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Ok ok ... I've finally started to freehand sharpen ... and ... it's not all that hard (to my surprise)

j
jkling17 Jan 22, 2012 03:18 AM

As many of you are aware, I've been using a DMT aligner to hold those angles for me, along with the small 1x4" stones that come with the kit. Frankly, I've been long reluctant to mess about with a non-guided method. But one of those youtube video links posted by cowboy or someone, showed this guy in Japan doing just rapidfire sharpening of a ceramic knife on sandpaper, along with before/after extreme closeups of the edge - finally made me think "gee how hard could this really be".

Today, I decided to experiment and freehand my Tosagata Santoku. The primary bevel was getting pretty dirty from that patina that they can get (white carbon steel with iron cladding). So I decided to try polishing that up. First, I used the 1200 then the 8000 to fully reprofile the primary bevel (stones held dead flat against the primary). This area is about 1" wide or so, perhaps slightly more. This also really shined up that big primary bevel area, nearly to a mirror but not quite. There was a really cool video of a guy in Japan doing that to a Murray Carter and the results where fantastic: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4--HID.... My primary isn't a mirror like his but I now think that I could also easily get there with some polishing pastes or abrasive films and stropping, but I don't own any of those as of yet.

Then just put on a secondary / microbevel by simply holding the stone at a slight angle and using very light motions. I discovered that this VERY rapidly brought up a burr with the 1200, and then was easy to finish it off with the 8000 grit. I have to say that this resulted in quite possibly some of the sharpest edges that I've done to date. I honestly have no idea what the angle is but it's certainly acute.

I had to touch up a bit near the tip, after some paper shred tests. A few min later, direct push-cuts (no linear movement) of paper were easily accomplished along the entire edge. The blade readily bit into the paper just anywhere and shredded right through with just gentle movements and the weight of the blade. I'm impressed.

Summary ... If I can do this ... anybody can. Don't fear the freehand!

  1. cowboyardee Jan 22, 2012 06:48 AM

    Congrats, JK. You sound like a natural - my very first attempt freehanding involved printing an image of a protractor from the web, cutting that out, and then an awful lot of brow furrowing in between wobbly ineffective strokes (my second attempt was better). It helps, of course, to have a solid understanding of edge geometry, and you clearly do.

    If you're trying to get a mirror finish, that's one of those situations where a stone or two in between 1200 and 8k can just make things go a lot easier. But like I said in another recent thread, I see some upsides of a large jump in grits in terms of how the edge itself performs.

    Thanks for writing up your process. Spread the word.

    1 Reply
    1. re: cowboyardee
      Chemicalkinetics Jan 22, 2012 06:36 PM

      "Congrats, JK. You sound like a natural"

      True. It took me awhile to get good at hand sharpening.

    2. Chemicalkinetics Jan 22, 2012 06:32 PM

      Man, I have been left and right missing all these posts from my friends.

      "But one of those youtube video links posted by cowboy or someone, showed this guy in Japan doing just rapidfire sharpening of a ceramic knife on sandpaper"

      Oh I think I post that video. That guy had trouble sharpen his ceramic knife using the EdgePro. It was chipping like hell. This video, right?

      http://youtu.be/KLMZ2fZCMtk

      In term of the video you link to, that guy C-Dawg is an American. A chef at Oakland, California. His sharpening approach is a bit too much for me. :).

      Sometime the exact angle does not matter. It is more important to be consistent.

      "A few min later, direct push-cuts (no linear movement) of paper were easily accomplished along the entire edge. The blade readily bit into the paper just anywhere and shredded right through with just gentle movements and the weight of the blade"

      Glad to know. Now, just try to push cut the paper again after your first cooking prep. The reason is that sometime people can oversharpen the knife angle to the point that it is not stable. If your knife edge holds, then great. If not, then play with the angle a bit.

      "Don't fear the freehand!"

      I always believe and still believe that the best way to take away this fear is to practice on a relatively inexpensive knife. There is no way to tell someone not to fear if he is sharpening his first >$300 knife free hand.

      6 Replies
      1. re: Chemicalkinetics
        j
        jkling17 Jan 22, 2012 08:36 PM

        YES - that is the guy!!! I tried like heck to find the post but couldn't come up with it. Yeah, it was great seeing the extreme close-up of the 2ndary bevel (probably at least 50x), before/after. And what he did to get it there was SO darn easy (see 9:40 and beyond) Swish, swish, swish, swish!

        >> Glad to know. Now, just try to push cut the paper again after your first cooking prep. The reason is that sometime people can oversharpen the knife angle to the point that it is not stable. If your knife edge holds, then great. If not, then play with the angle a bit.

        Yeah ... the thought occurred to me but this particular high carbon knife always seems softer than it should be anyway. In theory, it's supposed to be Rc 61 or so. But ... it loses it's edge quickly enough so perhaps the white steel is "softer", regardless of Rc value? I freely admit this part of hardness vs steel resiliency and toughness seems beyond my ability to grasp.

        1. re: jkling17
          Chemicalkinetics Jan 22, 2012 08:45 PM

          jking,

          White steel does not have to be softer than blue steel. In fact, white steel knives are often harder. There are many reasons why the edge may seem to lose it after real cutting. One reason is that you put the beyond what the steel can handle, though this should not happen if you have it around 12-15 degree (per side). Another possibility is that there is a wire edge. In a way you can think of it as a very tiny and weak burr:

          http://www.knifeforums.com/uploads/1271151802-wire_edge.GIF

          So the edge was cutting paper just fine, but the wire edge collapsed after hitting the cutting board, so the effective edge became dull -- at least it feels dull.

          What I like to suggest to you is to strop your knife on an old leather belt just 1-2 times per side. Secure an old leather belt on one end, and pull the other end with your hand. Now, just very lightly, drag the knife edge across a leather belt using the other hand. If the edge suddenly reappears, then the problem was the second one (wire edge).

          http://youtu.be/une4Zp75gWU?t=45s

          Try it. It will only take 5 seconds.

          If you think the problem is the first one, then just bring it to the stone and sharpen the knife again using the your 8000 grit stone, and sharpen it again at a higher angle. It does not have to be a full blown sharpening. Just 2-3 runs on each side is probably enough.

          1. re: Chemicalkinetics
            j
            jkling17 Jan 22, 2012 09:11 PM

            Hi Chemical,

            Oh I know my issue with this knife can't be a wire edge. I always do a wire/burr removal at the end of sharpening using a cork or very tightly wrapped up paper towel. This is the only knife that I have that loses it's edge faster than i think it should.

            I have always been under the impression that white steel can take a slightly finer edge than blue (though not noticeable at my grit levels), but that blue generally can hold them better. This seemed to have been borne out by stuff that I've read on steel properties but I'm no expert.

            I've played with my angles before and unless I go with a full convex edge, I'm not sure there is anything more that I can do. But at least it does take a wickedly sharp edge. But no matter what I've tried it just doesn't hold it as I'd like. My blue steel nakiri holds an edge far better. I'm getting closer to posting a review for it - probably 1-2 weeks out.

            1. re: jkling17
              Chemicalkinetics Jan 22, 2012 09:23 PM

              "This is the only knife that I have that loses it's edge faster than i think it should. "

              Yeah, but this is the first you have hand sharpened the knife, right? Does it quickly lose it edge when you shaprened it using the EdgePro? Or is it just this time? If it is just this time, then it is just because there is something wasn't done right from the hand sharpening.

              "I have always been under the impression that white steel can take a slightly finer edge than blue (though not noticeable at my grit levels), but that blue generally can hold them better."

              Yeah, but that is mostly because blue steel holds out better against corrosion, so the blue steel edge is slightly more resistant against from weakening from acidic foods and water oxidization. The difference should be subtle.

              "My blue steel nakiri"

              Is that the Doji nakiri? I would like to read your review.

              http://www.chefknivestogo.com/dojousu...

              One possibility is simply this: the white steel knives made by Tosagata is just not as good. Not all white steel knives are made to the same level of care, which you why there are $40 white steel knives and $400 white steel knives.

              1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                j
                jkling17 Jan 22, 2012 09:50 PM

                Sorry I'm just not being clear. This is my first time doing a hand-sharpening. Aside from shredding up a few pieces of paper, this knife has yet to see a piece of food since this past session. So when I comment on the inability of the edge to hold, it is based on 3 years of ownership and much experimentation with edge angles using my DMT.

                >> One possibility is simply this: the white steel knives made by Tosagata is just not as good. Not all white steel knives are made to the same level of care, which you why there are $40 white steel knives and $400 white steel knives.

                You could well be right about this, and you probably are. I would bet that those entry level Tojiro white steel knives are superior and only about $10-13 more than what I spent. Lesson learned!

                >> Is that the Doji nakiri? I would like to read your review.

                Yes ... patience! I want the review to be really comprehensive, with lots of use behind it. Fyi - that's my photo. The stock one wasn't very good. The knife was much more attractive in person and I sent a few off to Mark and he picked this one to post.

                1. re: jkling17
                  Chemicalkinetics Jan 22, 2012 09:57 PM

                  "Fyi - that's my photo. The stock one wasn't very good"

                  Cool. Mark should give you a 20% off for next purchase. :P

      2. s
        SpringRam Jan 22, 2012 06:46 PM

        Sounds great but I am going to continue using my Edge Pro Apex.

        2 Replies
        1. re: SpringRam
          j
          jkling17 Jan 22, 2012 08:38 PM

          If money were no object I'd have one ... sigh.

          1. re: jkling17
            s
            SpringRam Jan 23, 2012 02:48 PM

            What is that 'ol saying ....can't take it with you? :<)

            You would love it, believe me.

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