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Sharpening for noob

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

Hey guys, I'm new to this forum, and I'm looking for some advice on sharpening. I recently bought a Shun Premier 7" Santoku knife (Amazon sale, got for $70), and while it's sharp now, it won't stay sharp forever. So I have several questions regarding sharpening.

  • If I don't let the knife go really dull, by taking good care of it, do i still need low grit stones?
  • If I sharpen regularly, which stone should I buy? What grit should i be sharpening at? (I currently don't have any stones)
  • I also have other knives, so would the stone work for those as well?


I do have SOME experience with freehand sharpening, but not much. I worked as a part time cook in high school, and the chef showed me once how to sharpen. So any advice would help. Thank you guys in advance!

post #2 of 9

1. Probably eventually, because eventually you need to thin behind the edge.  The knife thickens as you get closer to the spine, and after putting new edges on it over time, you're sharpening a thicker knife.  So you'll want to thin.  That might take a long-ish while. (Or you might be one of those guys who wants to thin sooner, because the Shun Santoku is just too thick a knife for your new-maniac-sharp tastes.  But that won't be right away, either, I'm guessing). But not right away.


2. If we're talking about water stones, you want something in the 1000 - 2000 grit range.  The most recommended ('round here) of these is a Bester 1200.  But you could buy something else, something cheaper, and be just fine.  You'll probably want something finer, too, like in the 4000 to 6000 grit range, to refine that edge.  But some people don't polish even that high, and are supper happy with a one-stone terminal point.  At least until they need to thin or reprofile.  A combination stone is cheap, if you just want something to get started and practice and develop your tastes until you'll confident and snooty enough to insist on separate stones.  (Separate stones are cheaper in the long run).


3. The stone will work for other knives as well, yes.


All of this changes a bit if you're talking about oilstones.  Especially point 3.

Edited by Wagstaff - 1/7/12 at 8:49am
post #3 of 9

I've got some videos on sharpening on my youtube channel:


I think most are towards the bottom... The basics of how to hold a knife, angles of approach, and the basics of double bevel sharpening might be most useful.


If you have any questions as you watch them, feel free to ask questions.

post #4 of 9

hey guys,


another newbie here, i was going to make another similar thread but i hope wingstrike doesn't mind me piggybacking on this one.


i'm a newbie cook, my gf does the majority of stuff in the kitchen but i like to help out now and then. and i especially like buying gadgets and chopping things :)


i have an end grain acacia chopping board and i just bought a tojiro dp 21cm. i want to get a proper stone for sharpening and not a 'pull through' device. previously i had read about getting a 1000/4000, are there any that are specifically recommended? ones that are readily available in england would be appreciated! hadn't heard of the bester 1200 until now, it seems i could get it off ebay from japan if i chose that. i have an old knife i will practising on before my tojiro of course.


jbroida - thanks, i've bookmarked your vids. i know everyone says it's easy and i'm sure it is, but taking that first step into sharpening is pretty daunting, so your efforts are really appreciated.


cheers everyone

post #5 of 9

I have to recommend reading through some of the older threads here because there is a lot of valuable information concerning stone selection.


If your like me I also know as you gain some new info your going to have a host of additional questions as well (just see how many questions I put the members here through last year, and yes they still respond to me lol) and these are all good things.


I personally did end up going a little outside of the general thinking on stone selection (I actually put off the 1K stone till later, and started with a 2K and 6K), and though I have made some changes since then it kind of proves that there is more than one way to a destination, and I was very happy with the results of the stones I did get.


I believe the biggest obstacle for most who are new to all of this is to just get started. Sure you do not want to mess up your knife etc, but once you start doing it you will find out some things just from the experience, and besides learning from it you also find you have questions and thoughts you could not have imagined when you started looking at the original options.


Things like figuring out how a certain stone or type of stone works with your knife, or worry about if you get the "wrong" one, or just how to pick the "right" one will not seem as important once you get into doing it.


As an example the original thoughts behind my decision to go with a 2K stone as opposed to the more recommended 1K was that the knives I had purchased were already pretty sharp OOTB and it would be more about improving upon the factory edge and then maintaining it than setting an edge etc. I do not believe that was totally correct or even incorrect as it did work well (knives were Tojiro DP and Fujiwara FKM) and I have had sharp knives the entire time. Still since I realized over time that there would be benefits to having a more coarse stone I did eventually get a 1K as well, but still use the 2K often.


I guess it is all about finding your own way, but also realize how confusing and even sort of intimidating it can be making decisions based on information you receive on the net and not having all that much or any first hand experience with the products etc as this was the case for most of us at one point as well.


I will admit that in hindsight my initial thought to purchase an inexpensive combo stone may have been a better one, but also now realize that if budget would have allowed it getting a full set of individual stones would have been great too.


Hope that is more helpful than confusing, and also helps to make the decision a bit less stressful.


"love my country" but "fear my government"  Something is just wrong with this




Looking for info on entry level J-knives? Need help on finding the most bang for your buck? Hope you enjoy learning from the info here, I know I did!



"love my country" but "fear my government"  Something is just wrong with this




Looking for info on entry level J-knives? Need help on finding the most bang for your buck? Hope you enjoy learning from the info here, I know I did!

post #6 of 9

Oh and I forgot this make sure you watch as many of the vids from those people who really know how to sharpen (like the ones linked above) and then watch them again, and again as this seems to help the idea of understanding what your trying to do, and helps remove some of the intimidation factor as well.


"love my country" but "fear my government"  Something is just wrong with this




Looking for info on entry level J-knives? Need help on finding the most bang for your buck? Hope you enjoy learning from the info here, I know I did!



"love my country" but "fear my government"  Something is just wrong with this




Looking for info on entry level J-knives? Need help on finding the most bang for your buck? Hope you enjoy learning from the info here, I know I did!

post #7 of 9

I actually put together a playlist this afternoon so you dont have to sift through all of the other videos and can go directly to the sharpening ones... i even ordered it in a way that made sense (to me at least)... hope this helps

post #8 of 9

yoyu can also send to shun for free sharpening minus shipping cost

post #9 of 9

A few thoughts:


Shun Sharpening Service -- No Longer Free: 

Alas, Kai (Shun) discontinued their free service last Spring.  They use a commercial service, Perfect Edge, who sharpens for them at discount rates.  The customer is looking at just under $1 an inch, with a minimum $5 charge per knife, with upcharges for serration, repairs, "single bevel" knives, and bears shipping costs.  I believe the turnaround is in the neighborhood of two weeks. 


More Generally:

Absorb as much as you can about sharpening, especially if its free... before starting out.  Yes to Jon's sharpening videos.  Yes also to Mark's sharpening videos at CKtG (Chef Knives to Go).  Read Chad Ward's e-Gullet FAQ, and Mike Bottorf's as well.  Mike's chapter 3 is where the rubber meets the road (TOC on the left side of the home page); read the whole thing, but don't pay too much attention to Mike's equipment suggestions.  Chad's FAQ is gospel, pretty much.   


There are a lot of sharpening styles which work.  Choose one and stick with it until you start getting good results, you can always branch off and try new things later.  You can spend a life time fooling around with this stuff and never get bored.  


I favor what I call "the burr method," especially for beginners.  It's the method described by Ward and Bottorf, although I do a few things differently.  I also suggest that you use the Magic Marker Trick every time when you're starting out until you have a very good idea of how to see and feel what's going on at the edge without it. 


Be patient with yourself.  It takes a little while before you start getting consistently positive results, and somewhat longer before you start getting good. 


For most people, sharpening most Japanese made, western style knives, the best grits to start with are something around 1K (according to the JIS, Japanese grit numbering system), and something around 3K - 5K.  The idea is that you learn to develop some consistency with the 1K before moving up to the finer stone.  Once you're getting consistently (there's that word again!) good results with the fine stone, you can round out your kit with a coarse stone for thinning, re-profiling and repair.  Even if you buy all three stones immediately, hold off on using the coarse stone until you're a solid sharpener.  Coarse stones cut fast which means they have consequences that can be hard to repair.  


An Easier, More Expensive Way:

There are a few good "tool and jig" systems which have a much flatter learning curve than learning to sharpen freehand, and are just as good or better than freehanding for the majority of home sharpeners sharpening the majority of home kitchen knives.  One is the Edge Pro system (Apex Kits 3, 4, or Chosera, or the "Pro" with the right combination of stones), the other the Wicked Edge.  Easy to learn, but not cheap.  You're looking at $300ish for a good EP setup; a little more for a WE. 



Ask lots of questions.  Here is as good a place as any for a beginner, with less background noise than the most popular knife specialty forums.


Hope this helps,




Edited by boar_d_laze - 1/15/12 at 6:32am
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