Ran sharpening regime

Discussion in 'Cooking Knife Reviews' started by mcpop, Apr 7, 2010.

  1. mcpop

    mcpop

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    Hi guys,

    I'm a long time lurker who has finally decided to step out of the shadows to mingle with the big boys.

    I am a home cook who has slowly come to the realisation that good knives and good care make cooking so much more enjoyable.  This slowly trodden path has led me to my current juncture.  I have been searching for days for the info but can't quite get the exact information I am after. And I am not experienced enough to glean it from the tons of other posts about similar knives.

    Here's the situation. I have a Yaxell Ran Damascus 20cm Chef Knife and a Ran pairing knife as well as the Ran pull-through wet ceramic wheel sharpener.  The sharpener has two slots, for sharpening left and right sides of the edge, not different grades.

    Is that sharpener a genuine sharpening device or a hone? Here's a link to the sharpener.en.item.rakuten.com/yaxell/36021/

    Intuitively this sharpener doesn't seem right.  Am I doing my knives a disservice by using such a device? It says to pull through ten times on each side but inspecting the knives' edges shows a right-side bias (maybe 70/30ish)...will this be compromised with even stroke counts?

    Am I better off getting a water stone?  The Ran knives are VG-10 edges so is there a particular stone (or set of) that I should be using?  I'm willing to learn the the art of sharpening if necessary, and I have some older knives to practice on.

    I also read somewhere that a steel should be avoided for honing VG-10?  Is this right?  Has the internet lied to me?  If not, is there a particular type of steel that I should be looking for (I imagine diamond would be too hard on the brittle VG-10...)

    I'm not trying to make the world's sharpest knives, I just want a practical solution to obtain an honest and serviceable edge to slice with...but who knows, perhaps I'll catch the sharpening disease (...must...resist...gah!)

    These are my first non-stainless knives.  Is there any other tidbits I should be aware when taking care of these knives?

    Much appreciated, in advance.  And apologies if this dredges up previously answered questions.

    Cheers,

    McPop.
     
  2. phaedrus

    phaedrus

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    The sharpener isn't a great way to go but your choice of knife is a fine one.  Of one the more skilled pro sharpeners I know highly recommends that line.  Water stones are the way to go, and if you want a serious edge with less learning curve, it's hard to beat an Edge Pro with water stones.
     
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  3. boar_d_laze

    boar_d_laze

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    Hi MC,

    Ultimately you're going to get the same advice from me that Phaedrus gave, but let's break your questions down a little.  They're good questions.

    Good insight.

    Decent knife, terrible sharpener. 

    The appropriate technical term is piece of dreck.   It is supposed to sharpen and hone, but largely it's designed to take those who cannot sharpen and give them something to do.  

    Knife guys use the term "honing" synonymously "truing."  Razor guys and carpenters use it differently.  Good sharpening hones as well as sharpens. 

    Good intuition.  Not so much a disservice as wasting your own time in the process of keeping the knife far less sharp than it could be.

    • Ten times my Aunt Fanny! 
    • The Ran sharpener is both too slow and too coarse to be really useful.
    • If you sharpened the knife every other day following those directions, it would take around a year to net 50/50 symmetry, assuming you're right about 70/30 -- which you probably aren't. 
    • You're probably misreading the amount of asymmetry your knife actually has.
    • Your knife will probably work best for you in the 50/50 - 60/40 range. 
    • 70/30 is a little iffy in terms of steeling.
    Stones, plural.  Yes. 

    VG-10 sharpens very easily on any decent waterstone set.  The Rans are hardened to a point where oilstones would be frustratingly slow for any sane person -- although I've done it. 

    If you decide to go the benchstone route, you're going to do the bulk of your learning on a medium/coarse stone (around 1000# according to the Japanese standard).  Ultimately you'll probably want a 3, 4, or 5 stone kit. 

    A lot of beginners start with a medium/coarse - medium/fine combination stone (say 1000/5000), which is an economical way to do it.  I think you're better off spending more money on three 10mm Naniwa SS stones -- 400, 1000, 3000 or 5000, and adding an 8000 or 10000 later.  Take a look at this, to get some of the thinking behind different kits. 

    You can either learn to sharpen freehand on bench stones or use some sort of gag like an Edge Pro Apex or a Chef's Choice machine (which would be good, but not as good as the other two ways).   Even a good "V" stick like the Spyderco Sharpmaker or the big Idahone would be better than what you have.

    Of the three best options, the least expensive will be an entry level set of stones, or a Chef's Choice.  The Edge Pro, which is the easiest way to learn to get a very good edge, is going to be pretty close to $200 after every thing is said and done.

    No.  You can't really steel a knife that's too hard or too asymmetric.  Your knife isn't too hard.  Symmetry is up to you.

    Yes.

    The best "steel" for your purposes is quite probably the Idahone fine 12" ceramic.  If you'd like to get into the nuances of steels -- we'll do it in a separate post.

    Big misunderstanding here.  Sharper is always better within the context that there's an appropriate balance between absolute sharpness and durability.  In other words, to do sharpening very well you have to know enough about the alloy and the uses to which the knife is put to determine the appropriate degree of thinning, edge angles, and symmetry.  But, it's not very complicated.  Put crudely, sharpening is just rubbing a piece of steel against a rock.  It takes practice, but not much insight.
    You're misinformed.  They're three layers (VG-10 sandwiched between a soft damascene), each stainless.  The damascene jigane scratches easily, and the pattern will fade.  It cannot be brought back by buffing, so be careful when you wash it.

    Considering the quality of the mind behind your OP, you've probably got a lot more questions about the appropriate symmetry, the practical differences between bench stones, Edge Pro and Chef's Choice, etc.  Ask away. 

    Hope this helps,
    BDL   
     
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2010
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  4. mcpop

    mcpop

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    Hi Guys,

    Thanks for the prompt (and detailed) replies! 
    I may be a nub but I know what I like.  Originally I shied away from Japanese knives because my Mum's Globals felt bad in the hand.  So I tried Germans.  I liked the Wusties and Henckels before being convinced to try Shun.  They felt nice in the hand but there was something awkward about the cutting motion...it wasn't natural to me.  The clerk then offered me to try Ran...I was hooked!  It taught me that you need to cut stuff before judging a knife, not just hold it.

    BDL, I love a good bit of yiddish.  Perfect for softening a blow without actually losing the meaning!  Looks like the "sharpener" is bubkes:)


    A lot of beginners start with a medium/coarse - medium/fine combination stone (say 1000/5000), which is an economical way to do it.  I think you're better off spending more money on three 10mm Naniwa SS stones -- 400, 1000, 3000 or 5000, and adding an 8000 or 10000 later.  Take a look at this, to get some of the thinking behind different kits. 

    Nice advice.  I'm not adverse to learning something useful and superior at the expense of convenience.  I've been looking at a few other links you have posted in other threads in order to get my head around this sharpening caper.  It seems that it is as much "rubbing a piece of steel against a rock" as the Mona Lisa is smearing some oil on poplar.