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Free Hand vs. Jig?

Posted by Chum 
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Free Hand vs. Jig?
August 23, 2016 07:59PM
Does anyone here know, or believe, that they are capable of putting a finer edge on a blade via free-hand sharpening as opposed to using a well known jig system (ie. Wicked Edge, Tormek, Edge Pro)?

I understand that most jig systems limit the angle you can set the edge to. For instance the Wicked Edge is limited to 15 degrees per side (at least it was the last time I checked.) For the purposes of this question, the edge angle would be set to 15 degrees per side.


Chumgeyser on Youtube
E-nep throwing Brotherhood. Charter Member
Re: Free Hand vs. Jig?
August 23, 2016 11:46PM
The only direct comparison I have on this is with my chisels. I can definitely get them sharper with a guided system. That said it isn't a functional advantage, the time it takes to set the iron in the jig out weighs the small sharpness gain. And the free hand edges I get are sharp enough for any of the tasks I need then to do. I would be hard pressed to think I would have different results with my knives. I will occasionally rig up a jig when I lower the edge angle for asthetic reasons.

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Re: Free Hand vs. Jig?
August 24, 2016 01:34AM
Quote
Mark a
The only direct comparison I have on this is with my chisels. I can definitely get them sharper with a guided system. That said it isn't a functional advantage, the time it takes to set the iron in the jig out weighs the small sharpness gain. And the free hand edges I get are sharp enough for any of the tasks I need then to do. I would be hard pressed to think I would have different results with my knives. I will occasionally rig up a jig when I lower the edge angle for asthetic reasons.

Thanks for the comments Mark. So... if it was an easy and quick set-up, would you be more likely to use a jig system?


Chumgeyser on Youtube
E-nep throwing Brotherhood. Charter Member
Re: Free Hand vs. Jig?
August 24, 2016 02:21AM
If it was as fast as not using one then, yes.

www.theflatearthsociety.org

BIGFOOT FINDS YOU, YOU DON'T FIND BIGFOOT!



IT IS THE E-NEP THROWING BROTHERHOOD
Re: Free Hand vs. Jig?
August 24, 2016 03:11AM
I have found that there can be a small increase in sharpness due to the angle accuracy, but this is offset in the amount of time to set up. For the best of both worlds, I like to freehand, and then apex with Crocksticks sometimes if I need angle accuracy, it's almost as fast that way.

"I am still discussing issues of steels and performance at this stage." -- Cliff Stamp, May his memory be a blessing
"Life is GOOD", -- Stefan_Wolf, May His Memory Be A Blessing
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Re: Free Hand vs. Jig?
August 24, 2016 03:32AM
Jason is in the takes too long to set up camp. Thanks Jason.

Dealing with stones has set up, or clean up, time as well. I stopped using oil stones because I didn't care for the mess.


Chumgeyser on Youtube
E-nep throwing Brotherhood. Charter Member
Re: Free Hand vs. Jig?
August 24, 2016 04:26AM
Chum,
It isn't just using the clamp, once you've done it a few times on the same knife or if the knife has a flat spot that makes it easy, it's not much time. What I find is that I am limited in how I can move the stone, which affects speed and the feel of sharpening, to tell when the blade is close to apexing...it just is altogether a slower, somewhat different method, but doing the same thing basically.

"I am still discussing issues of steels and performance at this stage." -- Cliff Stamp, May his memory be a blessing
"Life is GOOD", -- Stefan_Wolf, May His Memory Be A Blessing
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Re: Free Hand vs. Jig?
August 24, 2016 05:22AM
Should I call it the "too time consuming camp?"


Chumgeyser on Youtube
E-nep throwing Brotherhood. Charter Member
Re: Free Hand vs. Jig?
August 24, 2016 06:14AM
I don't think you can get a better edge without a jig. At the highest skill level, you can approach it.

When I was sharpening for customers, I rarely used a jig; I could get knives plenty sharp without one, with less setup time on stones. Also, stones tend to cost MUCH less than stones for jigs. There was a material cost for using the jig that was much higher than freehand.
Re: Free Hand vs. Jig?
August 24, 2016 06:20AM
Thanks Any Cal. So against the jig we have...

- More time consuming.
- More expensive.


Chumgeyser on Youtube
E-nep throwing Brotherhood. Charter Member
Re: Free Hand vs. Jig?
August 24, 2016 08:29AM
I mainly use a jig for setting bevels, then I will free hand to refine the grit finish or apex.

But mainly do free hand so I can control more factors, and it generally is faster for me.

I also tend to vary the grind angle on purpose from base to tip, which is bleeding hard on a jig system. I like a lower angle on the tip, and a more obtuse angle at the base.
Re: Free Hand vs. Jig?
August 24, 2016 09:03AM
Thanks Terri. So we have going against the jig...

- More time consuming.
- More expensive.
- Much harder to vary the edge angle.


Chumgeyser on Youtube
E-nep throwing Brotherhood. Charter Member
cKc
Re: Free Hand vs. Jig?
August 24, 2016 10:20AM
Sure Chum.. on the Wicked edge I'll use a 120grit stone, and free hand I'll use a 1000grit stone.. instant finer edge.

Seriously though.. it really comes down to more than if its just freehand or not.

are we talking about a straight draw knife, a simple hunter with a belly.. a recurve with tight lines.. so many factors.. is it a scythe where a slipstone will be needed.

then we can define free hand.. really truly free? or with a small guide such as some use on the spine?


The real answer is that there should be no difference if the same knife and same abrasive is used if the question is which will produce a finer edge..

it will be as fine as the abrasive used.. Free hand or jig might factor in time spent, or evenness of the back bevel.. but the apex itself and the few microns of steel behind it cant tell if you rubbed them with a jig or not.


Another consideration to if you can achieve a finer edge or not would be the concern that you can't hold a stable enough angle to hit the apex properly.. there is a solution to this too for people with wobbly arms..

when you work the 100grit stone or paper, work it at around 5dps +/- 2 until you know you hit the edge.. when you jump to 400grit work the edge to death at around 9dps +/- 2 (the wobble factor) until you know the edge is done.. then as you get to 1k, you can get to 13dps +/- and 8k stone you can go crazy at 15dps.. you can pretty much guarantee that you are always hitting the apex with this process and not burning energy grinding at the bevel behind the apex.. I suspect the more wobbly you are, the more this will look like a convex edge bevel. smiling smiley

----------------------------------------------------------------------
It's not Cliff, its Dr Stamp
#kebabstickcut, it's a thing - make it happen



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/24/2016 10:24AM by cKc.
Re: Free Hand vs. Jig?
August 24, 2016 11:38AM
The only jig I've used is the blocks ala me2, and I use them when reprofiling because I can't hold a real consistent angle when changing the edge bevel, and the block makes it look cleaner and helps me save time by not having the slop in edge angle.

However, when I have used the blocks to finish I don't get a better edge than when I freehand it.

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KWB
Re: Free Hand vs. Jig?
August 24, 2016 01:41PM
My view is pretty simple really- jig removes the skill out of the equation, nothing wrong with not having that skill if you so choose but who really wants to need to have a special agent kit to whip out and set up every time a knife becomes dull.

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Re: Free Hand vs. Jig?
August 24, 2016 01:45PM
Chum,

I don't really have any experience with guided systems beyond sometimes using a Sharpmaker to set and maintain microbevels, but my experiences with freehand sharpening suggests that angle control tends to be overrated as a factor. In general, any time I've had an issue sharpening the cause has been one of three things: Not reaching an apex, not sufficiently removing the burr, or overly polishing the apex to the point where it loses all slicing aggression.

Plus, when using a three step approach, angle control becomes much less important at the shaping stage, and only should be important at the apex setting stage. To be honest, I haven't been able to note any subjective difference in quality of apex between setting a micro-bevel using my Sharpmaker or doing it freehand on the equivalent benchstone, and apexing is where angle control should matter the most.

All of that being said, I may pick up a guided system at some point just to play around with and might change my views on the subject once I've tried one.
Re: Free Hand vs. Jig?
August 24, 2016 03:24PM
Chum,
Using a fixed system is just extra steps, that doesn't necessarily increase ease of sharpening or sharpness.
I agree with what Steel_Drake says. I have only seen one YouTube video were someone actually had angle control as their issue, I would post it, but I don't want to embarrass the guy, as he can sharpen with a system, and the videos years old, he's probably improved.

"I am still discussing issues of steels and performance at this stage." -- Cliff Stamp, May his memory be a blessing
"Life is GOOD", -- Stefan_Wolf, May His Memory Be A Blessing
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Re: Free Hand vs. Jig?
August 24, 2016 06:43PM
This thread, or rather my intention for this thread, has morphed a bit... for the better.

I'm learning a lot about jigs prior to purchasing one, or making one, which I intend to do. The only jig system I own is the Spyderco Sharpmaker, and I have an easier time sharpening my knives free hand than using the Sharpmaker. I also don't notice any increase in sharpness using the Sharpmaker vs. free hand.

I'm going to refine the parameters of my question...

- 15 degrees per side
- flat grind
- edge bevel only (no micro-bevel)
- assume the same abrasives are available with the jig as you would use free hand
- straight Wharncliffe blade

Who produces the "better" edge? Is it you without a jig, or you with a jig?

"Better" is defined as sharpest edge with fewest inconsistencies.


Chumgeyser on Youtube
E-nep throwing Brotherhood. Charter Member
Re: Free Hand vs. Jig?
August 24, 2016 09:03PM
If you want to do one step, as in no microbevel, I would pick a jig. You could watch for light reflecting and get it as close to a burr free apex as realistically possible. I personally have a very hard time not ending up with a burr if I try to not use a microbevel while freehanding, though I haven't sharpened that way in quite some time. If I was gonna avoid a microbevel, I'd use a jig system like the Wicked Edge and essentially watch for the light to stop reflecting and make a few more passes until it's as sharp as I wanted.
Re: Free Hand vs. Jig?
August 25, 2016 12:44AM
Honestly they would be the same under those conditions for me. Just easier and fast with free hand. Although maybe the Wicked Edge might be equal in speed and ease. It does seem pretty fast and easy to watch the edge.
Re: Free Hand vs. Jig?
August 25, 2016 12:50AM
Chum,
I think under those conditions, one main factor would be if you wanted a slightly convexed edge, or closer to a true V-bevel.

"I am still discussing issues of steels and performance at this stage." -- Cliff Stamp, May his memory be a blessing
"Life is GOOD", -- Stefan_Wolf, May His Memory Be A Blessing
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cKc
Re: Free Hand vs. Jig?
August 25, 2016 01:30AM
I think the real question that will need to be answered is "For Chum, which is easier"
if the jig really is easier, then you have 2 options kind of like a car. Keep Driving Auto, or do more practice and training in the manual. It doesn't matter if I am better or equal in a manual vs an auto if you are the one who will drive.

The jig might be a nice option to have at home to redo a bunch of things with less concentration required and a known level of accuracy.. I like autos because I can drink my coffee a lot easier when I drive. I own and use a manual because it was cheaper and more efficient in the budget I set myself smiling smiley I just drive in 2nd gear when I'm drinking coffee.

Quote
Chum
This thread, or rather my intention for this thread, has morphed a bit... for the better.

I'm learning a lot about jigs prior to purchasing one, or making one, which I intend to do. The only jig system I own is the Spyderco Sharpmaker, and I have an easier time sharpening my knives free hand than using the Sharpmaker. I also don't notice any increase in sharpness using the Sharpmaker vs. free hand.

I'm going to refine the parameters of my question...

- 15 degrees per side
- flat grind
- edge bevel only (no micro-bevel)
- assume the same abrasives are available with the jig as you would use free hand
- straight Wharncliffe blade

Who produces the "better" edge? Is it you without a jig, or you with a jig?

"Better" is defined as sharpest edge with fewest inconsistencies.

----------------------------------------------------------------------
It's not Cliff, its Dr Stamp
#kebabstickcut, it's a thing - make it happen
Re: Free Hand vs. Jig?
August 25, 2016 02:53AM
cKc,
Awesome analogy.....guided systems, for me, require less concentration

"I am still discussing issues of steels and performance at this stage." -- Cliff Stamp, May his memory be a blessing
"Life is GOOD", -- Stefan_Wolf, May His Memory Be A Blessing
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me2
Re: Free Hand vs. Jig?
August 25, 2016 03:53AM
Depends on your goal which is better. If all you want is a sharp knife, then they will both get there. If you want it even and pretty then a jig is the way to go. Speed depends on the relative skill of the individual with each method. I'm about even speed wise in my blocks and freehand. Edges done on the blocks are more even and that evenness costs no extra time.

I've never agreed with the notion that adding jigs removed skill. It's not as though I can make professional level cabinets if Mark would just ship me all his equipment. I learned a lot about sharpening after I started using my Sharpmaker. The skills are different, not gone or absent.

In light of Chum's new criteria, is say jigs are better. If her left out the consistency requirement, it would be even.

Also I must say the popularity of jigs is fueled by the notion that a sharp edge requires excellent angle control. Watch cliff sharpen in his videos. The way the stone rocks and moves in one hand while grinding with the other can't makea consistent bevel, but he knows this and compensates accordingly.
cKc
Re: Free Hand vs. Jig?
August 25, 2016 05:54AM
Quote
me2
I've never agreed with the notion that adding jigs removed skill.

Agreed. its a different skill set. to get back to the car thing.

My parents taught me in a manual. there reasoning is that it was a lot easier to go from manual to auto, which gives you choices. but if you only learn an auto, you cannot jump in a manual and easily drive it one day.

I think the skill argument is more around saying "unless you carry the jig everywhere then when the time comes and you are not home and you must sharpen the knife then you may not have learned the skill to sharpen without the jig"

I dont think the analogy is as accurate though, because I think anyone that masters a jig has likely understood the intent of what the jig is doing to achieve sharpness, and therefore clumsy or not, should be capable of replicating this by hand with their existing knowledge. its not the same as shifting gears.

I can guarantee that I'll use my grinder to thin a knife before i ever sit down and rub it on a stone for 30 minutes.. thats effectively a jig of sorts.. its a tool anyway to make something easier.

----------------------------------------------------------------------
It's not Cliff, its Dr Stamp
#kebabstickcut, it's a thing - make it happen
Re: Free Hand vs. Jig?
August 25, 2016 06:13AM
Quote
cKc
I think the real question that will need to be answered is "For Chum, which is easier"

In this case you are incorrect Kyley. I already know that a jig system will give me better results, and that it would be easier for me to achieve what I want with a jig system... depending on the jig system of course. This doesn't mean I can't learn more from this thread however.

I have been waiting for someone to tell me they can achieve better results free hand as opposed to using a jig. So far, only Steel Drake has suggested he would get equivalent results, or at least he can't notice the difference.

I'm going somewhere with this, but I like to be cryptic.

btw... I learned to drive on a stick, in a truck, by my very stern father. I prefer driving an automatic these days (coffee and kids,) but I can still drive a stick in San Francisco's Chinatown, hills, crazy drivers and all spinning smiley sticking its tongue out


Chumgeyser on Youtube
E-nep throwing Brotherhood. Charter Member
cKc
Re: Free Hand vs. Jig?
August 25, 2016 06:32AM
Quote
Chum
In this case you are incorrect Kyley. I already know that a jig system will give me better results, and that it would be easier for me to achieve what I want with a jig system... depending on the jig system of course. This doesn't mean I can't learn more from this thread however.

btw... I learned to drive on a stick, in a truck, by my very stern father. I prefer driving an automatic these days (coffee and kids,) but I can still drive a stick in San Francisco's Chinatown, hills, crazy drivers and all spinning smiley sticking its tongue out

I also would prefer to have an auto, kids and coffee and pies.

Fair enough if I have incorrectly assumed your intent.. probably because you are being cryptic grinning smiley so I'll go back to replying based on my needs grinning smiley

I can decisively tell you that I can get better results free hand based on experience. the experience being that I have never owned a sharpening guided system and I have only ever used stones and sandpaper and strops and even grinding on the grinder, I do it freehand and have not ever used stabilizing jigs (except 1 time with a 10" 304 steel experiment that was thin).. so for me, the freehand has to be biasedly better.

Now if I was going to imagine using one....

lets say that I could assume that using a edge pro (or similar) I can get an edge consistency and fineness that I'll call 100% and based on that being 100%, my hand sharpening is never better than 70% relative to that.

Bearing in mind that I'd have to carry the edge pro to use it whenever I want to sharpen, and set it up, set the angle, lock the knife in etc etc.. use very careful strokes.. Having seen how the maker of it uses it with proficiency I could imagine that maybe if I could do a 70% level hand sharpen in 3 minutes, it might take me around 5-8 minutes if I took the effort with the jig system to get that 100% level.

What am I going to cut? because if I'm going outside to cut random stuff there is a high chance that my 70% sharp will become 50% sharp in 5 seconds.. my 100% sharp might become 50% in 5 seconds too, because I just cut a rope full of cement dust... All things being equal.. I'd ask myself if that very fine edge is useful to me if I'm not cutting sashimi... and for me the answer is no, almost every time. If murray can shave his face in 4 minutes on stone with a special spoon, then I dont think the cost and effort of the jig is worth it to me unless i was wanting a special bevel on a collectible knife that i wont use.

----------------------------------------------------------------------
It's not Cliff, its Dr Stamp
#kebabstickcut, it's a thing - make it happen
Re: Free Hand vs. Jig?
August 25, 2016 11:01AM
I have experience with 3 jigs; a DMT Aligner, a Chinese Fix-Angle sharpener, and a 15° stone holder I built.

The DMT is what I reccomend to anyone getting started sharpening better steel blades less than 4" long. The angle holder maximizes the effectiveness of small stones, and the diamonds will chew through the tougher steels.

The Fix-Angle was OK, but the stones wore quickly. I bought it mostly for scissors, worked fine for that. Wouldn't reccomend or buy again.

The stone holder was what I used most. It represented a step between freehand and jigs. All the benefits of freehand, but easier to keep your angles consistent.

My hair whittling edges were started on a jig and finished by hand. Excellent edges off of the Aligner. Very good freehand only.

You might factor cost in as well- an Aligner is $50-60, while 4x12 DMT plates are over $100 each, and good waterstones are spendy also.

If I was starting over, I would buy an Aligner first off, Sharpmaker UF rods, then add large stones or systems as funds or space allowed.
Re: Free Hand vs. Jig?
August 25, 2016 02:23PM
Chum,
I can get edges freehand that equal guided systems, but although faster, and what I prefer, it takes more concentration and skill/techniques. Now this is really obly true for high sharpness, for just shaving sharp I don't think there is much of a difference.

"I am still discussing issues of steels and performance at this stage." -- Cliff Stamp, May his memory be a blessing
"Life is GOOD", -- Stefan_Wolf, May His Memory Be A Blessing
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Re: Free Hand vs. Jig?
August 26, 2016 05:53AM
If you were to purchase a knife. Would you prefer that the knife be...

A : Sharpened by free-hand
B : Sharpened by a Jig System
C : Sharpened on a belt

In general, what would you have the most confidence in? Which would you expect to offer the best edge out of the box?

Finally, for you makers, how do you sharpen your knives before you ship them out?

Bonus question (for which I have no answer) : Do you know of any knife makers that sharpen by jig?


Chumgeyser on Youtube
E-nep throwing Brotherhood. Charter Member