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Japanese knife sharpening

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I know, I know - I've searched through all the posts on this subject. I know I should learn to sharpen my own knives properly but I can tell you right now it's just not going to happen. We have to pick our battles and this one isn't going to make my list.

So, given that, where can I take my knives? I have two Japanese style knives - one is a slicer with those dimples along the side and the other is a small but very handy damascus steel utility knife. They both need sharpening. Any suggestions at all? I have gathered that Nella isn't recommended for this. What about someplace up near J-Town? I don't want to ruin the knives but, at the same time, I'm not obsessive either. Just has to be a decent job - not Nobel Prize-winning.

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  1. If they are "Japanese style" knives stamped from inexpensive steel it won't much matter even if you buy an electric sharpener. The real Damascus steel blade has to be treated gently to preserve it's temper.

    If it really has to be a decent job, better go back at re-read the posts.

    2 Replies
    1. re: iamafoodie

      Ok, they're Japanese, not just "style". I bought them in Tokyo last year. Neither one was super expensive but I bought them at one of those shops in the cookware district of the city. So I can't tell you if it's crappy steel or not. The handles are beautiful, they feel great in the hand and I don't want them ruined. However, I can tell you that I have tried to learn how to sharpen knives - and I can do many things competently - but knife-sharpening is something I have no knack for. If I do it myself I can guarantee it will be a worse job than anywhere I might take them in to be done.

      Surely, surely there is someone in the city that can do this.

      1. re: Nyleve

        I'd befriend a Sushi chef and ask them to do it for you as a favor. ;)

    2. For maintenance, not sharpening, Paul's has this ceramic
      http://www.paulsfinest.com/Ceramic-Sh...
      Surprisingly, this may bring back the edge, and you'll need it in the future even if the knives have to be sent out. If you hold the rod vertically on a towel, you can easily stroke the knife.

      There was a discussion this week on knives at www.cookskorner.com and Paul (a dedicated cook) participated.

      1. If you've read the other threads then you should know the answer. There are no places in Toronto to take your knives to for "Japanese style" sharpening.

        As mentioned in other threads, if you're not willing to do it on your own, send them out to either....

        http://www.korin.com

        http://www.japaneseknifesharpening.com

        1. Ok, I get it. This is just not going to happen in Toronto. I find it unbelievable that there's nowhere to sharpen Japanese knives but I have to take your word(s) for it. I'll be in New York mid-March and will shlep my knives along with me. I've heard of a couple of places that will do Japanese knives properly.

          Just for future reference, though. What's the process when you send knives out to japaneseknifesharpening.com, for instance? Shipping charges? Any duty or customs to send or return?

          7 Replies
          1. re: Nyleve

            I feel your frustration. I recently just started sharpening my own knives and it has been a learning process. I bought some of these guide rails http://store.ideasetcetera.com/10379.... so I could be sure I was getting the perfect angle every time, making it....... well idiot proof for me. I consider them training wheels for sharpening and they have served me well for now and when I become confident enough with my expensive knives I will take them off. I wish I went to New York often enough to get them done there or that Toronto had someone I could trust, but that's life I guess.

            1. re: Nyleve

              Korin is in Manhattan, take it there, you will not be disappointed. Email ahead in case you require faster service due to duration of stay.

              I've actually given thought to opening a knife shop in Toronto servicing this much neglected market. Maybe someone reading this will beat me to the punch.

              I haven't used them as I sharpen knives myself. However, they will recommend you ship your knife as registered mail, so it can be tracked. Dave at JKS posts often on knifeforums.com as "D&R Sharpening" and will gladly answer any questions you have via there or email. He is very reputable.

              There is a shop in Calgary offering sharpening services, they look legit. It appears to be the only sharpening service available in Canada catering to Japanese knives.

              http://www.knifewear.com/

              1. re: aser

                Open your shop. I'll be your first customer.

                Interesting about Calgary, though. I'm always leery when I ship anything through customs. They can be totally fine one time and ding you with ridiculous charges the next. Thanks for the link.

                1. re: Nyleve

                  Canadian customs is a bitch to say the least. Basically, the rule is if anything is over $15-20, they'll ding you w/ taxes plus a $5 inspection fee.

                  I would request them to write "used knife sent for sharpening" on the customs form. Declare the value as $10 to avoid any fees.

                  1. re: aser

                    Until your knife gets "lost" in the postal system :-(

                    1. re: aser

                      I have purchased many U.S. based items on eBay, and I would suggest that the $100 point is where the the sales tax and handling charges kick in, if at all. A lot depends on how busy the border point is at a given time of year, and whether the package is out of the ordinary and gets flagged. Knives would fit that profile.

                    2. re: Nyleve

                      I looked at the Calgary guy's website and he seems pretty committed to Japanese knifery. I emailed him and he said that he would charge $10 for my small knife and $15 for my large one, plus the cost of return postage only. This does seem like a decent option to avoid customs charges. I have had packages go awol between here and Edmonton, though, so I'm really reluctant to mail anything I love anywhere at all. Maybe next time. This time I'll take my knives to NY and hope they don't charge me duty on the return trip. Will be driving.

                2. MAC knives recommends a ceramic sharpener made by Fiskars. Here's a CHOWHOUND thread on this topic:

                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/593983

                  I have used this device, which can be had for about $15 on eBay, on numerous Japanese knives (not just MACs). Two ceramic wheels are angled such that the blade gets correctly sharpened.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: DrewStar

                    Only good for knives that are 50/50 & 15˚, such as Shun, Mac, Global. Most other Japanese brands do not fall into this camp.

                    The problem w/ these pull through gadgets is that they wear out quickly. Once worn out, they could do damage to your blades. I haven't used it so I can't comment specifically on it. My coworker uses one on her collection of Macs, it works to a degree, but is looking to learn stoning for an even sharper edge.

                    At the end of the day, if you're a home cook using a knife that fits the sharpener's angles, it's a decent choice. Better that than no sharpening at all like most home kitchen knives.