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Steeling or Stoning my Japanese knife?

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 

Hi all,


My apologies if this may be a repost, but there seems to be a lot of misinformation out there regarding the question I'm about to ask.


I'm the proud owner of a masakage Yuki gyuto (have extra cash and want to get the masakage koishi next) and have a question regarding sharpening/honing.


For stones I have an imanishi 1000/6000 grit combi stone as well as a estimated 10,000 grit natural Japanese water stone. I, for the time being, do not have a honing steel due to not being aware that I might actually need one for a Japanese knife.


Now for my questions: 1/ What is the traditionakmethod of keeping a Japanese knife razor sharp? If it is strictly stones, how long will my knife/stones last if I sharpen it every day, before and in between lunch and dinner service?


I want my knife to last for my entire cooking career (unless some unfortunate event takes place). What is the best way to elongate its working life if I have to take it to a stone every day?


Will using a fine ceramic honing rod be useful? Will it hurt my knife? Is it redundant to get one if I have very fine stones?


Any and ALL information you may have on this topic is greatly appreciated. Especially the advice of those who are very familiar with sharpening and honing Japanese knives.


Thank you in advance for your time in reading this as well as responding if you happen to do so!

post #2 of 14

Hey MOG, welcome to the knife forum.


There are folks who simply know absolutely nothing about performance knives, and never will.  Doesn't matter to them and, probably for the greater part of them, it never will.  Yet, as if driven by some incomprehensible urge, there are some of these that sometimes like to interject their uniformed opinions into performance oriented posts like this one.  A tiny number, hopefully they will remain even more scarce here.


You want a sharp knife, and you certainly have the stones to do it. But while you are on the line, chopping away on the board (if that is what you do much of), what your 10K natural stone "can" give you will not hold up for long.


Naturals are expensive, and you really don't need 10K edges, unless you are doing sashimi, or making very thin, like consistently <1mm , slices.  I can slice cellery .25mm as my Geshin Kagero (not so fine grained a steel as your Yuki, or the Kioshi) comes off a 4K stone, but to consistently" do 1mm or less with onion I do need a better edge, like off a 10K.  But again, is this what you are typically doing on the line?


So, moving on to the realities you likely experience on the line, you will do very well refreshing your edge with a few stropping strokes on your 6K stone.  This is orders of magnitude better than what any ceramic steel could offer you.  The CS is much courser, and the point-contact of a rod weakens and otherwise damages your edge metal.  I insist on referring to this as the Benuser Technique, as he is the one who kept insisting we do this in place of any kind of steeling, until most of us here finally adopted it.


And if you don't already, you should be micro-bevelling.  That way you can put a 30deg+ inclusive angle on your knife and have it cut like a much more acute edge, yet hold up much better.


I read your other post about edge retention.  I'll take Vic's word for it that meat is harder on an edge than veggies.  But your Yuki is brand new and usually it takes several or more sharpenings to get past the "factory edge."  After that both keeness and edge retention will be significantly better.


We can also talk about sharpening technique if you want.

Edited by Rick Alan - 8/20/16 at 6:33pm
post #3 of 14

If you preferentially have the space to pull out a stone then do edge trailing strokes on that. If not, getting a fine ceramic rod may be a necessity.

Another thought is if you have the space to pull out a stone, you might consider grabbing/making a balsa or leather strop loading with like 1micron diamond compound, which has a tendency to polish the edge but leave it with some bite, and again, edge trailing strokes.  Or alternately, a 2-4k stone to touch up on. I don't know about the type of edge the Imanishi 6k stone leaves on your Yuki, whether it is more polished or still has some bite, and whether its the lacking of that bite in your prep that you're concerned about.


As you get used to your knife and have it for longer I think you'll get a better indication of its edge retention and intervals between maintenance, which will be a function of your usage and type of prep, but also in part your sharpness standards (how you judge when it needs to hit the stones again). Doesn't seem likely that you should need to go down to your 1k in the middle of the day to go through a full sharpening, at least.


As part of longer term maintenance, just make sure that you are thinning the knife over time as you're moving the edge up and up so you don't end up with a progressively thicker knife and end up using more force in order to go through foods (that is, maintain the geometry of the knife over time).


Definitely look into trying out a one-sided microbevel to improve edge retention on your Yuki. Approx what angles are you trying to put on it currently?


Edit - out of curiosity, what is the natural that you have?

post #4 of 14

I microbevel a bit different.  I do it symetrically, and only use a few stropping strokes.  On the softer stones you really need to use edge-trailling strokes, or you run the risk of digging in.  Symetrical works for me, and I don't have to think about which side gets the microbevel.  Using edge-trailing instead of edge-leading strokes produces a keener edge.


With a translucent Arkansas I do use regular edge-leading strokes to microbevel.  Arks are very different from synthetic waterstones as their relatively large grit particles are buried in a  softer but still relatively hard matrix.  The stones are ground very smooth on all sides.  Even though the grit size of the abrasive is around 1500 JIS, Arks can leave finishes well in excess of 20K.  And if you want faster cutting and a more toothy edge, then you just rough up the surface of one side with some sandpaper.


When I was in the engineering department at Gillet they would dress their grinding wheels to a very smooth surface, completely against Norton's advice.  But what they were doing is actually creating a kind of synthetic Ark type of effect.  It obviously worked very well for them, and their razors were not stropped at any time in the sharpening process.

Edited by Rick Alan - 8/21/16 at 9:18am
post #5 of 14
Originally Posted by Rick Alan View Post

This is orders of magnitude better than what any ceramic steel could offer you.  The CS is much courser, and the point-contact of a rod weakens and otherwise damages your edge metal. 

First of all, that's a really nice choice of knife, OP! 


- And sorry if it sounds like I'm highjacking the thread but I just have a quick question that's related to maintenance. Rick Alan seems to know what he's talking about so I might as well give it a shot! 


Last week I invested in the Hattori Gyuto FH-7 chefs knife (VG-10 steel) after having spent a long time figuring out what I want. I really anticipate receiving it but I haven't been able to figure out the best way to take care of it. I want to get into sharpening myself later this year but obviously I won't be starting out on a knife of that caliber (will try my old ones first). As of now I have both a regular honing steel from Zwilling as well as a diamond steel. 


What I want to know if how I should be maintaining the FH-7 on a daily basis? Should I buy a ceramic rod to use every 2-3 hours or should I quit honing all together and just rely on getting it professionally sharpened every 4-5 weeks until I'm efficient enough to do it myself? Hope you can clarify it for me!


Again, sorry for highjacking. If mods deem inappropiate, just remove my comment and I'll make a specific thread :-) 

post #6 of 14

You will find VG-10 you don't need to worry about honing like softer steels.   The edge will not bend over so honing is not an issue.  It will break off before bending.  


You need two stones .  Medium grit waterstone 1000-2000 ish grit, and a 5000-6000 grit finishing stone.  If your edge is starting to dull, strop it on the finishing stone.  When that stops working you need to sharpen for real.


Watch the JKI sharpening playlist on youtube for starters


There is little damage you can do on stones compared to power tools like a belt.   Just use light pressure and check your work, visually with the scratch pattern, and feel for the burr.  If you scratch up your knife, learning to remove scratches is part of your education too.  It's just rubbing metal on rocks, don't overthink it.  Humans have been doing this for a long time!

post #7 of 14
Thread Starter 

@ rick allen Hello sir,


First of all, let me sincerely apologize for the late response. Seeing how it's summer, I'm swamped with work and get home around 3 am every night/morning... Thus, can't really respond.


Second, thank you so much for your well detailed and intellectual response! I mostly don't do very precise cuts with the exception of having to cut very thin onion slices for a special dish we serve.


I'm very happy that I can use my stone to freshen my edge rather than having to buy a steel.


the edge came with a 50/50 grind and when I sharpen, I put about a 12 degree bevel on it. Should I increase this Could you explain micro beveling in a bit greater detail or perhaps provide resources on the topic?

post #8 of 14
Thread Starter 

Hi foody!


Thanks for your response. I can't, for the life of me, remember the name of the stone. I had bought it a while ago for my straight razor. It's a very hard, dark grey stone that I bought from japanese natural stones or JNS.


I have never thinned a knife before. Could you explain the process in a bit greater detail or perhaps link an article or video that explains this topic in depth?

post #9 of 14
Thread Starter 

Don't worry, mikkel! Glad you're here and hope you get a response to your question!

post #10 of 14

If you sharpen a pencil,  you don't just sharpen the tip or it gets fatter over time and eventually you can't write with it. 


Same thing if you only sharpen the bevel.  You have to thin the area behind it also as you go along.

post #11 of 14

@Mikke , just and ManO, what Millions said.


Guys, since I was called out let me just say that there is no particular Guru here on the knives forum, just a few of us regulars who are well informed, if not complete experts.  It's flattering but you don't need to pick one of us to get an answer, whoever is around will answer is simply how it works.  We all have busy schedules too, and we're all glad to help when we can.


ManO you can sharpen to 10deg even, but try a 15deg microbevel to begin with, you could even increase that to 18 or 20.  You could try a single-sided MB at 30-40.  I do symetrical simply because it's easier than changing from one angle back to another, especially since I am lightly stropping it in with several strokes.

post #12 of 14
VG-10 will need a slow progression for good deburring. Think 1k, 2k, 5k or even up to 8k as I do myself. Above 2k only for stropping and deburring, no full sharpening.
As for thinning: start your sharpening at the lowest angle your comfortable with, and raise the spine little by little. So you start somewhere behind the very edge and only reach that very edge when you've raised a burr.
Then you should start the same procedure on the other side: again far behind the very edge, coming nearer and nearer to it, and finally raising the burr.
post #13 of 14


Depending on how long you've had your Yuki, you may not need this yet if you're okay with the overall cutting performance of the knife (how easily it goes through certain foods, etc.). Otherwise, thin to restore the knife's geometry over time to maintain that performance as you continue sharpening the edge bevel, or you can thin a bit more than that if you want to increase performance. I would start a bit conservatively, not too much at once (can't put metal back on the knife).

Also, thinning a new knife that may have wavy spots on the wide bevel (your Yuki is a wide beveled gyuto) - I would not thin with a 1k stone. I use either a 220 or a 400-500 grit stone depending on what kind of work is necessary, checking and reapplying marker frequently or otherwise monitoring the scratch pattern as an indication of where is being abraded.

post #14 of 14
Rick is dead on. I'd say put his post first, and use the others as useful commentary.

Crucial point: edge-trailing on a high-grit stone will do MUCH better than any steel.
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