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View Full Version : Total Noob needs help starting to sharpen



PhunkyPhilibuster
03-22-2012, 01:12 AM
Ok, here's the deal. I've never sharpened a knife, period, before. No oil stones, no whetstones, no EdgePro whatnot. I'm a home cook that has never had sharp knives until recently and now I'm coming to the point where I'm realizing I need all my knives sharp.

I bought a Tojiro DP gyuto (240mm) about a year ago and have basically stopped using it very much because the edge has gone dull even with regular honing on a ceramic idahone. Enter Shapton Glass Stones (1k,4k) that I just got in the mail today from Chef Knives to Go. Long overdue, I know, I know, but alas the sharpening devices are here and I'm ready to get down to business. Don't know if that was the best choice, but that's what I'm working with now and I don't really have a budget for anything new soon.

But wait, I don't want to practice my initial sharpening skills on my "nice" knife (a DP is my nicest knife, unfortunately) so I figured I would do some test runs on my beater knives, which are the same knives I use at work (cheesemonger in gourmet store.) Branded Povinelli (?) from a local cutlery distribution place. I bought my two chef's knives for $6 each, I think it was a couple of years back. They look like this....http://www.carolinacutlery.com/largeimages/cooksknive.jpg Don't know if you can quite see the edge in that photo, but it seems like they are German style with a wide angle (20-25 deg. ?)

I have been trying to educate myself about sharpening and just watched this video (among several others over the past few months) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9UsolwpCyTQ&feature=player_embedded

I realize he is sharpening a J-knife in the video, but for some reason I assumed I could just adjust my angle wider to accommodate the beater knives' angles and off we go. Not quite. I did everything exactly as in that video with the exception of using a strop, because I don't have one. 1k stone first, 8-10 strokes on each knife section. Tried to feel for burr, couldn't really tell as I've never felt one before, but there was definitely residue and something on knife after a side of strokes. Repeated with less pressure and less strokes. Finished with stropping motion on stone. Changed stones and repeated.

I feel like absolutely nothing happened to this knife. Arm shaving test failed. Paper test failed miserably. Onion slicing seemed no different.

Am I an idiot? Can you not sharpen these types of knives on waterstones? I definitely tried specifically searching the internet for this, but found it difficult to come up with anything specific about it. Do I need to keep at it and increase the # of strokes on each side and section of the knife? Perhaps I should try the magic marker trick, didn't remember that one till now. How do I know I've gotten a burr?

Sorry for this noob post and question, but I'm just trying to get started and figure this out and am a little in the dark. THANKS in advance for any help and advice!

Tatsuya
03-22-2012, 01:25 AM
Start here, with Jon's videos.

http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLEBF55079F53216AB&feature=plcp

ThEoRy
03-22-2012, 01:34 AM
Any piece of metal can be sharpened against a stone. We've been doing this for thousands of years. Try painting the edge with magic marker so you can see where the steel is abrading from. You want it to start from the top of the bevel working down to the edge then creating the burr. Don't count strokes as a definitive rule. Only note them as a general guide. Check often for the burr. This is why counting as a rule is bad. If you raise the burr at 6 strokes, why do you "have to" go to 10 or whatever the number was? You are just removing more steel than necessary and thus shortening the life of your knife.

Once you raise it on one side, flip the knife over and push the burr back over. Repeat with less strokes and pressure to "chase the burr" down smaller and smaller till it is miniscule or gone completely. Deburr by stropping or pulling through cork or felt between stones. Finish with stropping on whatever you can. Even newspaper works. Hope some of this helps. Feel free to ask any questions.

Tatsuya
03-22-2012, 01:35 AM
Oh yeah, and watch all of Jon's videos. To keep your hopes up, I've sharpened a piece of crap Messermeister that looks similar such that it'll shave arm hair and I'm not even that good at sharpening. I use that same Tojiro DP for work, did tonight actually. If I can sharpen it, you can sharpen it.

And that whole thing about not wanting to sharpen your "good" knife: I felt that way too with mine. But like you said, you're not going to use a dull knife. Since you're already here, you'll learn to distinguish between "good" and "good enough" soon enough.

WildBoar
03-22-2012, 02:21 AM
Where are you located? Dave Martell is starting to plan the next knife sharping class; he's a little east of Reading, PA... It's a great way to start a sharpening education!

dragonlord
03-22-2012, 03:11 AM
And don't forget that with a really blunt knife it may take more strokes to raise a burr than they recommend in the videos

TB_London
03-22-2012, 06:04 AM
Try reading this excerpt from Chad Ward's an edge in the kitchen:
http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?/topic/26036-knife-maintenance-and-sharpening/

PhunkyPhilibuster
03-22-2012, 07:56 AM
Awesome guys! Thanks for the great responses. I'll check out those linked videos and get cracking.

ThEoRy: Thanks for the more detailed response as well. I figured that I was just using the wrong technique, angle, or both and perhaps not giving it enough time. Strop on newspaper huh? Do you strop at the same angle that you sharpen?

Thanks guys!

DeepCSweede
03-22-2012, 08:47 AM
Awesome guys! Thanks for the great responses. I'll check out those linked videos and get cracking.

ThEoRy: Thanks for the more detailed response as well. I figured that I was just using the wrong technique, angle, or both and perhaps not giving it enough time. Strop on newspaper huh? Do you strop at the same angle that you sharpen?

Thanks guys!

I use newspaper or cardboard to strop sometimes and I use a slightly higher angle to strop so that the burr can catch. I also will run it through a piece of cork in between stones. There is no reason that you can't get your cheap knives sharp too.

kalaeb
03-22-2012, 09:10 AM
I started slow and focused on keeping my angle consistant. There should be no reason you can't feel a bur, you will know it when its there. If you are not sure whether you raised the burr, you didn't. Chances are you are not hitting the edge, use a magic markerand run it along the edge to see where you are hitting and adjust your angle accordingly.

Start with your knife flat on the stone and then lift the edge until you feel it flush with the stone and go from there.

I would suggest you get your dp out and work on it. No time like the present. If you are going to get any muscle memory for angle, it might as well be with your most used knife.


News paper is a great stropping medium. I still use it.

Cadillac J
03-22-2012, 09:22 AM
You have all the info you need in the Chad Ward article and the videos to get started...it really is just putting in the work and getting more practice.

We've all went through these struggles when starting, so don't feel frustrated that you didn't get it the very first time out...it is a process that you will continue to get better results with over time. Just don't give up on it, I promise it will pay off soon enough.

The muscle memory of holding a consistent angle is most important early on, so beater knives are fine for this; however, move onto the Tojiro when you feel comfortable--it will feel better on the stones, burr abrasion/removal much easier, etc. than a crappier steel knife.

Have fun with it!

FinkPloyd
03-22-2012, 09:49 AM
1000 grit is not really what I would use to sharpen dull knives. I would start with 400 grit first and then go up to 1000, and higher. This stone (http://www.japaneseknifeimports.com/review/product/list/id/254/category/13/) will probably suit your needs the best.

kazeryu
03-22-2012, 11:21 AM
And don't forget that with a really blunt knife it may take more strokes to raise a burr than they recommend in the videos

+1

I suspect this is the core of your problem.

Feeling burrs: (There are lots of ways to check for one, this is just mine.)

Hold the knife edge-up and place the your thumb along the left side of the edge. Roll/scrape the pad of your thumb across (not along, obviously) the edge from left to right. Now repeat this motion from right-to-left. If you have a good burr, one direction should feel much smoother than the other one.

This is because the edge is shaped sort of like the top half of the letter "C". In one direction you are rubbing along the smooth back of the "C", and in the other direction you can feel the inside of the "C" scraping against your skin.

mhlee
03-22-2012, 11:50 AM
+1 to the magic marker technique. That will clearly show whether your properly hitting the edge of the knife while you are sharpening. I prefer marking the entire length of the blade.

Shinob1
03-22-2012, 01:19 PM
Although I'm new to sharpening, I can say feeling the burr for the first time was a light-bulb moment. The stones you have are medium to fine, so it will take longer on your 1k grit stone to develop a burr. What I did, (I used a King 1k stone), is sharpened on one side until I felt the burr across the whole edge of the knife. You'll definitely know when you have a burr and once you have it going along the whole knife, then switch to the other side.

Once your comfortable with developing and flipping the burr to each side, you'll be on your way to developing a new edge. Next you'll have to reduce the burr and finally deburr the edge so that you remove any wire edge from the knife.

All of the videos linked will get you started. My first time out I did okay and produced a reasonably sharp edge. Just keep at it and the more experienced members here can steer you in the right direction if you encounter any difficulties.

PhunkyPhilibuster
03-25-2012, 04:39 PM
Great comments guys! I went at it with the DP yesterday and definitely improved its sharpness from what it was, but still have some work to do to get it at the desired sharpness. It's helpful to hear that I may need to spend a little more time with these particular grit stones combined with the relative dullness of each of my knives, to achieve the level of sharpness we all are looking for.

The DP felt much easier to hold at it's angle than the wider angle on the beater chef's knife. I tried the magic marker trick and that was certainly helpful. Again, thanks for the tips folks. I'm just gonna keep at it until I get the right feel! For clarification: we strop at the end (with newspaper/cardboard/leather/etc) to further polish the edge, correct?

Shinob1
03-25-2012, 07:45 PM
Great comments guys! I went at it with the DP yesterday and definitely improved its sharpness from what it was, but still have some work to do to get it at the desired sharpness. It's helpful to hear that I may need to spend a little more time with these particular grit stones combined with the relative dullness of each of my knives, to achieve the level of sharpness we all are looking for.

The DP felt much easier to hold at it's angle than the wider angle on the beater chef's knife. I tried the magic marker trick and that was certainly helpful. Again, thanks for the tips folks. I'm just gonna keep at it until I get the right feel! For clarification: we strop at the end (with newspaper/cardboard/leather/etc) to further polish the edge, correct?

Yep stropping is the last step. :)