Sharpening Stone: Arkansas Black vs. Waterstone

Joined Apr 7, 2016
I'm fairly new to sharpening. Following advice in this forum, I bought an Norton India two sided stone, and later an Arkansas Hard (white) stone. I've been improving and learning, and now want to buy one more final stone. I should mention that I am a home user, not a professional chef.
My natural choice would be an Arkansas Black. However, as far as I understand, it's grit is around 4000. Ultra fine waterstone get to 6000 or even 8000.
So, my question is: how meaningful is the difference between 4000 and 6000. Should I just buy a 6000 grit water stone and be done with it? Or is 4000 enough for my rather basic purposes?
Joined Dec 18, 2010
Interesting question that might lead to a virtual fistfight. :)

I’m probably one of the very few on this board that uses Ark stones but not water stones. For me, a set of soft, hard, and black puts a great edge on carbon steel, German steel, and VG-10. My edges are very sharp. Water stone may be more traditional for Japanese knives and faster but Arks can make a great edge too. For me the secret is more about starting with the right stone and not trying to just use the finest when a coarse stone is really needed.

Similar discussion happens on razor forums too. I can assure you, though, that I’m not the only person shaving with an Ark-sharpened razor. And my face is pretty... no significant scars.

Honing On leather, cardboard, balsa with “rouge”, etc often makes up the difference between the fine grit of an Ark Black and a finer grit waterstone.
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Joined Nov 15, 2012
Arks are all very slow cutting for their "effective" grit. Particle sizes within their matrix are much lower in grit number designation (typically between 1-2K) than their actual effective grit. My hard translucent ark is way up their, like maybe even minimum 20K, maybe even 40-60K for all I know, strictly for razors, much as the surgical black. Arks are especially not well suited for knives in the 60RC+ range, best with softer carbons.

For German stainless, whereas I used to go quite high, I now somewhat follow Benuser's advice, sharpening on 1K, then deburring and micro-beveling on 6K works nicely, giving a relatively refined but toothy edge.

The hard fine-grained stuff, like typical Japanese, you can take right to 8K for general use, and even higher for really fine/thin cuts. But many stop at 3K. I'm always thin-slicing, and refined edges really fall through a lot of stuff so nicely.
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