Ultra-fine sharpening options

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Forum topic by funkhousen posted 01-08-2014 04:55 PM 1291 views 0 times favorited 13 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2 posts in 1566 days

01-08-2014 04:55 PM

Topic tags/keywords: sharp sharpen hone diamond blade tool

I have been practicing sharpening and maintaining a constant bevel using a set of diamond plates. The plates are coarse/fine/extra-fine which translates to about 330/600/1000. When taking a plane iron through all three, it ends up sharp… but not sharp enough. I can cut a few arm hairs with it, but not really shave. It cannot cleanly slice through the edge of a sheet of paper without ripping it.

It’s possible that it’s user error, but I think it’s more likely that I need a higher grit stage. What are the best options for this? I would invest up to another $100 if necessary because I know how important it is to have sharp tools. I have considered buying a 1000/4000 combo waterstone and going to that after the 600 grit diamond (and bypassing the 1000 diamond). I have also considered making a leather strop and using a high quality compound after the 1000 grit diamond stage.

Opinions? I’m pretty new to this and I’m a little overwhelmed by options. I know I won’t get a definitive “X is best because Y” because everyone sharpens a little differently. But knowledgeable experience would really be appreciated.

In case it is user error, here is my steps to sharpening.

1. Use the 330 to establish a bevel.
2. When bevel is flat, sharpen until there is a full length burr.
3. Place back of iron flat on stone, apply pressure, and pull back tiny bit to remove burr.
4. Move up 600, sharpen until burr, remove burr same way.
5. Repeat with 1000.


13 replies so far

View PurpLev's profile


8534 posts in 3613 days

#1 posted 01-08-2014 05:01 PM

you mention that you “pull back tiny bit” on the back but you don’t mention that you flattened the back. have you done so? if not, your cutting edge may not be consistently sharp which is crucial.

Other than that, 1000 is good for rough work (mortise chisels, and other pounding actions), but for shaving, and paring you really want to go higher than that – preferably at or beyond the 4000 grit equivalent.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View JayT's profile


5588 posts in 2176 days

#2 posted 01-08-2014 05:07 PM

+1 to PurpLev, especially flattening the backs.

Any sharpening method for a final grit is OK, just what you want to use. I have both a 6000 grit waterstone and a strop. The waterstone is used during sharpening sessions, the strop for quick touch ups between sessions. You could also invest in a XX Fine diamond stone or a translucent oil stone. Whichever you choose, the answer is going finer for the last stage.

Edit: I also do not remove the burr until after using the finest stone—removing the burr actually breaks off a bit of the edge, so just sharpen through it until finished. You are adding a bit of time by having to sharpen through at each stage instead of just once.

-- In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock. Thomas Jefferson

View Tim's profile


3781 posts in 1926 days

#3 posted 01-08-2014 06:52 PM

While there are some benefits to really high grits, here's an alternative opinion that you don't need them for most things.

There’s also the technique of chasing the burr back and forth to make it as small as possible before breaking it off. I agree with JayT you might me breaking it off too harshly and with PurpLev that you need to make sure the back is flat.

Also definitely try a strop.

View Loren's profile (online now)


10260 posts in 3612 days

#4 posted 01-08-2014 07:08 PM

I’d guess your problem is technique mostly and
lack of a finishing stone a little.

I sharpened freehand for over a decade because
I liked the idea of mastering the skill.

I use the Burns system now. Quick and reliable. I use
2 diamond plates and an 8000 waterstone. I think
4000 is fine though. A 8000 grit edge seems to
hold up better, but it doesn’t cut better than
a 4000 grit when freshly sharpened, and only a little
better than an edge honed on a 1200 grit water stone.

I use the old General honing guide. Burns makes
one of his own but it’s more costly than the old General.

View ColonelTravis's profile


1756 posts in 1859 days

#5 posted 01-08-2014 07:31 PM

I was having the very same problems with the scary sharp method. My sharpness was never scary. What’s been said by everyone so far is true. Now I use the following set-up with a Veritas guide and my wife is scared on my behalf:

DMT Dia-Sharp Coarse (primary bevel, otherwise just for flattening the next two stones)
Shapton Pro 1000
Kitayama 8000

That’s it. Razor blades every time.

View DrDirt's profile


4423 posts in 3707 days

#6 posted 01-08-2014 07:44 PM

I would just add a step to what you are doing and get a leather strop charged with tripoli compound

I use the yellow flexcut “proprietary” stuff – because that is what came with my gouges -

You have the grinding part just fine, now just 5-6 pulls across the leather and you will be shaving in no time.

-- “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Mark Twain

View JohnChung's profile


407 posts in 2039 days

#7 posted 01-09-2014 04:25 PM

+1 purplev

330 is more for grinding
600 still grinding….
1000 sharpening stone

The missing stones are for polishing and finishing. 2000 is the first polishing stone. I have managed to get sharp by using 2000 grit and ending with a strop loaded with chromium oxide.

As to the back of the iron it should be flat and only be polished once. If is continuously sharpening against a grinding stone then it would concave the back of the blade which ruins the blade itself. To break off the burr use your highest grit you have. I use 5000 grit to break the burr.

funkhousen – Try reading the books written by Leonard Lee or Ron Hock. It covers a lot on sharpening and well worth it. I am not too sure what is your application so I can’t recommend the list of stones for you to start with. If money is an issue start with the “scary sharp” method first.
Method comes first then equipment. I personally use waterstones b’cos I don’t like oil stones due to the expense of oil. Machine sharpening with grinders are useful but not necessary all the time. Once the primary bevel is achieved or the hollow grind is done. Just move back to hand sharpening.

View Richard H's profile

Richard H

489 posts in 1645 days

#8 posted 01-09-2014 04:38 PM

I have a DMT extra extra fine plate along with other DMT grits and i’m not a fan of diamond stones as a final honing step. I don’t feel like they really get my chisels that sharp, like end grain shavings in pine sharp. They are great for fine shaping and getting the edge ready for honing but I prefer either water or oil stones for that final honing although fine sandpaper and a strop will work to. I recently got to play around with some Arkansas Black Surgical Oil Stones and while I’m sure other will disagree I think the edge they put on my chisels beats my 8000 Grit Shapton Ceramic stone. We are taking very minor differences here but still it’s got me thinking about selling my Shapton and buying a good Oil stone instead.

View JohnChung's profile


407 posts in 2039 days

#9 posted 01-09-2014 04:42 PM

Richard – How did you test the sharpness of the blade? Curious.

View Richard H's profile

Richard H

489 posts in 1645 days

#10 posted 01-09-2014 04:47 PM

Paring a pine end grain. Also I hate to say this because 1. Someone is going to beat up on me for doing it and 2. it’s probably not something people should be doing if not comfortable but I find when I pull my finger lightly over a blade (not across) it will stick to a really sharp blade similar to how saw teeth feel sticky when sharp.

There is no doubt it’s personal opinion however.

View JohnChung's profile


407 posts in 2039 days

#11 posted 01-09-2014 05:02 PM

Richard – I do own the shapton pro stones and I will not say a word :) Paring end grain is a fair assessment. Derek Cohen also uses the same method but uses harder wood like jarrah.

I personally use a cheap usb microscope to check the sharpness but I can’t say for sure it is sharper on my end. The scope really does help on which metal is more shiny and which has less scratches. For a true test I plane end grain on my end but that depends on other factors like low angle plane and etc. I haven’t managed to pare end grain with a chisel that well yet…......

View Richard H's profile

Richard H

489 posts in 1645 days

#12 posted 01-09-2014 05:34 PM


I have never thought of one of the USB microscopes, it’s a interesting idea. I do find a magnifying glass is sometimes handy to see if there is any flat left over on the edge but usually it’s pretty easy to tell with a good light source looking down the end of the blade/iron.

There are a lot of ways to get good results sharpening and it really comes down to what works best for you. I personally have gotten what I consider acceptable results sharpening using the following methods.

Using a Worksharp with 1200 or 3600 grit sandpaper and the honing wheel.
Using extra or extra-extra fine DMT diamond plates with stropping.
Using 4000 Grit water stones with stropping or 8000 grit water (either traditional or ceramic) without
Using Black Arkansas Oil Stone

What I really like about the Oil stone is that you really don’t need to strop afterwards and the stone stays flat for a really long time. I thought the oil would bother me but you use so little of it that I don’t consider it much of a issue and you don’t have to use something like Camellia Oil on your tools like you do after using water or sandpaper methods. I still don’t own a Oil stone I have just used others but it has been tempting me. I own to many sharpening methods right now however so I really think something would have to go for me to change. Honestly the best thing you can do is pick a method you like and stick to it until something comes along that really makes you rethink it. There is nothing worse than changing up methods and expecting consistent results.

View funkhousen's profile


2 posts in 1566 days

#13 posted 01-09-2014 05:55 PM

Thanks for all the great advice. It took a while for the post to get approved and I got inpatient and purchased a 4000/8000 waterstone after doing some more research. I haven’t had a chance to sharpen anything yet, but I will let you know how it works out.

Also I didn’t flatten and polish the back first. So I will be sure to do that right away and I will only remove the burr on the 8000 grit stone.

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