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Sharpening knives.

Nick

My name is Nick
Sep 21, 2001
19,994
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behind you, don't wait up.
Moved from the GMT to Food.

Mostly you just need to spend some money on decent stones and practice. Most cheap/natural stones make it miserable because they take forever and need to be ground flat periodically. I am using one of these for my household knives https://smile.amazon.com/WE-ZHE-Sharpening-Stone-Double-Sided/dp/B07XB7BWNQ The ruby side is fast and will finish off kitchen knives just fine, unless they are in really bad shape. And it will last the rest of your life if you don't drop it. The marble side is pretty pointless unless you want geek out with a fully polished edge, but it provides support for the ruby. Don't buy a little one, check your sizes! Also that stone will need to be broken in, use an old knife for practice first.
I have a 3000/8000 labeled Bearmoo. I have no issue buying another stone. I think my problem is the actual process, the sharpening technique. I learned by watching a couple videos on YouTube.

If you have any pointers or good practices I'd love to hear them.
 

StiHacka

Compensating for something
I use diamond plates for bevel setting and for lapping of hones. All synthetic and most natural hones grind away during honing and you want to keep them flat for consistent results. For knives, I use synthetic hones, for straight razors, a have a nice collection of natural whetstones from quarries around the world.

I can get a razor from chipped to perfection with a progression on three hones in 20 minutes or less - diamond coarse plate, fast semi-fine Coticule, then polishing on Japanese Kiita.

For synthetics, I don't think you need to spend a lot if all U are sharpening are kitchen and pocket knives. Coarse diamond and 600/2000 combo is good enough.

For naturals, stay away from Arkansas stones. They are very hard, very slow and not fine enough. If I could have just one natural, it would be a faster vein of a Belgian Coticule.
 

jonKranked

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Nov 10, 2005
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on the topic of knives themselves, @Adventurous had posted about some differences between japanese and german steel. can anyone elaborate on these a bit more? i've been considering spending some money and getting a nice set of kitchen knives (i like to cook a lot) and need to better educate myself before spending the kind of money i'm planning to.
 

OGRipper

back alley ripper
Feb 3, 2004
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Great thread idea! Good knives are for life, and the ability to sharpen them is a life skill.

I took a sharping class at Town Cutler in SF and came home with two Japanese wet stones, a "King Deluxe" 1200 grit and a second at 6000 grit. I have a mix of German and Japanese knives that get used frequently but not really heavy volume, and these stones work for me. Always interested in improving technique, however, so if anyone has good ideas or can point to helpful vids, that would be rad.
 

jonKranked

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You should mostly only be aware of the differences between stainless and high carbon steel. I am sure thev material engineers will come in about their hardness, ability to tool, edge retaining abilities or plasticity.

Bottom line - stainless are mostly more difficult to put a super keen edge on and are less likely to chip.
application wise (kitchen specific) is one better at certain things over the other? or is it more just regardining maintenance of the knife itself
 

Adventurous

Starshine Bro
Mar 19, 2014
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on the topic of knives themselves, @Adventurous had posted about some differences between japanese and german steel. can anyone elaborate on these a bit more? i've been considering spending some money and getting a nice set of kitchen knives (i like to cook a lot) and need to better educate myself before spending the kind of money i'm planning to.
So, some things to consider when making your decision.

Stainless vs. Carbon steel

Stainless is preferable for shared knives, and/or knife abusers, who may leave them in the sink, throw them in the dishwasher (not recommended, ever), or just generally don't want to worry about babying them. If you fall into this camp, stick with stainless. There are countless stainless steels, some of which perform better than others, so shop around to find something with a better grade. For reference, 440 series stainless is lower grade, mid grade will be something like VG-10 , and AEB-L represents the higher end, without getting into more boutique steels.

If you want a knife that performs better, at the expense of more maintenance, carbon steel is your friend. It gets harder than stainless, so it'll take a sharper edge and hold it for longer. Biggest downside is they will rust if not taken care of properly. There are loads of carbon steel formulations out there, and some fare better than others when it comes to resisting rust, but they will all take on surface rust if not taken care of properly. Think washing and drying the knives after each use, especially if cutting acidic foods. Other downside is they are harder to sharpen, but it's a tradeoff for their edge holding ability. Upside of course is they will develop a kickass, unique patina over time, much like a carbon steel pan would, that speaks to the foods they've cooked during their lives.

There is a hybrid option of stainless clad carbon steel knives. These are less common, but do exist, and try to combine the best of both worlds. They do, but are understandably expensive owing to manufacturing being more labor intensive.

Japanese vs. German

This is distilled a bit, as one could probably write a dissertation on the subject, but here's a general overview.

German knives, like Henckels and Wusthoff, tend to be heavier, thicker, and softer than their Japanese counterparts. Blades are typically hardened anywhere from Rc 56 to Rc 60. They are also sharpened at more obtuse angles, and can take more abuse. Like smashing through butternut squash or the occasional bone? German all the way. They'll get dull faster, but that is a tradeoff for not chipping the edge if you hit a bone or get rowdy in the kitchen. The obtuse angle will also wedge itself into foods a bit harder, so it doesn't have the same laser like feeling that a good Japanese knife does. If you love precision cuts and being an artist about it, German knives are less lively feeling in hand and won't impart the same user experience. The blade profile on German knives also tends to have more belly (curvature) to it, so if you like rock chopping you'll like the German experience.

Japanese knives on the other hand, are lighter, thinner, and harder than their German counterparts. Blades are typically hardened from Rc 60 to Rc 64, and are sharpened at more acute angles. The leading edge doesn't have as much backbone behind it and will chip if abused instead of ding or dull. They will however glide through foods like nobody's business. They can be had with standard "Western" style handles, which is what you are more than likely used to, or "Wa" handles which are octagonal shaped and light. If you pinch grip your knives, the Wa handle is quite comfortable and will give you a well balanced, blade heavy tool. This, combined with the blade geometry, favors a push slice or vertical motion over rock chopping. It will also glide through foods better and provide a more precision feeling.

Set Make Up

Throw out the notion that more is better, its not. In reality, most people only need 3 knives, a chefs, a paring, and a bread knife. If you filet a lot of fish, or bone a lot of meat, adding those may be wise, but for the most part those 3 will get nearly any job in the kitchen done. Size wise, go with the biggest chefs knife you can that'll fit your board and body type. It's personal preference, but most men prefer a larger knife vs women. A 10" chef's knife is a good place to start, it's longer than standard, but not too long, while also working with most people's current setups. A 3" paring knife is great for delicate tasks, and there is no substitute for a serrated bread knife. Don't spend a lot of money on a bread knife either, there's no real incentive to sharpen them when they get dull so find one you won't feel bad about replacing in a few years.

Other than that, you won't need other knives with regularity. Perhaps a smaller santoku, utility, or chef's knife for the wife if she wants something she can control better. The smaller stable also means you can spend more per knife and get something quality. Figure $130 - $200 for the chef's knife, $75 - $100 for the paring, and $15 - $30 for the bread. Not too crazy, right?

Want to branch out a little? Nakiri knives are great for vegetables, and are starting to gain popularity in this country. It's a big cleaver looking blade that is thinner and lighter than a cleaver. It's a fun little profile.

Santokus are also popular chef knife replacements. They are typically smaller and lack the pointed tip that a chef's knife does. Good general purpose knives that can be worth having around.

Extras
Get yourself a decent combination stone, or set of stones, and learn how to use them. Dull knives are dangerous knives. Sharpen as necessary, but using a knife hone will prolong periods of time in between sharpening. Electric sharpeners are okay, but they tend to bite off a lot of unnecessary metal and will lead to accelerated wear. Stones will take off less material and are friendlier, provided you sharpen things at the correct angle, which can be hard at the beginning.

A hone/steel is a must have. Generally speaking, German = metal hone, Japanese = ceramic. Match the hone material to the blade hardness and you'll be good. After all, hones/steels are for straightening the sharpened edge as it folds over due to use, not removing material, so you don't need to get aggressive with it. 3 swipes per side with regularity will keep the edge in good shape.

Kitchen shears are a must have.

Knife storage. Blocks are okay. They do a great job separating knives, but can become mold traps. Who knows what's down inside those crevasses. Magnetic wall mounts are nice, keeps things separate, allows them to dry, but won't work with most stainless. Loose in a drawer is a horrible way to store them and you should be ashamed of yourself.

Recommendations

I am partial to Japanese knives, so that is what I can do a decent job recommending. German stuff it's hard to go wrong with Henckels and Wusthoff, so long as you ensure that they are made in Germany. They do have some lower grade cutlery that is farmed out and not that great. Careful. Also don't be fooled by brands like Shun as they are German'ish knives masquerading as Japanese knives. Stellar looks with okay performance, but you can do better for the money.

Budget:
Fujiwara offers similar profile in stainless and carbon steel. Great beginner knives, and you won't be heartbroken if one dies.

Victorinox Fibrox knives. Again, used in half a billion kitchens around the world. They aren't lookers, but they perform decently, and they sure won't break the budget. Not Japanese mind you.

Decent:
Mac knives are more middle of the road. You'll find a lot of these in the hands of chef's around the country. Great performance for the price.

Misono also has stainless and carbon steel variants. Both are well priced, both are great performers. I have a Misono 10" chef and 3" paring. No complaints, would highly recommend.

There are a million high end options, some of which are absurdly priced. If you want to spend $400+ on a chef's knife, be my guest, there are plenty of people who will take your money. Just know that it won't perform world's better than the Decent options.
 
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jonKranked

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thanks for the info. that was a great description.

i actually just got myself a new bread knife that i really like, Mercer Millenia. wasn't crazy expensive but seems to be great quality thus far.

I currently have a group of lower end santoku knives (just cuisinart), 4" 5" and i think the largest is either 8 or 10 inch. generally i prefer the smaller santoku's over a paring knife (but i may be doing it wrong). currently no chef's knife.

why do you suggest kitchen shears?
 

boostindoubles

Nacho Libre
Mar 16, 2004
5,238
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I like nice knives but am not an expert at sharpening them. I have a Lansky sharpening system that keeps my edges functional. Would I do do it differently if I understood the what why and hows of sharpening steel? Yes more than likely. Thanks for the info!
 

StiHacka

Compensating for something
application wise (kitchen specific) is one better at certain things over the other? or is it more just regardining maintenance of the knife itself
Traditional japanese steel metallurgy is inferior to pretty much everything else contemporary or modern. There's cultural and sentimental value and a high snob factor, the rest is marketing. Go with any modern stainless supersteel and you won't need another knife for life.

Generally speaking, German = metal hone
That's a misnomer. Metal "sharpening" rods are not really hones but strops, they straighten folded edge.
I would not be able to sharped my Wusthofs without real hones btw.
 

jdcamb

Tool Time!
Feb 17, 2002
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Cooks World in my town has a sharpening service. It is .50 cents a inch of blade and a drop off service. They do such a better job then I. I take good care off all my Knives and keep them sharp. I believe it is a safety issue.
 

Adventurous

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Mar 19, 2014
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Traditional japanese steel metallurgy is inferior to pretty much everything else contemporary or modern. There's cultural and sentimental value and a high snob factor, the rest is marketing. Go with any modern stainless supersteel and you won't need another knife for life.


That's a misnomer. Metal "sharpening" rods are not really hones but strops, they straighten folded edge.
I would not be able to sharped my Wusthofs without real hones btw.
A few sentences later you shall see that I say that. The straightening the burr part.

I don't like the "hone" name much either, but thats what most people know them as.