Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Cookware >
Aug 3, 2013 09:22 AM

Sharpening stone advice for an ignorant person

I have nice knives, an assortment of older French carbon steel ranging from a very small TI Nogent parer to a 10" chef from the late sixties. I do not recall its brand, but the logo was a grape cluster. The others 10" slicer, 8" chef, 6" chef, and 4" chef) are regular TI carbon with laminate all nice, nothing really unusual, no stainless. (My two stainless blades are a TI cleaver and a Dexter 10" bread). All the info is because I know we are all interested in what others have chosen. For years my regime of maintenance has been twice a year through a Chef's Choice electric, two light passes on each angle, both sides, and a few light passes on a fine Sabatier steel before each use. They are sharp enough I can slice a tomato thin enough to read through it with a simple draw. However, on the premises that they could be sharper, that I enjoy doing most things the oldest most hands on way, and that my 24 year old daughter would probably enjoy the electric for her SS blades, I am thinking of acquiring and learning to use stones. I have not sharpened with a stone since I was in 7th grade and kept my rigging knife sharp enough to shave using my dad's stone with a few drops of 3 in 1 oil on it. So, I come from a vantage point of ignorance balanced by appreciation and already reasonably sharp knives. What would you get and why? A quick read led me to consider a 1000 and a 3000. No idea on brands. I have long wanted a longer steel and will likely go to a Dickoron polished steel.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Jim (knifesaver) probably can give you a better recommendation based on your knives. For waterstones, I recommend starting with a Japanese grit 1000 and possibly move to a 3000 or 4000 grit stone. For most people, ~1000 grit is enough. In term of brand, most 1000 grit waterstone at the price range of $20-30 should be sufficient. Brands like King, Naniwa, Suehiro.... are good.

    I have not used this one, but this is probably a good stone to mess around:

    I know Jim likes Arkansas stone and Eiron likes the Spyderco ceramic stone:

    Do you have a price range?

    1. Chem makes good suggestions.

      To be honest, old french carbon steel knives tend to play pretty well with a number of different stone types - as long as you don't buy a product that's plain bad or overpriced, you're not going to go too wrong.

      Waterstones are my personal preference for any kind of hand sharpening for a few reasons. Mainly because they work better with harder steel knives (not an issue for you), i prefer their tactile feedback, and they don't become less effective as they get older. On the downside, they cost more, are more fragile, eventually get too thin to use and must be replaced, and slowly dish during use and must either be flattened or used in such a way that accounts for the dishing (murray carter has some videos on youtube about doing the latter).

      One important thing to keep in mind is that different stones use different grit systems. 1000 and 3000 grit are decent choices for waterstones which use the japanese industrial standard system (JIS). Carborundum stones (oilstones) and sandpaper often use the CAMI system, where 1000 grit is somewhat finer - in this case I'd recommend starting with a lower grit. Even more often, they just come with designations of 'coarse' 'medium' 'fine' 'super fine' etc. A grit comparison chart can help.
      (link at the bottom of first post
      Most of the discussion you've seen on Chowhound uses the JIS system, since there are a lot of waterstone users here.

      About which grits to get... we can tend to overcomplicate things here. The big thing - don't get ONLY a very fine stone, since that can take too long to sharpen a fully dull knife. 'Medium,' oilstone, 240-1500 grit waterstone - you'd be fine with any of those as your only stone. Developing your skill as a sharpener matters much more than exactly what grit you pick.

      Very coarse stones are useful for repairs, if you see yourself doing that. Very fine stones are optional but fun to play around with. Keep in mind though that a knife that shaves really well (very fine grit) can be outperformed in a number of kitchen tasks by a knife that has a much coarser edge. And obviously, sharpening up through very fine stones takes longer. Personally - some knives I leave with a fairly coarse edge (500 or 800 grit JIS). Some I sharpen to a very fine edge (8000 grit JIS along with chromium oxide stropping). And many I deliberately jump from a medium grit (2000) to a very fine grit without fully polishing on said very fine grit in order to leave some of the edge's 'bite' intact. But I mainly use Japanese knives myself. Since french carbon knives are often a little soft (comparatively), you may find that sharpening to a very fine edge leads to diminishing returns - you lose the initial sharpness quite quickly.

      If I was in your shoes, I'd probably start off with one of chems suggestions. I'm also a fan of this affordable 240/1000 grit double sided waterstone:

      9 Replies
      1. re: cowboyardee

        <you may find that sharpening to a very fine edge leads to diminishing returns - you lose the initial sharpness quite quickly. >

        A very good point indeed. I don't think it is necessary for standard French carbon steel knives to go above 1000 grit (Japanese standard).

        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

          Yup. I took my sab up to 5k once, but the steel is to soft to make the effort worthwhile. I now sharpen it upto 1k via a king whetstone or wet/dry sandpaper adhered to a glass plate, followed by a leather strop. The blade is not finicky, so feel free to use whatever sharpening medium you like.

          1. re: JavaBean

            Does the leather strop yield a materially different result than a polished steel?

            1. re: tim irvine

              <Does the leather strop yield a materially different result than a polished steel?>

              Different purposes. The leather strop does a really good job of polishing the edge, and removing knife burr. A polished honing steel is to realign/strighten a deformed edge. These tools have some overlapping purposes -- but they are more different than they are same.

              A honing steel is not necessary right after a stone sharpening -- there is no deformed edge after a freshly sharpened knife. Whereas a leather strop is very useful for a freshly sharpened knife.

              1. re: tim irvine

                Ditto what chem or my other me said. I use a strop, after sharpening on stones to deburr, polish / refine the edge. I use a ceramic hone ( only on softer steel knives) to realign the edge before or during each use.

          2. re: cowboyardee

            Not much to add to that.

            I prefer oilstones where they can be used because they are a buy it once stone and are cheap.

            $70 and you are golden for western knives.

            A hard/soft combo 8X3"


            and for coarser needs on occasion a coarse/fine India 8X2


            So for less than a really fine japanese waterstone you are cooking with gas.

            I fully acknowledge that waterstones get finer and cut faster but have far more care and feeding involved in them.

            Eventually the oilstones can clog but some lapping grit and time will easily fix that.


            1. re: knifesavers

              Thanks. I will make up my mind when I get home from vacation. Nice to have an opinion on oilstones since that was all I was familiar with. I still recall being amazed at how sharp I got my blade with one. Mainly I just want to take care of my knives and always have them sharp enough for working in the kItchen. I have been ok with the Chefs Choice results but hear knife afficianados say a stone is far superior. I am maybe obsessing over theory rather than reality as my knives are 40 and show little loss of metal and I am 65.

              1. re: tim irvine

                <Ihear knife afficianados say a stone is far superior. >

                I think that depends on the knives themselves. For example, I rarely sharpen a 420 or 420 J knife above a 1000 grit stone, whereas I always sharpen a Aogami (blue steel) to 5000 grit level.

                For the few times which I have sharpened the 420J soft steel knives to a very fine edge using a 5000 grit stone, they simply won't hold that refine edge for more than one cooking session (probably only 2-3 cut). It just isn't worth the time to do it. Meanwhile, a hard steel Aogami knife will hold that refine edge for 1 month or more.

                1. re: tim irvine

                  The chef choice sharpener will remove more metal, leave coarser grind marks, and won't produce an as refined edge as stones, but it doesn't have the learning curve of stones, and is not as bad for softer steels as it is on harder steels. If you wanted to, you continue to use it on your softer steel blades and then refine the edge with a strop loaded with polishing compound. I often use mother's mag wheel polishing compound from an auto parts store.

            2. Cowboyardee and Chem, that was exactly the info I was seeking. BTW a few months ago I got to play with a Jpanese style blade cutting potatoes to my heart's content at SLT. It was a cool enough experience that I am still thinking about it. Many thanks!

              Oh, and based on your feedback I am guessing my price range is 18-22 dollars. ;0)

              18 Replies
              1. re: tim irvine

                <I got to play with a Jpanese style blade>

                Yeah, the Henckels Miyabi, right?

                I bought my friend a Miyabi Artisan SG2 8" Chef's knife. It is a promotion piece, but it is not of some crazy shape or size.


                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  That was it. I personally much prefer a ten inch blade, but eight inches is the size for which everyone else reaches. It would be very hospitable of me to have an eight inch chef that was SS, but the block is full.

                  1. re: tim irvine

                    A full block is no excuse to not get another blade!

                    1. re: JavaBean

                      Good point. I could start another block. My ten inch Dexter bread knife gets kept in the drawer with its plastic cover. It could come out! The three knives I sometimes consider are a 12" chef, a boning knife, and some sort of medium size SS for others to use, probably an 8" chef or santoku.

                      1. re: tim irvine

                        There are multiple ways to look at this. If you end up getting the Henckel Miyabi and love it, then it has every right to replace another of your knives from your knife block. The knife block is to simply store the knives you use the most, not all of your knives.

                        Another thing is that you said you are considering getting a stainless steel knife for your guests. If so, your guest knife do not need to be in your knife block. You can put it in the box and only take it out when your guests come to cook.

                        Finally, you can start another block as you have said.

                        1. re: tim irvine

                          I'm glad you've redeemed yourself, before the other knife nuts started to make fun of you. Personally, I keep knives for guest and family use in the block, my stuff stays in the more mystery rust spots or chips.

                    2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                      I don't need another knife. I don't need another knife. I don't need another knife.

                      Damn you Chem!

                      After last week doing a Birchwood Miyabi with an SG-2 core I want one. Now you show this fu fu pimped out handle and hammered look blade with an SG-2 core rather than VG-10 .


                      1. re: knifesavers

                        :) Well, you should at least go to Sur La Table and see it. I heard that Birchwood (the one you sharpened) and this Artisan (the one in my link) are similar but not the same. Obviously, the handle is different and the steel is the same. But I heard (only heard), the blade thickness is different too. I don't know if this is true. Maybe you can check out for me when you stop by Sur La Table.

                        1. re: knifesavers

                          That Miyabi Birchwood is sweet!  I tried to get my wife to pick it, but she hates wa-handles.  She ended up with western handle / more belly curve Fusion. 

                          BTW, the Miyabi with western handles (Artisan, Fusion) have deeper belly curves...better for rocking, whereas the wa-handle (Birchwood, Kaizen) have flatter blades....better for push cutting.

                          1. re: JavaBean

                            Thanks. I think you may have been the one who told me the difference.

                            1. re: JavaBean

                              I am fine with a more German profile. My main chef knives are Wusthof and F Dick.


                              1. re: knifesavers

                                <Wusthof and F Dick.>

                                Are you cussing again? ;)

                                1. re: knifesavers

                                  Get the Artisan while it's still on sale!!!

                                  1. re: JavaBean

                                    Y'all sure are good about talking people out of stuff. ;)

                                    Enablers, all of you guys.


                                    1. re: knifesavers

                                      Ok, plan B. You need a new knife like a hole in your head. Surely, you have better things to spend your money curtains, pillow shams, manbag, etc.

                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                          I'm blaming the chef who brought me the utility to sharpen and Chem for pointing out the sale.

                                          Will review later in a separate post. OOTB sharpness nearly treetops hair and the spine is very well rounded which is a very nice touch.


                                      1. re: knifesavers

                                        Without enablers the people who make things like duck presses and turbotierres would be out of business!

                          2. alright - since all the knife experts that I've seen posting in past posts seem to be reading this thread right now, I'm going to just ask for a reference . . . .

                            Each time I read these threads about knives and sharpening, I say I'm going to learn more about knives. I have several - some very nice - but they were all gifts, so it isn't like I a learned about knives by researching and buying them.

                            Where does one start to learn more about knives? Some website, some book? (i've followed other knife threads on here but need more background to really process what is being said at some point.) I don't expect anyone to write a primer for me, but would like a good place to start. I guess I know the super basics (stainless, carbon steel, etc) but once the conversation goes past that I just have to smile and nod.

                            I'd like to try sharpening my own knives (have Chef's Choice but I mean by hand) but I also don't want to ruin them. But gotta start somewhere at some point . . . .

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: thimes

                              <Where does one start to learn more about knives? >

                              Are you interested in knife maintenance like knife sharpening or knife skills like various way to debone a chicken or knife history?

                              In term of book, I recommend Chad Ward's An Edge in the Kitchen


                              Some of his writings have been posted on Daily Gullet.


                              One thing I really like about Chad is that his writing is very engaging, and easy to follow. Chad's book is slightly more gear toward knife maintenance compared to other books out there.

                              In term of knowing knife steels, then zknives has the best resources. It is a bit overwhelming, but the kitchen knife section is an ok place to start:



                              1. re: thimes

                                +1 on Chad Wards' book. Don't be afraid to ask questions or for clarifications in layman terms. At one point, every advanced user was in your shoes, and most are more than willing to pass along whatever lessons they've learned along the way.

                                1. re: thimes

                                  Thank you both. I'll definitely look into those recommendations. I was looking for more information on knife constructions, metals, terminology, sharpening, etc - so they seem like great places to start.

                                2. Reviving this old threat since I have a similar question and am hoping to get some advice.

                                  I bought my first carbon steel knife not too long ago - a Windmühlenmesser chef's knife. I have been using it for a few months and have been getting used to the extra steps in care compared to stainless steel.

                                  For this type of knife, what would I need for regular maintenance as well as sharpening? Can one use a honing rod on carbon steel or not really? I read below and got a bit confused with all the different waterstones. If I'm just starting out, what would be the best one/ones to get?

                                  Thanks in advance! :)

                                  6 Replies
                                  1. re: roycey

                                    < bought my first carbon steel knife not too long ago - a Windmühlenmesser chef's knife.>

                                    Which one? Series K?

                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                      1922 series. It's this one ( but ordered it in Europe for about half the price.

                                      1. re: roycey

                                        Thanks. I see. 1922 series like the K series is made of carbon steel hardened to about 60 HRC.


                                        Because of this, I would not use a normal honing steel. You may able to get by with a smooth honing steel or a ceramic honing rod... something of that sort. Use light touches. Again, try to avoid the grooved honing rod if you can. Here is a wonderful photo I found which illustrates the difference between a smooth rod vs a grooved rod:


                                        The honing rod or honing steel is to help align the knife edge. Neither can sharpen a knife. The knife eventually will need to be sharpened either by you or by someone else.

                                        You can always get a little gadget like the Sharpmaker and forget about honing and sharpening -- at least in the near term.


                                        Or you can just send out your knife for professional sharpening once a year (or whenever you feel the knife is no longer sharp).

                                        Or you can learn to sharpen your knives on a waterstone.

                                        Tons of options. Go with whichever makes more sense to you.

                                        The only thing I will say is that you want to avoid the grooved honing steel as mentioned earlier, and try to avoid an electric knife sharpener like a Chef's Choice.

                                        Hope this help.

                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                          Thanks Chemicalkinetics.

                                          I am definitely up for learning to sharpen on a waterstone - Do you have any recommendations on a good one to start with for this type of knife?

                                          1. re: roycey

                                            <Do you have any recommendations on a good one to start with for this type of knife?>

                                            Based on my experience, most waterstones are pretty good. You don't want to go ultra cheap and get a $5 waterstone.

                                            I would say that a ~1000 grit (Japanese standard) stone is a very good place to start. It is aggressive enough to remove most tiny chips and refined enough to be a finishing stone. Conversely, a 200-500 grit stone is great for fixing knife, but the edge is too rough to be a finishing edge, and a >2000 grit stone is great for polishing the edge, but does not have the ability to fix knife chips or dents.

                                            I would recommend one of these two for a good start:



                                            You can also go for a combination stone like a 250/1000 or a 1000/6000 stone:


                                            I would suggest to get a ~1000 grit stone for now, and your experience will dictate if you need a lower or higher grit stone in the future.

                                            1. re: roycey

                                              Personally I like Shapton waterstones as they are very hard compared to something like a Naniwa or a King. Chosera stones, from what I hear, are similar. They do take a bit more technique to keep your angles steady, but you should be able to see that in the bevel as you sharpen. Like the Naniwa, they are splash and go--which means there is no need to soak them in water prior to beginning to sharpen.

                                              Plus, the box they come in doubles as a stand to give you more knuckle clearance.