An interesting comparison of the two surfaces. I had some extra time to browse being ill for a whole past week and got to this picture showing the quality of the cut vs. sanded surface.
Japanese can really go deep in understanding how things work and they use microscope to picture proofs. Here are some shoots showing the similarities between 4000 grit man made waterstone and a black Arkansas oilstone o have seen in a book on Japanese tools.
Back to cutting vs. sanding – it can be just a thing of personal preference, n’est-ce pas? In my oppinion there are some interesting facts or angles of view speaking up for investing your time rather into sharpening really:
– sanding produces a fine sawdust. That means either you breath it or it gets everywhere, certainly not the best thing to do inside on your sofa or in the kitchen
-holding pieces of sandpaper in the tips of your fingers is a nasty business, the other side of the tactile experience spectrum compared to touching nicely carved or even splitted handle of a spoon
– you have to buy it. Go into a shop or order frequently. While a sharpening stone wears in time but slowly and it maintains it’s quality, the sandpaper goes to a bin or fire usually quite soon as it is terrible to invest time into work with the already abraded papers (though for a hobbyist using it from time to time or when needed can be well ok)
– a nice edge tool finish says the maker knows his work, it is part of his life and so he or she is probably experienced enough in other aspects of the job. While this necessarily doesn’t have to be always the truth it makes sense doesn’t it? Maybe you don’t know that sharpening is a very important part of the greenwoodworkers‘ skills. It is. Believe me. (Sharpening and understanding it instead of learning of sanding is a fine skill you make use of for various tools from the kitchen knives to axes or razor for shaving.)
– Last but not least – the cut produces better high quality finish. It’s more straight forward, leaves marks of your tool cleanly visible, quicker though it depends on the type of work and your skills (and your equipment).
There are some tips for the satisfying results:
– learn various techniques for working the surface with a knife
– for super fine glassy finish ( if it has a reason) you have to recut the surface when it is more or less dry
– sharpen your tool often
It is good to say that the regular and nice spoon finish certainly doesn’t have to mirror a distant objects like a piece of wood finished with a japanese kana plane can. Just a cut surface is enough. People often ask whether i produce the smooth insides of the spoon bowls just by cutting. Certainly yes and i would be scared to take a piece of sandpaper and scratch it like that. It would also lose some of its character.
But please do not think i critisize or look down on those using sandpaper. That would be wrong. I think some informations can be supportive. It’s just not the way i go.