Waterstones Versus "Scary Sharp" Round 1

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Blog entry by YooperCasey posted 01-08-2008 04:30 AM 8557 reads 1 time favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Since the debate seems to rage onwards when it comes on how to sharpen a blade sharper than we need too… I figured I’d throw some more gasoline into the fire. But in order to get some good numbers I need some numbers!

What do I need?

  • What rate do you consume pads?
  • How many tools can you sharpen per pad?
  • What do you pay for your pad?

Of real interest would be how many inches of tools width you can sharpen per pad. So if you exclusively use 1 inch wide chisels, and you can sharpen the chisel ten times on an 8X11 sheet, that is what I need! That will allow us to get sharpening area per square inch. So if we use the 1” tool reference, 1 inch face depth, and ten repititions, we get 10 square inches of chisel sharpened on 88 square inches of pad, or 8.8 in2 of pad to sharpen one square inch of chisel.

On the flip side I need some more numbers on japanese water stones. Of real interest is how many times can you sharpen before you need to true the face, and how many times can you sharpen a chisel on a waterstone before you wear it out? For cost I am going to use Lee Valley prices, if all else I will do the same with pads.

So far here is how it is stacking up as a ballpark until I get some more info…

Micro Abarasives Corner, or… “Scary Sharp”

Veritas Sharpening Jig $58
Granite Plate $10 from the local big box
5 – 220 Grit 8X11 $10
5 – 15u (1000grit) $10
5 – 5u (2500 grit) $8.25
5 – .5u (9000 grit) $8.25

For a total of… $114.50

In the opposite corner in a kimono…

Veritas Sharpening Jig $58
220/800 Stone $30
1000/4000 Stone $28
8000 Stone $46.50
Sic Truing Plate $25

For a total of… $187.50

So we are left with Scary sharp being cheaper by $73 dollars, assuming pads on average including shipping cost $2 each, we can use another 36.5 pads before we price match, unless the waterstones have a life less than that.

Anyone want to chime in with some numbers?

-- Casey, Engineer, Escanaba, MI

11 comments so far

View Karson's profile


35032 posts in 3821 days

#1 posted 01-08-2008 04:37 AM

I’ve used some diamond film also for sharpening. It’s hard to get as it’s used in the optical industry for polishing the glass fibers before splicing. But Diamond stones can also be thrown into the mix for at least rough cutting.

They you also have Tormek, Sharpright (name failes me) etc. It’s more of a powered scary sharp.

But who can forget or afford the Shapton glass plates to 30,000 grit.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 3409 days

#2 posted 01-08-2008 04:40 AM

I use a Tormek. So I guess I don’t fit in.

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View mot's profile


4911 posts in 3457 days

#3 posted 01-08-2008 04:44 AM

Gary, you elitist! LOL

-- You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation. (Plato)

View YooperCasey's profile


58 posts in 3253 days

#4 posted 01-08-2008 04:53 AM

Actually Gary if I had one I’d definitely throw it into the ring, but my budget doesn’t justify it at the moment. If I can find someone in my neck of the woods with that, or a worksharp or other powered system I’ll do a comparison as well.

-- Casey, Engineer, Escanaba, MI

View Mike Lingenfelter's profile

Mike Lingenfelter

503 posts in 3534 days

#5 posted 01-08-2008 05:17 AM

I would personally through out the 220/800 water stones. All you really need is 1000/4000/8000. Just my opinion. We will need to find someone who has used water stones for long time see how long the last. I’ve been give estimates based on years, not how many sharpening you can get.

View Greg3G's profile


815 posts in 3506 days

#6 posted 01-08-2008 07:04 AM

I’ve never really thought of it this way. Now take what I say with a grain of salt because I will be the first to admit that I really am terrible at sharpening. I would expect that sharpening is like cutting dovetails by hand. It takes practice. Like my grandfather used to tell me, ” you can’t do it, until you do it.” It took me a long time to figure that one out. Skills are learned, they don’t just appear by magic. That’s where I come up short. I want to do it perfectly the first time.

I use the Scarey method for a couple of reasons. First, the mess. I make enough of a mess with out adding a pan of water to the shop.

Second, If I can’t sharpen that well, how will I keep a stone true with any amount of certainty.

As for cost, I got my plates for free. They are 3/8” plate glass that were rements at a glass shop. they are about 14×14.

I order my paper from Klingpor, can’t remember how much I paid but it seemed reasonable at the time.

-- Greg - Charles Town, WV

View jcees's profile


1011 posts in 3219 days

#7 posted 01-08-2008 09:18 AM

The only system I haven’t tried is water stones. I’ve used oil stones new and old, diamond stones and diamond paste, ceramic stones and the Scary Sharp system. I’ve settled on [drum role please] a coarse diamond plate for establishing the edge geometry, Scary Sharp for refining and oil stone/strop for maintenance.

The large Norton 220 grit diamond stone is a beautiful thing for truing other stones as well as doing the rough forming/flattening duties for plane irons and chisels. After that it’s a progression of 8×11 sheets of silicon carbide lubed with water on the surface plate. Maintenance involves a few strokes freehand on an old lilly white washita followed up by a couple of strokes on a synthetic strop charged with a stick of chromium oxide. I can shave hair off the backs of my hairy knucks and make continuous shavings thin enough to read through.

In the interest of full disclosure, I do own a wet/dry grinder but it only comes out when I really screw up an edge. Darn!

As for jigs, I’ve tried them all and most aren’t worth spit. And that goes double for any of the outrigger styles. If the blade/jig combo doesn’t register consistently with the surface of the stones then all your efforts will add up to a pant load of frustration. The best jigs are the ones you came equipped with; two good hands.

Therefor, sharpening is no longer a mystery to me but rather a chore that I do in order to produce good work. And the fastest most effective way for me is to practice feeling the bevel on the stone/paper, producing the wire edge then stropping that puppy till I can check my teeth in the reflection. After that I can push a chisel through end grain without breaking the chip and listen to the plane sing as it glides down a board. Sweet!

Also, keeping a blade sharp is much easier than resharpening it, that’s why the washita and strop are always within reach. Oh, and they do not rely upon a single electron either. Good luck, mon ami.

-- When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world. -- John Muir

View rikkor's profile


11295 posts in 3295 days

#8 posted 01-08-2008 12:16 PM

The WorkSharp can do a lot of the heavy lifting. From there I go to the waterstone.

View schwingding's profile


122 posts in 3246 days

#9 posted 01-08-2008 04:17 PM

I agree with several of you, and disagree with several, too!

Powered grinders can’t be beat. I’d count the powered scary sharp systems under “powered grinders”. For real sharpening though, you can’t beat a perfectly flat stone.

I use the Tormek for my grinding of chisels and plane irons, but go to the stones for sharpening thereafter. Under a microscope, one can easily tell the stone sharpened edge from the leather honed edge of the Tormek – the stone sharpened edge is much sharper! Leather deflects, and deflection is not what you need when creating an edge.

For turning tools, I use the Tormek and the Tormek leather wheel, as turning tools 1. don’t always work as well when they’re really sharp, and 2. need much more frequent sharpening. (don’t believe me for #1, ask me why)

Yes, the stones can cost more – IMO it is because they are worth more. Sure, they take more time, but you get a sharper tool.

Learn to hold your tools properly while you sharpen and you can avoid the $58 jig. Then the two systems are almost identical in price. I never use a jig, but it takes practice.

-- Just another woodworker

View Mike Lingenfelter's profile

Mike Lingenfelter

503 posts in 3534 days

#10 posted 01-08-2008 05:03 PM

I think I only paid $6 or $7 for the honing guide I use. I have the Veritas jig too, but I keep going back to my cheap one. There’s something to be said about simplicity. It only takes me about 4 minutes or less to tune up my edge and I use waterstones.

View roy's profile


134 posts in 3214 days

#11 posted 02-12-2008 04:26 PM

i use stones i found myself at different rock yards.
people for thousands of years sharpened knives WITHOUT going to the store
my tools will cut you if you touch them to see if they are sharp
you can tell from the sound and feel when they are sharp
my grand mother used the bottom of her cast iron skillet and the back step to sharpen her kitchen knifes and they will dress a hog to the bone in flash
lets get back to the basic simple ways and forget all this worry and rocket science why would anyone worry so much about how many strokes you can use a piece of sand paper?

-- tn hillbilly.." tryin to do the best i can with what i got "

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