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New Knives - Need help with sharpening...

Wed May 08, 2013 7:22 am

Ok, here goes.... I am finally getting some new knives and want to treat them right. I have the Chefs Choice 120 which I hate because I feel there's little control when it goes banging around as it sucks the knife through. Maybe it's just me. I am really interested in using stones and I need some feedback on my plan.

The knives I am purchasing are the Tojiro 270mm ITK Bread Knife and the Tojiro DP Gyuto 210mm. The latter will be used on veggies. I'm a vegetarian, so not sure if I "need" any other knives because my old chef's knife just died and it was the go to knife and only one I really used. Although the Ken Onion looks very pretty and comfortable to use.

I am thinking of getting the Idahone Fine Ceramic Sharpening Rod. Is this the one to get?

For stones, etc: DMT XX Coarse for flattening. Shapton Pro Orange 1000. Shapton Glass Stone 6000 grit. Do I need this high of a grit for veggies? Any recommendations? Of course for my personal use I don't want to spend tons of money but I don't want something that is mediocre or hard to use (too skinny).

And for finish: a Balsa pad and the .5 micron Ken's CBN spray. This is where my brain started to explode - so many options and I just picked those two because I have no idea what else to do.

Thanks for your input!!!

Re: New Knives - Need help with sharpening...

Wed May 08, 2013 8:18 am

Throw the Ken Onion out, please?!?! :o I really respect what Ken Onion has done for the knife world, but he should never have designed a chef's knife that looks like the one Shun put out.

The Idahone is nice, yes. Maybe unnecessary though. Most folks around here won't use a honing rod on their hard steel knives. It can microchip the edge. If you're a home cook, it's almost completely unnecessary as the only real use for one IMHO is if the knife gets really dull during service (professional cook) to bring the edge back.

Need a 6000, no. Most all knives will come with an edge equivalent to about a 1,000 grit edge. If the knife comes to you sharp enough (which it likely will) to use, then all you need to replicate that is a 1,000 grit stone. A 6,000 grit stone is nice because it will polish the edge finer and make for a sharper knife. Some like toothy edges, some like more refined/polished edges....it's a matter of preference. However, at the end of the day, proper sharpening on a 1,000 grit stone will leave the edge shaving sharp. I would not want only a 1,000 grit stone.....but I'm nuts. You should determine where you lie. :)

The "finish" you're thinking about getting is certainly good....but you don't need them. See above dissertation for why. :)

Re: New Knives - Need help with sharpening...

Wed May 08, 2013 8:20 am

I'm new here myself, so I'll defer to the gurus when they weigh in.

* Electric Sharpeners are almost universally bad for knives. As soon as you are able, I urge you to unplug and regift it to someone you hate.

* As for stones:

> The 8x2.75 DMT is great (mine just arrived yesturday), but if you can afford the higher price, go with the larger 10x4 DMT, or with the Atoma 140 Big, since the extra size will keep you fully compatible with any any stones you add to your collection. For flattening stones, bigger is better. Also, make sure you get a no-slip pad for it, or better still, mount a stop to a working board that can be braced against the nearest wall, for maximum stability, because you dont want to have it slip suddenly while you're aggressively working on it, trust me.

> 1k is better suited for edge refinement & maintenance rather than new edge creation (although I have done it), so I'd recommend adding something between that and the 140 in your current list ... perhaps a 320 Shapton glass, or something comparable. That's the workhorse grit range you want for most initial sharpening ... after which you can use the 1k+ for smoothing and maintaining existing high quality edges. The diamondplate is mostly for leveling or major repairs.

> I'm inclined to think anything in the 1-2k range is perfectly fine for everyday kitchen use, and that newer harder steels (japanese and tactical knives) can go a bit higher for everyday use (4-8k), but unless you're maintaining a straight razor for daily shaving, or you're a knifemaker or pro sharpener who likes to do beauty shots or extreme sharpening videos, you can probably skip anything higher than say 10-15k.

* I've been using a diamond steel rod between sharpenings for my western knives (I'll probably switch to a smooth steel or ceramic rod soon, since its fairly worn), but as soon as I get my first supersteel knife, I'll sit down and learn the basics of stroping.

Re: New Knives - Need help with sharpening...

Wed May 08, 2013 8:36 am

I was mainly going to get the Idahone sharpening rod because my father-in-law comes over and grabs one I have (which wouldn't be good for Japanese knives) and hones the knife every time he goes to use it. I'll just hide it then. :)

So, if I get what you're saying - I would only "need" a 1000 grit and the only time I would need to do anything to the knife is when it gets dull and pull the stone out and sharpen it? So please provide some totally biased opinions on which stone I should choose (soaking time doesn't matter). Would there be any benefit to using a 2K or 4K stone instead of the 6K? I guess if I wanted to I could practice using newspaper on top of a block of wood to finish.

Thanks for the response.

Re: New Knives - Need help with sharpening...

Wed May 08, 2013 9:57 am


This is my favorite 1,000 grit stone.

Another long time favorite is the Bester 1200:


Both are OOS at the moment though.

I would only "need" a 1000 grit and the only time I would need to do anything to the knife is when it gets dull and pull the stone out and sharpen it?

Is that what you "Need" to do, yes. There are certainly benefits, though, to having a high grit stone. For instance, when your knife gets slightly dull, stropping it on a high grit stone a few times will often bring back the edge nicely. You can also strop on something like the balsa strop and CBN you mentioned earlier. You used the word "need" in your original post....I tried to answer it literally....please keep that in mind.

My grit progression is:

1,200 or 1,000

You can jump from 1,000 to 6,000....but I like a smaller jump. I find the 6k stones kind of useless for me.

Re: New Knives - Need help with sharpening...

Wed May 08, 2013 4:17 pm

The Chef's Choice 120 sharpens 20* angles and is not appropriate for your new Japanese knives. Chef's Choice makes three different 15* sharpeners and one which sharpens at both 15* and 20*. All four of those are appropriate. Of the four, the model 15XV is the best. If you're still interested in a Chef's Choice electric sharpener, we can compare and contrast all four.

CCs have strengths and weaknesses. On the negative side:
  • They don't perform well when they get dirty and "load up," and are not easy to clean; and
  • They aren't particularly versatile -- each machine will only sharpen one type of angle and one type of geometry.

  • They are fast;
  • They don't have much if any learning curve;
  • They are convenient enough to get used whenever needed; and
  • Unlike many old-fashioned electric sharpeners, they won't hurt your knives if you use them correctly. There are a lot of bad electrics, and a few good ones. CCs are among the good ones.

The bottom line on CCs is that compared to a skilled hand sharpener, or a good tool and jig system, you give up some versatility and ultimate edge quality in exchange for ease of use and convenience.

From your description of what you're experiencing with your 120, I'm guessing that it's dirty and needs the plates cleaned or replaced. I suggest contacting the manufacturer, EdgeCraft, and asking for support.

An alternative to the CCs with a similar set of strengths and weaknesses is the Minosharp Plus3.

If you're only going to use the DMT XXC for flattening and not for repair or profiling it's overkill. The CKtG 140 diamond plate does as good a job of flattening for a third the money.

There's nothing wrong with your proposed two-stone kit; but nothing particularly right about it either. It's a sort of strange choice for a beginner. What led you to it?

If you're priorities lie more towards "really good," than "really inexpensive," I suggest CKtG's three-stone, eight piece kit.

Don't expect to buy a couple of bench stones and start producing great edges on the first day. In my experience it takes beginners somewhere between 10 and 20 hours of practice to produce good edges consistently. The most reasonably priced alternative is a good tool and jig system like the Edge Pro or Wicked Edge. The EP takes around 2 hours of practice; the WE takes even less. Take a look at CKtG's Edge Pro Essentials Kit.

I've been freehand sharpening for around fifty years. My generic advice for those who don't know how to sharpen yet and don't need the versatility of bench stones is to buy an EP or WE.

All knives are subject to bending burrs caused by impact, aka impact burring. That means the get tiny bends on the edge when they bump into something hard -- like a bone or a cutting board. When the edges bent they need to be trued. There are a few ways to true. You can use a honing rod, aka "steel;" "touch up" on a stone; strop on whatever; run the edge between flexible wheels (as on some CCs); etc. Not all knives are good candidates for steeling. Some are too brittle, too hard, too asymmetric, sharpened too acutely, and so on.

Even though the Tojiro DP is a bit brittle, it's still well within the envelope where steeling is a good choice. You can use an Idahone rod (great rod for a great price) on a Tojiro DP, but you have to use the rod so as not to chip the knife's edge. That means appropriate angles, very few strokes, and a very gentle touch. Read my article, Steeling Away.

Your thoughts?


Re: New Knives - Need help with sharpening...

Wed May 08, 2013 9:35 pm

My CC does need to be cleaned! Never considered that.... I got some (possibly fake according to my father) Henkels as a wedding gift 20+ years ago and they have been in the dishwasher occasionally (gasp) and I tried to keep them sharpened but was never really all that happy with the CC so I basically gave up. I have been wanting to get some new knives for a long time now and wasn't sure what to get. I didn't want to spend money on knives that were not that great - think knives bound in plastic at the bed, bath and beyond. But I do have some of those and thus the search for better knives and a process for keeping them nice.

So I did some searches for knife reviews, I watched a few videos on CKTG about how to sharpen on stones and became very interested in going that route. I figure I can practice on the few old knives I have sitting around. I came up with the setup of stones because I watched the sharpening for newbies videos and thought that those were the two stone grits I should get. Either I missed something or I took the demo too literally. I'm going to make the assumption then that whenever a knife needs to be sharpened I start with the lower grit to create the burr, and move through the stones, etc. Hey, I might be catching on.

So glad you mentioned the Edge Pro. I initially took a glance at the picture and it looked a little cheesy to me. I just watched the video however and think that this is the best way for me to go because it will take the guesswork out of edge angle and I probably won't get frustrated with not having natural freehand skills. I just need to figure out which set to get. I'm thinking that for me it's overkill to get the custom Chosera set for the Edge Pro and will probably get the one you suggested along with the angle cube. Agree/disagree?

I read your article and only one thing needed clarification for me. You said: The knife should be held at the same angle as the cutting bevel. So for a Japanese knife such as the Tojiru that would be a 15 degree angle? Also, how often would you steel a knife? I know this is very subjective but should it be done once a blade starts to get a little dull and then every time you are going to make a meal? Or just strop using balsa and some kind of compound? Going to do more research on this too.....

My philosophy is basically to pay a little more money now to get something that will work and I will be happy with than spend a little bit of money - be unhappy- and end up spending more in the long run. As far as my definition of "need", my inclination is to say - yes I want the fanciest most expensive stones/knives, so I try to pull back the reigns a bit and insert the word "need". That does not mean that I would be unhappy with a push towards something that would cost more now, but make me happier in the long run. Also I am basically starting over with my knives/sharpening and want to get an order together. If I'm starting over I may as well do it right and not continue to waste money on crummy knives, etc. I'm the type of person that needs gadgets to keep me interested in cooking. i.e. rice cooker, bread maker.... fun with sharpening stones.

I planned on getting the Tojiro 270mm ITK Bread Knife and the Tojiro DP Gyuto 210mm because of reviews that I read about them being very good for the money, but if you or anyone has suggestions let me know. I mainly want to cut veggies - tomatoes/carrots/potatoes as being the ones that are most problematic (maybe because I was using a dull knife that wasn't getting sharpened correctly). I have tried watching videos on knife skills and I am sure I will be practicing away once I get new knives. Does a santoku really help with potatoes not sticking to the side of the knife (speaking of the santoku's that have divots in the side)? If so - any recommendations?

So appreciative of the help as I am learning and with the myriad of choices it's hard to know where to start! Also I know I am bringing up multiple subjects so please be patient with this newbie.

Re: New Knives - Need help with sharpening...

Wed May 08, 2013 10:30 pm

Oh great. I just watched the Wicked Edge video. Decisions, decisions.

Re: New Knives - Need help with sharpening...

Thu May 09, 2013 4:15 am

Sorry for the multiple questions/posts. I'll post on the proper page for knife selection questions and fill out the questions that I've seen others doing.

Re: New Knives - Need help with sharpening...

Fri May 10, 2013 9:07 am

Hi Kiki,

Let me talk about your rod question a bit. Using a fine rod either steel or ceramic is a good way to maintain your edge. Some people will use a strop in place of a rod and some will even use a fine stone. All of these are methods to refine an edge that is starting to degrade due to normal cutting use in the kitchen. Eventually the edge will degrade and fall apart, and this type of touch up won't work anymore. Once this happens you can re-sharpen your knives and grind a fresh, new edge. In general you want to use finer rods or strops with harder steel knives since hard steel is more brittle but most of the knives that you'll find on our site respond well to a quick swipe with a ceramic rod like the idahone or the mac black ceramic rod.
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