How to transition from practicing on Western knives to sharpening Japanese knives

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josemartinlopez

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I bought some Naniwa Professional stones to refine my sharpening technique because of their good feedback. I am practicing on an old Wusthof knife and am finding my handles find a natural angle for the knife. I can readily get it sharp but the edge does not last that long.

Probably a stupid question but how do I transition to sharpening a double bevel Japanese knife in the harder steels? For example, I was thinking I need to be conscious that when I transition, the sharpening angles will likely be more acute and some knives will not be symmetric.

Also, how do I know if I have mastered the really simple task of sharpening a typical German knife? Getting it sharp enough to cut paper is a low bar, and I want to make sure I do not maintain any bad habits when I transition.
 

Carl Kotte

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I agree with @riba. Just start doing it! If your edges aren’t durable then search around KKF for troubleshooting threads. About angles: people will tell you different things (out of preferences, opinions, What works, what knives they have etc etc). I have the impression that most people that feel confident in their sharpening don’t keep track of what exact angle they sharpen their knives on. The important thing when starting out is practice and consistency. Learn how to form an even burr on one side, then raise it on the other side (feel for it with your fingers), deburr and then start diminishing that burr until you have a good clean even apex. If I were you I would practice on doing all of this using one stone only (the more stones involve and the more strokes/passes you do, the easier it is to start to wobble and change the angles). Good luck!
 

cotedupy

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I am no expert, but have also recently started sharpening, and I personally find Japanese knives easier than western knives. I certainly use a more acute angle for them, but that's no more tricky.

And as others have said above- just a bit of practice (it doesn't take much). I use a 1k/3k combo and works a treat. I also find edge trailing strokes more forgiving if you're unsure about angles at the beginning.
 

Benuser

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If you're OK with a previous geometry: Start on one side, at the lowest possible angle. Raise the spine little by little, check where you are abrading steel, go on until you've reached the very edge. Check with a marker and a loupe. You will have raised a burr.
Do the same on the other side.
Deburr, and stay with the coarsest stone until the burr can't be reduced any further and only flips.
Repeat the entire process on a finer stone.
This method of restoring a previous configuration allows you to splendidly ignore angles and asymmetry.
 

Matt Zilliox

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put a different knife in your hand, do same things as before, adjust as needed. theres no magic to this, no mystery or intrigue, its just rubbing metal on rocks, do it the same way over and over and your knife gets sharp. move slow at first. no 2 sharpeners do it the same, there is no correct way, just different ways. there is no sub for rubbing a knife on a rock and seeing what comes of it
 

kayman67

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It's rubbing metal, but not just. It's geometry, it's progression, it's edge development and so on. Now, this doesn't necessarily have to be important for everyone, but it doesn't make them non existing.
 

Majbjorn

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I recently faced this dilemma. Collection of high end knives grew bigger and bigger whilst I was afraid of putting any one of them to the stones. My best advice is, just from my own experience, if you feel confident that you get reliable results with several beater knives, just go for it.
Actually I found sharpening my japanese knives a lot easier than global etc.
Best of luck.
 

Bobby2shots

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I bought some Naniwa Professional stones to refine my sharpening technique because of their good feedback. I am practicing on an old Wusthof knife and am finding my handles find a natural angle for the knife. I can readily get it sharp but the edge does not last that long.

Probably a stupid question but how do I transition to sharpening a double bevel Japanese knife in the harder steels? For example, I was thinking I need to be conscious that when I transition, the sharpening angles will likely be more acute and some knives will not be symmetric.

Also, how do I know if I have mastered the really simple task of sharpening a typical German knife? Getting it sharp enough to cut paper is a low bar, and I want to make sure I do not maintain any bad habits when I transition.
It all starts with proper assessment,,,, what "specifically" will this knife be used for???,,, then apply the proper edge geometry to support that specific use. Sharpening to extreme angles when that's undesireble for the type of knife you're sharpening, and the task it was specifically designed to address, will have you spending more time on coarse stones and correcting issues that you yourself have created.

Regarding "paper cutting being a low bar",, I disagree. It's not the fact that cutting paper in itself "proves" sharpness;,,, what's important is the "manner" in which it cuts paper,,, and what does it sound like as you cut. Is it tearing/splitting, ripping that paper?? Is it "smoothly,,effortlessly and quietly "slicing" that paper, etc. Does the sound change as different areas of the blade contact different areas of that paper?(which can show edge inconsistencies).
 

josemartinlopez

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It's not the fact that cutting paper in itself "proves" sharpness;,,, what's important is the "manner" in which it cuts paper,,, and what does it sound like as you cut. Is it tearing/splitting, ripping that paper?? Is it "smoothly,,effortlessly and quietly "slicing" that paper, etc. Does the sound change as different areas of the blade contact different areas of that paper?(which can show edge inconsistencies).
Thanks, I've come to appreciate this point much more.
 

labor of love

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I bought some Naniwa Professional stones to refine my sharpening technique because of their good feedback. I am practicing on an old Wusthof knife and am finding my handles find a natural angle for the knife. I can readily get it sharp but the edge does not last that long.

Probably a stupid question but how do I transition to sharpening a double bevel Japanese knife in the harder steels? For example, I was thinking I need to be conscious that when I transition, the sharpening angles will likely be more acute and some knives will not be symmetric.

Also, how do I know if I have mastered the really simple task of sharpening a typical German knife? Getting it sharp enough to cut paper is a low bar, and I want to make sure I do not maintain any bad habits when I transition.
How acute of an edge would you like on your Japanese knives? What degree would you say is best? Do you think that sharpening an edge until burr formation would be a great way of knowing that you’re on the right track?
 

soigne_west

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what sharpening stones do you have now? Which is your favorite? Which ones do you plan on buying?
 

M1k3

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You'll know your soft stainless German style knives are properly sharp when they don't lose most of the sharpness after 5-10 minutes of cutting board contact. Deburr is the name of the game. No real need to go much higher than about 1-2k grit on them either.
 

deanb

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How acute of an edge would you like on your Japanese knives? What degree would you say is best? Do you think that sharpening an edge until burr formation would be a great way of knowing that you’re on the right track?
For hard, RHC 61 and above, knives I like 5°. Burr formation is a must.
 

Telloppen

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Following this thread for tips... this question is pretty much exactly what I joined this forum to answer. I’ve practiced for a few weeks on beaters, working up the courage to try sharpening the very nice Japanese Gyuto I just got. It’s just so perfect looking, hard to put it on a stone.
 

Benuser

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Following this thread for tips... this question is pretty much exactly what I joined this forum to answer. I’ve practiced for a few weeks on beaters, working up the courage to try sharpening the very nice Japanese Gyuto I just got. It’s just so perfect looking, hard to put it on a stone.
Old, neglected knives often have got far too thick behind the edge, making good sharpening a frustrating experience. To learn the basics better start with a thin carbon steel knife. In Europe I would suggest a breakfast knife by Robert Herder, the Buckels. Cheap, crazy thin, easy sharpening. Great for learning the basics — raising a burr, chasing it, getting rid of it. A loupe and a marker will tell you where you're actually abrading steel.
 

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