Wicked Edge Micro Fine ceramic stones: first impressions

There is a new pair of stones available for the Wicked Edge. They are called the Micro Fine ceramics. The people at Wicked Edge had to be creative to come up with a name for these stones, since there exist already fine, ultra fine and super fine stones.

Micro Fine ceramic stones.

But the pair of stones are truly micro: their particle size is listed as 1.4 micron and 0.6 micron. For comparison, 1.4 micron is finer than the 10K Chosera stones (1.74 micron) and 0.6 micron is almost as fine as the finest stones I know of, the 30K Shaptons  (0.49 micron).

The table below gives an overview of stones and their particle sizes.

Stone Listed particle size (microns)
Wicked Edge Super Fine ceramic 1200 5
Wicked Edge Super Fine ceramic 1600 2.85
Chosera 5K 2.8
Chosera 10K 1.75
Wicked Edge Micro Fine ceramic 1.4 1.4
Shapton 15K 0.98
Wicked Edge Micro Fine ceramic 0.6 0.6
Shapton 30K 0.49

In a sharpening progression the Wicked Edge Micro Fine ceramic stones should be the perfect successor to the Super Fine ceramics and allow you to get your knives razor sharp. And by razor sharp I mean that you can comfortably shave your face.

However, on the Wicked Edge forum there had been some posts indicating that in practice these stones might be a bit coarser: some people used the 1.4 micron stones before the Super Fine ceramics and only the 0.6 micron stones after these.

I wanted to find out for myself how well these stones worked.

Preparation

On the Wicked Edge forum Clay recommended flattening these stones before the first use. I don’t know exactly why, but after viewing the edge of the first knife I’d sharpened with the 1.4 micron stones through a microscope, I decided to lap the stones.

Edge after first sharpening with 1.4 micron stones.

I started lapping with the 100 grit diamond stones, since the micro fine ceramic stones might also have been slightly uneven. I am not sure they were, but after the first sharpening session they showed a rather peculiar pattern of iron filings. I lapped them properly just to be sure.

After lapping the scratches did not appear again.

Edge after first sharpening with 1.4 micron stones that had been lapped.

I then started sharpening a knife with 12C27 steel. The first thing I noticed is that these stones are hard. I used some water on them (no soaking required), but they did not produce a slurry. (They did produce a slurry when I flattened them with the diamond stones, however.) In that respect they are quite similar to the 1200/1600 ceramic stones.

Microscope photographs

I took a microscope photograph of the edge after each stone.

I had hoped to be able to apply my scratch size counting technique to these photographs in order to find out the actual micron sizes of the scratches made by each stone. Unfortunately, the scratches are too tiny and the resolution of my 400x microscope is not high enough. (There are rumours, however, that somebody will publish pictures made with a 2000x microscope in the not too distant future…)

Nevertheless, the photographs give a good impression of the edge.

These are the edges of the knife after the 1200/1600 ceramics.

Edge after sharpening with 1200 ceramic stones.

Edge after sharpening with 1600 ceramic stones.

And here is the edge after the 1.4 micron stones. To me it looks more refined than the edge after the 1600 grit ceramics. But we are getting into the area where the resolution of my microscope becomes the limiting factor and a slight change of the lighting may have a huge impact on the photograph.

Edge after sharpening with 1.4 micron ceramic stones.

The edge after the 0.6 micron stones looks even more refined: scratches made by the stone are hardly visible anymore. (The photograph does show coarser scratches, but these are likely scratches that were already there and only get revealed by the 0.6 micron stones. This is the “overhoning is a hoax” effect Tom has written about.)

Edge after sharpening with 0.6 micron ceramic stones.

For comparison here are the edges of the knife after the 5K and 10K Choseras.

Edge after sharpening with 5K Chosera stones.

Edge after sharpening with 10K Chosera stones.

Sharpness tests

The photographs seem to show that the micro fine ceramics leave a more refined edge than the 1200/1600 ceramics. And maybe an even more refined edge than the 5K/10K Choseras. However, looks can be deceiving in this micron range. So practice will have to tell us how sharp the edges really are.

In my experience, a knife with a good steel can shave arm hair after the 1200 ceramics. This becomes easy and comfortable after the 1600 ceramics. After the 1600 ceramics the knife can also push cut copy paper, albeit with a slight fraying of the edges. The same applies to 5K Choseras, which is understandable because their particles have about the same size. After the 10K Choseras the knife can push cut copy paper smoothly. Many people can comfortably shave their face with a knife after the 10K Choseras. Although I can shave with such a knife, it isn’t comfortable.

The table below summarizes these findings.

Shave arm hair Shave arm hair comfortably Push cut copy paper, frayed edges Push cut copy paper, smooth edges Shave face Shave face comfortably
1200 ceramic x x
1600 ceramic x x x
5K
Chosera
x x x
10K Chosera x x x x x

How would the micro fine ceramics perform?

I sharpened my knife up to the 1600 ceramics. It cut arm hair comfortably and it cut copy paper with somewhat frayed edges. Then I went on with the 1.4 micron ceramic stones. I sharpened the knife with the double amount of strokes I normally do (some up-down scrubbing and 200 strokes per side, where I normally do about 100 strokes per side) to make sure I’d fully wiped out the scratches of the 1600 stone.

After sharpening, I took the knife out of the Wicked Edge vise and tried to push cut copy paper. It cut the paper without any fraying. However, when I tried to shave my face  with it, I soon found out it didn’t cut my beard hairs well.

Then I went on to the 0.6 micron stones. Again I did about 200 strokes per side. And then… I could shave myself! Was it comfortable? Well, I managed to cut myself. But apart from that it was quite comfortable.

Conclusion

Here is the updated table with sharpness test results.

Shave arm hair Shave arm hair comfortably Push cut copy paper, frayed edges Push cut copy paper, smooth edges Shave face Shave face comfortably
1200 ceramic x x
1600 ceramic x x x
5K
Chosera
x x x
10K Chosera x x x x x
1.4 micron ceramic x x x x
0.6 micron ceramic x x x x x x

So my first impression is that the Micro Fine ceramics are definitely the next step after the Super Fine ceramics in getting a razor sharp blade. I am not sure what the best progression is with these stones, but my current best guess would be that the 1.4 micron ceramics should be placed somewhere between the 5K Choseras and the 10K Choseras (between 2.8 micron and 1.75 micron). And the 0.6 micron ceramics seem finer than the 10K Choseras (finer than 1.75 micron).

This is only a first impression and there are no microscope photographs to back this, so I am very curious about your experiences!

Anyway, I had a good shave.

3 thoughts on “Wicked Edge Micro Fine ceramic stones: first impressions

  1. Thanks Mark.

    After getting the micro ceramics, I was wondering what to do with my Choseras. I was thinking that they were no longer necessary in the progression and that I might sell them. However, after reading this, now I think I will use the 5,000/10,000 Choseras after the 1200/1600 ceramics but before using the 1.4/0.6 micro ceramics. I may even go back to the 2,000/3,000 Choseras because of other’s recommendations of going back a size or two when changing types of stones during a progression. Fun stuff.

    Props

  2. Pingback: More on the Wicked Edge Micro Fine ceramic stones | Molecule Polishing

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