Two stones to rule them all. Help decide?

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RareLiving
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Two stones to rule them all. Help decide?

Post by RareLiving »

I want to upgrade from my current stones and I'm currently eyeing the following combos. The goals are to sharpen, and one to finish and touch up in between sharpening but that leaves an edge that isn't so polished it feels short-lasting or too specialized.

Cerax 1k/1000 + Suehiro "ouka"/Cerax 3k/3000 (is there a big difference between cerax/ouka?)

Shapon pro/kuromaku 1k/5k

I noticed it seems like my knives require too much touching up when I currently take them on a progression from norton 1k, to 4k, to 8k, and I feel as if I don't get good feedback when cutting meats or find it feels sticky/slippery at times. This has made me wonder if for an all-purpose gyuto if I'd be better off just stopping at 3k max. I do prefer the polish of an edge and how lovely it feels cutting vegetables as if you're cutting air, but it seems a little bit of tooth/durability might be better for how I cook and a 3k seems like it could be the perfect compromise.

I like that the shaptons are splash and go and from what I've been told require less flattening, but I'm wondering if taking it to the shapton 5k is too high for my current ideals. Would this be the case, when comparing it to the ouka/cerax? If not, that might be enough to make them a winner for me. Makes me wonder why they don't make a 3k, though 3k seems uncommon in general.

I'm also wondering how the cerax/ouka and shapton pros compare in general. They're in the same general price-range, so I'm curious if there's a clear winner. The main complaints I see are about the shaptons not having great feedback, but I don't think that's as much of a concern for me at this point. I mostly want the end result and durability.

So, might those of you with more experience with these stones or in general help me make a decision?
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Re: Two stones to rule them all. Help decide?

Post by branwell »

I know its not what you asked, but here is something to try with the stones you have. Hybrid edges.

Put a good 1K edge on your knife, than strop your blade on the 8K a little. Make a test cut. Is it too toothy? If so, strop some more, and test again, etc. The idea here is to polish the 1K edge, not turn it into an 8K edge. Hybrid edges hold this interesting middle ground. Might be the answer you are looking for.
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Re: Two stones to rule them all. Help decide?

Post by RareLiving »

branwell wrote: Mon Dec 28, 2020 10:53 pm I know its not what you asked, but here is something to try with the stones you have. Hybrid edges.

Put a good 1K edge on your knife, than strop your blade on the 8K a little. Make a test cut. Is it too toothy? If so, strop some more, and test again, etc. The idea here is to polish the 1K edge, not turn it into an 8K edge. Hybrid edges hold this interesting middle ground. Might be the answer you are looking for.
Yeah still pondering which in between stone to get as well.

Not a bad idea. I considered something similar as well but haven't tried it out yet. I try not to spend too long on my finer stones but making the effort to specifically strop rather than spend more time doing something more akin to polishing may have some interesting results.
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Re: Two stones to rule them all. Help decide?

Post by lsboogy »

Hi Rareliving, and welcome to the forum.
I'm a little puzzled by the "good feedback" comment when cutting meats - do you use the same blade for cutting fish/chicken/beef? Different proteins have different feedback - and cooked and raw are different as well. I find a very sharp blade works well for raw proteins of all sorts, and is great on cooked beef – especially if you want to slice only once to avoid saw marks in your presentation). And cooked fish comes in some very different textures – sea bass, halibut and salmon need razors as they are very soft, but walleye needs a different blade.
But on to your current quest – do you like hard or soft stones to sharpen on (Shaptons are very hard and I can’t stand them, but many think they are the best thing available)? Are you good at holding an angle (muscle memory type thing that we all develop over time)? I prefer a mirror finish on most of my blades (even my pocket knives), but I do keep an old Sabatier ham slicing knife (16” job) at 1K – seems to be a great thing for those shimmering slices of ham on the rare occasion we eat it.
Sharpening is personal, and you might do well to call Ken123 and talk to him a bit – he has steered me well over the years, and should be a great help for you as well. I have moved over to Nubatama stones in the past couple or 3 years, and love it. I’ve also been encouraged to try a very coarse set of stones (60, 220 etc) that I now use for taking chips out of blades – I sharpen 6-12 blades a week for a bunch of lawyers who like very sharp blades – and they have terrible technique for the most part, so I get a lot of chipped blades.
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Re: Two stones to rule them all. Help decide?

Post by RareLiving »

lsboogy wrote: Wed Dec 30, 2020 11:45 am Hi Rareliving, and welcome to the forum.
I'm a little puzzled by the "good feedback" comment when cutting meats - do you use the same blade for cutting fish/chicken/beef? Different proteins have different feedback - and cooked and raw are different as well. I find a very sharp blade works well for raw proteins of all sorts, and is great on cooked beef – especially if you want to slice only once to avoid saw marks in your presentation). And cooked fish comes in some very different textures – sea bass, halibut and salmon need razors as they are very soft, but walleye needs a different blade.
But on to your current quest – do you like hard or soft stones to sharpen on (Shaptons are very hard and I can’t stand them, but many think they are the best thing available)? Are you good at holding an angle (muscle memory type thing that we all develop over time)? I prefer a mirror finish on most of my blades (even my pocket knives), but I do keep an old Sabatier ham slicing knife (16” job) at 1K – seems to be a great thing for those shimmering slices of ham on the rare occasion we eat it.
Sharpening is personal, and you might do well to call Ken123 and talk to him a bit – he has steered me well over the years, and should be a great help for you as well. I have moved over to Nubatama stones in the past couple or 3 years, and love it. I’ve also been encouraged to try a very coarse set of stones (60, 220 etc) that I now use for taking chips out of blades – I sharpen 6-12 blades a week for a bunch of lawyers who like very sharp blades – and they have terrible technique for the most part, so I get a lot of chipped blades.
Thanks, and thank you for the food for thought. By the feedback comment I meant that if I were prepping lots of raw proteins it felt as if I didn't have a good sense of where my blade was in making its way through and I was having to double check my cuts at times. The latter I experienced with chicken. Slicing cooked steak for serving, I felt as if my blade felt a bit slippery, then sticky, and took more force than I'd naturally want to use, which I didn't seem to feel until using "finer" knives. Salmon skin I've had trouble getting through at first but that could just be my particular gyuto. I have a thicker and heavier blade that is reasonably polished and it felt to glide right in so maybe it's really just that.

I'm leaning towards the Shaptons at this point as the hardness is appealing for the ease of splash and go and the slower wear. I think I'm fairly good at holding an angle at this point and I tend to check as I go; it really upped my sharpening game in general when I made a conscious effort to go very slow and consistently steady before letting my speed increase naturally. However, as I'm not experienced with either stone I still wonder if the Cerax stones may perform better at their respective grit ratings. Is the 3k really like a 3k, the 5k really like a 5k, etc. Maybe the 5k already polishes as much as my norton 8k? I wonder.
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lsboogy
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Re: Two stones to rule them all. Help decide?

Post by lsboogy »

Chicken is always weird unless you are just parting it out at the joints and cutting the breast off (or airlining them). Chicken is very easy with the grain and the meat switches from with to against in the thighs and breasts (tenderloins). And if your knife is sticking, it's probably not a dull/sharp thing, but a food release thing - try a hammered finish knife sometime - food has water and/or oil in it that makes a blade stick to the product, and most shiny finish knives are not great with food release. The reason Glestain knives with Grantons were invented - still great for big dinners getting a roast or ham sliced.

And I think that the Cerax stuff is kind of a mid hardness stone, but I do give all the next gen (nieces and nephew) a cerax combo stone when they graduate from school and go out on their own. As far as actual grit, no stone is really just a single grit - they run powder through a screen for manmade (ceramic) stuff, so you get mostly grit about the right size, some grit that's bigger (long chunks or screens that have a missing mesh) an some smaller. And I don't know how good Norton's are, I have not used them on knives - nor do I use Arkansas stones on my knives (dad gave me some that he oiled and used on tools).
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Re: Two stones to rule them all. Help decide?

Post by salemj »

I feel like I've had similar issues to what you describe. I often stop at 1.5-3k and then rely on strops or very, very light strokes on a finishing stone to hone the edge. I find that this gives me more of the feedback that I like in the cut.

I realize that a really polished edge can feel wonderful cutting through things, especially raw fish and chicken. But for whatever reason, I prefer more feedback in the cut on a daily basis, and I also much prefer the feeling of stainless edges at middle grits to anything more polished. In some ways, I like feeling the road, as it were: I like the direct, tactile feedback I get from the edge even though I know this means that - technically - it isn't as refined. The bonus is that less touch-up is required to feel like that level of edge is maintained. The sacrifice is that wonderful, fresh-off-the-edge amazing edge you get from higher polish that is perfectly refined and almost makes it seem like the food isn't there. I learned a while ago, however, that that level of edge is often more scary than fun to a lot of people when actually cutting food (including me after a cocktail), and I like to cook with friends and am often distracted while prepping, too, so the feedback in the cut helps.

The safest advice is just to experiment yourself. Different knives have different personalities, and I honestly believe that a big part of this equation is actually the knives you use and what you use them for, and not just a generalized preference for this or that kind of edge.
~Joe

Comments: I'm short, a home cook, prefer lighter, thinner blades, and own mostly Konosukes but have used over a dozen brands.
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Re: Two stones to rule them all. Help decide?

Post by RareLiving »

salemj wrote: Wed Dec 30, 2020 10:08 pm I feel like I've had similar issues to what you describe. I often stop at 1.5-3k and then rely on strops or very, very light strokes on a finishing stone to hone the edge. I find that this gives me more of the feedback that I like in the cut.

I realize that a really polished edge can feel wonderful cutting through things, especially raw fish and chicken.
Indeed. I had that experience yesterday prepping some onions and peppers on my well-polished edge and it was as if moving through air. That is definitely very lovely. I then used a Santoku I got for a family member that I only take to 1k and strop once, before steeling the rest of the lifetime of its edge, to cut chicken side by side with my usual gyuto, then green onions. Sometimes the difference was more subtle than it at first seemed.. perhaps you are right that it's not the edge.

Yes I think this will probably take a bit of experimentation regardless of what stones I upgrade to. Maybe I'll get the shapton 1k and 5k and test drive the suehiro 3k someday if I feel the need. I've also heard the shapton 2k feels like it is actually more refined than the edge its users would think a 2k rating to imply. Based on what advice I've received here and read elsewhere, I think the Shaptons may be similar to what I'm used to but it'll be much nicer to have bigger, non-combo stones. One of the combos even has a soaker while the other side wears quickly and I don't think should be soaked.. That and the grits spilling over into each other has been a bit annoying.

The 1k I'm currently using works well but it soaks for a very long time and dries up very quickly, as well as feels as if it has some gritty spots that catch my knife when I sharpen. This is part of what motivates me to see what these stones that are more common amongst the kitchen knife folks use. I picked up my current set used, but like new, for quite cheap, so it was worth a shot. They were definitely an upgrade from the $20 stone I was using before and I think they're perfectly fine but I've gone deep into this hobby nowadays and must explore. Hehe. It also means I'll be able to write up my own ideas about how some of these less commonly talked about stones work for others to ponder in this context.
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Re: Two stones to rule them all. Help decide?

Post by lsboogy »

I think the stone I see in the most kitchens is a "Big Red Brick" or something equivalent - if your knife gets a dull spot you want something quick. Rick keeps one in the kitchen - goes into the water at night and has a spray bottle next to it during the day. I have one, but have taken to a 1200 Nubatama most of the time. I think you will find as much variance in stones and preference amongst the forum members as knives, I probably have different preferences than most, and if has taken many years to get where I am - and I have several dozen stones on the shelf to show for it. We call it the rabbit hole, and there is really no bottom to it - just a journey. For over 20 years, I owned two Japanese stones (a Kiukichi 1K and a Kitiyama 8K), along with some Belgian Bleu and some Arkansas stones (Arkansas only used on tools). I did go the Shapton route for a bit, but found them not to my liking - daughter loves them so she gets a bigger space, she will get them. And when you think about it, stones are very cheap - even a $250 Nubatama will last 20+ years, so it's only $10/year to get a really good stone that I like, and I am also discovering very coarse stones now. If I was to be limited to just two, I would pick a my 1200 and 6K - but I'm just one person who likes my knives sharpened the way I like, and as you go further in your journey you will probably start taking to stones and knives you did not think of previously. Even my SO has taken to a different knife in the past couple of years - she liked her Globals, MACs, and some others, but she now has sole possession of my Hiromoto AS set and she uses them almost exclusively now - she likes the 240 at 8K and the 210 at 5K.
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Re: Two stones to rule them all. Help decide?

Post by RareLiving »

Hey y'all, thanks again for your insight. I did some soul searching and experimentation based on a lot of this personally directed advice and some other study I could do. I ended up with the shaptons, and for what I'm used to, they feel very fun to use. Similar feedback, but better, faster-working and less gritty (which would cause me to catch the blade sometimes, felt like at least my 1k norton had a small stone sticking out of it in a spot in particular) than my other stones. Aside from that, I also discovered that I've sort of learned how to better feel out the edge by testing it with my fingers (thanks Murray Carter) as I sharpen, and by alternating between the 1k/5k or 8k as I go, and occasionally a green compound strop (which I've discovered I actually don't much like for long term uses as it's far, far too fine and makes my edge way too smooth) I can achieve the results I want pretty independent of what I'm working with as long as I have something around rough, and something fine.

The shapton 1k developed a burr faster than I'm used to and it was a very obvious burr. It feels better than my norton 1k for sure, and doesn't have to soak for a while like that does. I really liked the feel of it. I did some testing as I went along, and if it was too smooth, I stropped on the 1k stone, too bitey, and I took it back to the 5k or 8k or one pass on the strop, each time using as little pressure as possible. By testing with my fingers and cutting food as I go and doing a few chops on the cutting board to feel the feedback from the wood: I like it to feel it stick into the wood a little bit but not too much. I'm becoming better able to recognize when the edge is the right balance of being able to bite into things like peppers/tomatoes without any force and start very clean cuts, or the skin of salmon I regularly prepare, while also still being polished enough to slide through an onion with no resistance and not get stuck halfway through. The idea from this thread about not trying to push an entirely 5k or 8k grit finish on my edge, but to just make the shaving sharp but too bitey 1k edge more refined, was really helpful for my mindset.

Now the next project I have in mind, along with picking up a diamond plate to keep my stones in good shape, is experimenting with a 3-5 micron compound that would probably suit what I want out of a strop better, as I feel stropping on leather with my current compound restores my edge very cleanly and quickly without any mess compared to a stone, but it quickly will take any tooth out of it after a couple uses. From what I can tell 3-5 micron is around 5k and 3k grit which should be perfect for what I desire in between sharpening more aggressively...
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Re: Two stones to rule them all. Help decide?

Post by branwell »

Hi RareLiving,

Something else you might play with is different surfaces on the top of the stone.
For example. You can get little blue DMT diamond plates. They are 320 grit ish and cheap. Try rubbing one of those on your higher grit stone. Will cause it to release a lot of abrasives. For the most part with harder stones like the Shaptons, the abrasive particles are imbedded in a hard substrate so your blade only catches the very tops of them. If you force the issue with a plate, you will get loose abrasive on the surface and this will result in a toothier variant of edge from the same stone.

And some rules of thumb.

Nothing is set in stone, pardon the pun.
What works for one knife might or might not work with another.
What work with one stone might not work on another.
Edged tools have been around since before Genius Homo and there are still as many different ways to sharpen as there are knives, i.e. there is no one perfect way.

For me, I take this as permission to experiment, have fun, learn.
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Re: Two stones to rule them all. Help decide?

Post by Tostadas »

My absolute favorite 2 stone synthetic combo is the shapton 1k/2k. I don't care much for the shapton 5k, which I now mainly reserve for pre-polishing before naturals.
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