Originally Posted by Capsaicin
Tojiros are good too but the sanmai construction might be an issue for some people.
Not for many (I'm one of the few), and not at all for sharpening. They sharpen just like every other VG-10 san-mai -- which is pretty much the same as almost any other decent knife. With a few glaring exceptions, good knives are easier to sharpen than bad ones. It's one of the things which makes them good. Knives with lousy edge properties are too obtuse, chip too easily, and/or are difficult to deburr.
There are a lot of nuances to sharpening really well. But they're nuances. Basic sharpening isn't at all difficult. For that matter, neither are the nuances -- there are just a lot of them and people get overwhelmed by their number. If you're free-handing, the easiest, efficient way to learn is the "burr method." That is, raise a burr, chase the burr (on an approximately 1K stone), then deburr. Repeat on a finer stone, raising a finer burr, and chasing it still finer. Once you can sharpen -- and only then -- polish, if desired. If you can polish without dulling the edge, you're ready to profile. As long as you take things when your skills permit, and don't expect too much from your first few hours, it's really pretty easy.
Our learning experiences were probably all fairly similar, but spread out differently.
I first learned to sharpen in the Boy Scouts. Sharpening was a condition of moving up from Tenderfoot or Second-Class, back then (1962, maybe) -- I forget which. You had to be able to sharpen a hatchet and your scout knife. The first couple of times I only made things worse, but then -- wonder of wonders! -- edges happened. I really learned -- in terms of raise, chase and deburr -- during my "apprenticeship" at the Blue Fox, a San Francisco restaurant, a little more than ten years later when I was a working grad-student. ("Apprenticeship" in quotes, because I never wanted a cooking career.)
, and boucher
(aka not good enough yet to hold down the grill on the line; skipped garde
, thank God), they gave me everyone's knives (Sabatier carbons and Forschner butchers'), a coarse India for repairs, and a Norton 313 with an India and two Arkansas stones to sharpen with. When you're sharpening thirty or forty knives a week somewhere perfection just isn't good enough, it doesn't take too long to [ahem] hone your basic skills.
Back then you saw a 313 in nearly every professional kitchen and woodshop with any sort of claim to quality. And if it's any comfort to you, even then it was a battle to keep people from putting cooking oil on the stones. More than thirty five years later, I still sometimes sharpen my own Sabs and Forschners on the same types of Arks and Indias in the 313. But, of course, no oil -- cooking, honing or otherwise.
When I was a grip, I used to sharpen most of my friends' knives as well as my own. More practice. In the process, I learned more about lousy alloys, bad geometries, and all sorts of bad knives and sharpening tools than anyone should know.
Over the years I found out about Japanese water stones from friends who used them for their woodworking tools and tried King, Norton, and Shapton Pros. I even bought a set of Nortons and then of Shapton Pros when the Nortons were stolen. Surprisingly, they weren't that much of an improvement compared to the Indias and Arks I was using for my then knife set. Anyway, a couple of those woodworking friends were sharpening tool junkies -- more exposure. One of them was also a Japanese knife nut -- who bought at least four chef's knives a year.
Now and then I taught cooking classes (mostly for charity, especially after law school), and I used to bring a few extra knives along and a Chef's Choice electric -- just in case. Nearly all the students were stunned to find out what it was like to use an actually sharp edge, and just as stunned when they could compare decent hand sharpening to a Chef's Choice. So I ended up offering basic sharpening and knife skills classes.
One thing about teaching, you really learn a lot. The lawyers especially used to bring in all the latest, most expensive knives and stones. More exposure.
Now I like knives and sharpening, but am really more interested in cooking. However when I started participating in the cooking boards it seemed like I was one of very few people who knew anything about carbon Sabs and Arkansas stones (obviously there are lots of people who know plenty more than me, but they're just not writing about it). I'd get lots of email and PMs -- and they were more about the hardware than food. I'm as much a sucker for strokes as the next man, so that became more of a focus. As it did, I did more research, bought more stuff, worked harder at learning, and so on.
BDLEdited by boar_d_laze - 9/4/11 at 10:30am