Hi and welcome to CT!Hi all, new to the forums here, just been reading a bit about German steel, the apparent superiority of Japanese cutlery, &c. Have been working in a restaurant using super-dull house knives, and am moving into a more up-scale place and am interested in furthering my career cooking, so I thought it good to buy a few knives. I bought 3 Zwilling Henckels knives, an 8.5" chef's knife, a 6" utility knife, and a paring knife. It's sounding like I may have made a too hasty choice in purchasing. I figure I'll be using these on my station for the next year or so as I learn more in the kitchen, but is taking a water stone class (or simply practicing at home), and buying Japanese made knives really the best move here? I obviously want to use the best tools possible. Will continue to read and do my best to research on my own, but would be grateful for any direction and advice to make a more informed knife choice that will perform and last me the rest of my career. Also bought a Zwilling Henckels steel honing rod that I've been running my blades along at roughly 12-15 degree strokes, is this correct practice? Or are the knives in fact beveled at an angle closer to 20? I read somewhere that it doesn't particularly matter what exact angle the bevel is when honing, but am skeptical. Thanks for your advice, sorry for noobyness.
I will try to address your concerns in the order they were presented.
First, "Japanese" does not automatically equate to better quality. There are German made knives that are made with very high quality materials and craftsmanship that will rival any Japanese knife. However, the difference is Japanese style vs. Western style. It all boils down to two things: 1) What you are doing with the knives; 2) Your personal preferences. What is good for me is not necessarily going to be good for you. After all, you are going to be using this knife during your shift which means it must hold an edge and it should be comfortable in your hand. Both German and Japanese blades will fill those requirements very nicely.
For the purpose of prepping veggies and protein, either style will do. However, the difference between Western and Japanese styles becomes apparent when you are performing specialty cuts. But, again, it distills into preference. For me, if I am going to filet a whole salmon, I am going to use my 10' Japanese laser that has an insanely sharp edge and a very flexible blade. I could use the German equivalent but, for me, I like the way the Japanese blade's handle feels in my hand as I work my way through the fish. On the other hand, if I am plowing through a couple hundred pounds of veggies, I prefer my German 8.5' chef's knife.
As for the wet stone, save your money on the classes. Everything you need to know about how to use a wet stone can be found on YouTube. Practice on a few old knives until you get the hang of it. Like anything else, it takes practice. You will need a course stone for sharpening and a fine grit for polishing and finishing. Typically, both are sandwiched together into one stone. You don't really need to break the bank when buying stones, either. Start simple with one stone. As you become more knowledgeable and proficient, then, expand your collection.
In terms of your honing rod, the angle you use depends on the bevel. Generally speaking, with most Western knives 15-20 degrees is the target. Knives with different bevels require different methods and angles. Try to avoid diamond rods. They tend to remove metal from your blades and can shorten the life of your knife.
Remember, at the end of the day, your choice of knife is a personal choice. Experiment. Try different blades. After a while, you will develop your own preferences based on your style, purpose and skill level.
I hope this helps. Good luck!