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Chips in Japanese Knives

Over the last couple of years I replaced my Western knives with good Japanese knives (various makes) and like many things about them. But in spite of my efforts to use the right knife for the right task (e.g. don't use a nakiri for anything but veggies) small chips still appear regularly on my edges. I sharpen on water stones without excessive pressure (have done that for years), and hone on a fine black ceramic rod, being sure not to hit the blade against the shaft but make gentle contact. I use end grain bamboo cutting boards. Still the chips appear now and then, and it seems I'll eventually have a collection of serrated Japanese knives.

So my question is, for those of you using Japanese knives, is this experience typical? Do you just put up with the chips as a fact of life, or am I missing something here? If the knives are really this delicate I'm beginning to question whether they're really good kitchen tools for a home cook like me. They are very slightly sharper than my Western knives but that advantage is more than offset if I have to be so delicate with them all the time.

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  1. What angle are you sharpening at? If it's too steep it can cause the knives to chip. Japanese knives tend to be harder than western-style knives, and the edge on the japanese knives will tend to chip rather than bend.

    Also, do you use the knife to pick up ingredients off the board? If so, do you scoop up the ingredients with the knife?
    I had chipping issues at first, and once I got myself out of the habit of scooping with the knife it greatly reduced the chipping.
    Now I still use the knife to transfer ingredients...but i hold the knife on the board and use my hand to push the ingredients onto the blade.

    Which brand and model of knives do you have? Knowing the hardness of the steel might help in this instance.

    9 Replies
    1. re: cannibal

      About 16 degrees or a little less.

      1. re: bkling

        Is that total angle, or per side?
        Also, i hit save too quick and edited my above note to include everything I was going to say.

        1. re: cannibal

          Good points. The angle is per side. I'll have to pay attention to how I transfer ingredients, I'm sure I sometimes use the knife. Most of the blades I have are, according to the productd literature, hardened to R61 to 63. They're carbon steel traditional styles, not V10 westernized knives.

          1. re: bkling

            16 per side is good for that hardness. Any micro-bevel?

            Another habit I managed to get rid of was to rock the knife to the side to get product off of it. I would make a few chops and then tip the knife on its side so that the sticking product would release off the blade.

            Are some of your knives chipping more than the others or is it the same across the board?

            1. re: bkling

              I've got my myiabi (rc66) at 20 deg total and I do experience micro chipping at the tip,but then I do hit the bones once in a while while breaking down chicken or bone in pork roasts. when I had it at 10deg total it was brutal for chipping even cutting bread would chip it . What kind of carbon steel are the blades? Most japanese steels aren't chippy at that angle , even my homemade 01 blade at 20deg total won't chip chopping my workbench (maple)

              1. re: Dave5440

                hmm i haven't experienced any chipping at all with my miyabi, but i'm at 24 degree total, i might try to get to 20 eventually but not if its going to start micro chipping on me :P

                1. re: TeRReT

                  Yours is the new softer model isn't it? I'm pretty sure that's the reason why they softened it

                  1. re: Dave5440

                    i am not sure, mine is the 7000mcd, it still is supposed to have a rating of 66, it is supposed to have more layers so maybe that helps. There was one knife my girlfriend found here in japan that is 67 i can't remember if its henckel or miyabi, but it was one I had not seen. I will try to find it later, I can't see the miyabi website with this browser for some reason so I can't check anything :P

                    1. re: TeRReT

                      Oh yes I forgot you have the mcd 66, it must be someone else or someone mentioned the new ones are lower rc. A 67 I have heard of but not by those 2 , their website is very slow in being updated

      2. "So my question is, for those of you using Japanese knives, is this experience typical?"

        Yes, and no. Yes, I have noticed this in the beginning, and no, I have noticed this for a long time.

        "Do you just put up with the chips as a fact of life..."

        No, I don't. Chips bother me, so I would immediate resharpen a chipped knife.

        1. Hi, bkling: "If the knives are really this delicate I'm beginning to question whether they're really good kitchen tools for a home cook like me. They are very slightly sharper than my Western knives but that advantage is more than offset if I have to be so delicate with them all the time."

          Welcome to reality. Harder heat-treat + lower edge angles + thinner blades + sharp-as-you-can-get-it generally equates with an increased propensity to chip. There are other specific variables at work too, which can vary all the way down from maker to specific blades. Frankly, I find it more surprising that the problem is not worse.

          What you might want to try is to get a very knowledgeable pro sharpener to put a *convex* edge on one of your Japanese blades, and see if the same thing happens.

          Aloha,
          Kaleo

          37 Replies
          1. re: kaleokahu

            The convex edge isn't a bad idea, though if the OP is half decent at hand sharpening knives, there's no reason he can't do it himself.

            As to the rest of your post, here's the thing: In theory, you are correct that chipping is more likely given a lot of the attributes of Japanese knives. But in practice, a lot of people use J-knives just fine without any major chipping issues. Any knife that a person sharpens himself can be adjusted to an ideal mix of performance (acuity of edge, basically) and durability. That may vary person to person. But if a knife chips too much, you can always just sharpen it more obtusely, use a microbevel, convex the edge, etc. Unless you're going to abuse your knives (the obvious stuff - hacking through bones and ice, opening cans, banging it around in a drawer), you just don't need a knife that is as resistant to chipping as the Western style blade. So why not use something that performs better and dial the edge to your personal ideal?

            1. re: cowboyardee

              Hi, cowboy: "Unless you're going to abuse your knives (the obvious stuff - hacking through bones and ice, opening cans, banging it around in a drawer), you just don't need a knife that is as resistant to chipping..."

              I understand what you're saying, but that sort of begs the question asked by the OP. I mean 'abuse' is in the eye of the beholder to a fair degree, and your quoted statement amounts basically to a caution not to do things that will chip chippable knives.

              The segment of the population (and I'd wager here on CH) who will trouble themselves to fine-tune an ideal mix of performance and durability, and change things up in a factory knife is tiny. Most of us just want a knife that is sharp, stays reasonably sharp, and holds up under most conditions (including minor "abuse"); if it's not that way pretty much out of the box or home from the sharpener, that'll be the end of the effort. More's the pity, but it's the truth.

              Aloha,
              Kaleo

              1. re: kaleokahu

                "The segment of the population (and I'd wager here on CH) who will trouble themselves to fine-tune an ideal mix of performance and durability, and change things up in a factory knife is tiny."
                ________
                Agreed. I'm not trying to push Japanese knives on anybody and everybody who's looking to buy a kitchen knife. Western knives make sense for plenty of people.

                But the important consideration in this particular case is that the OP has made it clear that [s]he's already willing to put the work in. If you already sharpen by hand on waterstones, there's no reason to toss your hat in on Japanese knives when just a little tweaking of your sharpening technique and/or cutting technique will suffice.

                No one ever mentions it, but there's no reason why a person who hand sharpens can't just put a 40-45 degree included edge on a Japanese knife just like those on Western knives and then use it for anything shy of meat-cleavering. No chips, still less resistance in cutting than Western knives due to the overall grind, and better edge retention to boot. My experience with Japanese knives leads me to believe that such an obtuse edge just isn't necessary to avoid chipping, but the point is that inherent chippy-ness doesn't need to be taken as a given.

                "I mean 'abuse' is in the eye of the beholder to a fair degree, and your quoted statement amounts basically to a caution not to do things that will chip chippable knives."
                ________
                My quoted statement wasn't quite that arbitrary. For one, it was all practices that the OP seems willing to avoid. For another, they were also all practices that will quickly dull the crap out of a Western knife. If someone is not willing to avoid that kind of 'abuse' (as I see it), then the issue of Western vs Japanese knives becomes a matter of picking your poison: do you want to put up with chips or do you want to put up with knives that are never sharp? Really, if someone refuses to avoid the practices I listed, they're probably best off either using serrated knives as their primary weapons of choice, or else just buying cheap non-serrated knives and aggressively using a grooved steel before each cutting session. Which is fine, if that's what someone wants to do. But I don't think the OP falls into that category.

                1. re: cowboyardee

                  Hi, cowboy: "If someone is not willing to avoid that kind of 'abuse' (as I see it), then the issue of Western vs Japanese knives becomes a matter of picking your poison: do you want to put up with chips or do you want to put up with knives that are never sharp?"

                  How did we get to "never sharp"? I never was talking about gratuitous or intentional abuse. But knives take knocks, and it's not simply a matter of refusing to take care. A Western blade at 59-60 is generally going to handle the knocks more gracefully, and needn't be "never sharp".

                  Perhaps the OP, having drank the 'thin-n-hard' Kool Aid, was considering a change?

                  Aloha,
                  Kaleo

                  1. re: kaleokahu

                    We got to 'never sharp' because I was positing that this kind of (hypothetical) treatment is a regular thing.

                    If we're just talking about one-time occurrences, that doesn't much change my point. Whether you chip a Japanese knife hacking through frozen spinach or dull a Western knife doing the same, the fix is no different: sharpen the knife.

                    It would be another matter if the OP were talking about big, nasty chips that are hard to sharpen out. But the problem here is presumably micro-chipping.

                    The OP can do as he or she wishes. My point was that the fix is probably nothing much beyond what he or she is already doing, so vomiting up the Kool Aid seems a tad premature.

                    1. re: cowboyardee

                      Hi, cowboy:

                      I didn't get the impression the OP is dealing with microchips, given her/his comment that "[I]t seems I'll eventually have a collection of serrated Japanese knives." Why do you think it's just microchipping?

                      You more than most understand that taking a blade back to good after even a modest chip is orders of magnitude more difficult and involved than simply touching up an edge. Doing it right is beyond the ability of the vast majority. Depth is lost, thickness changes, all the bevels need adjustment, it ends up a different knife. And after it chips a second or third time after the "fix", well, I can understand the OP's frustration.

                      Aloha,
                      Kaleo

                      1. re: kaleokahu

                        I'll agree that sharpening out moderate to large sized chips is a real PITA. Microchips OTOH come out quickly on a coarse stone, and don't absolutely demand an immediate sharpening anyway.

                        My assumption that the OP is dealing with micro-chipping comes mainly from the fact that he says they have been appearing regularly. Normally, big chips don't occur regularly unless there is something seriously wrong with the knife or how you use it. And 'appearing' also makes me think we're talking microchips since usually when you chip a big piece out of an edge, you know exactly when and how it got there.

                        That said, I'm speculating based on my experience, and unless the OP chimes in, I couldn't say for sure what he's experiencing.

                        But yes, moderate to big chips regularly coming out of an edge are a more serious problem that indicate more than just a small adjustment is needed.

                        1. re: cowboyardee

                          Thanks for the interesting discussion, I haven't been back on the board since it started so let me clarify a couple of points.

                          It's not microchipping that concerns me but larger chips in the 2-4mm range.

                          I don't do any of the obviously abusive things mentioned (storing in drawers, using like a cleaver, etc.) Perhaps I just bear down on the knife a bit more than some people, make small sideways movements at the bottom of a cut when the razon-sharp knife is slightly embedded in the fibers of the cutting board...must be something like that because I'm not doing the obviously abusive things mentioned. Must be a relatively subtle (to me...) matter of cutting style. I imagine that people having fewer chips must have trained themselves to cut more gently, never scrape the pieces off the board with the knife, etc etc. When I get in a hurry I guess I forget those things. At least that's what I'm thinking.

                          I do hear what some are saying about changing the angle, but with a steeper angle one begins to lose the sharpness advantage of the harder steel.

                          Also -- I wonder if the stainless V10 knives chip less readily than the white and blue Japanese carbon steel knives I've mostly used.

                          1. re: bkling

                            those larger chips are a bigger problem. To be honest, I'm not sure why you would regularly experience such large chips - I've been using quite a few low angle Japanese knives for the better part of a decade, and I've had only one large chip - that was chopping through a bone with a backswing. I do scrape pieces off the board with the knife edge sometimes, and never had large chips result from that.

                            A question: how far do these chips extend into the knife's edge? Are they shallow chips just at the edge that are 2-4 mm long? Or are they as deep as they are long?

                            If I had to guess, I'd say that your cutting motion is the most likely problem. Lots of pressure, lots of wiggle. Especially if your chips are the shallow but long kind - that would sound like you've just never adjusted your technique from Western style rock chopping with a lot of pressure. But that's only a guess. If your chips are also deep, I'm more at a loss as to what's causing the problem.

                            Try a microbevel first before you do anything drastic. You'll probably be surprised how little it affects cutting performance if you do it right.

                            Generally, vg10 chips MORE easily than white and blue carbon steel. But it all depends on how a given blade is tempered,

                            1. re: cowboyardee

                              Cow, I think you've diagnosed the problem correctly -- too much lateral motion and too much pressure. The chips occur at several places along the blade, and not within an inch of either end. They tend to be approximately equilateral triangles -- like saw teeth -- not long shallow chips. I just have to decide whether I care enough to change decades long habits or just relax and do what feels right. Never had any problem keeping good western knives nice and sharp and chipless.

                              I do find it a bit irritating when people refer to western knife practices as bad, sloppy, etc. Or to eastern practices as cleaner. Might just as well refer to these chippy Japanese knives as dirty weak blades, or delicate flowers unable to stand up to real world conditions. Neither set of terms makes sense, they're just different.

                              1. re: bkling

                                "Never had any problem keeping good western knives nice and sharp and chipless."

                                Western knives like Wusthof and Henckels go dull much faster than Japanese blue steel white steel knives. One rolls out easier and one chips easier. They both go dull.

                                "I do find it a bit irritating when people refer to western knife practices as bad, sloppy, etc. "

                                To be technically correct, it isn't that western knife practice is bad. It is more correct to say that western knives can lead some people to develop bad practices -- two different things. For example, a twisting lateral motion on a cutting board is just bad. Bad for Western knives and bad for Japanese knives. However, the damage is more visible for Japanese knives. As such, it is easier to develop bad knife habits with a Western soft steel knives than a Japanese hard steel knives.

                                The way I see is that one will vastly improve the knife skills by removing some of these bad knife practices -- which is beneficial for any Western or Japanese knives.

                                1. re: bkling

                                  Hi, bkling:

                                  Obviously, you should not feel a need to apologize for not babying your knives. You probably wouldn't apologize for a high-performance car that was so tempermental that you couldn't keep it on the road. For God's sake, don't hit any potholes!

                                  Aloha,
                                  Kaleo

                                  1. re: bkling

                                    You can still try adding a microbevel, but if your chips are deep enough, I'm less confident that it would help.

                                    Also, you've never mentioned exactly what knives you're using. There are Japanese knives that are less prone to chipping than most blue and white carbon steel. Something like the Fujiwara FKM has a Japanese grind but similar hardness and chip-resistance to Western knives. The edge is more prone to folding, but chips shouldn't be a big issue. Likewise, some blue and white steel blades are more prone to chipping than others.

                                    Honestly, you might be someone who is better off with Western knives. Nothing wrong with that, if it's the case. The fact that you sharpen opens up a lot of options, but if you already have a very efficient and habitual cutting style with Western knives, then the transition to Japanese knives might just not be worth messing with your cutting style. That said, it's not like rock chopping automatically causes chips with J knives. Many people rock chop without experiencing frequent large chips. How much of an adjustment to your cutting style would be necessary is impossible for me to say without seeing you in action. Your cutting board might be exacerbating the problem, but that is also hard to say for certain.

                                    I don't think anyone here said that Western cutting practices are inherently bad. They're not. But they're not ideal for using Japanese knives. Plus, as chem pointed out, a lot of wiggle in a rock-chopping motion is sub-ideal whether you use Japanese knives or Western - it's just that you can get away with it more easily with Western knives.

                                    You actually can refer to Japanese blades as weak or chippy - in a comparative sense, that's true (though I don't know where 'dirty' came from). In exchange for that trade-off, they offer less cutting resistance, more precision in cutting, and better edge retention (chipping aside). Whether that trade-off is a good one for you personally, only you can decide.

                                    1. re: cowboyardee

                                      "That said, it's not like rock chopping automatically causes chips with J knives"

                                      Agree. I don't think a pure rock chop motion will causes chips. I have intentionally rock chopped with my Japanese knives before. Again, I do know it is very natural for people who rock chop to twist their knives during the rock chop motion, so it is the lateral twisting motion which I worry.

                                      "it's just that you can get away with it more easily with Western knives."

                                      Nicely put. Even then, it is not ideal for a Western knife. These motions roll the edge of a Western softer steel knife much faster than otherwise.

                                      1. re: cowboyardee

                                        Your comments (and Chemkinetics') on western knives are a bit one-sided. Yes, the lateral motion dulls them, too. But there are two points to be made about that. For one thing, a rolled edge takes a few seconds of honing to correct. Fixing a chip is a much more involved and difficult job. Second, the same qualities that make western knives what they are mean that a single knife can do many things. You don't have to use one knife for veggies, another for cutting the sandwich you just made because your delicate nakiri can't handle the crusty bread, etc. Again, I like both kinds of knives (thus the problem...) but there are definite advantages to western knives regardless of cutting techniques.

                                        Finally, I also like the feel of a razor sharp edge slipping through the food, but I have to admit that a sharp western knife does a pretty good job, too. What's that value of that tiny difference in the force required? Japanese knives are cool! That's a good enough reason to use them if you like them. I think we're really agreeing on most of this and I appreciate all the great comments.

                                        1. re: bkling

                                          bkling,

                                          Actually, it really depends on how you want to see it. If we are talking about one-sided, then we have to keep this in perspective. You asked in your original post if the chipping is normal. I have to say no. I have personally never seen the kind of chipping (2-4 mm) you described in any of my knives. So for me the fix for a microchipping is not that different from a fix for a rolled edge. As for the kind of big chips you experienced, I cannot be sure what happened. I have cut phone books, scraped bones, and I have never chipped my knives the way you have described.

                                          http://www.chow.com/photos/714200

                                          Second, about the comment that western knives are meant to use one single knife to do many things. Truth is that most Japanese also can use one knife to multitask in their kitchens too. You don't really think an average Japanese has 10 different knives in their kitchens, right? We, Americans, buy multiple Japanese knives because it is interesting. If we have to talk about multiple knives, then we have to understand that the idea of having a knife block with 10+ knives is a much more European concept than a Japanese belief -- the tomato knife, cheese knife, utility knife, bread knife, carving knife, slicing knife...etc. A Nakiri is a very good vegetable knife, but many people (including me) use it to cut meat as well. In term of Chinese cutlery, Chinese are much more famous inline of using one single knife -- the Chinese cleaver to handle everything. So I think the idea that European chef knives are all purpose, and Asian kitchen knives are single task is a misplaced concept.

                                          As cowboyaredee said, Japanese knives are not for everyone. If you have run into bad experience of them, then that is important enough for you. However, again, please do understand that most of us have not run into the kind of problem you have. So, some of your questions do not apply to us. For example, your comment of "For one thing, a rolled edge takes a few seconds of honing to correct. Fixing a chip is a much more involved and difficult job" does not really apply to me. I rarely develop a chip blade and if I did, the chips are barely visible. Another example, your comment about nakiri that "You don't have to use one knife for veggies, another for cutting the sandwich you just made because your delicate nakiri can't handle the crusty bread, etc." also does not apply. I have cut my bread with my nakiri. I certainly do not think my nakiri being too delicate for bread. Bone maybe a problem, but not bread. You can even argue that a serrated bread knife is more effective than a nakiri for cutting bread, but again that is not because the nakiri is too delicate. It is not going to break if I cut bread with it.

                                          So, my Japanese hard steel knives actually require less time to maintain than my German knives because the edge on my Japanese knives last much longer. Again, this is my experience, which is different from yours.

                                          Based on cowboy's comment, I also don't think he see large chipping on a regular basis. Petek and Dave can comment their experience, but my understanding is that they do not.

                                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                            Do you know if Chinese style cleavers typically use steel that's hardened to the same degree as typical Japanese knives?

                                            1. re: bkling

                                              Exactly what Japanese knives you have? Maybe I missed it. I think a few of us have asked you about this, so you may have answered somewhere I didn't see.

                                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                Not at home so can't give you all the details, but here are a couple specifics:

                                                Nashiji Nakiri
                                                http://www.epicureanedge.com/shopexd....

                                                Kumagoro Usuba Hocho
                                                http://www.epicureanedge.com/shopexd....

                                                Others I have (sashimi, deba) are about the same quality and cost as the usuba hocho. I also have a few really cheap rustic knives used rarely.

                                                So these aren't top of the line but if I'm not mistaken they're decent knives.

                                                1. re: bkling

                                                  I will view it later when I get home. I cannot view them now. I do know epicureanedge does not sell cheap knives, but that is what I am trying to imply. I am just curious if these knives have a reputation of poor factory edge.

                                                  I don't know your intention of your original post. If you are trying to vent your disappointments, then we feel your pain. If you are trying to look for a solution to your current problems, then we tried to provide the best answers we believe.

                                                  I know some of us may come off as criticizing your knife technique, but the fact of the matter is that something is seriously wrong if you are getting 2-4 mm chips on a regular basis. I have several Japanese knives and I have not experienced this with any of them. Assuming there is nothing weird about your knives, then something else must not be right.

                                                  Although rock chopping is not ideal of using Japanese knives, I have not developed chips using the rock chopping motion. I do know twisting a knife in lateral motion can chip a knife edge. Knife twisting is not a Western knife technique. It is just a habit which some people pick up while using the Western knife techniques. It is an artifact. So if you think you can remove these knife habits, then you can give the Japanese knives another try. If you don't think you can change the way you use your knives, then it is just easier to switch back to Western knives. As cowboy has suggested, you have to make that decision.

                                                  Please do understand that most of us do not develop chips on a regular basis and do not baby sit our knives. So for us, the Japanese knives offer very clear advantages without many drawbacks. Now, if I had experienced what you have, then I probably would feel the same way as you do, but such is not the case, so I feel the Japanese knives offer me a lot of advantages.

                                                  1. re: bkling

                                                    Have you been having chipping problems with all of the knives equally or some more than others?

                                                    Single bevel knives like the usuba, yanagiba, and deba are a different beast than the nakiri. The nakiri should be usable for most general kitchen tasks, while the others really are much more specialized in both their uses and the cutting techniques you should use with one. Also, if you are sharpening a single beveled knife to 16 degrees and then using it to rock-chop, that pretty well explains the problem right there. Generally, single bevel knives use a micro bevel at the edge at a significantly higher angle than 16 degrees. Also, they are simply not designed for rock chopping and are not analogous to Western knives in the same way that a gyuto or a nakiri would be. They're cool to have, but require a different set of techniques. Rather than the sedan vs sportscar comparison that's been made on this thread, it's more like comparing a family sedan to a motorcycle. The differences are much more pronounced.

                                                    1. re: cowboyardee

                                                      Dear Chem and Cowboyardee, you have both been very generous in sharing your expertise and have been helpful. So Chem, you sound a bit exasperated but I hear what you've been saying and get the fact that my experience is not like yours and many others.. As I said somewhere here, the takehome message for me is that I need to change my technique to work with these knives. I'm pretty sure lateral pressure at the end of a cutting stroke is the main problem. With my nakiri, it is so razor sharp that I think it penetrates the surface of my board a bit (due to my heavier-than-needed pressure) which probably makes the lateral force so damaging. Anyway you have been very helpful.

                                                      1. re: bkling

                                                        " I'm pretty sure lateral pressure at the end of a cutting stroke is the main problem. With my nakiri, it is so razor sharp that I think it penetrates the surface of my board a bit (due to my heavier-than-needed pressure) which probably makes the lateral force so damaging."
                                                        ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                        I can feel my J- knives objecting to lateral force. They bite into the board surface, and are not happy with lateral movement. It's most noticeable on my edge grain boards, and less noticeable on my cross grain boards.

                                                        1. re: bkling

                                                          "So Chem, you sound a bit exasperated but I hear what you've been saying and get the fact that my experience is not like yours and many others.."

                                                          No, not at all. I wasn't angry or upset at all. I was on my way to leave, so maybe I typed in a hurry and the urgency came through. I just wanted you to know that some of what you have experienced are not very normal, which can be a good or bad thing -- depending how you see it. You raised a very good question that what good is the a slightly sharper Japanese knife if it chips so much more often than a German knife. It is a good question for your situation. Indeed, it is not a great trade off and it is something you have to balance. As for me, I have not run into this problem, so my "trade-off" is not the same as yours, so this question actually does not apply very well to some of us. If you can imagine, it is like someone asking me that "why do you study chemistry since it is so boring?" Well, it isn't boring to me, so the premise of the question does not translate.

                                                          I don't know for sure if the lateral twisting is the main reason. Hopefully it is and we can resolve it. The other thing I mentioned is that you should try to not hone your knives. It is possible that the honing process actually damaged the knife. These hard steel Japanese knives do not need honing anyway, as they do not roll their edges. So honing a Japanese knife can only do damages without benefits.

                                                          Now, I see you have a nakiri and an usuba. The angle of an usuba is much sharper, so I can see there may be chipping, but 2-4 mm is still kind of large.

                                                      2. re: bkling

                                                        Hi,
                                                        I was able to eliminate the 1st time with a Japanese knife, non-accidental chips by switching from the German (rock-chopping with a lot of downward force) to the Japanese (push cutting with little to no downward force). The push cutting motion is much more friendlier on hard edges and works as well or better than rocking on most things. I only use the rocking motion for herbs, now and really try not to grind or walk the blade from side to side as twisting the edge while its’ embedded in the board will cause chipping. Try altering your cutting style and / or using a more robust edge (more obtuse angle, plus micro bevel), and changing your bamboo cutting board for something softer.

                                                        Afaik, an Usuba is brutally unforgiving knife that has to be used in a very specific way and only on soft veggies. Its’ very fragile, dead flat, single bevel edge needs to land gently and squarely to the cutting board on each and every stroke. If you come down too hard, sideways, tip or heel first or look at it funny it will chip. It supposedly takes months of practice, just to become decent. If you don’t have a pressing need to do the type of things that an Usuba does, put it aside until you get the hang of a double beveled Japanese knife.

                                                        1. re: JavaBean

                                                          Thanks for the good suggestions. I'm also going to stop using my fine black ceramic rod (though I tried to use it gently) and use only stones, just in case that was causing part of the problem. After all the useful feedback I decided not to give up on Japanese knives and see if I can change my cutting practices. The J-knives are just so sharp...

                                                          1. re: bkling

                                                            Hey bkling,

                                                            Did you ever happened to use diamond stones to sharpen your knives? In other words, what do you use to sharpen your knives?

                                                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                              I've used diamond stones for Western knives but for my J knives I usually use water stones. Most often over the last year I've used the black ceramic rod (which, I'm told, is about the equivalent of a 4000 grit stone) to touch up blades, and rarely got out the stones. As you've suggested, I'm putting the rod away and going back to stones for J knives.

                                                              1. re: bkling

                                                                The reason I asked is that some people believe diamond stones have a tendency to weaken the blade. As such, the blade looks intact after sharpening, but easily chip during usage. I just wanted to make sure.

                                                                "As you've suggested, I'm putting the rod away and going back to stones for J knives."

                                                                I cannot be sure it is the cause, but let's hide away your rod (for now), and see if a combination of (a) not using rod, (b) move from rock chop to push cutting will reduce your problem.

                                                                Technically speaking, rock chop is fine for Japanese knives. I have done it many times. Again, it is just that it is easier to twist the knife using the rock chop motion. However, feel free to go back to rock chopping later when you are more comfortable.

                                                                I wrote it above, but I will reiterate again. The usuba takes a bit more skill to use and control, and because it has an extremely low angle (~15 degree inclusion) compared to a Nakiri (~30 degree inclusion), it takes more skill to wield one.

                                                                Usuba is really a professional Japanese chef knife, whereas a nakiri is a home cook, everyday, average person knife.

                                                                Good luck

                                                                1. re: bkling

                                                                  Hi, I’m glad you’ve decided not to give up on j-knives.
                                                                  Is the ceramic rod smooth or grooved? Grooved ones are supposedly no-no with j-knives.
                                                                  There’s a chance that your edges may be failing from fatigue. You’ve been using your honing rod to touch up, rejuvenate the same edge over and over…doing so excessively is going to produce a straight, but weak edge. Plus, your honing rod is abrading away some amount of metal and weakening the edge on each stroke. You might be pass due for a fresh edge, just create a big enough burr to remove the old edge.

                                                                  1. re: JavaBean

                                                                    It's a smooth ceramic rod purchased from Epicurean Edge, whose owner told me it is about the equivalent of a 4000 or 5000 grit water stone in roughness. Obviously it does a little bit of sharpening (not just honing in the sense of repositioning a bent-over edge on a wester knife). But it is difficult to see how it would have the effects you mentioned any more than a similar little bit of sharpening on a stone -- provided the pressure is light.

                                                                    Also, the proprieter at Epi Edge recommended it for touching up J knives and he knows more about them than most of us put together. So now that I've thought about it a bit longer I'm not giving up on that rod (because it works so well for me to produce that last bit of sharpness) but I AM working to change my cutting style to use less pressure and no lateral stress on the blade. So far so good.

                                                                    1. re: bkling

                                                                      Hi,
                                                                      It’s great that you have access to a shop that is knowledgably enough to suggest a rod meant for j-knives. I was just checking and hope I didn’t come across wrongly. I know a bunch of questions and suggestions from a complete stranger may seem stupid and insulting.

                                                                      I think those 2-4mm chips w/o doing something obvious like hitting something hard or prying may be the result of a structurally compromised edge. Your comment above…”Most often over the last year I've used the black ceramic rod (which, I'm told, is about the equivalent of a 4000 grit stone) to touch up blades, and rarely got out the stones” maybe a problem. Honing with a rod or in my case a charged strop recycles or extends the usability of an edge, but doesn’t form a burr (remove the old and form a new edge) as with stones and only works a certain number of times. In the past, I made the mistake of doing too many light touch-ups, not removing the worn metal and eventually ended with a structurally compromised edge that appeared normal, but failed for no apparent reason. My chips were smaller than yours, but nevertheless wouldn’t have occurred at all with a fresh edge.

                                                                      I’m glad your cutting technique adjustments are going well. If I can do it after many years with a german knife, anyone can.

                                                                      1. re: bkling

                                                                        Hi, bkling:

                                                                        There was a time (before hardness and thinness ruled the world) when a thorough test of a fine blade included assessing edge *deflection* when pushed against a brass rod. This is a lot tougher test than you moving your edge laterally on the cutting board. The pressure at the tiny area where the convex of the rod meets the plane intersection of the blade's edge can be a high psi number (because the "si" is so minuscule). That's why you shouldn't slap-steel a blade, and that' also why some uber zealots recommend against steels and ceramic rods.

                                                                        In any event, if the brass rod test chipped out the edge (at all), or the edge was left with a deformation, your heat-treat was bad, and you flunked. But hey, that was those backward know-nothing judges at the American Bladesmith Society.

                                                                        IMO the problem is not your ceramic rod, and I'm doubtful it's even really any of your techniques. I think the problem is your knife--the particular blade, the batch of heat-treat, or the maker's execution of parameters for that model's metallurgy and geometry. Has your guru at Epi Edge Rockwell-tested your knife and are you *sure* you know the alloy's composition?

                                                                        To me, this just points up how far afield "sharpness" has taken things.

                                                                        Aloha,
                                                                        Kaleo

                                                                        1. re: kaleokahu

                                                                          I also doubt that the ceramic rod is the cause of the problem. It is, of course, possible to use it very roughly and chip or crack a hard steel during honing, but this is pretty obvious. Don't be like Gordon Ramsay.
                                                                          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=syvvxx...

                                                                          If you use it carefully, OTOH, I don't think that it should lead to fatigued steel that would be more likely to chip. For one, fatigued steel is more likely to fold than to chip in the first place. For another, 2-4 mm deep are pretty big chips affecting more than the extreme edge of the blade. But the biggest reason I think this is because there are a decent number of guys using ceramic rods over at knife forums with thin edges and hard steels, and have been doing so for years - if this was a likely problem, we'd probably have heard reports of it already.

                                                                          I will say that I don't recommend using a honing rod on a single beveled edge - for these, it's just much easier to keep a flat bevel and avoid damaging an edge with a flat waterstone than a honing rod, and honing the ura (back) side of the knife is problematic from an edge geometry standpoint.

                                                    2. re: bkling

                                                      "For one thing, a rolled edge takes a few seconds of honing to correct. Fixing a chip is a much more involved and difficult job."
                                                      _________
                                                      Very true. At least a large chip. I don't think I've said anything to the contrary. Lateral motion in rock chopping isn't ideal technique either way is all.

                                                      "Second, the same qualities that make western knives what they are mean that a single knife can do many things."
                                                      ________
                                                      A gyuto is a better comparison than a nakiri. Most gyutos can handle crusty bread and veggies at the same time (actually, so can my nakiri, but then again, my nakiri is one of the thicker nakiris you'll find). It is an all-purpose knife. The one thing it can't usually handle is meat-cleaver duty. Whether that's a major disadvantage depends on how you like to use a chefs knife. But a gyuto isn't really that specialized of a blade. I agree that it can be nice to use a German style chefs knife without much regard for damaging the knife.

                                                      "Finally, I also like the feel of a razor sharp edge slipping through the food, but I have to admit that a sharp western knife does a pretty good job, too. What's that value of that tiny difference in the force required?"
                                                      ___________
                                                      A Gyuto's Virtues:
                                                      - Less frequent sharpening to maintain the same degree of sharpness
                                                      - Significantly easier to cut through foods that are highly prone to wedging - winter squashes, celery root, etc. Of course, you can take swinging chops at said foods with western knives, or tap the spine with a mallet or just lean on em hard. But an especially thin knife does indeed make it easier.
                                                      - Less curve means more functional edge length. This makes a gyuto double as a slicer better than a Western chefs knife does - it works better for meat and (usually) bread. This also allows one to chop in a straight up-and-down manner without leaving accordion cuts on large produce items. This is an extremely fast and efficient cutting motion, though it requires some practice.
                                                      - The sharper edges also aid in that kind of extremely fast cutting motion.
                                                      - Especially well-made Japanese knives have edge geometry that makes food fall away from the edge, also improving efficiency in cutting. Western makers generally haven't caught on to this.
                                                      - Lack of full-length bolsters aids in sharpening
                                                      - Light weight makes a longer knife easier to control.
                                                      - Can cut a tiny bit cleaner (when that matters, for things like sashimi) and a tiny bit thinner (for certain garnishes, certain meats) due to sharpness and edge geometry

                                                      Disadvantages:
                                                      - Easier to chip
                                                      - Don't function well as meat cleavers, heavy duty boning knives, or general kitchen crowbars
                                                      - Handles are generally not as well designed for comfort
                                                      - Less weight increases perceived resistance in cutting (though not to the point of the average Western knife, usually)
                                                      - Require some users to change their cutting technique
                                                      - Don't work well with many of the sharpening contraptions on the market today
                                                      - Some pro sharpeners aren't good with em either
                                                      - Harder to try out before buying
                                                      - Fewer cheap options
                                                      - Some rust easily

                                                      I don't think I've been one-sided in my considerations of Eastern knives, though I don't try to hide my personal preference. But I don't feel there is anything one-sided about stating their advantages plainly, as long as you admit to their disadvantages. I don't mean any offense, but probably the most contentious thing I've said is that Japanese knives don't have to be chippy just because you use a rocking motion. I realize that may come across as criticism of your technique, but at the same time, understand that I'm just being honest, and giving you advice in the only way that I can. Doesn't mean I'm saying you should necessarily stick with Japanese knives; but make that decision understanding as best you can exactly what the problem is.

                                              2. re: bkling

                                                "It's not microchipping that concerns me but larger chips in the 2-4mm range."

                                                Ok, that is really large. I don't ever recall having chips in that size on any of my Japanese knives. All I can say is that this is not something you should be expecting from any Japanese knives. It is not normal.

                                                " I imagine that people having fewer chips must have trained themselves to cut more gently, never scrape the pieces off the board with the knife, etc etc."

                                                I definitely scrap foods with my knives. I use my knives to transfer food. Now, there is a difference between lightly scraping the knives on a cutting board vs literally twisting the knives on a cutting board.

                                                "V10 knives chip less readily than the white and blue Japanese carbon steel knives"

                                                Not in my experience. In my experience, the blue steel knives I have is less chippy than VG-10. I have never developed chips in the size of 1-2 mm unless I sharpened the knife below 10 degree which I have had done. On a normal 12-20 degree, I have not experienced this in any of my knives. Something is odd about your knives.

                                                Again, what brands are you knives?

                              2. Some steels are prone to chipping more than others. My Tojiro DP gyuto chips more than any other knife I own. They are small micro chips but chips they are. Doesn't interfere with most cutting tasks but bothers me just the same.

                                My carbon steel knives never seem to chip.

                                The chips are easy to sharpen out. A micro bevel will help reduce them but may not eliminate them.

                                1. Personally I don't use them and based on the number of chipped ones I see I don't think I would own one. I'll stick with old American carbon steel and German stainless.

                                  Jim