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Japanese knife newbi lookin to learn

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 
Hello all. I've read a lot of posts on this site but have never made a post. Unfortunately, I now have a lot more questions than answers. A little background would probably help. I'm a fairly new home cook, just started about a year ago. I thoroughly enjoy all aspects but don't have a great deal of time to devote with 3 kids at home. That being said, my wife and I cook every night and like to try new techniques now and again. My knife background started with a 6" wusthof classic chef, next was a shun classic santoku, now I have a 9 1/2 inch Mac pro. I've had the Mac for about 4 months and feel very comfortable with it. My first questions focus on honing and sharpening. Also, I have a modest calphalon 16x16 end grain board.

Honing
I have a Mac black ceramic
1. How often should I hone
2. How often should I use the grooved side vs the smooth
3. Should I use the Mac black for both the shun and the Mac

Sharpening
Right now I have no method of sharpening. In my area I don't know of any sharpeners that sharpen to specific specs. The best I've found will do Japanese knives at 17 deg and European at 22 deg. I would really like to learn to freehand but don't know if i currently have the time to learn properly

1. Is the edge pro apex a satisfactory system
2. Any other systems you would recommend
3. Any suggestions on how to get started with freehand

Lots more questions but these are the most pressing
post #2 of 5

How often should I hone?

Hone as often as your blades go enough out of true that they seem to require it.  Everything else being equal the MAC will require more honing than the Shun partly because it's not as strong and partly because the Shun's laminate construction results in some "constrained layer mode damping." However, everything else is never equal

 

"Going out of true" is the same thing as developing an "impact burr" deformation.  The more force used to straighten a burr, and the more often it's straightened, the more the metal is fatigued.  The more the metal is fatigued, the easier it will deform from impact.  And so on. 

 

How often should I use the grooved side vs the smooth?

The generic answer would be to use the smooth side until it no longer gives you the results you want.  Then switch to the grooved, until that no longer does the trick.  Then, sharpen the knife. 

 

A more nuanced and more accurate answer would be to use the smooth side until the knife loses its polish; the proceed as above. 

 

Should I use the Mac black for both the Shun and the Mac?

Yes. 

 

Because you should always hone with very light pressure I hesitate to say you should use especially light pressure with the Shun.  But the Shun is a lot more likely to chip than the MAC, so be extra careful.  Also, never bang your knife against the hone.  Watch Gordon Ramsay and whatever he does, don't do it.  Read my tutorial on honing, Steeling Away

Is the edge pro apex a satisfactory system?

Yes.  It's a great system for people who can't or don't want to sharpen or learn to sharpen freehand.  It's not cheap though.  The EP "Essential Kit" from CKtG, or the EP 3 (wherever toys are sold) are really de minimis; the Essential Kit is $210, and the Kit 3 runs $225 ish. 


Any other systems you would recommend?

Wicked Edge is as good, but slightly more expensive. 

 

If you can put up with some loss of absolute sharpness in exchange for a great deal of convenience and no appreciable learning curve, Chef's Choice electric (probably the Model 316 in your case), and the MinoSharp Plus3 are both good and both around $80. 


Any suggestions on how to get started with freehand?

  • Learn about the "burr method" of sharpening with Chad Ward's FAQ on egullet.  His book, An Edge in the Kitchen is even better; for another free, good, "burr method" source;
  • Read Steve Bottorf's online article (ignore the equipment recommendations, ignore the recommendation to use a clamp on angle guide) especially Chapter 3; 
  • Watch the sharpening videos on JKI and CKtG to learn about angle holding (including stabilizing the blade), speed, pressure and to see some of the different styles of "strokes" which you can use;
  • Use the Magic Marker Trick; and
  • Ask lots of questions. 

 

Bear in mind that there are lots of good ways to sharpen and not only no single best way; but probably no single best way for any one person.  I like teaching the burr method (pull a wire, chase the wire, deburr) because it's not only a very powerful method for creating a fine, fresh-metal edge of whatever angle, without a wire; but also the easiest way to conceptualize what's going on during the sharpening process. 

 

BDL


Edited by boar_d_laze - 11/19/12 at 10:18am
post #3 of 5
Thread Starter 
Thanks for your detailed response boar_d. A couple of quick follow up questions about the sharpening options. I appreciate all the resources you provided for learning to freehand and hope over time to be able to learn this technique. For the foresable future it would probably be in my best interest to have a sharpening system on hand. When you say the cheaper options of the chefs choice or minosharp sacrifice some absolute sharpness what exactly does this mean? Would they be likely to get my Mac pro as sharp as when it was new? Does it matter the shun is 16 deg and not 15 deg.
Also, the edge pro kit from cktg that substitutes the Beston stones, is there a big difference in quality compared to the edge pro stones? Would the ep help me at all if I intend to transition to freehand at some point in the future?

Thanks for all your help
post #4 of 5

When you say the cheaper options of the chefs choice or minosharp sacrifice some absolute sharpness what exactly does this mean? Would they be likely to get my Mac pro as sharp as when it was new?

The CC, perhaps not quite as sharp, but it's serviceably sharp and very easy to do.  CC has a few "Asian angle" machines, a couple of them have stropping discs which you can use instead of a steel. 

 

The MinoSharp will give you edge quality very similar to the factory's.  I bought one for my daughter on Mark
Richmond's recommendation and she's very pleased with it.

 

Does it matter the shun is 16 deg and not 15 deg.

No. Not at all.  The 16* angle is Shun bull$#!t. 


Also, the edge pro kit from cktg that substitutes the Beston stones, is there a big difference in quality compared to the edge pro stones?

Mostly a difference in speed and in "experience."  The EP sharpening tapes and stones work well enough, but they're neither very fast nor pleasant.  On the other hand, the Bester and Beston stones require a longish soak before they can really do their magic.  FWIW, I use the Beston and Bester as, respectively, my coarse and medium/coarse stones in my water stone / bench stone kit; but my EP kit is all Chosera.   The Beston and Bester are just as good, just not as convenient as the Choseras which are "splash and go," if they've already been flattened.  As you can tell, the answer is a little complicated; perhaps more complicated than actually using an EP. 

 

Would the ep help me at all if I intend to transition to freehand at some point in the future?

No.  But I'm not sure why, other than out of curiosity, you would transition.  For nearly all knives, under nearly all circumstances, the EP will do as good or better than freehand sharpening. 

 

BDL

post #5 of 5
Thread Starter 
Bdl thanks for all your help with this. After doing some reading today and thinking about it I feel as though the ep will probably suit my needs longer term. Especially if it gives results comparable to freehand. Although it is a larger investment upfront it seems as though I will likely be happy with it indefinitely. After buying the Mac pro I now have a sense of what sharp is and am increasingly aware when a knife is not.
A couple more questions if you don't mind. I have looked at the options on cktg and watched a couple videos.
What are the advantages of the Chosera set? Is a person new to sharpening likely to see these advantages
Is the angle cube a nice to have or more of a need to have?
What is a good cost efficient way to flatten the stones?
Anything else I should consider up front if I were to purchase the ep?

Your help is appreciated
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