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Honing Japanese Chef's Knives

post #1 of 31
Thread Starter 
OK hopefully the people on this forum can explain to me the best way to hone/sharpen my Shun knives. I have two Shun chef's knives (one 10", one 7") and a Shun paring knife. Both the paring and the 7" need their edge rebuilt somehow - a relative took a wustof steel he found in a drawer to them on Thanksgiving and pretty much dulled the edges beyond belief. Admittedly, they were getting dull on their own after almost 2 years of use and needed some attention, but now they're in horrible shape and are completely unusable. (it also looks like he chipped the 7"'s edge in several places...)

The information online on the matter is completely contradictory - some sites say only use the Shun steel, some stay only use a smooth steel or glass steel, some say only use a ceramic steel, some say don't use a steel at all. For a variety of reasons that aren't worth going into. Most of the discrepancies revolve around the hardness of the Japanese steel, whether or not a steel actually files a knife or just reshapes it, if a steel with teeth with chip a Japanese knife, etc. etc.

I'm sure some of you folks use Japanese knives - what do you use? I know I can send them back to KAI to get sharpened for free, but I'd rather know how to at least maintain them properly at home. Little help?
post #2 of 31
Sharpen with waterstones. Start with 800 grit stone (I only use that if the blade is damaged or needs some heavy work), then eventually work my way down to 9,000 grit.

I always use a ceramic steel.

FWIW, I have a 10" Shun Elite chef's and a 6" Shun Elite paring.
post #3 of 31
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by kwilkinson View Post
Sharpen with waterstones. Start with 800 grit stone (I only use that if the blade is damaged or needs some heavy work), then eventually work my way down to 9,000 grit.

I always use a ceramic steel.

FWIW, I have a 10" Shun Elite chef's and a 6" Shun Elite paring.

Thanks. Do you know any books/sites/videos that describe the process adequately? The internet can be a very unhelpful place sometimes, with all the misinformation out there.

Also where does one purchase good waterstones and what is a reasonable price? What grits are necessary?

As for the ceramic steel - would this be acceptable? http://www.japaneseknifesharpeningst...ductCode=IDH12 I keep reading that Idahone rods are of the best out there. I'm assuming I want a "fine" grit - is that right?
post #4 of 31
Kyle, why only a ceramic steel?
post #5 of 31
I have the ceramic steel linked above and it's good. I plan to get 3 more for people to give to people whom I previously bought Japanese knives for. AFAIK, Manton had the same steel until he dropped it and got a black ceramic one from MAC. Maybe he can comment on which he likes more. I would only use ceramic or smooth steels on Japanese knives. For waterstones, you need something around 1000 grit for general sharpening and something between 4000 to 6000 for polishing/removing scratches from the 1000 grit stone. Some knife nuts take their edges all the way to 15000 grit stones but for most people the two stones above will suffice. A good value is a combination stone, which is basically two stones glued together. Korin has a Togiharu brand 1000/4000 stone for $40 which looks good. All waterstones need to be soaked in cool water for about 5-10 minutes before every use. You may also wish to get a stone fixer, which is a rough grit stone used to keep the surface of your other stones flat. Some people use the rougher grit stones to flatten their other stones. The best book about kitchen cutlery, including how to sharpen, is "An Edge in the Kitchen" by Chad Ward. Before writing the book Chad put together the sharpening article on EGullet that many people refer to. There are a couple of sharpening DVD out there. Korin has one starring their sharpenig master/co-owner Chiharu Sugai. Murray Carter, a well regarded knifemaker, also sells a set of two sharpening DVDs on his website. There are forums dedicated to kitchen knives if anyone is interested in learning more: Knife Forums/ In the Kitchen Fred's Cutlery Forums
post #6 of 31
Thread Starter 
Wonderful post - thank you!
post #7 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by KJT View Post
Wonderful post - thank you!

Absolutely.

Still, why exclusively a smooth-surfaced steel for Japanese knives?
post #8 of 31
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by HORNS View Post
Absolutely.

Still, why exclusively a smooth-surfaced steel for Japanese knives?

I don't believe that the ceramic steels are smooth - they have a grit also, but it is quite fine.

I could be mistaken though - I'm learning man!
post #9 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by KJT View Post
I don't believe that the ceramic steels are smooth - they have a grit also, but it is quite fine.

I could be mistaken though - I'm learning man!

They are smooth compared to the metal ones that are striated, though. And you are right about the presence of a grit, but it being very fine.
post #10 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by HORNS View Post
Absolutely. Still, why exclusively a smooth-surfaced steel for Japanese knives?
Japanese knives are made from harder steel than the German ones. One of the drawbacks of harder steel is that it's more brittle. A steeling rod with ridges will create very small contact areas with the knife and if you apply any force while steeling you can create small chips. A smooth steel will gently move the edge back into alignment. A ceramic steel will align the edge and may also remove a tiny bit of weakened metal but not enough to worry about. If you use a white ceramic rod you will notice black streaks left on it from steeling but you can clean them off using a steel wool pad or something similar. Unless the knife is designed for chopping, like some thicker Debas, you shouldn't chop bones or things frozen solid since that can also chip the edge. If dropped on a hard surface, like a stone or marble floor there is a risk of damage to the knife. Tip breakage being the most common. I just had a tip break of on my Misono parer but I'm just going to regrind it into a slightly shorter parer.
post #11 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dmax View Post
Japanese knives are made from harder steel than the German ones. One of the drawbacks of harder steel is that it's more brittle. A steeling rod with ridges will create very small contact areas with the knife and if you apply any force while steeling you can create small chips. A smooth steel will gently move the edge back into alignment. A ceramic steel will align the edge and may also remove a tiny bit of weakened metal but not enough to worry about. If you use a white ceramic rod you will notice black streaks left on it from steeling but you can clean them off using a steel wool pad or something similar.

Unless the knife is designed for chopping, like some thicker Debas, you shouldn't chop bones or things frozen solid since that can also chip the edge. If dropped on a hard surface, like a stone or marble floor there is a risk of damage to the knife. Tip breakage being the most common.

I just had a tip break of on my Misono parer but I'm just going to regrind it into a slightly shorter parer.

This makes sense. Thank you.
post #12 of 31
Just bought a Spyderco Sharpmaker set to sharpen my knives. From what I've seen, it works well and just about as idiot-proof as can be for a knife sharpener system.
post #13 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by DarkNWorn View Post
Just bought a Spyderco Sharpmaker set to sharpen my knives. From what I've seen, it works well and just about as idiot-proof as can be for a knife sharpener system.

Those are good, but I prefer the clamp systems like GATCO or Lansky. I find it easier to get the knife tips sharp with clamp systems, whereas a Sharpmaker can round off the tips if you are not careful to keep the distal end of the blade in full contact with the hone. All it takes is a couple of passes on a Sharpmaker with the knife tip rolling off the edge of the hone at the end of the stroke, and it will get rounded off.

I just did a neglected Shun paring knife over the weekend with the GATCO at 15 degrees, with medium and fine diamond hones, an extra fine standard hone, then finished with a ceramic ultra fine hone. Came out factory sharp in just a few minutes.

If you don't have the patience or guts to go with waterstones, clamp systems or a Sharpmaker are great. You can fine tune the process more if you go freehand with waterstones, but you can also get into more trouble.
post #14 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by DarkNWorn View Post
Just bought a Spyderco Sharpmaker set to sharpen my knives. From what I've seen, it works well and just about as idiot-proof as can be for a knife sharpener system.

That's what I use for my knives. Sometimes I do have to retouch my tips a little, but for the most part it hasn't been a problem. It's a nice tool on keeping your knives sharp, but you'll need something else if you need to reprofile the edge or are trying to get a chip out.
post #15 of 31
I use the Lansky clamp system, which I've had for 20 years. It's pretty idiot proof, but it takes some time to readjust the blade if you have a larger knife.
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