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Christmas Day Edges and Brisket's New Masamoto VG

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 

For those who are playing the home game -- Kohno started a thread on knives which took on its own momentum, grabbed a lot of people with a lot of questions and got real darn confusing.  At least to me.


So for that reason and because the information may be generally useful, I started this thread.  The quote below is Brisket's post, less his graceful acknowledgement to Kohno.  I'll answer it in a follow up.


Brisket wrote:

I bought a Masamoto VG the other week, shipping was only 7$ and they marked it as a gift so I didn't have to pay duties or anything.  I was very happy with that.  


My Masamoto arrived sharpened asymmetrically(this is when one side of the blade is sharpened more than the other?).  On the right hand side theres a wide bevel, and on the left there is practically none near the tip of the blade but more near the heel of the blade.  I didn't ask for this sharpening setup, and frankly I'm a little intimidated because I want to sharpen this thing to it's full potential but I've never sharpened freehand before.  I think this may be the Christmas Day edge that was referred to earlier because the knife is already dulling and actually has a few small chips on the edge near the heel of the blade.


I am a tradition bound luddite so I'm going to buy some stones and try to learn.  I'm going to order some Naniwa Chosera stones from Paul's finest.  The have a sale on for "Naniwa Chosera Japanese Whetstone Sharpening Stones, Set of 3: 600, 1000, 5000" for 249$ CDN.  Is this a good deal?  There's also a 10000 grit for the same price.  I'm hovering here with my credit card about to make an impulse buy before heading to work.  Been here many times before, it's not a good place to be lol.  Please tell what stones to buy, pretend money is a non issue.  My knife needs sharpening and I have no stones aahhhh .

post #2 of 4

It sounds to me like this was sloppily ground on power equipment. This is common. Where you're seeing chipping, they probably over tempered the steel at the edge when sharpening. This is pretty common too on high grade steel sharpened on power equipment. Once you sharpen past that initial edge, the chipping problem should reduce itself dramatically.


As to sharpening out that non-uniform edge, I'm a bit of a heathen. I'd work the left side probably 2:1 compared to the right side but I'd stop as soon as it was workably sharp rather than trying to correct it all in one go. Then every time I sharpened, I'd true it to center more and more, letting it wear in as it were.


I recognize that the hard core knife knuts here would probably not choose that path.

Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
post #3 of 4
Thread Starter 


Sounds like JCK's shipping policy to me.  They are soooooo good at that.  Lots of other things too.


First Answer Leads to Some Background:

"Christmas Day Edge" isn't a general use knife term -- at least not yet.  It saw first light on CT just a few days ago.


Yes, it's probably what I called a Christmas Day edge.  For "V" edges (flat bevel on both sides) these come in two basic flavors.  These come in essentially two flavors -- more or less 50/50 symmetry and more or highly asymmetric symmetry that resmbles a chisel.  


If you're having trouble visualizing, this illustration from the E-Gullet sharpening FAQ may help:



To get a Chrstmas Day asymmetric edge, the factory ran one side of the knife on a grinder until they got a burr, turned the knife over just until they pushed the burr over to the other side (which doesn't take much) and put it in the box.  To get the 50/50 type, they do the second side until the bevels look more or less even.  No great care is taken, the knife isn't polished, etc.


The lack of actual, finish quality sharpening isn't at all unusual with Japanese made, western style knives.  The expectation there is that the owner will have the knife properly sharpened by the retailer (many of whom provide free, lifetime sharpening), or that if the owner is a culinary professional, (s)he will "open" the knife to her or his own preferences.  


It's worth saying that quite a few Japanese knives come with very nice edges, OOTB.  It just depends on the company.


General Stone Information:

Synthetic waterstones are made by mixing ceramic and/or natural abrasives in a natural or synthetic clay binder.  Waterstones are different than oilstones in the way the mix of abrasive and binder comes off the stone when it's been soaked (or at least wetted) constantly exposing fresh, friable abrasive.


Waterstones differ from one another in the type of binder, the type and quality of abrasive, the size consistency of abrasive, and the density of abrasive. 


Synthetic abrasive is almost an Aluminum Oxide (AlO) ceramic.  Consequently, when you hear terms like "ceramic stone" or "ceramic sharpener" you need find out whether that refers to just the abrasive, or the binder as well. 


Stones are divided into two broad classes depending on the binding material.  Stones made from natural clay binders are often called "mud binders" or "clay binders."  While stones made from synthetic binders of one sort or another are called "resin binders."   Resin binders are generally preferred -- not to mention more expensive.


Let's Start with Chosera:

 Naniwa is one of the largest manufacturers and sellers of sharpening stones in Japan.  They make many different lines of stones, not all of which are available in the west.  Of the ones that are, Chosera is the most expensive line of resin binders.


Two things make Choseras so much dearer than Naniwa's other top lines.  One is the type of resin used -- magnesia.  I'm not sure if it really costs that much more to make a magnesia binder or if Naniwa is trying to recoup some of their development costs by amortizing it.  Suffice it to say that magnesia stones wear very predictably.


Another thing about magnesia binders -- and this segues to the second reason -- is that they can be packed with lots of abrasive.  So, the Choseras are the densest of all the Naniwas and that makes them the "fastest."  Speed is a highly prized quality in stones which means they take less pressure and fewer strokes to do the same job.  Fewer strokes not only makes the job easier, but also tends to make it more consistent.  That is, fewer strokes mean fewer opportunities to mess up.


Some Perspective on Chosera, Other Naniwa and Other Makers' Stones:

So price aside is Chosera the best choice?  If you start grading stones by grit levels, for any level which includes a Chosera, the Chosera will always be one of the top performers. 


Stones are tools for performing a maintenance task, not collectors' objects.  IMO, price is never aside.  Chosera are very expensive.  They're great stones, but I don't think they're worth their price. 


As a single line, I prefer Naniwa SS -- at least up to the utlra-fine, polishing grits -- for beginners because the stones give so much feedback and are so easy to maintain.  Furthermore, the 10mm stones are relatively cheap.  I also like the 10mm stones for beginners because the integral plastic base starts to flex a little with too much pressure.  


Kit for the New Sharpener:

I think the best kit choices for a new sharpener is three Naniwa SS 10mm  -- 400, 1000, and 3000 -- or possibly 400, 1000, and 5000.  The choice between 3000 and 5000 depends on the ultimate finish desired.  But, it's too soon to buy that stone.


Ideally, a beginner should learn to create a sharp edge on a medium coarse stone (around 1000) before moving on to a medum-fine (roughly 2500 - 6000) to refine the edge.  Afterwards, one (s)he's established angle-holding, the importance of a flat bevel, and some understanding of what makes for a good edge, (s)he can tackle minor profiling and repair with the 400.  Then and only then is it time to think about buying an 8000 or 10000.


If you go to the coarse stone too early, you run the risk of creating bad edge geometry that will take a lot of skill to repair (more than a new sharpener has). 


If you go to an ultra-fine stone before establishing good technique, you'll consistenly dub the edge which will requires moving down to the medium-fine to repair it.  Anyway, a high polish is wasted on a knife that doesn't have a perfectly bevel.  So skip the middle man, and just stick with the medium-fine until you have it -- and profiling -- under control. 


Other Brands, Better Sets:

Coarse Stone: 

I prefer the Beston 500 better than any other coarse stone I've tried.  A Beston doesn't require as much flattening as most coarse stones.  On the other hand, it's very hard (i.e., no feedback), requires a LOT of soaking, not terribly fast, not a good choice for moving a lot of metal, and still the best. 


Better than an SS?  Yes.  Better than a Chosera?  Not by as much.  Perhaps the best thing about the Beston is how easy it is to take the scratch out at the next level.


Medium Coarse

I like all the Besters and the impossible to get Sigma Powers better than anything else.  I'm not a huge fan of the Shapton Pro or GS (I used to own a complete set of Pros), feeling they shine better than they sharpen.  The Chosera 1K is a great stone, very fast indeed, doesn't require much soaking (10 minutes), has good feedback, and is without any significant drawbacks.  That said, the Naniwa SS has more feedback is splash and go and is almost as fast. 


Like the Beston, the Besters are also very hard and require a lot of soaking. Besters stay flat for a long time. They are fast, but not as fast as the Chosera.  Compared to the Chosera, edge quality is better. 



There are a few wonderful stones in this range.  It's also the range where Chosera start getting very expensive and where one weird characteristic compromises some of the advantages of speed.  For whatever reason, Chosera edges tend to feel a little "sticky" when it comes to making very fine cuts in protein.  The stickiness can be a little hard to get rid of on the next stone too.  As it happens, I use a Chosera 3K for my medium-fine.


In alphabetical order, the Arashiyama/Takenoko 6K (it's really 6K no matter what the seller says), Naniwa SS 3K, Naniwa SS 5K, Naniwa Aoto, Nonpareil Aoto the mud binder Suehiro Rika (nominally 5K, but apparently actually 3K), are all better stones -- especially if there's a budget.  The Arashiyama is really outstanding if you're either stopping with the medium fine, or moving on to something ultra fine -- 10K and up.  


Polishing Stones: 

This isn't the right place to talk about the ultra fines, other than to say that Brisket's HC is probably better served by a really outstanding 8K like the Kitayama, Naniwa Pure White (wonderful stone) or Naniwa SS 8K.  FWIW, I'm using an SS 8K on my Sabs.


Bottom Line On Stones For Brisket:

Paul's prices on the Chosera sound pretty good, especially if you have to deal with Canadian customs. 


If your final polishing stone is going to be an 8K, go with the 3K.  If a 10K, a 5K will make a better choice. 


I recommend the Naniwa SS over the Chosera because they're slightly more convenient, easier to flatten, have more feedback, and cost significantly less (at least in the US).  The 10mm are a better choice for the beginner because of the base, the price, and because by the time they wear enough for wear to be an issue you'll be ready to move on.  


If you don't want to mess around with training wheels, and are willing to make the learning curve a little steeper:  Beston 500, Bester 1200, and Naniwa 3K or Arashiyama over the Choseras -- unless Customs makes the Choseras price-competitive.


Don't buy a polishing stone yet.  Don't worry about it other than to decide whether you'll want a working polish or an absolute maximum.  If the former, I recommend an 8K.  If the latter, I recommend a Kitayama/ Naniwa 10K combination.


First Edge:

It ain't Christmas.  Find a good sharpener and have her put a decent, working edge on the knife.  Chances are you don't want a restaurant knife service or most knife shops, unless they do a lot of Japanese knives.  Finish carpenters are often very good sharpeners, and if you're not getting trustworthy answers from professional sharpeners, you might want to ask around. 


You want the knife sharpened by hand, not on a wheel or grinder.  You want a 15* edge angle with either 50/50 symmetry or, if it's a right handed household, a slight right handed bias.  It will get the knife usable straight away. 


Another benefit of establishing a good, symmetric edge is that you'll be able to learn to "click in" on it, which is not only a fundamental part of sharpening, but will also help you keep the knife usable as you learn the other aspects.   



Sorry about the length and detail of the post.  I thought the background and insight into the "why this instead of that" would be helpful.


Enjoy the new knife,


post #4 of 4

Wow nice post, there's a lot to take in there.  No apologies necessary.  I'm glad I avoided the impulse buy. 


So, let me get this straight.  All I need at the moment is a 1000 grit?  I can get the Naniwa SS 1000 for 54 bucks.  Paul's has the SS ones and they're 20mm thick too instead of 10mm.  For 172 I would also get the 5000 grit and the 400 grit.  Is it worth it?  I can afford it but if I won't need one of those within the next 6 months there no point getting them now. 


I'll ask around about knife sharpeners although I don't really know what to look for.  Why is it better for the knife to be sharpened by hand instead of on the wheel or grinder?  What kind of questions would I be asking that might not get trustworthy answers?


Thank you Phatch and BDL.  Regardless of everything this knife is still waaaayyyy sharper than anything I've ever used, feels great too.  I would like to be able to push cut a tomato though... or would I?  Reading all about that in the Knife maintenance guide by Chad Ward that BDL posted.  It's thick stuff but interesting.


Also, it's possible that the chip came about when the knife feel 3 feet edge first onto cracked and broken concrete, yikes!  I thought that I examined it and didn't see any chips but I can't think of any other reason it would be chipped like that.  Very careless of me I know, I should be flogged publicly.



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