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What's the best sharpening tool for my new Japanese knives?

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 

Hi all.


I'm hoping I can get some advice regarding sharpening tools for my new Japanese knives. I'm a home cook with a fair amount of experience in the kitchen, but not a lot of experience with sharpening. I didn't go to culinary school. I cook because I love food and I love to share the experience and joy of good food with my partner, friends and family. 


I've been getting along with my Wustof Grand Prix knives for almost 8 years. I send them to get sharpened as needed and hone them myself. I have been wanting to upgrade for a long time, and after lots of thought and research (including lots of research on the threads here!) I decided to give myself an awesome birthday present last week. Three knives from the Hattori FH series. 240mm Gyuto, 170mm Santoku, and 160mm Boning. 


The craftsmanship and feel of the knives have really blown me away. They are beautiful to look at and a pleasure to hold. I've chopped vegetables with the Santoku like nobody's business. They are razor sharp and I want to keep them that way. That's why I'm here asking for advice. 


Whatever sharpening tool I buy - I think I will practice a lot with the Wushofs before I do anything with the Hattori FH knives. Any and all advice is welcome. Thanks in advance!


Chef JC

post #2 of 11

If you're not talking about an electric sharpener -- and you're not, judging by your choice of knives -- you're either talking about a stone set-up or some sort of jig (a la t he EdgePro).


The very recent thread What knives?   Best value for a generic, three stone,...  is where I'd point you for recommendations on either.

post #3 of 11
Thread Starter 

Thanks Wagstaff. Lots of good info on that thread. I'm leaning towards a stone set up. I'll read up a bit more. JCK has a special combination whetstone set (1000 grit and 4000 grit) for $65. Has anyone here tried this particular set? I really liked JCK's customer service and super fast shipping. 

post #4 of 11
I learned to sharpen on that combo stone. It was ok for my purposes. Separate stones are better in the long run if you're doing your own sharpening. And some stones are better to learn on than others. The thread with BDL's recommendations is great because he gives a bang for buck example, his own set example, and a no worries about price example. He knows more about sharpening than I. But my own biases are.... if you can get the pricey 3 stone all Gesshin set up, do it. And also buy the flattening diamond plate from JKI. Chances are it's a few bucks cheaper than the DMT 8XXc. But if cost is a big issue.... in the longer run it's more expensive to buy something you'll soon "graduate" from but... that combo stone is adequate and not bad to learn from. Then you'll see if you're obsessing about edges and sharpening enough to get either of the recommended 3stone set-ups.

Sooner you learn to sharpen, the better at it you'll be by the time you get more stones. Now I'm pretty sure BDL would tell you to just bite the bullet on the beston/bester/rika trio. And he probably is right. But I think the jck combo stone might be just fine to get you started.
post #5 of 11

Since you are in SoCal you may want to consider going 120 miles north and take some training with Jon at Japanese Knife Imports.


Fair warning though, once you try his Gesshin stones you will want some.


I currently have his 400, 2K, 4K, and 6k as primaries but others still have their niches.


The 6K is newest to me and getting used to it over my King and Shapton 6Ks.



post #6 of 11
Thread Starter 

I'm in Los Angeles quite a bit - so I will definitely schedule a class with Jon at JKI. Thanks for the lead! 

post #7 of 11

...I had a lesson with Jon to start, and that... (mostly) on the JCK-bought combo stone.  Jon's comment at the time was that it was surprisingly ok.  And technique matters more than stone choice.  Still, I tried the Gesshin stones and that was that.


I have the 400 and 2000 (soaker) and 5000 (splash and go -- and an unusual stone for its nominal grit).  I like the soakers just fine - prefer them, really -- but understand that the 1000 is an amazing splash and go stone, too. I wouldn't hesitate to pick the splash-and-go stones out of the line-up if that's really a preference.


We're talking relatively pricey (at least pricey for synthetics).  Might be worth it to a newbie, but ... might not if you find out you're just not really into sharpening.  I eventually would like the 8000 as a finisher.  And because it might be up to honing razors as well (not sure about that -- that's a different world which I'm just thinking about dipping a toe into).  I don't know about higher than that -- certainly not for kitchen knives.

Edited by Wagstaff - 8/17/12 at 11:47am
post #8 of 11

thanks for all the kind words...


for what its worth, i usually tell people to start by checking out my videos first.  Even if its the same stuff i say to them here, it helps get people going and can be a great resource for both people getting started in sharpening and people who have been doing it for a long time.

post #9 of 11

A couple of things...


Jon's way of sharpening is a very good way, but not the only very good way and his videos -- also very good -- are not a complete tutorial... yet.  I suggest reading Chad Ward's FAQ at Egullet to help with conceptualization.  Steve Bottorf's site is also very good, but ignore his equipment recommendations.  If Jon says "do this" and Chad or Steve say "do that."  Do "this."  Jon is a somewhat better teacher and a HUGELY better sharpener who teaches an accessible method (some excellent sharpeners do not). 


The most powerful way to think about sharpening is not just in terms of technique, how to hold the knife, how much pressure, how to stroke the knife on the stone, etc., but in terms of creating a burr, chasing the burr and deburring.  If you want to talk about why the burr method works so well, we can. 


I strongly urge you to use the Magic Marker trick while learning to sharpen.  If ever o ever a newibie's friend there was, the Magic Marker trick is it. 

post #10 of 11
Thread Starter 

Jon, I'll check out some of your videos this weekend. I'm hoping that sometime in the next month I'll have time to take a class - either with you at JKI or somewhere locally. I know how important sharpening is, and I really appreciate all the feedback.


BDL, your knowledge is so impressive (I've read many of your threads and replies in this forum). Much of this is very new to me. Under what circumstances would one want to create a burr on the knife edge? And chasing a burr - I have no idea! I would love to learn about the Magic Marker trick too. 


Thanks Jim and Wagstaff for offering your perspectives as well. Very helpful indeed. Truth be told, I'm very excited to start learning good sharpening skills. 

post #11 of 11

When to create a burr as part of sharpening?  Pretty much always.  The exceptions almost certainly don't apply to you.


The reason to create a burr is that by chasing it and deburring (breaking the burr off), you create a fine, fresh metal edge. 


Up to a point (pun intentional dammit!), the finer the stone you use to create and chase the burr, the finer and stronger the edge.  That said, "up to a point," does not mean that a 10K edge is going to be stronger than... say a 3K edge.  Also, there are good reasons for not wanting the smoothest possible polish.  Moving up the grit ladder from stone to stone represents polishing to some extent; but a high degree of polish is not always a good thing.  For most practical, home cook, kitchen purposes, a 3K - 6K finish is heap much plenty. 


Meanwhile, back at the topic...  The burr method is not so much about creating a burr or wire, but about the fine, fresh metal edge you get from deburring a wire/burr which has been weakened (by sharpening and chasing) along the exact line you want for the edge.  This is actually much easier than it sounds.


Some very good sharpeners -- Murray Carter and KC (a mutual friend of Jon's and me), for instance -- "dissolve" the burr as they sharpen, by using various techniques.  While those methods might be very good for sharpening I feel like the "burr method" makes it easier for a beginner to understand and manipulate the process. 


Also, KC has way too much fun. 



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