New knife woes!

Joined Mar 6, 2009
So I recently bought a Hattori forum chef knife! I love the knife and it has brought a new respect for what a man can do with steel! Here is my problem~! I also bought a set of SS 220, 1000, 5000. Great stones for me as a newbie to the waterstone revolution! However I now own a set of older chef knifes whom have found a whole new life! After very little work on my new stones, these knives are sharper than they have ever been! While my wonderful new hattori seems to escape my ability to sharpen a knife! Is it really so hard to change how I sharpen a knife! I mean really i have looked at a protractor and tried the 2 penny angle. I get the angle, but when I am in the process it is like my hands have a mind of their own! I cant seem to break the habit of bring the knife to a 20 plus degree angle!

Any tips? Ideas? How did you make the change from classic european knives to japanese knives?

I am not dulling my knife! I still am able to maintain the edge! I just am truely interested in putting an edge on the knife I can be proud of!
Joined Oct 9, 2008
Nice to read this post. You've got exactly the right problem, you know why, and you have the means and interest to deal with it. I'm no great master, but on the other hand I only fairly recently made the transition you're making, so it's still fairly clear in my head. A few points:

1. Slow down and lighten up. By which I mean, stroke the knife on the stone slowly and passably gently. This allows you to concentrate more on your angle. There are some who find that very rapid strokes allow greater consistency, but neither you nor I are at the level where this is useful advice. Now, it's more about getting the right angle reasonably close. Let the stone do the work; your fingers are just guides. I would guess that this is the most important thing for you -- it was for me.

2. Put your right forefinger (your left if you're a lefty) on the spine of the knife. You'll get greater angle control that way, and your body sense will help you keep the tip of that finger close to the stone. Be aware that you may slightly abrade the tip of the finger, but if you're not pushing hard you won't damage yourself.

3. If you've been having trouble, you may have to do a little more coarse grinding than you'd think in order to bring up a burr the first time around. You've rounded the shoulder at least a little bit, and that will have to come off.

4. Use the magic marker trick constantly. You might even want to re-coat the edge section every ten strokes or so. This allows constant quick feedback.

5. Look at the edge you're grinding through a magnifying glass regularly. You'll be surprised at just how clearly you can see what's happening that way.

6. The problem with marker and magnification is that they take your hands away from the stone and break your rhythm. Actually, that's a good thing for people like you and me, i.e. relative beginners. It means that every several strokes you stop and re-focus on your angle. I find that if I do a lot of strokes I can lose focus and start pushing down or raising the spine.

7. Once you do get an edge you're fairly happy with, try to make a point of sharpening every week, starting with the 1k stone. If you're really into it, try doing it every couple of days, just on the 5k. It's really all just practice: once you get the hang of it, you'll have a clear sense in your hands of the difference between a 20-ish angle and a 10-ish one. Then you can obsess about other things!
Joined Dec 23, 2004
In addition to the magic marker trick, it's helpful to follow Dave Martell's advice about feeling the edge. If you gently lay the knife on the stone and raise the spine, eventually you'll feel it click down onto the primary bevel. It's easier to do that it is to describe- you simply have to try it to understand what I mean.
Joined Mar 6, 2009
A little update, My Hattori is now the sharpest knife I have ever had the chance to use! I think I just needed to work it slower. I was rushing through the process, and not taking the time to make sure I was doing it correctly! Thanks for the good advice! I have solved my problems with the change over to a japanese knife.
Joined Feb 13, 2008
Glad it all worked out.

Even though you've already got it, I'd like to add a little advice which may prove helpful.

Get yourself a protractor (or you can use graph paper) and draw two or three largish right triangles with one angle at 15* (or whatever edge angle you desire). Cut them out and set them near your stones so you see them as you sharpen. It's helpful if you transfer the triangles to paper or cardboard stock that's heavy enough to stand up. In any case, the visual reinforcement will not only help you as put the blade on the stone, it will also help all the way through the stroke.

DO NOT use the "quarter trick." Forget you ever read about it. It's not only inaccurate, it's deceptive. A given number of quarters under the spine at one point of the knife will set the edge to a completely different angle when set at a different part of the knife. The angle set depends on the width of the blade.

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