 1 pro WE and I added the ceramic 1200/1600 stone and leather strops 5/3.5 and 1/0.5 microns. With sharpening, an angle cube is also recommended. There are various systems out there at various price points but I am sticking with the WE for its abilities and long lasting. WE also have their own forums which is very useful for information and best practices.
    000Robert likes this.
  16. evilgreg

    evilgreg Why so serious? Gold Member

    Dec 25, 2012
    All of these great recommendations and I'm over here happily sharpening mostly on coffee mugs.
    Zulus, danbot and kobold like this.
  17. Zulus

    Zulus Gold Member Gold Member

    May 29, 2020
    It's funny or stupid
    I got a lot stones, systems and smart things around
    but use long diamond stick almost exclusively since 20+ years
    silly me
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2021
  18. danbot

    danbot Gold Member Gold Member

    Oct 31, 2009
    Go figure, eh! :thumbsup:
    It's not rocket surgery and "practice makes perfect!" ;)
    MtnHawk1, Zulus and evilgreg like this.
  19. Triton

    Triton Gold Member Gold Member

    Aug 8, 2000
    What is this either or business? :) My vote is to get a decent set of bench stones and a wicked edge. I've got both and use both.
    000Robert and danbot like this.
  20. tiguy7

    tiguy7 Gold Member Gold Member

    Jun 25, 2008
    image.jpeg I have a bunch of stones and blade steels, but my favorite combination is Shapton Glass Stones and ZDP-189 steel. The stones are spritz and go. The steel has no hard Carbides and sharpens up quickly but has great edge retention. 500, 2000, and 4000 grits get a useful edge.
    scottc3 and onionsninja like this.

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