The Washboard! Intuitive and comprehensive freehand sharpening system for cutlery and edged tools.
What is the Washboard Sharpener?
The Washboard is a heavily textured 2.625"x 11" acrylic plate bonded to a wood base.
It sharpens and polishes using any abrasive that can be applied to a thin substrate. It can be used to sharpen and maintain a wide variety of cutting tools.
What does the system come with?
A genuine hand made Washboard (approx 2.625"x 11").
A sheet each of 120, 320 and 600 grit silicon carbide sandpaper for repair and general edge work.
An eraser for maintaining the silicon carbide sandpaper.
One slug of custom formulated silicon carbide honing compound for final polishing and maintenance of all common steels.
A few sheets of thin copy paper to get started with the honing compound.
Four color instruction manual that will quickly have you understanding how to use your Washboard - packed with many general sharpening tips as well.
Why should I use it?
Its versatile and easy.
The unique arrangement of ridges and relief cuts work to increase the pressure exerted by abrasive particles without an increase in overall pressure, they also compress the paper and make it much more dense - the edge doesn't sink in, rounding the cutting edge as it might with a more compliant surface. Even with relatively heavy pressure the surface remains unyielding, yet burr formation is still mild compared to grinding on a fixed abrasive. Edges stay crisp and "catchy", even when stropped many times.
The ridges and relief cuts also provide much greater tactile and auditory feedback - one can tell if they are on the bevel, the shoulder, or if they are just beginning to ride the cutting edge (if one isn't at the proper angle it will feel like they're moving the cutting tool over a washboard. The amount of feedback increases as one gets further from the ideal or target angle.). This makes it a much nicer tool than many other choices when one is trying to quickly touch up an edge, or is doing a moderate amount of work restoring a worn edge. This characteristic can also be useful for maintaining angle control when working with sandpaper or lapping films.
It can be used to polish larger areas and to maintain overall blade geometry during maintenance sharpening, touch up battered edges, do crisp work on V bevel, convex, Scandi etc, all with a minimum of steel loss, burr formation, and fuss. Best of all perhaps, its characteristics only change when you want them to - it is unaffected by loading, glazing, contamination, nicks in the surface.
Due to its light weight and flexibility, one can carry a complete sharpening setup that weighs only ounces yet has the feel and convenience of a full set-up.
Do I need to put anything on the Washboard to sharpen?
The Washboard can be used with a wide variety of abrasive compounds, simply make certain the compound is rated for steel or stainless steel, and understand if it is for heavy cleaning or final polishing. Water-based abrasives should be allowed to dry on the paper before use.
The Washboard excels when used with sandpapers and lapping films, simply secure around the board the appropriate grit paper and it becomes a full-service sharpening system. Make sure to use silicon carbide wet/dry sandpaper, available at most auto parts stores. Remove debris from the sandpaper with a large eraser or crepe rubber. Water can be used with this sandpaper as well if desired. Lapping films coated with diamond can be used with a bit of soapy water and in this way even very high vanadium carbide or ceramic blades can be sharpened on the Washboard. For maintaining edges on all common steels, paper with compound is all that should be required.
Can I use any type of paper with this system?
It was designed to work with 20# Bond, 50# text, 75GSM copy paper - these are all different designations of the same basic copy paper. Lined writing paper found in most spiral notebooks is the same base weight as well. Using it with other papers or materials is possible and can yield good results, but care should be taken.
If the paper is somewhat thicker than spec'd, it can be pre-compressed by wrapping it around the Washboard, and rubbing it vigorously with a clean dry rag or paper towel using pressure. This is actually a good practice for all weight papers. Additional sheets of paper can be used if an even softer surface is desired, such as for Scandi grinds and full convex edges, or for general polishing.
If the paper becomes damaged or loaded, simply recycle it.
How should I store the Washboard?
Do not store or use the board with the working surface in direct contact with a stone or other hard surface - if the teeth become damaged or smoothed out, the Washboard will still work, but not as efficiently, and there is no way to repair it.