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First time sharpener, can a knife be too bad to practice? - Page 2

post #31 of 55
And they all moonlight as ninja assassins, of course.
I will say that in high-end restaurants, on the whole, knives are a rather bigger deal than they are in the West. But on the other hand, they're not generally much like knife nuts imagine.

Where the fetishization of Japanese chefs and knives has it all dead right is in the centrality of knives. Pots and pans are nothing, nobody cares. Big money is going into the dishes, which you hope will last more or less forever, but those aren't kitchen equipment as such. Hotpoints and equipment are fairly trivial, because they're really not used all that much by comparison to a Western line: remember, no saute station in Japanese cuisine.

I don't think it's really fair to Western chefs to say that they don't care about it. It's just that the Western chef's focus is rather more dispersed. I suppose you could say that if you take the Western chef's total interest in almost anything in the kitchen that isn't actually food, and focus just about all of it on knives, you have the traditional Japanese chef. Already probably 1000 years ago -- I mean that literally -- the chefs who cooked for elite households were commonly referred to as hochonin, or "knife-men." By the early 17th century, there was a definite distinction between hochonin and itamae, guys who stood "in front of the board." The former were well respected on the whole, the latter not so much. But notice how both terms are about cutting. That's what chefs are, in older Japanese thinking: guys who cut.

You know how "to cook" basically means to heat things up, or anyway that's sort of the first connotation? So in the West, a cook is basically principally associated with fire and heat, deep down. In Japan, it's cutting instead. That's both very different and not very much so: lord knows both all Western cuisines and Japanese cuisine are about a lot more than fire and knives. But there's a grain of truth in it. And I think that's much of why Western chefs test technique with things like omelets and Japanese ones do it with knife skills.
post #32 of 55
I can second using the Apex EdgePro sharpeners. You can get a repeatable edge time after time once you get used to using it.
post #33 of 55
Yet, you've got at least two pieces of mysticism in that very short piece. One, that grit size is really a meaningful measurement. It's not, especially between different materials. Shape of the abrasive and its orientation (and how consistently that orientation is maintained) is a bigger factor. Second is the idea that fineness of the abrasive is a major factor in the keenness of the edge. It makes it easier, yes, particularly when working free hand, because you can't undo as much work when you get the angle wrong.
post #34 of 55
[QUOTE=Phaedrus;267817
As for a machine sharpening a knife, do you mean one that works all by itself- like you hand it a blade and it hands it back sharp? I don't know of any device that can do that, and certainly none that can do even a mediocre job. There are devices like the F. Dick line of powered sharpeners and machines from Chef's Choice, but they require minimal human interaction (ie you hold the knife), and no one could keep a straight face while claiming they do as good a job as a skilled human.
[/QUOTE]

A jig or fixture of some sort, so that blade is held in a known alignment with the sharpening surface. A human, no matter how skilled, simply can't hold a knife at a constant alignment. (Good sharpeners are really good, and you don't have ot be anywhere near perfect to get results good enough for the kitchen.) As you point out, the keenness of a knife is determined by how well the two bevel planes meet. (All knives have two bevel planes; 50/50 knives meet in the middle, others some where else.) The only tools that are routinely sharpened by hand are kitchen knives.


Various things. One designs blades for veneer peeling machines (they turn trees into rolls of paper thin ribbon, at high speed). Another does automated histology machines (they turn tissue samples into one cell thick pieces mounted on slides.)

Picking race car drivers is a bad example. Every racing series has tons of rules designed to make it matter of human skill, and not technical results. For instance, they require the driver to shift gears. A computer can do it better, faster, and more reliably then any human can. Similarly, brakes: anti-lock brakes can out perform a human, but they're not allowed.

The goal of sharpening a tool is to have a sharp tool to use on whatever the tools to be used on, whether that's a tomato or a tumor. It's not to have a religious experience sharpening the tool.
post #35 of 55
It may not be a "religious experience" sharpening a knife, but "using" a well sharpened knife can come close.

Remember, 99.999% of chef's knives are probably used by a human being (though some may question that they are all "human ;) ), not "machines". What works best for one "knife wielder" may not work best for another.

A "veneer peeler" and a microtome are both "machines", well, at least in a majority of cases.
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Chef,
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post #36 of 55
Hang on a second -- I think you're missing something here, or else you're misinterpreting what I'm talking about.

The point of going to very, very fine-grit abrasives is not to get a keener edge, if by that we mean that we want the planes of the edge to meet as close to perfectly as possible. Provided the abrasives aren't so coarse that they actually mar the planes, sharp is sharp. A perfectly sharpened edge on a 1k stone or a 10k stone is still a perfectly sharpened edge. That's not why you go up from the 1k stone.

You go to higher grits to get greater polish. For some, that's an aesthetic matter, but I don't mean that. If you sharpen at 1k, and look at the edge under a lens, you see scratches, which will be very evenly spaced if you've got a good stone and decent technique. If you now re-do this edge at 5k, those 1k scratches should be gone and have been replaced by very, very fine and shallow scratches spaced extremely close together. Now you repeat this at 10k, and you will be hard-pressed to see the scratches at all, though of course they are there. If you're nuts, you can go higher than that. Bear in mind that those same scratches are necessarily present in the edge itself, not just the planes that meet to create it; this mean that a 1k edge is "toothier" -- has bigger and fewer teeth -- than a 10k edge.

If an extra-fine DMT is at 9-10 microns, the scratches are at that depth and spacing. You can't polish them out with that plate: that's where the abrasives are. Some people are fans of polishing out scratches with something like hubcap polish, but my impression is that you have to have rather finer scratches than JIS1500 to make it work -- I haven't tried it myself.

The question is whether a polished edge does anything valuable in the kitchen. I suppose you will say that it's just "mysticism". It isn't. If you take a piece of soft-fleshed raw fish and slice it, with good technique, with an appropriate knife like a yanagiba, you will very soon see that it's for real. A 1k edge will tear the flesh: those teeth catch. A 5k edge will tear the flesh, albeit very slightly and subtly; you'd have to know quite a bit about the subject to notice, but I assure you it bothers serious Japanese chefs and gourmets. A 10k or finer edge will glide through the flesh. This is why you want an edge like that.

In point of fact, most knives -- Japanese or Western -- do not need an edge like that, and in many cases it's actually undesirable. Classical French technique with a chef's knife presumes that the edge will be slightly toothy, which means that a super-polished edge will actually work less well. This is why I suggested that the original poster lean on a medium stone, not a fine one: what he's doing with his knife will work better with a less refined edge. There are ways of cutting with a thin-bladed chef's knife that has been polished so that it will work better than a toothy edge does, but that means developing one's technique outside of the classical French pattern.

Would an extra-fine DMT plate work well for the OP? I have no idea. I was surprised by your recommendation, because it flies in the face of everything else I have read about these plates, but I've never used one, so I asked about it. I'm a bit surprised to learn that this makes me a mystic!
post #37 of 55
Okay, I think I understand what you were trying to say. But that's still hand sharpening- it's still human running it. And all a jig does is compensate for human weakness; it doesn't obviate human skill. An Edge Pro or Razor Sharp is useless without a human hand running it. That's probably one of the biggest misconceptions out there, that devices like the EP are designed to replace a knowledge of sharpening.

But in any event, apparently we agree after all that no autonomous sharpening machine can approach the skill of, much less exceed, a human being.




Okay, that also makes sense. Neither of those applications have much to do with the way a kitchen knife is sharpened. Even within regular knives there are a variety of types of edges & sharpening methods.

This is getting a bit esoteric and off track- what were we arguing about again?;):D
"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
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"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
Reply
post #38 of 55
Ok Then, I'm quite sure you made you point (On the ease of sharpening your own knives) a few posts ago. But you seem to take offense when someone voices an opinion different from your own. That’s OK, I find that forums such as this often attract people such as yourself and that’s what makes America a great country, well, except I’m not trying to stifle your opinion. In fact, I agreed with it, all the while voicing an opposing opinion, which with out even knowing you can guarantee is just as "Expert" as yours. I can see by the lengths you go to exasperate your point, you have a lot of time on your hands, So like I said you go ahead on Oh, King of the knife sharpeners, Go In peace, Live long and prosper......:0) I’ll take my sharp knives, go back in the kitchen and be happy with being the Chef of my kitchen. And for God Sakes let it go man!
post #39 of 55
Oh, God! Not the tiredest old internet "I-don't-wanna-play-no-more" line!:lol: Fear not, I take no offense. We can agree to disagree and part, panties unbunched.;)
"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
Reply
"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
Reply
post #40 of 55
I wasn't going to even mention this, but I'm Chico.

I'd like to mention a few things lest I be misunderstood.

Yes, I enjoy sharpening. I find it relaxing. But in the past I've been criticized for joking about the word "zen." I would remind folks that my sharpening career as a professional started after I retired early and needed something to do. I was sharpening for my friends and my church kitchen, so one day I packed up and went to a sporting goods store. I met restaurant chefs along the way.

Second, I have my own favorite methods for each style of knife. That does not mean someone is wrong and I am always right. In many knife forums the very casual statement of "I like this" is unfortunately translated into saying "I hate everything else."

The fact is that I steal from everyone. I have two "Professional Model" Edge Pro fixtures. Ben Dale and I go way back. I even test prototype stones and polishing procedures for Ben--but so does Dwade, also a friend.

I also use 3x9 Japanese waterstones, glass, brass, paper, nagura, leather strops (and leather by itself), Shapton Glass, Mothers Motorcycle Pastes, and the complete line of fixtures from Keith De'Grau over at Hand America.

"Expert Sharpener"? Well, I'm a professional sharpener. I charge money for my craft. I don't do everything. In the trade I'm known as a "v-grind sharpener." More accurately, I am a 'tinker.' That means I repair kitchen stuff.

This label means I am more than a sharpener but I do not have the credentials of a Japanese sword polisher.

I actually came here to learn how to cook for myself. I have never been to a culinary school, nor do I even know to expertly use the very knives I sharpen. I'm actually quite afraid of the nakiris I sharpen, and with a polished 8 degree edge, we all should be!

I can give you an opinion on a knife, but that's about it.
post #41 of 55
Anyone any good steals from other people. What matters is whether you steal from people worth stealing from, and whether you give credit where it's due. You get high marks both ways.
I can't let this pass. What on earth do you use brass for? I mean, what does it achieve?
You should look into that. You know what those guys charge? $100 per INCH. Got that? $100 per INCH. Sounds like good money to me! :D
Ever put a really proper edge on an usuba? Much worse. Polished 8 degrees total, because it's kataba (single-beveled). Terrifying thing when done right.
post #42 of 55
Brass can sometimes be used to burnish mars and defects. I have a tinkers' hammer with a brass head and a brass punch for tapping blade tips (with a slight bend) or re-seating handle rivets.

I have a steel unfluted 'steel,' but I can also use the smooth brass handle of my hammer.

Each knife can be a challenge. You use what works--or what you have brought in your case.

However, I have never taken a knife down past the angle of your average nakiri. In my neck of the woods we have 'Ginza of Tokyo' and a few sushi bars. A good gyuto and a sashimi knife are the most common 'victims' of my stones.
post #43 of 55
Thank you. That's very interesting. I might play with that some time -- with a beater knife that has a blemish, just to see what happens.
Yes, I see. Makes perfect sense.

Okay, so you know how a sashimi knife is basically one-sided, with a slightly concave back and a big bevel on the front? So an usuba, which is a sort of old-school professional's vegetable knife, is not unlike a one-sided nakiri, that being an old-fashioned homemaker's vegetable knife. You have this huge bevel on the front of the blade, and nothing on the back, and of course that means there is a ridiculously small total included angle for the edge. Obviously to make this work at all well, the steel has to be hardened out toward the stratosphere, which means it can chip if you give it a really hard look. But in the hands of an expert, it cuts vegetables fast, clean, perfect.

I only mention it because as a professional sharpener, you might find it interesting to work on one. Not only is the angle ridiculously slight -- which isn't actually all that interesting after a couple of minutes working it on the stones -- but the line of the edge itself is straight like a ruler. THAT is not so simple. Think about it: how are you going to make sure that this ludicrously thin edge is going to stay ruler-straight as you grind the edge back?

Anyway, in your I'm sure copious free time, you might see if you can pick up a low-grade usuba for cheap, just to play with. In Japan you can get cheapies for about $60, so I bet if you looked you could get one for $75 or so in the US. I just think a pro sharpener might find it a remarkable challenge, not because it's so difficult -- it's not any harder than any other high-quality knife, and if it's not damaged you don't have all those concerns -- but because it's so darn odd. Just a thought.

(And, of course, I want to know what you learn, because I do find these things to be a raving pain to deal with at the stones.... :D )
post #44 of 55
Yikes, if you saw me do "my thing" you'd have me arrested, or turned over to the Yakuza...

I believe that any edge should first be checked for uniformity. In this regard, I check edges with an Edge Pro (the 'Pro' model). I crank the thing down on a flat corian surface, and press the front peg as hard as I can with my thumb and "shake" the fixture. It cannot move or shimmy.

(In fact, Ben made me a very tight swiveling head for a longer adjustment post to sharpen chisel grinds, like Emerson products.)

During this procedure, I have a 3x9 stone in 12,000 grit steadied in a stone holder. I also have a Keith De'Grau's fixture with all three attachments--felt, glass and stone.

Along with this are pastes, other glass polishers, strips of leather, water by the gallon, a strong latte' for my courage, numerous rags for cleaning, etc...

As I lightly check the right side 'chisel side,' I also make a smooth, complete and metered pass over the very wet 3x9 stone on the obverse side. Back and forth. Glass if I need it, paste if it helps. More traditional methods may or may not be needed.

I had a Deba that became spooky sharp with this oddball procedure all by itself.

(BTW, this very procedure is a source of some extremely angry debates in many forums. It uses "non-traditional" thoughts, ideas and equipment. I know this. I'm not trying to denigrate anyone's beliefs. While it might offend some, I have a chef who finds this method superior.)
post #45 of 55
Here's an example:

post #46 of 55
Not me. As long as you're not putting a bevel on the back, and you're using the bevel on the front, I could care less whether your methods are traditional or not. Sounds like you know what you're doing, and I bet you get much better results than I do.

Which brings me back to the whole usuba question.

Now I haven't used an EdgePro yet, but so far as I can tell, it imparts a slight arc to the edge naturally, just through the swing of the stone. If the edge has to remain ruler-straight, isn't that a tricky thing to deal with? I can tell you it's a raving pain to do freehand as well, so it's not like I'm denigrating the EdgePro for this purpose. But I just thought a knife this peculiar might be fun for someone in your trade.
post #47 of 55
Well, don't tell Ben Dale this, but when I say "guided" system, I'm speaking more as a description than my actual function.

I dance around the machine, I press or drag, I lighten up, I swing the entire knife around, I re-ink, and sometimes I even set the knife in the freezer and use a strop. Whatever it takes.

My edges are true, v-grind polished edges, I see to that. While not a chef's knife, here's an example, and I do tape the entire blade to avoid scratches.

post #48 of 55
Knives are always taped to protect their cosmetic finishes and allow me the option of numerous hand holds and polishing compounds.

post #49 of 55
Very pretty edge there. Steady, even, isolated. What more could a guy ask?
post #50 of 55
That is a term to which I am not familiar.

However, my overall point is this. You and I could use the same tools, on similar knives--get them both very sharp--and have two decidely different styles.

Ya' know, I didn't mean to have this go this long. My original idea was to improve my kitchen skills. Sorry if I'm boring you guys.
post #51 of 55
I just meant that the edge is it own thing, not blended into the rest of the blade. I like that. Not everyone does, but I do. No, that's not some kind of authoritative claim, just a personal preference.
post #52 of 55
Oh, I like it that way myself. On a knife with a black titanium blade it looks more professional than scratching up the cosmetics.

A v-grind is more precise, which is a great asset if you're cutting fugu.

Here's that nakiri. Look at the swipe mark that halved the cherry tomato. One stroke while I held it...:eek:

post #53 of 55
Hi, Chico. I'm glad to see you turned up here. Sorry to see the way things went down at "another forum"- pretty rediculous to see supposedly-grown men treating anyone like that. I'll say no more about that, so Welcome to CT!

I have been really pleased with a brass rod for deburring- the ol' Burr Magnet works like a charm.

I must say that even if you shy away from being called an expert, every time I listen to you, Dave or Dwade my edges get better.

This is a great site with tons of cooking info, some of it quite advanced. I think you'll like it here.
"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
Reply
"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
Reply
post #54 of 55
Phaedrus, do I know you?
post #55 of 55
Yeah, you do! Check your PMs.
"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
Reply
"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
Reply
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