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Very Basic Sharpening Set Request - Page 2

post #31 of 47

What Chris said.  Mostly. 


I've always thought Masamotos were among the very best and have always coveted several.  So, it's not a question of "even BDL" at all. If I were buying a new knife tomorrow it would either be a Masamoto or a Tadatsuna.


The stone you want to start with is not a medium/fine but a medium/coarse.  In (Japanese) grit size, that's about 1000.


After you learn to "pull a wire" or "draw a burr" (same thing), chase it and deburr with the medium-coarse, you can step up to a medium-fine and learn the rudiments of polishing.  It takes about twenty tries (roughly) before you can reliably make a knife sharper than it started on a 1000, and about twenty more to step up to a 4K, 5K, or 6K and not actually dull the knife.


It's mostly a matter of learning to hold a steady angle, and learning to see and feel the changes you make as you go.  Once you've got that down, it's safe to move on to a coarser stone. 


That said, most of us learned on a coarse/medium-coarse combination stone and managed to do just fine.



  • Coarse (profile, repair) < 700
  • Medium (sharpening) ~ 1.5K to 4K
  • Fine (polishing) > 6K
  • Ultra-fine = 10K and up
  • Anything in between is something in between.



post #32 of 47
Thread Starter 

Good advice ChrisLehrer!  The odds are I wouldn't hate the Tojiro though. My experience has been that to hate something it has to be a peice of junk, or it had to be compared to something much better, bearing in mind that better might only mean personal preference.


There is a certain amount of bliss in being an ignorant savage. I didn't hate my 20 year old straight ski's until circumstances forced me to rent a pair of shaped ski's, and now I own shaped ski's. I'm pretty safe in that I don't run in circles that would have me comparing knives but the point is well taken and I have been trying to balance out the price differences with the risk reward potential. 

post #33 of 47

BDL and I are in perfect agreement. I just think of 1000 grit as being medium-fine, for some reason. As to "even BDL," that came out wrong. I guess I just meant that there's no question of there being a few truly super-fantastic chef's knives, the Masamotos among them, but they're also truly expensive.


BCycle, you're probably right about the Tojiro, but there's no question some people hate them. I have never heard of people having this kind of strong negative reaction to the other knives BDL has recommended here and elsewhere. Never having handled one, I've got no real take on it, other than that I'd avoid something that provokes, however intermittently, hate.


But my primary point, which I'll repeat because I think it bears repeating, is that you shouldn't think of a chef's knife or petty or paring or whatever as something to baby. They don't need it. Be sensible -- don't try to chop large frozen objects or on a metal counter or something -- but other than that you can treat them as the fine tools they are. Which, in the case of knives, includes sharpening them.

post #34 of 47
Thread Starter 

I appreciate the comments as I have read some reviews with comments about chipping (including the Mac Pro) and was starting to get a little paranoid.   

post #35 of 47

More often than not chipping results from a bad board.  Use a good one.


As you learn to sharpen, learn to thoroughly "deburr."  Burrs, aka "wire edges" can tear and the rupture can easily turn into a chip.  Properly sharpened knives (and it ain't that difficult) are very resistant to chipping.  Part of the art in sharpening is shaping an edge appropriate to your knife.  Fortunately, the best edge shapes for a MAC Pro are very easy to learn and do -- and are quite robust as well.


People who lump Japanese made knives into one basket and make universal pronuncements like "never use a steel" are either trying to simplify things for you or don't know very much themselves. 


No extra juju attaches to a knife simply because it's made in Japan.  Whatever differences there are in maintenance occur as a result of alloy, hardening, knife profile and edge profile -- not provenance. 


MAC Pros are made with the stainless ally VG-5 (probably); hardened to around 58-60 HRC (a good balance of strong and tough); shaped with a fairly conventional French profile; and should be sharpened to a simple and fairly symmetric flat bevel (50/50 to 60/40 about) at around 15* or slightly more acute, or else a simple double (ideally 15*/10*).  


The knife should be profiled, sharpened and polished on a good three or four stone set, and for most purposes is best finished to a polish in the 8K to 10K range.


MACs do not "wave" easily -- but they do wave.  Given that the alloy is not over hardened, not too hard, and assuming that the edge is not to asymmetrical, the edge should be occiasionally trued on a good rod hone (aka a steel) such as an Idahone fine ceramic.  


Don't worry.  When the time comes, I'll teach you what all of it means.



post #36 of 47
Originally Posted by boar_d_laze View Post

More often than not chipping results from a bad board.  Use a good one.



Along with all the other information given here, this point is very well spoken.  Some of the national manufacturers use a resin hardener on their boards which contributes to chipping.  And well worn cutting surfaces with deep cuts can also lead to chipping. 

David The BoardSMITH
David The BoardSMITH
post #37 of 47

  BCycler...have you thought about making your life easier by getting an EdgePro Apex?  They may be a little bit of money up front, but they let your produce some pretty nice edges!  It seems like you've spent a decent amount of money so far...I was just wondering if you've considered it.


   stay sharp my friend,


post #38 of 47
Thread Starter 

I haven't looked at the edge pro seriously though I have heard it mentioned. Of the money I've spent so far I expect the diamond stones to be very useful for tools if only marginally useful for knife sharpening, so that only leaves the one combination waterstone I bought recently (about $35), the jury is out on it but I think it's OK for the 1st run. The ceramic steel I've had for probably 20 years and the steel "steel" for more than 5 years.


It is an interesting process, I don't wish to repeat the pain of those gone before me but there is a certain amount of experimentation that needs to be done to become knowlegable on any topic. Some of the most useful information comes from trial and error (mistakes) but I'd prefer not to make any expensive ones.


The cutting boards I've also had for many years and I"m sure they are not the best so I swung by Bed Bath & Beyond a few nights ago, checked their stock and decided I had no clue if the boards had a good resin or not, I'd picked up that clue from some other forum posts.


The other casualty in this will be the current magnetic knife holder. It's not quite strong enough for the bigger knives and one lost it's grip and hit the new stove (no damage). It may well have been the wife's placement of the knife but regardless, I've ordered magnets and am going to take a shot a making a no damage magnetic keeper with sufficient holding power. I know they are available commercially but making one should be fun.  Based on my tendency to over-engineer I may have to keep it away from any metal surfaces until I get it mounted and put up a couple warning signs for people with pacemakers.

post #39 of 47



If you're going to buy Japanese knives, you'll need a quality waterstone kit.  The 1K/6K combination stone -- or any other combination waterstone for that matter -- is a stop gap.  Combination waterstones break easily.  You'll wear through the 1K a lot quicker than the 6K (which you won't even learn to use profitably for months).  The stone's too slow for bevel flattening and minor repair.  


There are some minimalist "two stone" guys out there, but most good sharpeners go through with three or four stone kits.   


There are some decent, inexpensive stones out there.  The names can be confusing, but it's interesting to note that a lot of them are made by or for King to be sold under their name or under another. 


Inexpensive stones usually employ "mud" (natural clay) binders.  The downside is that they also use low-end abrasive which is distributed unevenly, sharpen slowly, dish quickly, chip, nick, crumble at the corners, etc.   There are some good mud binder stones out there, notably Nortons and the very best Kings (including Ice Bears).  But the good mud binder stones are not cheap.  They're just as expensive as resin binder stones.  


If Norton waterstones were a revolution when they hit US sharpeners, Shapton synthetics took it to a completely different level.  But that's history, not a recommendation.


I like Naniwa 10mm Super Stones for beginners.  They have a lot of "feedback" and are great to learn on.  They are easy to maintain.  They come already mounted on bases.  If, after you've figured out what's going on you decide to move to something different, they're cheap enough to replace without regret. 


In the meantime, if you're going to maintain European stainless knives, you'll want coarse and fine India stones, and a soft or hard Arkansas stone. 


On a personal note, I disinterred my oilstone kit to sharpen a friend's Henckles.  I used the two Indias and the soft Ark with soapy water and was surprised at how sharp the knives got and how quickly it all went. 




A board is a big deal thing in your kitchen.  Don't buy plastic or fiberglass, they'll ruin your knives.  Even the color-coded plastic that the Food Network loves to "use for chicken and avoid cross-contamination." 


If you're buying from BB&B, Wal-Mart, or somewhere similar you want to stay away from bamboo.  Otherwise, buy hardwood, buy rectangular, and buy big enough -- you should be fine.  An 8" x 12" board is not big enough.  Board management is one of the most important knife skills.  In addition to making knife work difficult and dangerous, small boards are impossible to organize and ultimately make cooking a lot messier than it otherwise would be.



post #40 of 47
Thread Starter 

Thanks BDL, big cutting boards would be great but it's going to take a re-work of the kitchen to get enough counter space to house good sized boards. I hope to do a gut and rebuild this year but as everyone knows the kitchen is the most expensive room in the house, let alone the disruption of normal living and moving of appliances as part of the process.


Spare change?

Edited by BCycler - 6/10/10 at 7:18am
post #41 of 47

   On the subject of cutting boards...


   My only end grain cutting board is a cheap one.  But even so, I wanted to take proper care of it so I researched a little bit on conditioning.  I couldn't believe how "thirsty" my board was the first couple of weeks after I bought it.  I would put the mineral oil/bees wax combination on the board and overnight the thing was bone dry.  I continued to condition the board often for the first two weeks...after that time it seemed as if the board was in a better state, and doesn't take nearly as many oil/wax treatments (maybe once a week)


   Now the cutting board not only cuts great but cleans fantastically well too.  Is this proper maintenance for an end grain board?  There is so little talk of caring for your cutting board I figured I'd ask about proper initial care/maintenance.




post #42 of 47



You asked,

Is this proper maintenance?


The answer is:  Yes.



post #43 of 47
Thread Starter 

I haven't made the purchase yet, as a significant auto repair came up. I did get the magnets for the new rack but don't have all the bits and pieces to put it together yet.


As I wait for this to come together I do want to say thanks for all the advice. Regardless of not having bought a new knife (yet) I find I am much happier with what I already have, this being the culmination of learning more about sharpening, proper steeling and in no small part treatment (only using cutting boards). Great information folks. Thanks BDL!. 

post #44 of 47

Thanks for info. and quite useful.

post #45 of 47

get a cheap stone and learn how to use it.

post #46 of 47

As a newbie as well, I was rather fascinated by this whole thread. I have the chefs choice 310 and now from what I can glean from everyone here it is either to be considered a door stop or is there a particular way I need to use it to sharpen my knives? Has anyone used this sharpener?



post #47 of 47


A Chef's Choice 310 is a fairly good sharpener.  


Yes, there are other, better ways to sharpen a knife.  But to go from just "other" to "other, better" you  either have to spend significanlty more (like an Edge Pro) or be willing to master the skill sharpening on bench stones.  While freehanding is not that difficult to learn a lot of people don't want to spend the time, or simply find it too intimidating.


Edgecraft, the company that designs and makes Chef's Choice machines solved most of the major problems that go along with home, electric sharpeners.  If used properly they will not harm your knives, and they create a very durable edge with a degree of polish that's appropriate for the sorts of knives they usually see.


One of their shortcomings is that they are not adaptable.  With one exception, they only sharpen to one of two particular profiles -- "regular" and "Asian."  Not that they aren't good profiles, but you might want something different.


Another is that the stones do eventually load up and require cleaning.  I'm not sure whether the user can do this herself on the smaller home machines, or must send the machine in for service.  I can't overemphasize the importance of not only making sure your knives are clean before sharpening, and rinsing and wiping occasionally during the process.


Yet another, restricted to the older 110 and 310 designs, is the magnetic angle guid.  The sharpener needs to pay attention and make sure the knife rides against the guide during its entire passage through the slot as the magnet really isn't very strong.  Since putting the 110 and 310 on the market, Edgepro's abandoned magnets in favor of springs.


The machines are packed with instructions which tell you how many times to pull the knife through the slot on each side, how you should shape the stroke; how much pressure you should use, etc.  If you no longer have the instructions, look at the instructions for the Model 120 on the Edgepro website.  The 120 is a three stage sharpener, you'll have to think of your second stage as a sort of compromise between the 120's second and third stages. 


Remember, once you've established the basic profile on stage 1, you'll touch up on stage 2 until it no longer works for you and you need to go back to stage 1.  That means if you touch up your most frequently used knife every week or so, you'll probably only use stage 1 a half dozen times a year at most.   


Stage 2 will true a blade as well as a steel.  Whether or not you need a steel as well, depends on your knives, your board, and whether or not you want to "touch up" every other day.


A lot of "knife guys" lump Chef's Choice machines with the bad old days of electric sharpeners, deeming all of them unacceptable.  Don't listen to them.  All home electric sharpeners are not created equal.   


Use it right.  Clean it when it needs it.  It will be your friend. 



Edited by boar_d_laze - 7/16/10 at 11:47am
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