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New Knife = New Sharpener, What Best to Choose to Sharpen and Hone with EASE?

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 



I'm getting my first decent knife (probably the 21 inch Tojiro DP) and I want to maintain it well. I'm not ready for stones yet. Ideally I would like to find something that works for a beginner, with ease, but maintains the knife well. I've heard criticisms of pull through sharpeners, I need to know - are these valid criticisms today?


Here are my current choices - if you feel these are all gonna end in disappointment please speak up, otherwise I would love to hear any recommendations on the best choice.


1) Vulkanus - had good reviews from a couple of posters - it also claims to sharpen AND hone, so I won't need a steel. Looks good too. My main concern here that it will take off too much metal from my new knife, is that a risk? Also this thing will sharpen my cheapie bread knife and steak knives. It also claims to adjust the angle to suit the knife. 


2) Chef's Choice Angle Select Knife Sharpener - Diamond Hone 4623. Note this is NOT electric, just a manual pull through. Again, it claims to sharpen AND hone, and can do 15 degree edges and 20 degree edges, which means I can do Japanese and Euro style knives. ALSO does serrated, so I can again, as above, use it for all my knives. Same question, is this a risky purchase for maintaining a $100+ knife? Or is it enough?


3) Global Minosharp 3 Ceramic Water Sharpener, combined with a Ceramic Steel of some kind. Again, a pull through option, but combined with a Steel. This is the most expensive option, as the Minosharp doesn't claim to hone. I'm a bit concerned about my honing technique, so I don't want diamond as apparently that sharpens as well, so ceramic sounds like the best option if I look after it. Don't know which rod to buy. 


So essentially my query is here are manual pull-through sharpeners OK for maintaining a decent blade, and will the first 2 options cover me so I don't need a steel?And which is better, Chef's Choice or Minosharp, or the singular (but dangerous looking) Vulkanus? I just want to find the easiest way of maintaining my new "good" knife well at home. 






post #2 of 15

21 inches? WOW. Have fun with that. 

"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music."

I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'.


"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music."

I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'.

post #3 of 15

I'm sure HBeing meant centimeters not inches...


I have no input on the various pull-through sharpeners, though, sadly. I haven't used any of these.

post #4 of 15
I have been looking at this sharpener for awhile and looks like it has alot of potential, ease of use, blade length not a problem, fast to use, and sound ergonomic design. Watch the video and see for yourself. The only down side I see in it is the price 250-400 but if it works as shown its well worth the price.
post #5 of 15

Whenever BDL inevitably responds, listen to his advice.


I can give no personal experience on the sharpeners. I do know that Chef's Choice is a brand that has a good reputation, but I have heard nothing about their manual pull through sharpeners.


I do know that in the experience I have had with pull through sharpeners (one of them may or may not have been one of the models you mentioned, it's been a while), I have never been satisfied with the results. Honestly, I don't understand how they are supposed to get to a fresh edge without raising a burr, and not just tearing the burr off in the process if the sharpener is managing to raise one. Bad news is, I don't know of a super easy sharpener that will produce top-notch results that competes with the prices of the ones you listed.

post #6 of 15
Thread Starter 

Yes, thanks Wagstaff, a 21cm blade, not 21"... 


My situation is that I only will ever cook at home, so I'm only looking for a basic maintenance routine, rather than a professional's routine. I know that I will like it sharp, because I'm sick of dull knives forever, but I'm happy with any of the above options. Then again is it worth me looking into an electric sharpening option? Again I realise this is probably an easy and relatively inexpensive fix, and therefore imperfect, because I'm not ready for a stone. If I get evidence that they really don't do the job, or damage the knife, then I will look at other options. 

post #7 of 15

I know Mac suggests using a rollsharp; they're better knives in the first place.  I'm sure the rollsharp doesn't bring the knife to its potential, but there are professional cooks who swear by it being good enough (Pete, who posts here, being one).


I know this from reading, not experience with the rollsharp, however.  I have used Mac knives (not my own) which I loved, but they were maintained by other means.


Are Tojiros similar? I don't know -- and I don't know if clad knives in general are different animals with these devices.


BDL recommends a chef's choice electric (or two -- for the 15-degree and 20-degree angles IIRC) for those in your position.  Some people recommend getting a knife that responds well to steeling and getting your knife professionally sharpened a couple/few times a year. It seems like you cook infrequently enough that this might be fine.


Again, none of this answers your original question, just biding time till someone comes along who might actually know those devices and how they play with a Tojiro.


(My own choice was to learn to use waterstones.... but that was so I could indulge more expensive knives -- more of them in the future -- and be other than ridiculous.  Early on in the sharpening skill-development, already there are only a handful of other people I'd want to sharpen my knives; I'd much rather do it myself than let an unknown "pro" do it).

post #8 of 15
The problem with the Rollsharp (made by Fiskars, the MAC is rebranded) is that it leaves a very coarse, toothy edge. Other than that it's one of two "best of breeds" for Japanese angled pull throughs. The other is the Minos.

There's no getting away from certain constants. Any manual pull-through with an abrasive fast enough to sharpen a knife relatively quickly is also going to be very aggressive. "Fast" always means "aggressive" when you're talking about pull-throughs; and aggressive means toothy. If you want a finer edge from a manual pull-through, you need a two-stage -- and that's the Minos (also sold as a Global). Both of these sharpeners are okay, but not very good. You're in pretty much the same territory as a Spyderco Sharpmaker (which IIRC will do 15*).

Because most of the conversations I have about knives are about fairly high-end cutlery, I end up talking about sharpeners which can create and maintain the sort of edge of which the knife is capable; or something so convenient, and with such a flat learning curve, the knife will be decently maintained from day 1.

Setting aside free-hand sharpening and high quality tool and jigs like the Edge Pro, that leaves Chefs Choice machines at the top of the heap. What takes 50 pulls on each side with a Minos takes 8 in a Chef's Choice. And if the edge isn't perfect, it's certainly usable and durable. The machines are not without their own issues though -- mostly related to cleaning and wear.

As with just about everything else, there are always trade-offs. The idea of "best" is always individualized and relative in the sense that you try and choose the best method and best tools for your particular situation and go from there. There is no one best for everyone.

post #9 of 15
Thread Starter 

Alot to think about here. I looked into MAC knives but took the Tojiro on price - better starting point for me but I see myself upgrading to a MAC or Shun eventually. Since my first post I have loosened up to the idea of using a stone, given the care I have put into buying the knife in the first place.


Question to BDL - when you mention Chef's Choice being superior to Mino, do you refer to electric only, or all their pull throughs? Because they both have manual pull throughs and it seems for Japanese knives the Mino seemed to be pushed more by salespeople. Aesthetically they are a bit more trendy but I don't care about that so much with a sharpening device. I want function, speed and reliability. 


At this stage I would be taking option 2 (the Chef's Choice manual pull through), plus a ceramic honing rod to be sure. But if anyone wants to chime in on the benefits of using a whetstone, for the same price I would look at a 240/1000 whetstone and learn how to use that. But can I learn adequately to maintain my knife?

post #10 of 15

Hi HBeing -- I sent you down this road of Mac and thinking about freehanding I think (or I feel "guilty" as if I did, anyway)... so I'll chime in: BDL is talking electric Chef's Choice I'm pretty sure, for comparison; I don't think he's recommending their pull-throughs over others.  I'll let him come by and confirm or deny or elaborate.


I'll put in the word for stones.  If you're talking waterstones, you don't want a 240/1000 combination before you start.  Or it would be ok, but less than ideal.  That 240 is for very rough work, reprofiling; if you're starting with a new knife, the 1000 side is all that would (or should) see your edges for a while. The biggest factor there is that until you get comfortable with holding a steady (relatively) angle, you don't want something that's going to cut away as much metal as the 240-side.  Work with the medium-grit until you have a bit of technique, you won't mess up your knife irreparably that way.  (So if going combination, then a 1000/4000 or 1000/6000 or something.   You'll be ready for the higher grit before you need the rougher).


You spend more for the stones anyway, however, than for a manual pull-through, because you also want to get a flattening stone.  (I was pushing some other accessories on another thread, too, but I won't here; for me there are things for convenience/clean-up that got me more into the actual DOING of the sharpening, comfortably, but they're not necessary and they involve spending yet more money and many people don't need 'em.  Stone holders and trays and such).


Benefits of using a whetstone: you'll get a sharper and more polished knife than with any of the machines/manual "machine-like" sharpeners, you'll learn some things eventually about different kinds of edges (you can change the symmetry, you can add a microbevel, you can sharpen to steeper angles if that interests you over time), eventually you can thin behind the blade when the knife needs it....   For those who like to spend the time, it's actually fun (not a chore) to learn.


Disadvantages are that you might end up *not* enjoying it and practicing enough to care.  It does take a bit of patience.  But it's not rocket-science, it's rubbing a piece of metal on a brick.  (That makes it sound like it can't possibly be as fun I just claimed, either, though, doesn't it?)  I paid for a lesson which shortened a learning curve considerably, and felt vaguely competent after 4 hours.  I think there's plenty of good instructional material on-line (and in Chad Ward's book) that it's not necessary for someone else to do that (though for me it was certainly a good thing.  And it wasn't free; could have gotten a very, very nice knife for the price -- which is the disadvantage).  So you might not get great edges for a while. And you might scratch up your knife. Of course the obvious is that it's not automatic, if you just want to get it done, it's way slower -- especially at first -- than using something you don't have to think about.


Backing off on the disadvantages,  it doesn't take long to get better than factory-edges, with whatever flaws.  I'm not a "good" sharpener, but I can do better than most new knives.  And unless you're using a coarse stone way before you're ready, whatever damage you do is likely easily fixed (scratches and such). A rust-eraser or some fine wet-dry sandpaper will rub out scratches on the face or back of the knife. The tips were less than perfect after the first four hours, too (but nothing that got in the way of performance - just some visible unevenness that will be "repaired" in a few more sharpenings).


All that.  LennyD started a "fear not the stones" thread which I have meant to contribute to with a slightly different take on these thoughts, but haven't done yet.  I suppose for me I was insecure enough that I needed the lesson before feeling comfortable even practicing.  But afterwards I see I shouldn't have been so scared.  Sort of like learning to swim as a kid, I guess. I just needed someone to say "can you hold your breath and float, and then do *this* with your arms"?  Obviously couldn't swim for real, still, but learning from there was not frightening and was very fast.  It's like that.



post #11 of 15

Lots of stuff. What order to take it in?

Chef's Choice? The recommendation was for their electrics only. For whatever reason most manual pull throughs are something of a pig in a poke. In my experience, there's a lot of quality variation from sharpener to sharpener even with a given manufacturer's given model-line. The recommendation for the electric is heavily caveated as well. Not only is a CC not the best way to get a quality edge, the machines have their own problems with cleaning and maintenance. If it's the method you choose, know that the machine won't last forever.

Stepping up to a Shun? Dude, no. Very few Shun chef's knives are a step up from a Tojiro DP. We can talk about this more if and when you get serious about a Shun, but for now... why?

If you're serious about a MAC Pro (or anything else in it's price/quality range) and can afford it -- just get it now. There's nothing you can learn on a DP you can't learn on a Pro (or VG, or whatever) and it will stand up to as much abuse. I'm not saying the DP isn't a very good knife -- because it is. In fact, it's so good that there's no reason to view it as an intermediate step. If you see yourself with something else in a year or two, just get it now. Am I repeating myself? Saying the same thing twice?

21cm (or furlongs or whatever):
If you're planning on working on knife skills you'll very quickly outgrow a 21cm chef's. 24cm is a better length for those home cooks with adequate board and counter space. Any awkwardness from the extra length will disappear within a couple of days of improving your grip. You'll wonder why you ever used anything shorter.

What Wagstaff Said? He's right about sharpening on stones. Let me add, that it's hard to beat the tried and true combination of stones + steel. Speaking of steels... if you're not intimidated by a steel, you shouldn't be intimidated by stones. Same basic skill set. FWIW more people screw up their knives on steels than on stones. Yes, sharpening requires skills -- but it's not difficult to get them. Bear in mind that it's just rubbing a piece of metal against a rock, and you'll be fine.

Alternatives (to Stones, Rod Guide, CC Electric):
There's a basic "rule" that any manual single-stage system which is fast enough to be useful will leave a coarse edge. It's not my rule, it's the nature of the universe as we understand it. One of those "laws of physics" things engineers (but not physicists) like to talk about. Add a stage and you add to precision, wear (on the knives and the abrasives, both), and cleaning issues.

Another problem with alternatives is that (almost) all of them sharpen at a single fixed angles. Any given Chef's Choice electric, with the exception of the 1520, has the same limitations. But a CC is so fast and efficient it can convert your non-Japanese knives to 15* as well (which will make most of them much better, btw). There are good 15* systems -- such as the Spyderco Sharpmaker -- but they don't score high for price/value. While we're on the subject, the Spyderco will leave an adequate edge but it's very slow in general and gets problematic with longer knives.

There are a couple of excellent tool and jig systems. Excellent as in excellent. Cheap? Not so much. The Edge Pro and Wicked Edge share nearly all of the flexibility of a good set of stones but at the cost of a much flatter learning curve. The Wicked Edge is faster, but costs more.

Money: The price of admission for a suitable Edge Pro kit is close to $200. A really good beginner's set of three stones (good enough to keep for life) will run about $150. A "combi-stone" you'll possibly outgrow in a year, $50. Chef's Choice electric, $80. A good ceramic rod (aka steel), $30.

post #12 of 15
Thread Starter 



I just want to say a big thanks for your incredibly in-depth and thoughtful responses.


From studying your responses here and discussions on other similar threads, I can see the limitations of a pull-through sharpening system, and that it is most probably worth the time to learn how to properly use stones, for a lifetime's enjoyment! So this process has definitely helped me open up to that possibility. The only pull through system I haven't heard a response on is the Vulkanus; except I have seen it mentioned in other threads that it is the only system some use even though they own and know how to use stones!


Wagstaff, thanks for giving me your first hand experience of learning to sharpen on stones. It sounds like a journey I could go on. At the end of the day, I am the type of person that who is prepared to learn anything new - but would probably for budget reasons just start with the 1000/4000 as suggested and go from there. Plus unless Japanese hard steel knives don't require honing I will need a rod in addition and I suppose a fine ceramic rod is the way to go.


BDL, thanks for your frank opinion on Shuns (I don't like the aesthetic anyway, seemed like they're targeted to cash on Oriental knife fetishism) and also the vote of confidence on the Tojiro DP. For the price it seems like a great buy. The MAC is significantly more expensive - I'm happy with the Tojiro enough not to go for the 'sharpest knife in the world' moniker. Anyway, I understand it's about keeping the edge, not just getting it from the factory. Also I will take your advice and up the length to the 24cm. Part of this process is me improving my knife skills (I am prepping 3 meals a day for 2 ever growing children and my wife, I want to develop finesse and speed, which will hopefully allow me to develop more sophisticated flavours/use more subtle ingredients within the time I have to cook, ie to actually develop my cooking within busy domestic parameters).


As an aside, I must admit, after scouring the other threads about knives, I've actually become quite drawn to the K-Sabatier/Elephant Sabatier knives too for my wife - mainly as a result of your opinions. She still likes the single forged full tang knife tradition, as her Father was an old-school executive chef who schooled her in the full-tang/single forged = quality tradition, but I put her off the German profiles because of their weight. Also the Sabatiers you have recommended are amazingly priced, they are about the same price as the Tojiro. The only thing is we would have to get the stainless model (family kitchen, carelessness will happen) and don't know whether they would have the same feel/weight/quality, and ease of sharpening as carbon steel. The last thing I want to do is buy a Tojiro and love it, then turn around and buy a heavy European knife for her that she never uses! This is all speculation, maybe an excuse to buy another knife, but it would be nice to have one for her that had a different quality and aesthetic to it. I do love the olivewood handles that are available on those Elephant Sab knives. Secondly, my local supplier only has LION Sabatier, not sure whether that is the same quality?


I've gone of topic here, right now I just have to decide whether to bite the bullet and learn how to sharpen properly, or just buy a Vulkanus. I'm now definitely not going pull through, it seems too labour intensive (in the wrong way) and likely to not satisfy me after a period of time. Budget for each possible option will be about the same - minimum $80-$100 for rod and initial year's basic stones, about the same for the Vulkanus. Truth is, the rod and stones will probably open up a whole new hobby for me, beyond even cooking, as Wagstaff has pointed out in the other thread on this subject, but that could be a good thing, right?


Anyone up for putting in a last word review on the Vulkanus?












post #13 of 15

Originally Posted by HBeing View Post

Wagstaff, thanks for giving me your first hand experience of learning to sharpen on stones. It sounds like a journey I could go on. At the end of the day, I am the type of person that who is prepared to learn anything new - but would probably for budget reasons just start with the 1000/4000 as suggested and go from there. 


I believe that is definitely the way to go. You can easily start with a 1000/4000 combination and build from that. I think that's the best set to start with as well. With that set you can sharpen you knifes much sharper than they come out of the factory!


The way I learned it was by watching youtube video's where they show you how to do it. Watching tutorial video's are worth 1000's of words and will really get you on your way fast. 


There are some great video's for beginners on Chef Knives To Go, you can find them If you watch some of those (start at the top) you'll know if it's something for you. When I saw those vid's I was immediately sold and never looked back!

post #14 of 15

Lion Sabatier -- No. Stop. Don't.

Stainless Sabatier -- Marginal. Same profile, same everything, but not a good alloy; and since it's edge qualities which really make the knife and those aren't particularly good with the stainless Sabs, we get to marginal.

From a pure "best knife" standpoint, your wife and everyone else would be better off adjusting to a knife without a full finger guard style bolster. (The "wife" thing (which obviously includes the "woman" thing) often reveals what seems like simple logic to those of us who are Y chromosome impaired as stupidly wrong. So much for the finger guard/bolster, which you didn't mention but I read between the lines, and so much for sexism.)

Full tang Japanese knife? Not a problem. The tang is the metal part of the knife which goes into the handle. A "full tang" is one which you can see from the top, bottom and back." Pretty much all western style Japanese knives are "full tang," and because they're ubiquitous I inferred you were really talking about the finger guard. By the way, a lot of folks confuse the word "bolster" to mean finger guard, which it doesn't. Plenty of knives have bolsters with no or with cut-down finger guards. Forged, full-tang, Japanese knife? Also, not a problem. Lots of good ones.

If she wants a stainless Sab, get her one: But make it a K-Sab or a T-I, and don't worry about buying locally. Also, don't be surprised if it turns out that the Tojiro was actually hers all along. Hey, it's only money. Tell her I said "hi."

Vulkanus -- There are even cooler looking versions of the same idea. The thing to remember though is that all single stage sharpeners are essentially single stage sharpeners. They're either fast and way too coarse, slow and slightly too coarse, or slow and way too coarse. No matter how you slice it, not good.

post #15 of 15
Originally Posted by HBeing View Post


Wagstaff, thanks for giving me your first hand experience of learning to sharpen on stones. It sounds like a journey I could go on. At the end of the day, I am the type of person that who is prepared to learn anything new - but would probably for budget reasons just start with the 1000/4000 as suggested and go from there. Plus unless Japanese hard steel knives don't require honing I will need a rod in addition and I suppose a fine ceramic rod is the way to go.


you're welcome, and I appreciate the questions both for themselves and for giving me the opportunity read BDL's reponses (which you thanked him for, too).  I think my own "first-hand experience" is a bit insane, mind you.  I mean, it should reassure you if you're as crazy or immature as I.  But what Joost has to say, or what Capsaicin has to say, might be more sane.  (See LennyD's thread on beginning sharpening).  In developmental psychology they ("they") talk about children having an "imaginary audience", completely apart from reality.  I haven't lost mine.  I'm afraid of being embarrassed when there's NO ONE else around, even.  I've knocked my eyeglasses off while playing Michael Jordan with crumpled paper and a wastebasket.


In other words, I was unreasonably trepidatious to just start. And just starting, there'll be a lot to learn, you'll get better at it forever, you'll find flaws for a while.  But you'll still get edges that are better than "out of the box" very soon indeed.


Honing rods -- some knives don't respond to them, either because of the hardness of the steel (may not go out of true enough for the rod to matter) or the asymmetry of the bevel.  A fine ceramic rod will handle most any hardness of steel just fine.  I know knife mavens who don't use them at all, too.  I use one -- but I also use a French Carbon a lot.  I don't steel my stainless gyuto (which is very asymmetrical on the bevel) or my "laser" petty.  I just use the higher-grit stones for that.


My first stone was a 1000/4000 stone, because it was inexpensive and no extra shipping when I was buying a knife.  And I think it's decent.  I'd ask around those with more experience if something else in that price range is better, though.  Or close to that price range.  I KNOW some things are better, but you're talking a bit more money for what I know.  And seriously, the inexpensive one was plenty good for good starting edges.  Just less "feedback" than some other stones, which may be helpful. All of which is not made to make you overthink -- my original message is still what I want to get across: just get started.  If you really HATE doing it... sorry.  But you won't know until you start, and I think it's fine not to invest *too* much at the front end to decide that.  (And that way, even when you decide to do one of the alternatives, you'll have a basis to see how much more or less you hate that!)


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