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Stones, Cleaves, Carbon Steel, and Sharpening

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 

 


Hi. This is my first post here. Home chef. I've been really impressed with the information that is available here- it is really amazing how much knowledge you folks have and share.

I'm interested in upgrading my sharpening system, and then at some point my knives. I'm left-handed. I'm a vegetarian, so none my knives need to be able to deal with bones. I cut on an end-grain wooden cutting board.

I've been using a stainless steel Chinese cleaver (the thinner type designed for vegetables) for over fifteen years as my main knife. Asian wooden handle, 175mm length blade, 2mm thick constant, something under $20 at an Asian grocery. Other knives include a Henckels win Four Star paring knife, a Henckels Twin Four Star 6” chef's knife, a no-name and dull Chinese-made forged stainless bread knife, and a couple of Henckels Twin Four Star 6” serrated knives that don't see very much use.

I use a dual stage crock stick and/or a DMT v-sharpener. The crocks stick, as near as I can determine, has 15 degree angles for “thinning” and 20 degree angles for the sharpening. I'm not currently using a steel, but I keep the things handy for doing frequent light touch-ups.

I'm not getting things as sharp as I'd like. That point was hit him when I brought home a new (used) carbon steel cleaver from a thrift store. Although in very dodgy shape, and also quite a bit thicker than the other cleaver at 3 mm or more, it sharpened up very easily to at least as sharp as the stainless cleaver, and probably a little sharper. The handle is a little short for my tastes, however.

After doing a little research around here and elsewhere, I find there are much better ways of sharpening than what I have been doing.

So, my plan is to get some stones and learn to freehand sharpen. I'm sort of done with gizmos, and I don't need anything else cluttering up the counter, so although I could get an EdgePro or whatnot, I figure learning to freehand would be the most flexible and cost-effective in the long run.

Then, down the road, I'm looking at getting some new knives. Probably a K-Sabatier carbon paring knife, and then either a CCK “small” cleaver or a K-Sabatier 10” chef's knife. Or possibly a Japanse wa-Gyoto in carbon of some sort. I've got no problem with the care of carbon, and I like the way it seems to sharpen up easily, even on my cheap set-up. Anyway, that's down the road. I just mention it to indicate what will at some point be sharpened.

One option with the stones is to get the three waterstone kit from Chef's Knives to Go.
http://www.chefknivestogo.com/3pcstoneset.html
which would give me:

Beston 500
Bester 1200
Suehiro Rika 5K
Deburring Block
magnifier

And I'd also pick up a 12” Idahone in the 1200 grit that CKTG sells. And I'd get some drywall screens (what grit?) to flatten the stones.

I like the sound of the waterstones, but I'm not too crazy on having to buy other products to flatten them.

Anyway, anything I might add, change or delete? Would this sharpening set up be a good one to use with both the cheap stainless cleaver, the Henckels stuff, AND the upcoming Sabatier(s) and carbon steel cleaver? How would an Arkansas stone sharpening setup be different than this? Any benefits there? Is there a less expensive Norton or other sort of stone that might be used in place of either the course or the fine stones in the CKTG package? I'm just think the Bester 1200 might be the most used stone, so what might be the options for the other stones. And finally, it looks like there are lots of good sharpening tutorials on the web. How about info on getting a point sharp again? After years on the Crock Stick, my points are what they could be, for sure.
thanks!
John Bratton
Denver, CO

post #2 of 6

John,

 

As to the cleaver, I'm guessing that the cheap carbon is able to take the 15* edge from your current system where the old cleaver likely needs to be sharpened to 20+ on each side.  Not much room for compromise in your current sharpening setup, so it looks like you are on the right track with your thinking.  I started re-learning to freehand on a 1k and 6k waterstone (I had a couple of smaller Arkansas stones for years)...as I got some comfort recently I wound up going to a couple stones with lower grit to save some time and remove steel more quickly...the 1k is nice in that the mistakes are fairly easy to fix where the mistakes on a 220/500 type stone are going to cost you some steel.  My personal choices in the lower range were a ceramic 220 and a Bester 700, though I believe the 500 makes sense as a starting point for damaged or just plain dull blades.  Also, I bought the Norton flatenning stone (~$25) but could see using something else instead.  You can make the points as sharp as you like:>)

 

I really think you need to figure out how and when to use a steel...I use it much more often (every time I grab a blade) than my stones and it really has a different purpose--if you're not sure, just ask.  Along those lines, I think that if you are considering new/nice knives you will also want to add a new/nice ceramic 'steel' and figure out how/when to use--that being said, the Idahone is a great choice.

 

As to the knives, I am a huge fan of Sabatier and I'm sure you will enjoy them quite a bit.  I personally have a few of the ****/Elephant nogents and couldn't be happier.  They take a great edge though I would suggest learning to use the stones on your current knives before you take on any new blades--Sab's or Japanese steel.  Agreed that carbon is a true pleasure to sharpen and use!

 

Hope this gets you started in the right direction.

 

Cheers,

Chinacats

post #3 of 6

John,

 

K-Sabs and carbon steel are good fun in my book. Make sure any 'big' knife you buy is dead straight if you plan on freehand sharpening.

 

80-120 grit drywall screen works quite quickly. I've got some 220 for lighter touch-ups as well. You'll need something dead-flat on which to flatten them, like a small sheet of glass.

 

I don't have experience with Suehiro Rika, but hopefully someone will fill you in if a nagura is beneficial to use.

 

Re: the pointy end; if the tips are rounded off slightly, it'll probably be easiest to remove material from the spine side until you form a new tip. This will drop the tip slightly, of course. (Though it makes sharpening the new tip easier, IMHO.) Like this: http://youtu.be/gFBuOBarMFk. If you do this on a waterstone, I recommend doing it on the side of the stone so that you don't gouge the face.

 

Otherwise, that seems like a really great first set of stones from what I've read about them.

 

Cheers.

post #4 of 6
Thread Starter 

 

Thanks to Chinacats and wunderbier for the thoughtful advice. I got the three-stone set from CKTO, along with an Idahone (and also the CCK cleaver) and some 120 grit drywall screen for flattening from Lowe's. I figure I'll hold off on any other new knives for a good while, until I get much better at sharpening.

My first attempts at sharpening were, well, not award-winning. I'm getting my old stainless vegetable cleaver slightly sharper than I got it with my Crock Stick setup. Still nowhere near as sharp as the CCK cleaver came OOTB, though, so I've got a ways to go and then some.

 

I started with the 1.2k stone, then busted out the 5k Suehiro Rika yesterday. I've been avoiding the Beston 500 for fear of doing more damage than good, but I'm thinking that I might break it out after all just to try to take the edge down to a lower angle. Using a magic marker to mark the edge, I see that I have to hold things at a pretty obtuse angle to hit the blade edge. But, I guess spending some (careful) time with the 500 stone at the desired (more acute) angle might make the whole rest of the process more rewarding. And thanks again to wunderbier for the link to the video on reforming the tip. That's next up.
John Bratton

post #5 of 6

Congratulations on the purchase, hope it works out well.  One thing that has helped me be a better freehander may or may not help you...I cut a small wedge of wood at 10* and one at 15* just so I can lay the knife down and see the correct angle.  Remove and hold the angle...an angle guide that stays off the stones so to speak. The 500 will make things much easier, but holding the correct angle will become that much more important...

 

On another note, did you find out if you needed a nagura stone?  I use one on my 6k and seem to remember someone saying that at about 4-5k you should use one...hopefully someone here can jump in that knows for sure. 

 

Good luck,

Chinacats

post #6 of 6
Thread Starter 

Ah, I like that idea! One of the problems I've had is that a lot of the discussion about keeping the proper angle talks about how high the back of the knife should be off the stone. But, if you're talking about a Chef's knife that particular number will be a lot different than it would be with a cleaver. Your wood idea gets around that nicely.

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