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May 17, 2010 08:32 PM

Japanese knife care

I have recently purchased some beautiful Shun and Global knives. Unfortunately, I am totally inept at using a sharpening steel. I have used a Chantry sharpening steel device from England for many years with my somewhat lesser German knives, and it has worked like a charm. It is so easy to use, works perfectly on German knives, but I am worried about using it on my new knives. I believe that Japanese knives have a different edge profile, and am wondering if the Chantry is suitable for these knives. If so, great...if not, what would you recommend for restoring the edge on fine Japanese knives for someone who is not skilled at the use of a steel. Would love the recommendation of a professional who really knows knives.

If you are not familiar with the Chantry, see:

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  1. Josephnl,

    I am not a professional, but I will share what I know on this.

    Both Shun and Global knives have their primary bevel set at lower angle than most German and American knives. Shun has 16o out of factory and Yoshikin recommends its Global knives to be maintain at 10-15o. I don't know Chantry, but it look like a 20o edge angle (40o included) to me. Can you use Chantry on your knives? Sort of. You will put a wider angle and therefore will make your knives less sharp than otherwise. Functional, nonetheless, so it is your choice if you want to maintain these knives with the sharper ~15o angle or to convert these knives into the Western ~20o angle.

    The good news is that a honing steel is unsuitable for these Japanese-Western knives, so you don't need to learn it. The bad news is that the best way to maintain these knives are to use flat stones which requires more skill than a honing steels:

    For Shun knives, you have another option. KAI offers free lifetime knife sharpening service.

    From Shun's website:
    "Will you sharpen my knife?
    Yes, we sharpen every Shun knife sent in for warranty service as part of our normal procedure. (In fact, we will sharpen your Shun knife free of charge even if it doesn’t need warranty service. Please see below.) We provide this additional service free of charge. Please note that we can only sharpen and repair Shun, Wasabi, and Pure Komachi 2 knives."

    1. If you want a simple pull-through sharpener for Japanese knives, I'd suggest you check out the Minosharp and Shinkansen water sharpeners. I believe Global recommends them. You can order them from Amazon.

      5 Replies
      1. re: tanuki soup

        Thanks. Both the Minosharp and Shinkansen look great and are obviously suitable for Global knives. Do you think they are similarly ok for Shun knives? I really do want something like the Chantry which is more like a steel. I like really sharp knives, but don't think that I would want to overuse an abrasive sharpener. Any further ideas?

        1. re: josephnl

          Sorry, I don't have any experience with Shun knives, but I'm sure one of the many knife experts here at Chowhound can give you some excellent advice.

          I picked up the Minosharp at Tokyu Hands in Shinjuku, and the very helpful sales staff there actually called up the manufacturer to double-check that the sharpening angles were correct for Global knives. I've only used it on one of my Globals (a small utility knife), and it did a good job. When I was finished, I could casually cut the corners off a sheet of notepad paper. It also didn't put any scratches on the sides of the blade.

          As for further ideas, you might want to consider getting a ceramic steel. I use a 12" EdgePro model that works great and is really easy to use. It has a rubber cap on the tip so you can hone your blade while holding the steel vertically with the tip pressed down on the countertop -- not as dramatic as the familiar chef's method, but a lot easier and more accurate for a beginner like me. A couple of swipes keeps my Globals and other Japanese knives nice and sharp.

          1. re: tanuki soup


            You are right. Looks like a few Minosharp hand sharpeners are recommended for Global knives. They are not simply recommended for Global, but also "only":


            "Recommended for Global knives only " Really?


            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

              Hi CK - I think that the "only Global knives" warning is a little misleading. I'm pretty sure that what they really mean is "only Western-style (double-bevel) Japanese knives with a 15-degree edge angle", and not the more familiar Henckels, Wusthof, etc. If you read the reviews, a couple of users comment that the sharpener is also good for Furi and Shun knives. TS

              1. re: tanuki soup

                Yes Soup,

                I think it is overcautious and find it humorous. It should work for any ~15o knives.

      2. I can't speak for Global, since I don't use them, but the steel in Shun and other Japanese knives is harder than German knives. Shun holds its edge very well and only occasionally needs a bit of honing. there are videos online how to do it properly. You'll need a ceramic rod, and the easiest technique is to hold the rod perpendicular to a non slip surface and hone the knife at about a 16 degree angle on both sides. Other than that, have it professionally sharpened once or twice a year and you're good to go. I'm pretty sure this would apply to your Global as well

        1. If you don't wish to go to the trouble of sharpening yourself, I can highly recommend Dave Martell at He does a terrific job and is quite knowledgeable about Japanese knives.

          1. Chemiclekinetics said most of what I would say above, so I'll just add a couple points. The big question is how sharp do you want to keep your edge.

            The minosharp will work for your knives. Unfortunately, it will not work as well as a good professional sharpening or learning to use waterstones. It will make a dull edge sharper, but not quite as sharp as your knives were when brand new (a pro or waterstone job can actually make your edge sharper than it was when new). And over time the metal behind the edge will grow thicker, costing you some performance.

            Globals especially are a bit weird because none of the common methods of sharpening (stones, minosharp, almost all pros) actually preserve the geometry of the edge as it was when you got it, which is a bit convex. You can keep a convex edge by sharpening with varying grits of sandpaper on top of a leather pad, but very few people bother to do this with kitchen knives. Personally, I don't think preserving edge geometry is nearly as important as just sharpening well in a geometry that works for you. Due to it's convex edge, you can initially have problems sharpening at any particularly acute angle, because you will have to grind a whole new bevel before you even start to sharpen the edge itself. I don't believe this is a problem with the minosharp, but I'm not positive.

            A grooved steel won't be of much use to you with these knives - the edges shouldn't be rolling all that much. A ceramic rod like chuckl recommends can be useful - it will help you maintain a sharp edge longer. Theoretically, you could do a complete job of resharpening with one, but it wouldn't be fun. Most people find that they eventually need a full resharpening, even with a ceramic rod. They can be a bit pricey, and I personally don't use one and don't feel the need.

            Dave Martell's sharpening is a bit pricey as well. You get what you pay for though - by all accounts he does a superior job. it can be nice to have your knife sharpened by someone like him if for no other reason than to show you how 'sharp' sharp can be.

            The tried and true path for knife nuts is learning to sharpen by hand on stones, especially Japanese waterstones. This admittedly involves an investment of time and effort to learn. But it simply produces the best and most versatile results.

            Other high end options:
            The Spyderco Sharpmaker works almost as well as stones, is a bit less versatile, and is easier to learn. The Edgepro system works as well or better for most people but costs a good chunk of change and is less versatile.

            Edit: sorry, I didn't realize how long a 'couple of points' would wind up being.