Sharpening A Japanese Knife

@Eiron, have you ever come across a sharpening video that shows a technique similar to yours?

It isn’t so much Japanese knives. Any high quality kitchen knife should be sharpened by hand. It has more to do with the steel than being Japan. If you get an inexpensive KAI Komachi or KAI Wasabi knife, then it is probably ok to sharpen by an electric sharpener. If you get an >$20,000 Bob Kramer knife (made in US), then it is a very bad idea to put it through any typical electric knife sharpener.

In short, it has more to do with the steel and what you want to get out of the knife. If you have some really nice knives and you want to keep them nice, then you can either learn free-hand sharpening or send the out to one of the better professional knife sharpener. Mr_Happy’s video about Job Broida is a well respected knife sharpener. You can send yours to his way. There are many though. In the earlier days, Dave Martell was probably only one of the few who do a good job, now there are many more. I would say Korin has a great knife sharpening service too.

https://www.korin.com/japanese-knives/korin-sharpening-service

If you want to learn on your own, then I think the best way is to watch a few good videos, and adapt what works for you. Practice on a relatively cheap knife is always the best advice I can give anyone.

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Ha. I am the opposite. I apply more force during the push. I also switch hand instead of flipping the knife over. This is mainly because I do not gauge the angle well when I flip it over.

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Good Lord! That would warrant some mad knife skills.

This guy sharpening a $1 knife is pretty cool.

Watch the out of the box knife performance vs after sharpening performance.


0:38
10:24

So what kind of knives do you have that you worry?

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@bmorecupcake, no, I haven’t. But then, I haven’t watched a whole lot of knife sharpening videos! I recall that I watched a couple wa-a-a-ay back when I started, just to get the idea of what to do. I also decided early on to use an eye loupe to check my progress and accuracy, so that helped me understand where I needed to correct my methods (angles, pressures, grits, etc). From there I tried different sharpening ‘styles’ until I settled into a process that felt most comfortable for me, and still verifying my results with an eye loupe.

Having designed manufacturing hand tooling for several decades, I’ve learned to make the tooling fit the human (as much as possible), rather than force-fit the human to the tooling. Processes need to be adapted similarly, in my opinion. It doesn’t make sense (to me) to watch any video and follow it by rote. Similar to what @drrayeye said, most videos need to make simplistic assumptions to be understood by the widest audience. That’s just a fact of teaching to an unknown audience. Some of the info is going to be helpful and some of it isn’t, and if you’re thinking while working thru the various steps you’ll soon discover which steps make sense for your style of sharpening and which don’t, just like Ray has discovered for his style.

If I get a chance I’ll try to video how I sharpen a softer steel knife (a Forschner Rosewood chef’s knife) on my medium Spyderco bench stone.
No guarantees, though… :slightly_smiling_face:

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Hey @Chemicalkinetics! I’m assuming that you’re also sharpening ‘edge trailing’? If so, I think yours is probably the most common technique. :slightly_smiling_face:

I tried holding the knife in my left hand but found I couldn’t hold the angle as consistently as when I simply flipped it over in my right (dominant) hand. I’ve never really been comfortable pushing against a sharp edge, so I can relax more (and therefore sharpen better) when I sharpen ‘edge leading’. Also, I’ve found that my burr removal is minimized by sharpening into the edge rather than away from the edge. :+1:

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If you mean me, I’m feeling a little silly. Off the top of my head, I don’t know what kind of knives I have. The one that means the most is the one from a friend who visited Japan. I think I worried it might have been sharpened on one side and not two. I can’t even tell right now.

They are not $20k, nor $1k, maybe not even $100.00. Certainly not life or death, which is nice.
Sometimes I need to remind myself this is not work, and this not life or death.

Here’s a picture of the ones I’ve dared to sharpen.


They look okay and they work! BTW, like many inquisitive folk, I’m left handed for most things, so it’s nice when the videos consider that.

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@shrinkrap, nice collection. :slightly_smiling_face: I’d guess that the only one with a single bevel might be the cleaver on the far right. I have a similar style (a “fruit knife,” so it’s just as long but not as tall) and it’s a single bevel.
The rest are going to be double bevel of various angles and symmetries:

The 3 Kai knives and your santoku from Japan will have 15°-16° asymmetrical bevels. Possibly the other santoku, too (the one with the lighter, oak-looking handle), but that’s just a guess.

The 2 Wusthofs and the 2 boning knives will have 22°-23° symmetrical bevels, unless the Wusthofs were part of their PEtec line, in which case they’ll have 15°-16° symmetrical edge angles.

Fun, eh? :crazy_face:

Edit: I forgot to say that the boning knives have the potential to seriously mess up the edges of your water stones. If you don’t use the severe curved section of cutting edge near the handle, you might consider having someone grind those off so that your edges continue straight back to the handles. :hocho:

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@shrinkrap. I agree with @Eiron that is a very nice collection.

I think the Wusthof knives are part of their Grand Prix II line which are PTEC knives. I believe there was a Grand Prix line at one time but I don’t think they are readily available anymore.

The light wood-handles santoku looks like a Kai as well - the Shun Hikari line. I like that knife a lot.

The other three knives with the 3 rivets in the handle (similar to the Wusthof Classic) look like Henckels Pro line knives.

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Thanks so much for your time! I’m going to have to look up half the words you used, but I just learned so much!

Thank you @MsBean. I have had the Wustoff and the Henkles for quite some time; I’d guess 20 or more years.

While I also have several steak knives, husband uses one of the boning knives as a dinner knife.

If you’ve had the Wusthofs for a while they may be the older version of the Grand Prix and possibly not PTEC. I have no idea how to tell without measuring the angles.

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Yes, I believe Wusthof introduced PEtec around 2010-2012 or so? Unfortunately, that santoku looks like it’s been ground down quite a bit, so any original edge angle is long gone. Of course you can put whatever angle you want on it! :slightly_smiling_face: The only drawback to a narrower cutting edge would be more frequent re-sharpening due to its increased fragility and accelerated wear.

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Thank you again for taking your time with this.

You can tell because the little indentations are not complete ovals? I’ve used this Chefs Choice sharpener on it for years.

Do you know where I can find the commercial history of Whustof knives? Like which ones were sold when? I’ve done some googling and mostly end on knife forums (uh oh) talking about a specific knife.

The Shun Hikari you have looks like a great knife. I’m envious!

Ray

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Unfortunately I don’t. Maybe the Wusthof website? My knowledge is fairly superficial. I used to work as Williams Sonoma so am mostly familiar with what we sold in the store and somewhat familiar with on-line only product. I do seem to recall seeing the PTEC branding shortly after I started, so 2010-2012 as @Eiron suggested.

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It always amazes me how generous enthusiasts can be with their time and knowledge!

My issue was reading too much before practicing. As I practice, the terms are much easier to understand. I was being bothered by some persistent issues with my sharpening today, so I searched around and to my surprise I could mostly understand discussions like these: link1 link2.

Even basic terms can be defined differently by different people. For example, some people take “sharpening” to mean only create/repairing an edge (coarse stone.) Edge refinement on a higher grit is “honing”. Yet, others will use the term “sharpening” for both, and use “honing” to mean edge realignment on a honing steel. On top of that, comparing grits across different classes of stones can be troublesome. A 600 grit ceramic stone might be roughly equivalent to a 1200 grit water stone, for example.

Very recently, I finally took the plunge, purchased a medium grit stone, and watched way too many videos. (I originally thought this one was an elaborate prank.) My ultimate (likely unattainable) goal is to sharpen my Togiharu knives as well as Korin. Last week, I tried the three finger test on my Korin-sharpened knives and cut myself immediately. In the meantime, I sharpen a little every day, trying out various techniques. I’ll pick a knife and a technique and do maybe 30 passes on each side and think about how to improve. Today I was sharpening a knife with a bolster. I wonder what will happen once more of the steel is removed through sharpening. There’s always more to learn. It’s been a blast so far.

Also, I think you have to understand the knife, too. (This is probably true only for someone like me with a lot of cheap knives.) Not every knife can hold a razor sharp edge. Some are better with a toothy edge. Some can’t hold any edge for a meaningful length of time. Or, it could be poor technique on my part.

I don’t like the videos that sharpen cheap knives, like the $11 knife in that one video above. When he is cutting with it at the end of the video, it looks off to me. I would like them to use that knife for a couple days and see if it stays sharp. Other videos will pass a knife over a coffee mug or brick, declare the knife dull, and then proceed to sharpen. I don’t think that’s representative of a neglected knife in real life.

As others have said, you have a beautiful collection there, @shrinkrap. I don’t have a pic of mine right now, just the boxes. One is an usuba. That many years ago, I didn’t know usuba and nakiri were different. The description said it was a vegetable knife and I bought it.

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Thank you!

I realize I am no longer talking about Japanese knives, but this was interesting about Wusthof knives .

The Wusthof site isnt mentioning the Grand Prix at all, and apparently the original Grand Prix started getting hard to find about 15 years ago, and the Grand Prix II became available in 2003, at least on Amazon. All current and discontinued knives seem to be mentioned on good old Wikipedia.

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Wow! Who would have thought that there would be so much Wusthof info on Wikipedia!

To me, the most important thing in knife selection is how the knife feels in YOUR hand. Wusthof makes two lines that look very similar if you don’t know what to look for and don’t hold the knife in your hand. Of course one is much less expensive. When customers would ask for the lesser one, I always insisted that they hold it, and then would ask them to hold the other. 9 times out of 10 they’s end up with the better knife.

The same is happens between 1 Henckels line and 1 Wusthof line. They have very similar handles and are often confused. They have very different bolsters (the part where the blade meets the handle) and people tend to like one style versus the other depending upon how they hold the knife.

Needless to say, I can’t sharpen a knife to save my life though can a do a good job with a honing steel. That at least keeps the knife as sharp as possible without actually sharpening.

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“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

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