Shapton 1k : For the beginner and pro alike

Posted: October 5, 2011 in Synthetic Stones

I thought I would  start out this series of reviews with what I consider one of the most important and basic stones – the 1000 grit Shapton GlassStone. Of all the stones I’ve ever used, this stone is my most recommended stone. I reccomend it as a first stone, and as a stone that I still use regularly. Why a thousand grit stone and why this stone in particular?

Let’s take the needs of a beginner first. It must be an easy stone to use and it must be a rewarding stone to use. And it must produce good results. Ideally, it should teach you good habits. It must be affordable. If this first step into sharpening is a bad one, it will kill the taste of a potential sharpener and they may decide never to sharpen knives.

Stones that require soaking are a nuisance. Sure people tolerate this inconvenience, but to ask a person new to it all to set aside a tank for their new pet rock is a bit much to ask. Waiting for a stone to soak requires premeditation or planning in advance – also a ‘buzzkill’. With the Shapton GlassStones, you just wet the surface and go to work immediately. Immediate gratification – what could be better? It also dries faster. What newbie wants to look at a wet rock for a few days until it dries?

It must produce good results. Quickly producing a poor result is a deal breaker too. Here the 1k GlassStone ‘shines’ above it’s competition. For a 1k stone it is fast. It works on a wide variety of steels, from very abrasion resistant steels like D2 to stainless steels and yes, even carbon steels. It also produces a finer edge than most all ‘factory edges’, so you get an improved edge from a brand new ‘out of the box’ edge immediately. It far exceeds edges from Bester stones and for many users, it can act as a final stone in a sequence.

It is not SO aggressive that a new sharpener will extensively damage his/her knife. It is ‘just right’.

It doesn’t dish too easily, so it stays flat, something critical to getting extremely sharp edges. It is less expensive than a Shapton Pro stone (another excellent stone) because it is thinner. Thinness makes it easier to carry – in a knife roll for instance. It’s glass backing gives the stone exceptional support, even better than a stone mounted on a wood or plastic mounting.

It is a hard stone. By this I mean that it doesn’t make a lot of mud and it is capable of yielding a very precise edge. Starting out with this stone teaches you to hold your angles very precisely, a skill that is essential to getting optimal edges. If you are off and inconsistent, you get poor results. If you are ‘on’ you get superb results. So you learn to be ‘on’. More forgiving stones teach you to be a sloppy sharpener, handicapping your development. Others will say you should learn to deal with soaking, messing with mud and be allowed to start off sloppy. I disagree. These skills can be developed later on after you start getting good results.

The 1k GlassStone  isn’t a combination stone  I’m not a fan of combo stones. You have grit contamination issues, with the coarser stone contaminating the finer stone. And most of all, there is a tendency especially for a new sharpener to rush to the finer grit without fully developing a precise edge on the coarser side of the stone. This ‘crutch’ results in a poorer sharpener. Perfecting your 1k technique first without distraction is a key first step. Two GlassStones take up less space than many combo stones. Combo stones wear unevenly, so when your coarse side wears out you wind up replacing the whole stone. Separate is better.

For the pro sharpener, the precision and speed of Shaptons are in a class by themselves. Quicker to deploy and use and results are faster too. The GlassStone series is one of the most uniform series available, giving you very consistent results. when used in a sequence. Combined with a 4k GlassStone, it easily exceeds most all combination stones available. Although some say the GlassStones aren’t suitable for single beveled knives, I strongly disagree. More precision and a higher standard of results. With practice, even hamaguri grinds can be produced of high quality. The 1k GlassStone can even be used as a baseline for a natural stone sequence for knives – and even for sword polishers. Also a superb stone for hair shears that need a lot of work. For a less bright finish just don’t rinse the stone off during sharpening as much, just maintaining the wet surface with occasional splashes of water to keep it from glazing. Running it too dry will cause glazing – cured by lapping the stone.

In short, an extremely versatile stone that gets work done quickly without making the sharpener suffer unnecessarily.

Finally a word of warning – use the stone side for sharpening :) The Glass side is for support, not sharpening. You would be surprised how many people make this mistake :)



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