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Knife Maintenance - where to start
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Thread: Knife Maintenance - where to start

  1. #1
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    Knife Maintenance - where to start

    Sorry for the long post...thought that providing as many details as possible might improve my odds of success here.

    I'm looking to start upgrading my collection of (run of the mill) kitchen knives, and thinking that I should have a clue about maintaining them before investing in anything significant. So I got to work with some of the gear already on hand, which included:

    - Sabatier Au Carbone 10-inch chef's knife. I've had this one for about 10 years, 4 or so of which were spent in heavy use as my primary knife in a restaurant kitchen. Relegated to much lighter use cooking at home for the past 5 years or so. Has been maintained over the years via various commercial sharpeners, pull-through sharpeners, and the occasional attempt at using a stone.

    - Henckels Stainless 7-inch Santoku. Maybe 7 or 8 years old, gets a lot of home use by both my wife and I. probably never sharpened, honed on a steel as necessary.

    - Some stones I have had around for a few years but rarely used: 2 labeled 'Splex Japanese water sharpening stone', 800 and 1200 grit, and one labeled 'Suehiro Ohka water finishing stone', 6000 grit

    got the stones soaking, watched a couple sharpening videos I found on the web, and got started. Results were less thrilling than I had hoped. While the knives were marginally improved, they were nowhere close to being able to cut paper in the air like in the videos. I never did feel the burr that I was supposed to develop, unless it is much subtler than I was expecting. Possible reasons for this, in decreasing order of likeliness:

    1. I'm really bad at sharpening. Either I need lots for practice, or am just going at this all wrong.
    2. I'm grinding too much or not enough (I would say I spent 20-30 min on each knife)
    3. The tools I'm using are inappropriate for the work I'm trying to do.
    4. The knives I have are not going to take the edge I want regardless of how they are sharpened (I have a hard time believing this, as the santoku was quite sharp out of the box, and the sabatier took a sharp but short-lived edge after each of it's occasional sharpenings).

    I'm willing to invest in different stuff if that's what it takes, and to practice in order to improve my skills. I'd like to have an idea that I'm practicing the right way, though. Thoughts?

    Also, any thoughts on things like the Edge Pro that are supposed to help maintain a constant angle between the blade and stone?

    Thanks,

    Patrick

  2. #2
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    Well, there's a lot of stuff to cover here but I think you should start by doing two things:
    1. Get a knife sharpened by someone who knows how and does a good job. Work on maintaining that edge by using the magic marker trick to keep consistent bevels. It's tough to start from a completely messed up edge.
    2. Get a lesson. Spending an hour or two with someone that can tell you what you're doing wrong can save you a lot of pain. Where are you at? There's probably somebody on here close enough to you to hook up with.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Benuser's Avatar
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    The two knives are very different animals. The French carbon will take quite a refined edge, the German stainless will take it as well, but it won't last.
    I sharpen these Germans on a J400 or on coarse sandpaper - P320 or something like that. Deburr and strop on a J1000 or so. No refinement for these...
    The French carbons, though, like all other carbons may be taken to the finest stones there are.
    I understand at least the carbon one has suffered from some abuse. So there is some fatigued steel to be removed, profile and geometry to be restored, relief bevel to be set. This is to be done before you may even think about durable sharpening,
    If you're not familiar with these tasks, send them in. Dave or Eamon or Jon will do a great job, and your knives will be better than ever before. And you will have a standard for future maintenance.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by tk59 View Post
    Well, there's a lot of stuff to cover here but I think you should start by doing two things:
    1. Get a knife sharpened by someone who knows how and does a good job. Work on maintaining that edge by using the magic marker trick to keep consistent bevels. It's tough to start from a completely messed up edge.
    2. Get a lesson. Spending an hour or two with someone that can tell you what you're doing wrong can save you a lot of pain. Where are you at? There's probably somebody on here close enough to you to hook up with.
    Thanks for the suggestions. I'm in Olympia, WA (~60 miles from Seattle, ~100 miles from Portland). Anybody know where I could go around here?

  5. #5
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    One tip, make sure you're hitting the edge. Use a permanent marker and go over the bevel and take a look at it when you're sharpening. The marker should be removed from the bevel. If you're sharpening at an angle that's too low, you'll get scratches above the edge, but not at the edge. I would watch a few of Jon's videos (japaneseknifeimports) and just listen to the sound of him sharpening. There's a certain sound you'll get when you're hitting the edge; I can't really describe it, but if you watch some sharpening videos, you'll get it.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Benuser's Avatar
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    One remark: sound may be very different from one stone to another, and from one steel to another!

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    Well, since no one is chiming in, I'll just say that Epicurean Edge is a ways out from you in Kirkland but you might contact them. Also, Jon Broida from Japanese Knife Imports sometimes does some online help. I'd give him a call, too. Actually, I think Dave Martell does, too.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by tk59 View Post
    Well, since no one is chiming in, I'll just say that Epicurean Edge is a ways out from you in Kirkland but you might contact them. Also, Jon Broida from Japanese Knife Imports sometimes does some online help. I'd give him a call, too. Actually, I think Dave Martell does, too.
    Actually, Kirkland is plenty accessible. I have a day off and would head out there tomorrow, but they're not open. Ever dealt with them before? Looks like they carry a pretty good selection, their web page had a left-handed knife section that had my left-handed wife salivating...

  9. #9
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    Ask Lucretia.
    Spike C
    "The Buddha resides as comfortably in the circuits of a digital computer or the gears of a cycle transmission as he does at the top of a mountain."
    Pirsig

  10. #10
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    Besides watching Jon's video's at JKI, or buying the Martel video's, not to mention the magic marker trick. Another trick I use to help me gauge the angle at which I need to hold a knife at the heel, midsection, and tip, is to take a softer flat piece of leather, lay it down on a flat surface. Then take the knife, lay it down completely flat on the leather, and slowly start moving it, edge leading strokes while slowly lifting the spine. When the edge bites into the leather, stop, and make note of what that angle is. Repeat the process for the entire blade, and the other side. You'll notice the approximate angle you need to be moving the knife as it moves across the stone. If you mark the edge with a magic marker, this should help you dial in how you need to hold the knife as it interacts with the wet stone. This also assumes that the edge isn't so dull that it won't catch on the softer leather, or that you want to lower the angle all together.

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