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Sharpening questions

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 

Some of my knives are getting a little dull, and I just bought some new knives, so I want to make sure I understand the best way to sharpen them now and for the future.  


My goal over the next year or two is to get rid of all the low quality knives I've collected over the years (from sets, college, old roommates, gifts) and ensure I have decent quality cooking knives.


My best knife that needs some sort of sharpening is this santoku I picked up in Spain about 2 years ago.  For the amount of cooking I do (not every day, but couple times a week), it held its edge really well until maybe 6 months ago.  A stamp on the side of the blade seems to indicate it's molybdenum vanadium steel.  I picked up a honing rod, or sharping rod, or whatever they are called, but I'd never really used them before, so I wanna make sure I don't mess up the knife while using it.  As long as I keep a proper angle on it, should I be ok?  


The next set of "OK" (but still cheap made in China) knives are a set of "Emeril" branded knives I got as a gift like a year and a half ago - w/ an 8" chef's knife, small 4-5" santoku, and paring knife.  They haven't held their edges really well, though I really only use the santoku for small vegetables (garlic, green onions, etc) and occasionally the chef's knife (which doesn't feel super sturdy, but better than others I have used), because I have a ceramic paring knife, and a better steel paring knife.  Eventually I'd like these to just be the knives I allow my friends to use when we cook together, but I want to ensure I can keep them sharp at the same time.


I took the honing steel to the chef's knife and mini-santoku (until I know what I'm doing, I didn't want to use it on my nicer knife) but I'm not sure the best way to tell if it made enough of a difference or if I should try running it over the steel a few more times.


Then I just got back from Japan so I knew I had to buy a few knives while there.  I picked up a Kiya gyutou (stainless, I'm not sure I'm ready to deal w/ the potential rust of the high carbon), which was sharpened for me at the Kiya store, and a wetstone to learn how to do the sharpening myself, along w/ paper instructions.  I looked at the knife and it looks like it has more of a bevel on one side than the other, but I know the guy sharpened both sides.  He seemed to spend more time on one side than the other.  He said I should be sharpening every 2 months or so (if I understood him correctly).  I'm sure I can find videos on how to use the wetstone (in addition to the instructions given), but how badly could I mess up the edge if I don't do it correctly? And is this the sort of knife you also take a honing steel to?


Finally I picked up a Global GS-3 for about 40-30% less than you find them in the US, and a very small Global branded ceramic "speed" sharpener.  The ceramic sharpener seems pretty straightforward.  Should I be using that on any other knives? (like the Emeril set)  I'm guessing I could probably take this knife and the other ones I mentioned to the wetstone too once I'm comfortable with using it.


I also picked up a Kyocera at a discount, but that won't need sharpening.  I do like the ceramic knives I've used so I'm excited to try this one out very soon.



post #2 of 13

Hi, Sunshadow, and welcome to this forum.


You've posted a bunch of questions, so let's see what can be done.


To paraphrase your beginning, you've picked up a bunch of lower quality knives over the years and now want to replace them. Good move, but several things you can do right away with what you already have.


Begin with recognizing that the two “essential” knives are a chef's knife and a paring knife. A serrated bread knife added to the first two knives will round out covering probably all tasks you are likely to do in a home kitchen. So, pull out all of your knives from the various nooks and crannies of your kitchen, and then put your best chef's knife (sounds like the Kiya gyuto) and fave knives (sounds like the Spanish purchase santoku) and any other knives you actually use back to your working knive storage area. Next, look to see what paring knives (the Global GS-3 mebbe?) and serrated bread knives you have (if not already in the working knife storage area) and put the best you have with your working knives.


Now, take the rest of your existing knives and sort them into the following: 1) the knives you now have and want to keep for your own working use in the future; 2) the knives you want to keep around for your friends and relatives to use (when you don't want them to use your best knives); 3) your existing knives that you can use for your first practice sharpenings (but kept separately from your good knives); and 4) all the knives that are really just junk you've just kept around over the years through inertia. Categories 1, 2 and 3 will be at least initially kept around until sharpened (and, where appropriate, given away after sharpening), but Category 4 knives just need to be gotten rid of to de-clutter your kitchen.


Next, look at your honing steel. Is it steel or ceramic? If it's steel, is it coarse or fine? In either event (but especially if it's a ridged, coarse steel), I would suggest you replace it as soon as possible as your first priority with a good quality ceramic honing rod, such as the Idahone available from Chef Knives To Go for $30. You can do considerable damage to a knife edge with a steel honing rod before you realize what's happening.


You've asked whether the Kiya gyuto should be steeled. My first reaction is – I don't know about your knife. Kiya is an upscale specialty retailer which buys its knives from various small makers, and the knives are branded as “Kiya”. Their reputation is relatively good concerning their service and products, so I'm going to go (on a semi-wild) guess that the steel in their branded knives is roughly equivalent in quality to house-brand knives from Korin or Japanese Knife Imports. In each of those last described sellers, the knives are significantly harder than any non-Japanese knives, and the general recommendation is to avoid using a steel honing rod, but to use sharpening stones only.


Keep in mind that a honing rod really doesn't sharpen – but it does realign the edge profile. When you sharpen, you actually remove metal. And that leads to a (hopefully brief) discussion about sharpeners and sharpening stones.


You mentioned a Global ceramic “speed” sharpener. I'm just guessing that it's a MinoSharp Plus 3 sharpener. That sharpener is set to 15 degrees, which is optimal for original bevel angle Global knives, but cannot be varied for any other bevel angle.


Since your Kiya knife was hand sharpened at the shop, and you noted a possible difference in bevel on each side, it's probably not much of a stretch to guess that you don't have equal 15 degree angles on the Kiya gyuto. So that's probably one knife that shouldn't go through the Global sharpener. But you can probably feel free about running the Global GS-3 through that sharpener! As for the Emeril's, those are almost certainly NOT set at 15 degrees – so don't run them (or any other less expensive knife) through the Global sharpener.


You also picked up a “wetstone” in Japan. Again, the guess is that you have a waterstone. Hopefully, you kept it with all of its packaging and materials, because what you need to know is what grit the stone is. If you do still have the original packaging (especially a box), look to see if there is a number. Ideally, your stone should not have a grit number smaller than 1000. In any event, for stone grit recommendations, read some of the earlier posts in ChefTalk about sharpening stones.


One essential recommendation about waterstones is – USE ONLY WATER!! NEVER – N-E-V-E-R – NEVER USE OIL ON A WATERSTONE!!!!!


For good internet videos about sharpening knives using stones, look at the videos by Mark Richmond at Chef Knives To Go and Jon Broida at Japanese Knife Imports.


Hope that covers a lot of the points you brought up.


Galley Swiller

post #3 of 13
Thread Starter 
That is extremely helpful. Thank you. Yes right now most used knives are the Spanish santoku, ceramic paring knife, random other paring knife, and the middle sized knife in the Emeril set. I also have an inexpensive bread knife (Pure komachi brand) that works totally fine for my needs right now. Unfortunately I won't even get the chance to use my new knives right away because I'm already on another short trip through mid next week. But I will definitely want to go through my knives as you described next weekend, I already got rid of so many, including a bread knife that wouldn't even slice bread. I have some knives that I am not even sure of their function so I may post pictures here in the future too.

The steel is a Wusthof steel rod with grooves so it isn't fine. I bought it about a month ago and it still looks new so I could probably just return it. The global sharpener is about the size of a pocket knife, metal outside with one set of 4 ceramic sharpener things in a row and thats it. It's definitely not the minosharp plus 3.

The salesperson of the Kiya gyutou communicated to me that a waterstone (sorry somehow i keep thinking wetstone) was a good way to sharpen it and he picked out what I hope is an appropriate one for the knife. I'll look for a number in it when I return home. The entire box is in Japanese. I didn't even know you could use oil on the stone so I'll just forget that some people do that :-)

FWIW when I bought the knife in Spain, I was told it was a hard steel that would hold its edge for longer than average, but the only thing I have to go on is the molybdenum vanadium printed (in Spanish) on the side of the blade.

I will definitely look at those videos as well.

Thank you for your help. I'll find out the grit and look at any other documentation again when I get home, and post here.
post #4 of 13
Thread Starter 
Ok I found a picture if the global speed sharpener online if that helps:
post #5 of 13

I just looked at the Global sharpener and the most charitable thing I can say about it is that it's only about $20.


If I had to establish a priority for you right now, it would be to initially concentrate on working on a sharpening routine.  First, concentrate on finding out what the grit of your Japanese waterstone is, so you can minimize initial duplication costs.   Japanese script may be beyond you (and definitely beyond me), but they use the same number symbols that we use,  You already own it, so you might be able to make use of it.


As a really basic guide, if you want to develop freehand skills with waterstones, you are going to need a minimum of 3 stones: a coarse stone (somewhere around 500 grit), a medium stone (around 1000 grit) and a fine stone (4000 grit or more). 


Take a look at Chef Knives To Go's 5 Piece Sharpening Set.  For $140 (yes, I know, that there will be sticker shock).you get three well-recommended stones (Beston 500, Bester 1200 and Suehiro Rica 5000), a 20X loupe magnifier and a hard felt deburring felt cube.


Do keep in mind that hand sharpening is an acquired skill.  That's why using some of those excess knives you've acquired will allow you to practice first.


An alternative to freehand sharpening is the Edge Pro Apex Sharpening System, developed by Ben Dale at Hood River, Oregon.  As noted elsewhere, the learning curve on this is much shorter than for freehand.  Initial sticker shock is probably the first reaction and the biggest barrier.  However, the system is high quality, and once the initial cost of the rig is paid,the stones will last a long time and are not all that expensive to replace.


The basic Apex system starts at $165,and can be bought directly from Ben.  Or, it can be bought from Chef Knives To Go, where Mark Richmond also offers custom Edge Pro Apex kits (I have, use and highly recommend Mark's "Edge Pro Essentials Kit", $230, in which Mark substitutes three Shapton Glass custom made Edge Pro sized mounted stones for the ones Ben supplies).


A comment on the molybdenum vanadium in your santoku.  Yes, those elements added to the iron and carbon do help make the knife's steel harder than many, if not most, of the steels used in mass market knives - but it is a sad reflection on the marketplace that such basic compounds are not used in the steels for the majority of mass market knives.  Knives, like many products, are made to a price point and the lack of consumer knowledge allows manufacturers to get away with low quality and hyperbole for real information.


I would suggest that you follow the discussions here on ChefTalk, use the search button to seek more information, and read other web sites.  You'll soon get a good idea of what's good and what's garbage.


I will also recommend a book about better knives, and how to choose, care for and sharpen them - An Edge In The Kitchen by Chad Ward (published 2008 or so).  You can buy it on Amazon.  Or, you can also see if it is either available at your local library, or through an inter-library loan system.


Galley Swiller

post #6 of 13
Thread Starter 

Well I only paid about $10 for the sharpener, so it's not a big investment.  The store I bought it and the GS-3 from was selling them right along w/ their small collection of Global knives.  


As I said, I'm hoping the guy who sold me the knife sent me away with the proper waterstone, but I'll find out in a few days when I get home.


I will check out that book, An Edge in the Kitchen, as well.


I just remembered that when I got my knife in Spain, I left my old santoku with my mom, and I'm pretty sure she never uses it, so I'll just get that back from her next time.  It will be good to practice sharpening with.  That one is just a store brand stainless knife, but probably better quality than my Emeril set.


$140 is pretty pricey, but I guess when you have knives that are multiple 100's of dollars each, that's not really a heavy price tag to keep them nice and sharp.  One step at a time though :-)


My concern when it comes time to sharpen the gyutou is due to the way it looks, if I practice on these other knives, the angle won't be right.  But I can post a picture when I get home.  The instructions ( ) seem to suggest that the front side of the blade should be at a larger angle than the back side (as described in the number of coins distance)

post #7 of 13

One advantage you have right off the bat is that you have both a stone in hand and a likely bunch of practice knives to play with.  What you will find is that as you practice, you will gain both experience and confidence.  You will also find that your existing knives will cut more easily, you will have a lot more control and food prep will be more of a joy.


(Think of this as the old joke about the tourist in New York asking a street musician how to get to Carnegie Hall.  The answer was "Practice, Man, Practice")


Read thru Chad Ward's book - he goes through how to freehand sharpen, and he gives you a more thorough rundown on the coin trick, along with the Magic Marker trick.  That book is good to read through, but borrowing it through the library will save you money.  Incidentally, the coin trick is intended to give you a good idea of what the angle of the knife should be when you are starting your stroke - it will then be up to you to keep that angle through the stroke.  An important part of that is to avoid twisting your wrist of the hand holding the knife handle when you are going through the stroke.  And that simply means experience and practice.


Yup, there will be plenty of sticker shock.  Wait until you start perusing Chef Knives to Go and Japanese Knife Imports, then start reading the reviews in this forum and matching the knives to their prices - when I first did that, my hair (what's left of it) went into orbit!


But to get really top quality, when the world around muddles through in mediocrity often means getting out your wallet, or making the most with what you have already.


Galley Swiller

post #8 of 13

I noted that I missed your query about the bevel at the tip - my bad.  Ideally, the bevel at the edge should be consistent and uniform from the tip to the heel.  Mind you, that's the ideal.  Reality, especially in freehand sharpening, can be a different story.


Galley Swiller

post #9 of 13

So you have a stone and a bunch of cheap knives to practice on....PERFECT!!   No need to use the pull through for any of your knives, no need to drop 200 bucks on an edge pro, and perhaps no need to buy anything else at all really.  If you can return the Wusthof hone and replace it with an Idahone you'll probably get money back on the deal so that's great.


Is your stone the same grit on both sides?  Hopefully you bought a 1K/4-6K combo stone of some sort.  If that's the case than you have all you need to get started.  Start on your crappiest knives, watch Jon's videos at Japanese knife imports (They're leaps and bounds better than anything else out there including CKTGs), use the magic marker trick, learn how to detect and remove a burr and you'll be in the land of sharper than you thought possible in short order.


If you have one stone and it's not a combo, then hopefully it's in the 1000 grit range.  If it is, then get started with that, and plan on acquiring something finer in the near future.  Once you feel comfortable with a 1K followed with a 4000-6000 or so  you can added a coarser stone later for repairs and thinning.


You'll also need something to flatten the stones with.  A diamond plate's the easiest way but I've read on here that drywall screen works well on a flat surface.


Good luck

post #10 of 13
Thread Starter 

Thanks.  It's a one-sided stone attached to a wood block.  That's about all I know about it right now.

post #11 of 13
Thread Starter 

There is no number on the block.  I ran Kiya's  Japanese website through Google Translate and I was able to browse their shopping page and I found one that looks identical to the one I bought:


If you google translate the page to English it says:


With a table grindstone medium grade millstone Kiya specialties


Particle size: about 800- 
silicon carbide abrasive mixed with alumina: main raw material 
feldspar-clay: a binder 
production process: Vitrified method grinding force is suitable for (such as metal carbide) steel, stainless cutlery steel, powder alloy steel strong . I Suitable for chisel blade and Western kitchen knife, kitchen knife sum, Canna. ※ It is recommended as a whetstone of Introduction to align first.

post #12 of 13

If the stone in the link is the same as what you bought from Kiya, then you have a stone which is on the slightly coarse side of a general use stone.  Silicon carbide is a more aggressive material than aluminum oxide.  How this stone will wear is anybody's guess (will it dish quickly, requiring frequent flattening, or will it wear slowly???), but for a first use stone for dull knives where the edge is not chipped or otherwise damaged, it's probably a fairly good grit number.


Assuming this is a good quality stone, you can use it as a "first" stone for your practice-sharpening knives and your better "keep for the relatives" knives.  The most important thing to keep in mind is that any edge you can get sharpening with an 800 grit stone will be much better than an edge on a knife which has never been re-sharpened at all.  The edge will be "toothier" than edges refined with higher grit stones, but they will be a vast improvement nonetheless.


For what it's worth, you will find that your knives will vary in the level of difficulty in bringing them to a good edge.  Some knives will take an edge easily and will keep it.  Other knives (especially cheap stainless steel knives) will be the type of knives you will be uttering a blue streak at for their difficulty in getting to a good edge, and will then go dull ASAP.  Such is life - and will tell you what to keep and what to get rid of.


My advice here will be to first use the stone you already have.  Second, get and use a good ceramic honing rod.


You will eventually want to both take your knives to a sharper level and to do or be able to do edge repairs.  For sharper edges, that means, you will want to refine and polish the edges of your knives - and for that, the CKtG 5-piece set will work well.  There is some duplication with the CKtG 500 grit Beston and the 1200 grit Bester, but the 800 grit stone can be fitted into that sequence.  Or, you can put together your own choice of a kit with a stone lower than 500 grit and another stone higher than 1200 grit for a better spread (though I would first want to use your existing stone to see how well it performs, how well it wears and how well it resists dishing).  For a finish stone, the Suehiro Rica 5000 gets high marks.


The other alternative will be the Edge Pro.


In the meantime, "Practice, Man, Practice"


Galley Swiller

post #13 of 13
Thread Starter 

That's good news.  It's the same stone, I compared the characters with the ones on the photo and they match exactly (at least the large ones that I can clearly see in the photo.


I hope to start practicing on some of my practice knives soon, after I get the ceramic honing rod that was recommended here.  If I have further questions, I will post them.



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