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Sharpening FAQ: Why isn't my blade getting sharp?

We recently received an email from JDizzle (name changed for his privacy, obviously) who is not getting the results he expects after sharpening with waterstones. We will update this post if/when he lets us know what works and what doesn't.

Email from JDizzle:

Hi JTA,
I hope you guys are well and off to a good start to the year.
I was just sharpening up a plane blade that I use as a flat scraper for work.
I got to the end of the 8000 stone and stropped it on some leather with green compound afterwards and wasn’t very happy with how sharp the edge was. I glossed up the back on a kanaban a bit more than I had initially then sharpened the micro bevel again with the 8000 then strop and it might have been slightly better.

I’m not 100% sure that my process is right. I have been only touching the back on the strop.
If I have flattened the back initially on a kanaban properly for regular sharpening how would you remove the bur? Would you go bevel up and remove the bur on the back on the 8000 water stone, the strop or the kanaban?

Any help would be much appreciated.

All the best,

JDizzle

_____

Hi JDizzle,

Great questions, sorry you aren't getting the results you are looking for.

There may be an issue with your strop being contaminated. I suggest that because I have had that issue myself.

I have had a go at sharpening with a microscope, and found that the strop did add polish, but also introduced deep scratches and damaged my edge in a way that wasn't visible to the naked eye.

Here is a shot of my edge off an #8000 stone (done in a jig, so all scratches are perpendicular to the edge):


And here it is off the strop, done freehand:



The only explanation I can have for this is that there is some nasty gunk on my strop from coarse stones. But I haven't got around to testing with a clean new strop.

After working the back on the kanaban for initial setup, I try to only ever deburr on the #8000 (I don't deburr on anything coarser).

I also finish the sharpening process on the #8000, deburr, go back to the bevel for a few passes, deburr, bevel, deburr. I don't deburr on the kanaban, and don't trust strops any more (but still use them for carving tools, so they can't be all that bad haha).

Another little trick you can introduce at that last stage of sharpening is adding a microbevel - but a truly "micro" microbevel. After a deburr, reference your bevel on the stone, and then lift up your angle very subtly - I think the back of the bevel would be about 1mm off the stone or so - and take 2-3 swipes backwards. This introduces a microbevel that can help you make sure you have "got" your edge, and can also be removed quickly and easily the next time you work your blade on a #1000.

I hope some of that was helpful, please try a few things out and let me know how you go.

Best,
Mitch