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Bester 700 : ceramic waterstone

Posted by CliffStamp 
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Bester 700 : ceramic waterstone
September 14, 2013 02:30AM
Point of reference : SPS-II 1000 : [www.cliffstamp.com]

General ad copy :


The BESTER water stones, manufactured by Imanishi in Kyoto, Japan, feature a sharpening feel remarkably like that of natural stone. They are medium-hard stones, do not need very much water and cut metal quickly. In sharpening you hear and feel the effect of stone on the blade, but even so, when taking a look, you will be surprised by how quickly the stones cut. Those who have some experience with water stones will love the Besters, which offer a remarkably sensitive response and feel to the demands of the user when sharpening.

The stones, being relatively hard, do not wear very quickly. One should allow them to soak for at least five minutes before use. The coarser stones, to cut as quickly and easily as they are capable, will often need another short dip in the water after a few minutes of use. These stones work well on stainless as well as high carbon and tool steels. The 400, 4000 and 8000 grit stones are somewhat harder than the 700, 1000, 1200, and 2000 grit stones.

Ref : [www.fine-tools.com]

I got the 700 however if I had to know the lower grits were available I would have picked one of them instead but this one is an interesting comparison to the SPS-II anyway.

A quick soak turned into a not so quick soak, 30 minutes later and this was still bubbling. It is a very hard stone and thus doesn't absorb water very easily at all so there are little trickles of it which go on forever. I stopped it at 45 minutes as it appeared soaked in most spots but in some it was still bubbling away and shows no signs of changing.

This is an interesting picture which leaves me with a few concerns :

-are the big black chunks irregular grit as they don't look like open spaces
-it looks very solid, maybe a little too solid to release abrasive easily

As a quick check :

This is a well used very cheap stainless steel kitchen knife :

-150 pps later and the edge was cleanly apexed

However the edge was not cleanly formed and even fishhooked (you can feel barbs running down the edge). Now before conclusions are reached, these really heavily used kitchen knives can have really over stressed edges. In short :

-likely cuts faster than a King 1K (not really unexpected)
-may have finishing issues

It does not form a thick mud but makes a light suspension readily, doesn't clog and does need to be wetted every 30-60 seconds or so to keep the surface really wet (depends on how much water you have on it).

As a failed experiment :

I had an old Delica-VG-10 which I wanted to zero and I did and this was the progress on the SPS-II:

Edge stared at 0.030" thick

-500 , edge was 0.015"
-1000 , edge was 0.011"
-1500 , edge was 0.004"
-2000 , edge was zeroed in placed
-2500 , edge was cleanly apexed

These are very light scrubbing passes and so you can do them easily very fast, 2-3 per second so in 15 minutes you can zero one side, 30 minutes for both. Note with the King this would be 1.5 hours and you would have to stop to flatten the stone 2-3 times.

The interesting thing is that it is very non-linear (this is due to the pressure effect of cutting on a wider surface mainly) and that after just 500 passes which is just 2-4 minutes the edge is already at the level of decently thin customs and at 4-8 minutes it is matching the thinnest ground knives.

The experiment failed at the Bester because I didn't pay attention to what I was doing. With the SPS-II I ground a really nice 7.5 dps flat bevel which is on the robust side for a small cutting knife (4.5 dps is easily workable on soft materials and doesn't need much of a secondary to stabilize) I got distracted while watching a documentary on killer whales in captivity .

I checked after 500 passes and found I ground a 10 dps bevel almost right to the edge. I then did another 500 passes to bring this back into the 7.5 dps primary but I ended up with a very light convex. Now it isn't sensible to compare 1000 vs 2500 because one side removed much more metal than the other.

No significant wear on the stone, still looks flat.

In any case though even from this brief over view :

-this is a hard stone, no question
-it soaks slow
-water goes through easily, has to be wetted
-seems to cut well
-a bit concerned about the finish

I need a lot more work and a few questions :

-is it faster than the 1000 SPS-II
-how is the edge finish compared to the same
-how does it wear/stay flat
-how hard is it to flatten
Re: Bester 700 : ceramic waterstone
September 15, 2013 02:32AM
I sharpened a custom in O1 from Alvin Johnson, very low angle, 4 dps, so take that into consideration :

This is the edge off of the 1 k King :

Now again the roughness of the edge is directly proportional to the angle, and since most angles are 3-5 times this much the roughness will be that much reduced, and this is at 50X magnification. In any case it is clear that this is a much more coarse stone than the 1k king. This is due not only to the direct grit but because the King is very muddy and very quickly you end up cutting and finishing as the mud which is a broken down (and much finer) abrasive.

It is possible to form a slurry on the Bester, but it cuts so fast it won't form naturally in most cases. This was also just normal honing, not taking steps to minimize the finish such as ultra-light honing. In any case it does raise a few concerns and raises an obvious question about the ability to finish such edges compared to the King and also the SPS-II which I am also going to start using to finish.
Re: Bester 700 : ceramic waterstone
September 15, 2013 10:37PM
I sharpened the 63.5 HRC cold treated/double tempered O1 blade from Alvin twice again (cutting piles of cardboard mainly), and by reducing the force I could get a much finer edge, but at best it was about half that of the 1K king. There is simply a massive difference in the way the abrasive cuts due to the stones being of two very different hardness levels.

Now I am finishing on a 600 grit DMT, but if I was not and was trying to polish these edges, this stone is much too coarse to grind these low angles on a fine knife as you will end up taking 2-4 times as much metal off the edge if you apex it. You have to play a careful balancing act and stop grinding as soon as you start to apex and switch to a finer stone.

Of course if you just want speed and don't care about wasting metal, no issues. On cheap knives, there is no point to that and in fact it maybe even a bit silly to use stones which cost 10x the amount of the knife anyway.

I keep this stone permasoaked with just a bit of bleach in the water.
Re: Bester 700 : ceramic waterstone
September 15, 2013 10:56PM
What is the reason for the bit of bleach in the water?
Re: Bester 700 : ceramic waterstone
September 16, 2013 12:04AM
I use the grind off / slurry in the water after I drain it after a few weeks. If you do not put something in the water to make it hostile to micro-organisms then you could have issues, especially if you literally have dozens of such containers.
Re: Bester 700 : ceramic waterstone
September 16, 2013 12:27AM
And here I thought you were into experimenting? Besides, aren't Sasquatch immune to all that stuff.

With respect to the grind off / slurry that you get from rinsing the stones...is it from various stones? Various grits really?


Always in search of a good choppa'
Re: Bester 700 : ceramic waterstone
September 16, 2013 02:04AM
I use it for lapping compounds mainly however I also make strops for friends who want very basic sharpening supplies.

I was becoming a little less than impressed with this stone until I increased the force :

At this point it starts developing a mud and it cuts fairly well and it can generate a fairly decent finish :

This is 7.5 dps so the edge finish will be finer even at the same finish than the lower edge angle noted in the above. However the cutting action is very different with the mud. With light force the stone doesn't really break down and you just get a suspension. I think I need to figure out the critical force applied when this happens. In any case it is quite efficient and can restore the edge on that Delica which is a full zero grind after a cardboard run in about 150 pps, this is extremely quick, just two minutes and it is on that full bevel so it would be instant on an actual edge bevel.

I am going to need to be more specific about the force being used in these comparisons because the Bester is quite different at low and high forces. The King is so soft it just consistently behaves the same way, or at least has a much lower critical force point.
Re: Bester 700 : ceramic waterstone
September 16, 2013 10:47AM
Interesting. Is the greater finish then do to the the abrasive breaking down in the mud? I know it also has to do with the higher edge angle.

Also, any significant hollowing with the greater pressure and mud?

Thank you for these results.


Always in search of a good choppa'
Re: Bester 700 : ceramic waterstone
September 16, 2013 01:03PM
With very light force, the Bester has a very tight bond and though you do get some swarf it is mainly the metal debris and a little abrasive. When the force is higher you will see mud start to form. As this mud is "worked" by grinding it between the blade and the stone (this just happens, though some people will stop sharpening to do it specifically) it gets much finer as the abrasive crushes against each other. It also directly makes the stone smoother as the mud just fills in the uneven surfaces.

This is why for highest speed of grinding you keep the stone clean (for maximum abrasion) but then for increasing the finish you let the mud develop. Now there is a bit of an interesting thing as Jeroen has noted which is a very key point in natural stones. As the mud gets thicker the edge has to plow through this as well and it reduces the sharpness. Thus you have to thin out the mud to obtain the right balance of edge sharpness and the polish as there is little point to having an edge which is highly polished, very even at the apex but the apex is 10 microns thick.

That edge would look wonderful from the side, especially compared to an edge which was 1 micron thick but not nearly as polished but one of them cuts and the other doesn't.

Now of course the question you could ask is why fool around with all of that, why not simply use a stone with the correct micron abrasive and just work through a progression? The answer to that is some people just like that kind of mud working with stones, the feel and experience of it. But from a practical perspective it is much more efficient to :

-grind the edge with a 700 Bester (or whatever)
-stop as soon as the edge starts to show you are cutting into the apex
-adjust the angle slightly higher and microbevel with a higher finish
Re: Bester 700 : ceramic waterstone
September 16, 2013 04:03PM

Also, any significant hollowing with the greater pressure and mud?

None yet, it is a very hard stone. Be aware though that all of this regrinding is done on very wide bevels which are about 1/2 inch so the pressure is very low. To be specific for example, assume I am applying 2-4 pounds, as this is on 1/2 inch the linear pressure would be 4-8 lbs/in. However if this was on an edge bevel directly then it would be easily greatly amplified as an edge bevel can be 1/16" wide and thus the pressure is 32-64 lbs/in. If you micro bevel it can be 10 times this amount. This is why as the contact area is reduced you have to reduce the force as the pressure is what is relevant. If you micro-bevel with 5 lbs, it would be like regrinding with 500 lbs against the stone.

This is one of the problems people have in sharpening trying to refine the final apex as they are pressure so hard the resulting stress is straining the edge past the point of critical failure. This is especially common on rods as the contact area is so extremely small. This is also why rods will align an edge instantly because again of the extreme high pressure which easily exceeds the elastic range because they are acting on a piece of steel which is on the order of a micron (1/1000) which then amplifies the force by that amount.

The same thing is why limbing is so much harder than felling (pressure difference), which is in that case further amplified by the instability of the wood which violently vibrates as the blade passes through it putting heavy lateral loads on the edge.
Re: Bester 700 : ceramic waterstone
September 16, 2013 05:55PM
More gold. Thanks Cliff. These simply aren't things that occur to me, but they make a lot of sense. When I am working a very small bevel or microbeveling, it is amazing just how little force is required to get an affect. Doesn't seem like it would do anything, but when you put it this way it makes a lot more sense.


Always in search of a good choppa'
Re: Bester 700 : ceramic waterstone
September 16, 2013 06:12PM
Some references :

-zknives : [zknives.com]

-same general commentary
-much nicer stone surface picture, those black spots I saw look to be just craters

-KF : [www.knifeforums.com]

-generally negative, doesn't finish as well as a 1K
-isn't coarse enough to do primary work
-in general go higher or lower
-again comments about fast wear

The fast wear thing puzzles me. I keep emailing those people as if this stone wears too fast they have to be comparing it to diamond plates, or solid traditional sintered stones like the Spyderco ceramics. I am curious about the Shapton Glass stones as they are supposed to be very hard but I think what is happening is that people are flattening them with diamond plates and avoiding the usual problem with too-hard stones which si the lack of abrasive release and just rounding of abrasives.

-Stu (TFJ) : [www.woodcentral.com]

-the only thing he doesn't talk about is the part I think is very critical which is the need for lapping to maintain aggression, not flatness

The article he references is from Fine Woodworking #224, this is a paid article, and is a comparison of stones. Stu maintains it doesn't represent the stones accurately because it lacks the technique/experience.

I however don't feel this topic is nearly as complicated as people make it out to be and there is too much mysticism about it. If you ignore all of the fantasy/playing then all that is being done is grinding metal to a shape, it is not that complicated to compare stones :

-finish achieved
-speed of cut
-wear rate of stone
-friability / conditioning requirement
-influence of force
-soaking/wetting requirements

Beyond this it gets a bit odd because there are other things that people will rank that I don't even know exactly what they mean :

-feedback / feeling
-bite / hold / skipping

The first is how the stone "feels" as the knife moves across it. It isn't clear what people are talking about here and they will usually just argue that one "feels nicer" than another. I used to think this was talking about how easy it was to judge the angle from edge alignment (if you were cutting into the apex or above it) but a number of people have said this isn't what they are talking about as jigs resolve that but the "feeling" is still there.

The second is about the tool staying on the stone vs being inconsistent, thus they will use terms like hydroplaning where a tool skids on water and then suddenly bites into the stone and ruins the edge. This is again though a fairly hard thing to sort out as it is influence by the water / fluid on the stone and the condition and these are never specified.
Re: Bester 700 : ceramic waterstone
September 16, 2013 11:02PM
Ok, this isn't as simple as I thought.

I used the Bester on a very easy to grind steel, the stone cut the steel very well and even with light force a mud would build up quickly. This however doesn't happen on the very hard to grind steels because more force is required to make them cut and if they are not being cut then the abrasive won't be released. Basically then what you need are a few steels to check the critical forces / breakdown of the stone.
Re: Bester 700 : ceramic waterstone
September 18, 2013 01:23AM
I just checked this again on the Svord, same thing, works up a mud very quickly similar to the King, but stays much flatter so for the easy to grind steels, no issues that it is a faster cutting stone and you can manipulate the mud to manipulate the finish. However it is a bit uneven and can tear up the edge on low angles.

On a side note, the edges were really tore up on this one initially, pieces broke out of them about 1-2 mm so I had to grind them down a bit to keep them from gouging the edges.
Re: Bester 700 : ceramic waterstone
September 21, 2013 10:32PM
I sharpened a few more knives with this, no surprises but I will be doing some direct comparisons against the SPS-II which I feel is a bit more aggressive under lower force, but comparing feelings of one stone from another a few days past isn't overly precise.

I had about 10k passes on this stone and it was still flat, no light seen under a metal ruler. I used a piece of granite and some crushed 200 grit abrasive and it removed all pencil marks in about 100 short passes (4-6" ).

There was however one small section near one end about 1" in diameter which was not being hit by the abrasive which is fairly curious. I am thinking that was there initially. From now on I am going to do a quick lapping check in the beginning to see if the stones are really flat. It took 150 other passes to flatten that.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/23/2013 11:28PM by CliffStamp.
Re: Bester 700 : ceramic waterstone
September 21, 2013 11:01PM
Would using a nagura stone not help form a slurry?
Re: Bester 700 : ceramic waterstone
September 21, 2013 11:13PM
Cliff, if you have a chisel handy could you try sharpening it on that stone. I innitally purchased a few king stones for my tools but found they dished so quickly it was not a practical way to sharpen them. I returned to sandpaper for the tools and used the stones when sharpening friends knives. I then bought DMT stones for my knives sorry I'm rambling.

Anyways if you could have a try and see how bad they dish or if at all I may try them.

Re: Bester 700 : ceramic waterstone
September 22, 2013 02:58AM
Mark a
Cliff, if you have a chisel handy could you try sharpening it on that stone.

Amusing, a friend just dropped off a few. I will likely sharpen them tomorrow if it rains, else I will spend most of my time outside.

Would using a nagura stone not help form a slurry?

Yes, I do that sometimes on stones which don't do it naturally, not a nagura but something else.

As an update, I had been using Kyley's Victorious and wanted to start some cardboard cutting with it so I zero'ed it. I used :

-Bester 700 : 2000 passes
-SPS-II 1000 : 1500 passes

Now the grinds are not so even from side to side that you can actually say the stones did the exact same amount of work, but they are close enough that I would be confident saying that it is more evidence that these stones cut at very similar speeds. Using them side-by-side the SPS-II also seems more aggressive at lower force. I need a way to measure this, I think it should be correlated to friction under loads.

This also does nothing to the stones. I had a friend of mine turn the stones at random face up / down after I had rinsed them off and I could not tell which side I used to do the sharpening. That amount of honing would produce a visible hollow in the King. I believe the Bester does wear faster than the SPS-II simply because of how much of the stone comes off, but it is very slow anyway.

The chisels will be more informative in this regard because they are concentrated honing.
Re: Bester 700 : ceramic waterstone
September 23, 2013 10:38PM
A few chisels :

I started awhile ago using convex bevels on these to reduce the damage. It does work well in that respect, they were worse before I started. I had to use a convex grind because if I just used a secondary bevel people would object because chisels had to have a single bevel.

After resetting the edge and removing the gross damage I used the Bester to flatten the backs, rust and all. This was mainly just to see how it was easy to clean, clogged, preventing grinding, etc. . In short it did next to nothing productively. Yes it made a huge mess, but if you kept the stone wet it gradually worked off.

In total I did with each :

-150 passes on the back
-three sets of 50 passes on the front and then on the back to clean up and set the edge at the Bester finish

It then took almost no time on a 3000 grit stone (Henckels) to have the blade at a high polish. I just 3 sets of 10 on the front and back.

The Bester did not look like it was worn significantly and a quick check with a checkboard pattern showed the pencil lines being removed immediately so it was not significantly worn. On a bit of an amusing note, trying to grind it with that 3k Henckels was a waste of time. The Bester just chewed into the Henckels with little to no effect on it.
Re: Bester 700 : ceramic waterstone
September 23, 2013 11:38PM
Another comparison, zeroing a 60 HRC cKc Elmax slipjoint :\

-Bester 700 : 1200 passes
-SPS-II : 900 passes

Similar as before.

Note that the Bester is of significantly lower cost and appears to be a decent value for its price, especially given how it is easy to jump from it right to a 3000 grit no-name waterstone .
Re: Bester 700 : ceramic waterstone
September 23, 2013 11:39PM
Why do chisels have to have a single bevel? My carving chisels do, but my joinery chisels all have micros. Isn't a convex an infinite series of micro bevels anyway?
Re: Bester 700 : ceramic waterstone
September 23, 2013 11:44PM
They don't as a general rule, however that is what people here believe and so it is pointless to sharpen then with a visible secondary bevel because they will think it is defective. Yes, that is the silly thing. I am doing the same thing with the convex bevel, they just can't see it.

On an ironic note Jerry Hossom argued years ago that chisels would be better with a convex bevel (because convex is better). I argued at that time that was nonsensical, chisels in general often have more metal than necessary due to the single bevel, however there is a much greater benefit from cross section changes than curvature.
Re: Bester 700 : ceramic waterstone
September 24, 2013 12:01AM
That is an odd quirk, virtually everyone here uses microbevels, old timers to newbies. In fact the only other method I've seen is convexing. This is actually a fairly heated debate among woodworkers, some swear by it and say it always used to be done this way, others say it risks dubbing the edge over. Either way i'd say a single straight bevel would be too weak and take too long to sharpen.
Re: Bester 700 : ceramic waterstone
September 24, 2013 12:28AM
Either way i'd say a single straight bevel would be too weak and take too long to sharpen.
It's only as weak as the angle.
Regarding how traditional edges used to work; knives would come with a single grind with possibly a micro-bevel, people would bevel them resharpening the bevel, then as the bevel would get thicker, the knives would get periodically rectified on a wheel.
People have been using "power tools" since the Middle Age and before.
Re: Bester 700 : ceramic waterstone
September 24, 2013 12:51AM
I always single grind all my edge tools, then during the day I will add a secondary bevel as it dulls then I flat grind it and start again.
Re: Bester 700 : ceramic waterstone
September 24, 2013 02:30AM
I'm gonna convex my Scalper, just to see if Cliff will tear up again.
Re: Bester 700 : ceramic waterstone
September 24, 2013 09:25PM
Another comparison, zeroing a 60 HRC cKc Elmax slipjoint :\

-Bester 700 : 1200 passes
-SPS-II : 900 passes

Similar as before.

Note that the Bester is of significantly lower cost and appears to be a decent value for its price, especially given how it is easy to jump from it right to a 3000 grit no-name waterstone .

Do you have any of the lower grit bester stones?
Re: Bester 700 : ceramic waterstone
September 24, 2013 10:29PM
No, I have emailed Stu about them though as he sells the full line and LV only sells to the 700.

An interesting series from LV on the stones : [www.leevalley.com]

They also note a very fast wear rate of the SPS-II which I have not seen, though I have consistent observations with the finish and speed of cutting and soak results.
Re: Bester 700 : ceramic waterstone
October 01, 2013 06:10PM
I have been using this as my main stone, replacing the cheap ones and the 1000 X King. A few extended observations :

-I tend to flatten it about every 5000 passes

At this point it has no visible hollow still, but if I have done a lot of tip work, or chisel work, there are likely to be a few parts which are just below the surface and thus blades don't sharpen evenly over the entire stroke and you end up with wasted strokes to even out the sharpening.

-It is too slow for knives which have visible damage

While it is much faster than the King 1000 X, I am still using 300-500 pps to set the apex on cheap kitchen knives and similar which are badly blunted. By this I mean you can see the edge flattened and it takes 3-5 cuts into a stone to destress the edge and give you a consistent flat. If you have ten knives then this means 3000-5000 passes to get them apexed, far too long.

-It is almost ideal for knives which are blunted just to the point you can see the edge, but have no visible damage

After a cardboard run for example the edges just barely reflect light and can often be restored even on fairly hard to grind steel with just 50-100 pps.

-You can jump from this stone right to a very fine finishing stone

I often go from it right to the MXF DMT with no issues and the edge is set (micro-bevel) in just 10-20 pps (depending on steel).

-Is a little too coarse for very fine edges knives which are only lightly blunted

I would not want to take it to knives such as Kyley grinds with very thin and low angled edges because it removes too much material.

In short :

-vast improvement over the King in speed, and wear; similar finish
-could be harder
-too fine for visible damage
-works well for just blunted knives, even on hard to grind steels
-it too coarse for lightly blunted knives
-however seems to be inferior to the SPS-II 1000 in all ways aside from price

Now from poking around, I believe the Shapton Pro's are considered superior to the Bester's in staying flat and cut at similar speeds for a given finish. An interesting supplementary pair would be the 320X and 1500 X.
Re: Bester 700 : ceramic waterstone
October 03, 2013 01:25AM
As a much easier task to regrind :

-ESEE 3, 1095 55-57 HRC, 14.5 dps

Ground down to 9.5 dps :

-550 pps

This isn't a large angle change, and this is an easy to grind steel, but not everyone uses 10V class steels and the Bester 700 handles the ESEE-3 easily and you can see the changes made by every 50 passes or so and it quickly regrinds the already low bevel to the usual range of the single bevel blades, but of course it is much more narrow due to the primary grind.