Saturday, December 7, 2013

Steel Yourself

Success! Pictured above are a whetstone (this one's a waterstone, which uses water as the lubricant as opposed to oil) on the right and a leveling stone on the left, which is for keeping the surface of the waterstone flat.

So after a year's use, my knifes had started to noticeably dull and I started looking into options for sharpening (as opposed to steeling, which you should do at least every couple times you use your knife, with a honing steel). From what information I've found, though, paying someone else to sharpen your knives for you is expensive and often results in their ruining your knives or taking off a lot more material than necessary (leading to a shorter life for your knife). My chef's and paring knives are from Shun, who will sharpen your knives bought from them for free--but you have to ship them to Oregon, which ends up being pricey, too, if you want to make sure things get there and back safely.

It seemed that the best option was for me to sharpen my knives myself--which I wanted to try doing anyway. With the help of some online resources, I bought a medium grit waterstone and leveling stone and gave it a shot, and it seems to have turned out fine for me. At least, my knives are cutting like new again and aside from having lost some cosmetic sheen from the sharpening (I didn't bother polishing), I don't think I did anything bad to them. No chips in the blades.

Here a couple guides I found useful:

Kenji Lopez-Alt at Serious Eats has a good overview of what you need to know about the different options for sharpening and the different grits of waterstones. He also gives instructions on how to do the sharpening itself.

However, I found Yoshikin's (they make Global knives) method made more sense to me in getting even pressure along the whole blade. Though, maybe Lopez-Alt's is better for a smoother transition along the curved part toward the tip of the blade? Anyway, Yoshikin's worked for me.

I ended up going with just a #1000 grit stone since that gets you a sharp edge for normal use and cutting meat without dulling too quickly. Korin (Japanese tableware and knife store) discusses (see the note on the side titled, "Benefits of a #3000 Grit Stone") how fine grit stones will get you razor sharp results, but which dull more easily. The finer the grit, the longer it takes to remove material from your knife, too.

[Update:] Also check out Korin's helpful how-to video's on YouTube here. Thanks to Matt for telling me about it!


  1. I highly recommend checking out the resources (videos, etc) that Korin posts on their facebook page and on their own website about how to sharpen with whetstones. I'm just starting to teach myself how to do it properly, I got a set of japanese knives about a month ago. Its exciting!