Hi! This is my first post here and while I'm a fairly experienced cook, I'm a knife novice. I have a slightly convoluted question, or set of questions really. I've poked about on the internet regarding sharpening/honing knives, but I'm even more confused than when I started. What would be the most basic (and easiest) gear and techniques I would need to have in order to maintain a nicely sharp knife at home? The reason this gets a even more complicated is I am shopping for a new knife here and that got me wondering if different kinds of knives need different kinds, or even more work to keep them sharp enough. The 5 knives I'm looking at are:
I'm fairly sure about wanting a gyuto after trying a few of them, but I'm a bit worried that I wouldn't know how to take care of them. I guess for comparison what would a basic Western knife like a Wustoff chef's knife require for upkeep?
Are you right handed? Do you know how to sharpen? (not yet) Do you like to rock the knife or push cut primarily? Do you want a stainless knife? Do you want to get a western handled knife or Japanese handle? How much did you want to spend? (100-200)
RON <> To answer your primary question, if you've never sharpened a knife, watch the free tutorials on the CKTG site. For a beginner, just buy one combo stone. A 800/6000 http://www.chefknivestogo.com/kingcombostone.html or a 1000/4000 will be just fine, found elsewhere. You can buy a video, but there are free tutorials at CKTG.
I'm inferring that you have several Wusthofs and are thinking about upgrading to a Japanese knife. You are correct in assuming that the two need entirely different treatment for their edges. But it is really simple.
Basically, there hits a point of diminishing returns on sharpening soft steel(like Wusthof). After about 1,500-2,000 grit, you will actually make it cut worse. They are made, designed, and heat treated to be sharpened on a powered belt. I genuinely feel that the best in these knives is brought out by a considerate sharpener on good quality belts. The only stone that puts on an edge that performs as good as a belt-sharpened edge on soft steel(like Wusthof) is the Naniwa Aotoshi 2k. You can sharpen these yourself, and that's fine, just don't take them past 2,000 grit. But I really feel that, outside of the Naniwa Aotoshi, you won't get as good an edge as a belt can do. The best thing for soft steel is to find a pro who knows his stuff, get them sharpened once a year or so, and buy a Ceramic honing rod and use it carefully.
The Japanese steel is going to go way further. I think you should start with a higher grit "touchup" stone, like the Suehiro Rika 5,000. I love that stone. Just match the angle the factory put on your knife, and touch it up. A home cook needs nothing else. If you want, you can also get a 1,000 grit stone and use it to remove chips from your Japanese knife, and sharpen your Wusties. Just an idea.
I met a guy recently who is a knowledgeable and avid Japanese knife enthusiast. A home cook, though his cooking is his profession(he's a part time food writer). He sharpens his knives maybe once a year, and strops the ones he uses every few weeks. He has knives he's owned for 2 years and never sharpened, just touch them up on the strop, use a good honing rod and that's all it needs.
RON <> I'm not implying you are confused, but in efforts of keeping this simple "...two need entirely different treatments" though technically accurate might be taking this conversation, which is really a simple one, to a land too technical for all practical purposes.
Please allow me to explain my point. Hard or soft, French or Japanese, ceramic or steel, knife or planer: a sharpening treatment consists of grinding said implement's edge back to a triangle (for conversation's sake) on something that is harder than said implement. We use sharpening stones, natural & synthetic, of varying hardness to refine said edge in stages, but you can use your sidewalk & a piece of newspaper if you want and I'm not kidding in the least bit. In my humble opinion, don't get caught up in too many advanced specifics.
This isn't rocket science, and you're just learning how to sharpen a knife so keep it simple. Buy one stone (single grit or a combo will be more versatile in your near future), watch some video here http://www.chefknivestogo.com/knshforne1.html &/or YouTube is free, and enjoy yourself. The joy is in the journey, the destination will always be there...