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A steer on a stone

I just recently started breaking into the art of pulling sashimi. For my birthday my dad got me a brand new yanagi (Masahiro-Hamono, 300 mm). I'm pretty depleted of funds but i know i should throw down for some waterstones ASAP if I want the knife to perform. Assuming I can only buy one stone at a time (and that the budget for each stone is about $150) over the next couple of months. Anyone got any suggestions for some clutch brands/grits that I should look out for?

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  1. Congratulations on your new knife! The number of whetstones you will require will depend on how often you sharpen. In kaiseki and sushi restaurants the last task of the day is to sharpen your knife for tomorrow....everyday. If you do this everyday you will not need the lower # whetstones. The higher the # the finer the grain and the more expensive it is. I would recommend a #2000 stone to get you started. #5000 and #12000 are for finishing the edge. You need a #1000 if you start to lose the foundation of the knifes' sharpness.
    Video of technique http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8zlUz4...
    Photos of technique http://www.aritsugu.jp/togu/index.htm
    Types of stones http://www.aritsugu.jp/cart/html/oth0...

    Hope this helps and best of luck!

    ps. if your budget is $150 I would think you can buy 2 types at the very least. the #12000 might be $150 on its own but I don't think you need that yet

    1. Shapton seem to be the best, especially for value. If you maintain your knife, the coarser stones are not needed.

      #2000 grit will put a good edge on most knives but, is still a little "toothy" for raw fish. A #4000 or #5/6000 grit stone will put the "polished" edge on your knife and make it cut raw fish much better.

      4 Replies
        1. re: Sid Post

          Don't know what Shapton stones you're getting or if you're even thinking of getting that brand specifically, but be aware that Shaptons are generally more aggressive, unforgiving stones.

          1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

            I heard they are aggressive and slow dishing, but what do you mean by unforgiving? As in that they sharpened so quickly that any mistakes will be magnified? Or do you mean they are tough stones to learn?

            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

              Yeah, sorry, they're mostly meant for sharpening tool steel. They're super hard and cut really fast so yes any mistakes you make will be magnified especially if you're just learning to sharpen. Definitely not a stone for someone like the OP who is just getting into sharpening with whetstones.

        2. Hi,
          Congrats on the knife. Please forgive me if you are already aware of this, but many j-knives (esp. the traditional single bevels ones) come without the final sharpening steps needed to start using the knife. The manufacturer/maker does so intentionally to allow the owner to “open” the knife or determine the desired final edge. The opening process may include a bunch of things like true-ing the blade, fixing anomalies, etc. and really should be done by someone experienced with single bevel knives. Sharpening a single bevel knife is totally different than a double bevel knife. Starting out with a good / proper working foundation, will make sharpening it in the future much easier.

          I haven't tried enough stones to suggest one over the other, but i rarely go lower than 5k - sans a mishap or premature edge failure. Most of the time i start at 10k... to a loaded strop.

          1. I found a series of quality videos in English that should help you.
            http://www.japaneseknifeimports.com/m...

            1. Java Bead is correct. In Japan, a lot of traditional knives are sold without completely sharpened, and they can be sold at different stages of the sharpening. For the very least, I hope the back side or flatter side of your blade is hollowed out like this:

              http://tojiro.net/images/blade01_full...

              Korin and other places help to do uraoshi sharpening:

              http://korin.com/Services/Uraoshi-Sha...

              In term of sharpening a yanagiaba, I have heard many sushi chefs can get away with just one good 1000 grit stone. I would suggest that at least finish on a 3000 grit stone.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                Thanks everyone for all the input, every single bit is much appreciated. I did have concerns after reading about putting on the real edge and the insert in the box (which I assume holds such information) is in Japanese. The backside of the blade is hollowed but the concave is a little more subtle than the one depicted in the diagram. I'm pretty sure it needs the uraoshi, because mine looks more or less like the "un-uraoshi'd" blade pictured on korin. Thanks everyone for your help again, I am sure my knife sharpening will be much easier with these resources.

                1. re: Tywing

                  <but the concave is a little more subtle than the one depicted in the diagram>

                  That is fine. The diagram is exaggerated.

                  <I'm pretty sure it needs the uraoshi, because mine looks more or less like the "un-uraoshi'd" blade pictured on korin>

                  You may able to do on your own. Jon from JapaneseKnifeImport has a very nice lecture video about the construction of Japanese traditional knife design

                  http://youtu.be/WYZmtDlwDi4

                  and another one for actual single knife sharpening and at this particular point, it is about uraoshi-sharpening:

                  http://youtu.be/gvDjASvVHek?t=6m16s

                  If you are uncomfortable doing this by yourself for the first time, then Jon also offers knife sharpening service:

                  http://www.japaneseknifeimports.com/a...

                  1. re: Tywing

                    If you can, try to get a knife sharpening lesson from someone reputable near you. You can watch youtube videos till your eyeballs melt but if you don't have someone who knows what they're doing standing over your shoulder correcting you then you can very easily develop bad habits. I can't tell you how many knives I've seen where the owner seemed to know all about knives, had watched all the youtube videos, could paraphrase Dave Martell, and still brought a blade in with a birds beak.

                2. I'll echo mainly what Chem said: if you're starting with one stone, make it a stone in the 1000 grit range. Fine enough to leave a useful and sharp edge, coarse enough both to sharpen a fairly dull knife and to learn on without an inordinate amount of second-guessing.

                  King makes good stones in that range, and these are very affordable. I personally love and use their 800 grit stone, but their 1000 grit stone also has a good reputation. These take a short soak (approx 5 minutes), sharpen at a moderate rate, dish at a moderate rate, and are of moderate hardness. As such, they are also a nice way to gauge your preferences in a waterstone, since they keep toward the tried-and-true.

                  If you know you want a premium stone, the chosera stones in the 1k range have garnered pretty much universal praise. These also take a short soak, but they sharpen very quickly and aggressively for their grit. Much pricier.

                  The Bester 1k and 1200 grit stones are similarly aggressive but somewhat less expensive. They are very hard and take a much longer soak to perform optimally. Feedback (feel while sharpening) isn't great. They wear down very slowly compared to many other waterstones.

                  Shapton Glass Stones and Naniwa Super Stones are designed so that they only need to be splashed with water before sharpening. I like the Naniwa Super Stones in 2000 grit and up, but find the 1k stone is a little less aggressive and softer than I like a 1k stone to be. No personal experience with Glass Stones.

                  Gesshin also makes stones that only need a splash of water. They have been getting a lot of rave reviews, and may be worth considering as a premium alternative to the more established Chosera stones I mentioned above.

                  There are many more options that I haven't listed. But those are some of the ones that I've tried and liked or that get a lot of online buzz among sharpening enthusiasts and Japanese knife nuts. After you get a 1000 grit stone, I can steer you toward a lot of recommendations, but keep in mind that you'll eventually start developing some preferences (harder vs softer stones, high feedback vs slow dishing, etc).

                  Am I correct in assuming that you are new to sharpening? Above all, keep in mind that a premium stone doesn't really make for a sharper edge. It might make for an easier or more pleasurable sharpening experience, but what makes a sharp edge is mainly the combination of your skill and the qualities of your knife.

                  1. You are correct in assuming I have zero experience sharpening on a whetstone, so I think what I'm going to do is investigate both getting a sharpening service for the initial uraoshi, and also finding someone in the area to train me in sharpening. I can't stomach the thought of ruining my blade.

                    13 Replies
                    1. re: Tywing

                      Where are you based out of, if you don't mind me asking?

                      As far as your blade goes, don't be afraid to practice on it. At this point there's really only so much damage you can inflict on it that can't be repaired fairly easily.

                      1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

                        I'm based in Austin. I know a guy who might be able to show me how to do it but he just recently got another job and so his availability for teaching hours has been compromised, so again input is valued.

                        1. re: Tywing

                          Hmmmm, I don't know of anyone in Austin that's reputable...

                          Maybe join up with kitchenknifeforums and ask around there. I know there are some members from Austin or at the very least, close to Austin that may have better input.

                        2. re: Notorious P.I.G.

                          <At this point there's really only so much damage you can inflict on it that can't be repaired fairly easily.>

                          I agree. However, in my limited experience, it is easier to seriously mess up a Japanese traditional knife (like a yanagiba) than a Western profile knife (like a Chef's knife).

                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            For sure.

                            Just don't do anything crazy with it like try to re temper it or something and you should be ok.

                            Also, as far as knife repairs go, you can always send it away to get repaired and sharpened etc, if there are no reputable places near you. Do some research online and you should come up pretty quick on the who's who of the Japanese knife sharpening world.

                            1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

                              <Also, as far as knife repairs go, you can always send it away to get repaired and sharpened etc>

                              Very good point. Maybe the original poster Tywing can try to sharpen the knife on his own. If something does not feel right, then he can always send it out for a fix.

                              1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

                                "Just don't do anything crazy with it like try to re temper it or something and you should be ok."
                                ________
                                Biggest risks for someone new to sharpening single bevel knives:

                                1. Sharpening the back side of the knife at any angle other than flat against the stone. Or even sharpening it flat against the stone at too low a grit or for too long a time. This can be very hard to fix and has the potential to do a lot of damage very quickly.

                                2. Mistaking the front side of the knife as having only one large bevel. Typically, this bevel is actually several distinct bevels or several bevels blended into each other. It would take a while to do any major damage having made this mistake, and it could be fixed by someone who knows what they're doing, so the main risk is in erasing the original geometry and not knowing how to bring it back oneself; the knife isn't ruined, per se.

                                3. Making the bevels less-than-flat by sharpening unevenly and heavily in sections. This also doesn't so much ruin the knife as it does make it a PITA to sharpen in the future.

                                1. re: cowboyardee

                                  All good points however, I wanted to stay away from giving specific instruction to Tywing as we have not seen macro shots of the Yanagiba that he has.

                                  For instance, in your second point, what you have written is true but is often times interpreted maybe...too literally. A lot of people read something like that and misinterpret what you're saying, usually resulting in putting micro bevels on the knife unnecessarily.

                                  But it's great that you brought that up because it's a prime example of why people need to take a lesson under an experienced knife expert. Points like that are hard to follow over the net.

                                  I do have one thing to add that I totally forgot and it's a really, really important aspect of sharpening a Japanese knife. (If not the most important) Make sure to flatten your blade road. If the blade road is not flat then things will start to go to shit even if you're doing everything right. Flattening a blade road is not always an easy thing to do so I would research it as much as I could and again, try to get someone to teach you how to do it in person.

                                  1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

                                    Agreed, basically. Though on point #2, I mainly just meant that you should pay very close attention to how your yanagiba is designed and not just assume that the front side consists of a single bevel because it looks that way at a glance.

                                    I've written on other threads that it is important to get a knowledgeable person to "open" a yanagiba for you after purchase - in other words, provide the first sharpening, and make sure the blade road and bevels are flat. In truth, this isn't insanely hard to do oneself or anything (and some makers do a pretty decent job of finishing their knives before sending em to you anyway), but it is not the first thing someone new to sharpening or even someone who's only new to sharpening single bevel knives should learn. There is the added benefit that you might be able to convince whoever 'opens' the yanagiba to teach you a thing or two about how your yanagiba is designed and how it should be sharpened from that point on.

                                    1. re: cowboyardee

                                      Gotcha on #2.

                                      I personally think flattening the blade road is the most important thing to do before sharpening a knife. Not doing it just seems like a step down the wrong path from the get go.

                                      Now, to find someone in Austin that could help out with that...

                                      P.S. Didn't realize the OP had a Yanagiba. Generally, Yanagiba are easy to screw up as has been touched on above especially the tip.

                                      1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

                                        You do know you two are most likely talking above the original poster, right? :)

                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                          Sorry, you know how knife nerdery can get...

                          2. re: Tywing

                            <I can't stomach the thought of ruining my blade.>

                            This is probably the useful advise but a overlooked advise (so obvious that people forget to mention...). You should get a cheap inexpensive knife as a practice knife.

                            It really does not matter if you are trying to learn on your own or through a class. You will have to sharpen your first knife sooner or later, and no one is good the first few times. So it is important to have a practice knife for two reasons. First, you won't mess up a >$200 knife. Second, a practice knife takes pressure from you, so you are more willing to try and explore different techniques.