Shapton Water Stones

I bought a set of 1500, 5000 and 8000 grit Shapton stones (Professional grade) from someone in this forum. They arrived yesterday and this morning I have some black stuff still hanging around the edges of my fingernails and a bit less hair on my left forearm.
So, before I forget I thought I'd post a brief review. My background with waterstones is fairly eclectic. I've been using a mix of natural and manmade stones (the natural ones were picked up years ago and I have no idea of where they came from originally or what "grit" they would approximate. The manmade one is a big 200 grit stone I bought to grind some old plane blades into shape. I also gave the scary sharp system a brief try with whatever sandpaper I had in the garage. Nothing finer than 400 grit though, I then finished the sharpening off on my fine waterstone. I am hardly an edge fetishist. I do like to have sharp tools but I don't care if anything back from the cutting edge is polished or rusty.
It had been occuring to me that I have been lacking a middle grade stone and just before these stones were posted here I had nearly made up my mind to bite the bullet and pick up one of the shapton stones to see how they worked. So when I saw them for sale nearly unused I threw caution and cash to the wind and picked up all three.
The previous owner stated that he didn't have time (or was it patience) for them. After using the 1500 grit stone to flatten the back and take out a slight hump in the top of a japanese carving knife I have, it occured to me why he might have given up. The 1500 stone is just a bit too fine for this sort of work. I spent more time than I would have liked on this task. Then I pulled out a plane blade from a Steve Knight coffin smoother that I had dinged up planing some redwood that I too late realized had a couple of pieces of sand embedded in the surface (Note to self: don't store wood on floor of the garage...). It worked great honing the back and actually didn't take all that long to bring the bevel back to eliminate the small nick. But I think for general purpose one would be better off with a 1000 grit instead.
At this time I washed it off and put it back in the box. Nice to have boxes, and nice that I didn't need to soak them in water before hand. This makes it easy to just pull them out and go to work, something I couldn't do with my other stones. Apparently you can sharpen with the stone sitting in the box, but I found it didn't sit quite as flat as I would like so I took it out and set it on a wet paper towel on the counter. Better.
The time I spent on the 5000 grit stone was maybe a 10th of the time on the 1500 stone. It didn't take long to put a nice shine on things. Here is where taking the time with the coarser stone pays off. Still I found there were some areas I was too impatient with the 1500 stone. I figured I'd catch areas which are far away from the edge the next time and it looks like I will have to. I think you could stop with the 5000 grit. It really was a nice shiny finish.
But I went on. I pulled out the 8000 grit and spent a few minutes with it. My intention with it was to just give the back a final polish and put a microbevel on bevel side. It did this quickly and the hair started falling off my arm. Probably the sharpest that knife has ever been and the plane blade was sharp as new. I'm quite impressed with the speed they cut and the finish they give. My only regret is that 1500 grit stone. Now I think I need to buy a 320 or something to round out the set.
As part of the deal I also bought that fellow's sharpening jigs. One a japanese one whose name I can't remember and the other a veritas. I was not impressed. The veritas didn't grip the blade well enough (or maybe I didn't crank down on the knob hard enough) and was hard to adjust for the precise blade angle. Also, with the roller in the back you only use half the stone. I am thinking that will lead to a greater degree of uneven wear. I found it easier and faster to simply do it by hand. Both of the blades I sharpened have fairly long bevels so it is not so difficult. A thin stanley plane blade may be a different story.
Anyway, I can only say that the performance of the stones is exemplary. When you add the convenience of not having to soak and the added touch of having nice drip-dry storage boxes there really is no excuse other than lack of money not to consider them. I'd rate the experience as better than scary sharp because the stones are just there, ready to use. No gluing or sticking down sandpaper and replacing it. They cut just as well when you start as when you stop. If it were not time to get to bed I would have been hunting around looking for more things to sharpen.
My experience with scary sharp also seemed prone to producing somewhat rounded edges. I'd like to avoid that. With a hard stone this is less likely to occur as there is no flex to it as there may be with paper and adhesive. Poor technique can always produce the same effect though....
Anyway, thanks to the seller of the stones and to Steve Knight for bringing them to my attention.
-j
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Good review. Thanks. Now I wonder if I should wait on my Japanese waterstones to wear out or should I take the plunge to Shapton now????
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They are pricey. Unless I needed one I wouldn't have bought them.
-j
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well they are and they are not. they cost more then most stones to start with but in the long run they wear so slowly they are far cheaper. some may not wear out all of their waterstones but most of the lower grit ones wear pretty fast. I have not worn out one shapton stone yet in two years of use. in that time I would have worn out about 10 1000 grit waterstones and several middle stones. the regular shapton I used for about 6 months showed about 1/4 of it worn in that time. my hippo stone hardly shows any wear in almost two years.
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Agreed, but if you have something that is working for you now, then there is no rush to go out and buy something new which does the same thing, albeit better and faster.
I'm completely happy with them.
-j
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very true. but if you want to spend less time sharpening it is worth it.
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You can put down the pompoms Steve. :-) Wouldn't you rather have people spend their money on a pretty new plane with inlaid maple racing stripes?
-j
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Sure (G)
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<snip> As part of the deal I also bought that fellow's sharpening jigs. One a japanese one whose name I can't remember and the other a veritas. I was not impressed. The veritas didn't grip the blade well enough (or maybe I didn't crank down on the knob hard enough) and was hard to adjust for the precise blade angle. Also, with the roller in the back you only use half the stone. I am thinking that will lead to a greater degree of uneven wear. I found it easier and faster to simply do it by hand. Both of the blades I sharpened have fairly long bevels so it is not so difficult. A thin stanley plane blade may be a different story. <snip>
Did you see the notes I posted on the Jeff Gorman sharpening jig made from a wallpaper dressing edge roller? I really like it and I quite using my Veritas jig, since I made Jeff's jig. I've used it on everything from a #8 stanley blade to a Veritas shoulder plane blade and it works well. It rides on the workbench, not on the stone. I can repost some pics and drawings if you'd like. I've done hand sharpening with some thicker blades and chisels but the #8 Stanley blade is a real challenge.
Bob
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No, post a link if you have one. I'd like to take a look at it. Sounds like the right idea.
-j
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Next time, put on a pair of latex or nitrile gloves -- keeps the hands from picking up all of that dark polishing grime.

Thanks for the time you took to post the review. I'm still trying to determine whether to change from scary sharp to something else. Your review was helpful.
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wrote:

nah, too much loss of sensation. Unless they have started making ribbed gloves... I don't mind the cleanup.

90% of my posts are just bitching and flaming, so it feels good to post something constructive once in a while. Glad you found it useful.
-j
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J,
Great review! I've been using Shapton for about 3 years now I think. I agree, 1500 is way to fine for starting out. My basic set is 1000, 5000, 8000. I later added a 110 for rough grinding. I fine the 1000 is a great starting stone that will move some metal. The jump from 1K to 5000 is not that big and only takes a few strokes to remove the marks from the 1000.
Bernie

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I really, really like these: <http://www.garrettwade.com/jump.jsp?lGen tail&itemID5910&itemType=PRODUCT&iMainCat000&iSubCat049&iProductID5910>
I also have a General, Veritas, and a no name jig.
Barry
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Why wouldn't you just flip the stone around 180 degrees?
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That is always an option if you are just talking about wear on the stone. I'm actually talking about the process of using the stone to sharpen something. In this case there are some considerations.
1) then the black slurry gets all over the roller. 2) there may be an area in the middle that gets a hump. 3) in my opinion, the best sharpening is done in the middle of the stroke. 4) shorter strokes mean you need to take more of them. When I sharpen I keep my arms and upperbody fairly still and move my legs so I'd rather be taking fewer long strokes. 5) the nature of the roller promotes a linear motion in the same location instead of working across the entire width of the stone.
That is enough for now. I just find the guide to be less than the optimum and more of a hassle than a help. Your experience may be different.
-j
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