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Total Noob needs help starting to sharpen
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  1. #1

    Total Noob needs help starting to sharpen

    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/large...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=9Usol...layer_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!

  2. #2
    Senior Member Tatsuya's Avatar
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  3. #3
    Senior Member ThEoRy's Avatar
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    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.
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  4. #4
    Senior Member Tatsuya's Avatar
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    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.

  5. #5
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    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!
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  6. #6
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    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

  7. #7
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    Try reading this excerpt from Chad Ward's an edge in the kitchen:
    http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?...nd-sharpening/

  8. #8
    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!

  9. #9
    Senior Member DeepCSweede's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PhunkyPhilibuster View Post
    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.

  10. #10

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    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.

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