Hi there. This forum came up on Google searches about knives, and since you guys seem very knowledgeable, I would like to ask a few questions.
First, background: I'm not a professional. Just an enthusiastic home cook who is slightly OCD about my tools. I grew up cooking for the family because, growing up with my brother, whoever helped to cook did not have to do the dishes, and I HATED doing dishes. I grew to like cooking and, well, here I am.
Anyhoo I grew up cooking with a curved butcher knife about 90% of the time, the last 10% going mostly to a cleaver. The butcher knife was carbon -- I don't know what make, because it was ancient by the time I got to use it, all I remember is that it was a two rivet wood handle, was heavily patinaed to a dark gray, and apparently built to survive the apocalypse. I also remember that it got a pretty decent edge even from a few swipes on one of those cheap sharpeners with two rows of steel washers, and got a WICKED edge when I took the time to sharpen it by hand, which I did sometimes because sharpening on a water stone is an activity that I find it oddly relaxing. The cleaver was a generic wood handled thing that was replaced a couple of times when the handle broke, nothing special.
When I moved out, I decided to spend a little money on knives and got an 8" chef and a chopper from Henckels. They did okay because this was back in the day when Henckels still made everything in Germany. Then I also bought a Wustof Grand Prix II 10" for the holiday cooking because I always end up doing the big turkeys and hams (the butcher knife sadly was somehow lost during a move).
A few years later, being a working man by then, thought to expand my collection. I happened to read Kitchen Confidential right about that time so I got a Global. It instantly became my favorite -- lighter, thinner, and sharper than the Henckels, and no annoying bolster that I have to grind back when I've worn the edge down from sharpening.
Up to this time I was still working with just the cheap doublesided generic stone I bought at an army/navy surplus place back in college. It's about 8"x1.75"x.75", rough on one side and medium on the other, or so I thought. I have no idea what grit it is (might have been on the box but even if it had been, I have long since forgotten) but it feels like about 150/300, or maybe 250/500.
Even with this stone I can get my knives to the point where they can shave my forearm, though not cleanly.
Eventually I learned how to sharpen for real from the Global website, and I bought a King 1000 grit stone. It works great but seems to wear down really fast. Then I started reading about stones and knives more, got curious, and bought a natural Aoto stone, which I hear runs from 2000-6000 depending on the stone. It also does a great job but wears down really fast, especially given that it is very hard and seems to take forever to sharpen.
So my questions are:
1. Do all Japanese waterstones wear down like this? The cheap stone I got in college is still going strong after more than a decade, while the King and Aoto stones are both starting to dish after less than a dozen sharpenings. Even though they are both very thick in comparison, it would still suck to have to buy another one every two or three years, especially the Aoto stone (should have stuck with the synthetics...) which came with a couple of seams in the stone so I can only use about three quarters of it to begin with.
2. Do kitchen knives benefit from any sharpening past 2000 grit or so? As it is my knives can now shave my forearm cleanly (except for the cleaver, which I intentionally left with a dull convex edge to deal with large bones), though I would not dare to put them to my face. I read all this stuff about the 3000, 5000, 6000... all the way up to the 20,000 diamond stones from Shapton and the leather strops with the diamond paste. Seriously -- does all that really benefit the knife? Wouldn't an edge that fine curl the second it hit a bone?
3. After reading all this stuff, I realized that all of my knives are still relatively soft steel -- Rockwell 56-58. I was thinking of moving to a more serious knife, and was wondering if the Rockwell hardness makes much of a difference in real practical usage. I can imagine it would hold the edge better, but I would also be worried about chipping. So... Is it worth it to get a Rockwell 60-62 VG-10 knife? Or even the Rockwell 66 Henckels Cermax or Miyabi 7000 MC?
Thanks a bunch in advance.