The Next Step in Sharpening

Joined Jan 1, 2010
I have sharpened four blades so far, and I must say that I'm generally very pleased with the results (though I certainly do take much longer than I'd like).  I was able to get my Wusthoff Chef and Paring knives to cut a hanging piece of paper, and they both feel significantly sharper than when I took them out of the box for the first time.  They aren't perfect - though the paper cuts smoothly, I can look at the edges and see a bit of roughness.  But, I think I'm heading the right direction.

Now I have two new Japanese knives, a Hiromoto petty made out of NS-10 steel, and a Fujitake gyuto made out of VG-10.  Both are FAR above and beyond what I'm used to in terms of initial sharpness and lively "feel" (perhaps after a few more months using them, I'll be able to describe what I mean a little more clearly).

Both of my new knives are sharpened with a double bevel, but the Fujitake is asymetrical, something like 30% left, 70% right (for a right hander - I'm not sure I'm describing this correctly).  The instruction sheet which Hida Tool gave me with both knives recommends against using a honing steel with Japanese knives, but I gather from other threads that this is not necessarily true for Japanese made knives with Western beveled blades.  Does this mean I ought to be using a honing steel with the same sort of regularity I would use it on my Wusthoffs, or should I instead do a couple of very light passes on my finest grit waterstone (currently a 6000)?  If this is the answer, how often should I be doing this?  And should I be using an even finer stone?  Would the technique be similar to a regular sharpening stroke, or will I be doing something different?

If a honing steel is still appropriate, I would love some suggestions about which to get.  I currently have a Shun steel (which I an less and less fond of as I learn more and more) with grooves down the length of the steel - I am beginning to understand that this steel is designed to approximate a coarse abrasive, and this is probably the exact sort of steel that Hida is telling me to avoid.  I've been into Sur La Table and Williams-Sonoma, but I can't seen to find any smooth steels.  I'm planning on heading into a local restaurant supply store to look for a cutting board (12" x 16" has been bothering me forever), and would love to know what else I can keep my eye out for.

Thanks again to all of the forum contributors - your collective input has been a real help to me thus far!
Joined Feb 13, 2008
You've got some options as to the steel. 

Fine Ceramic:   The good ones are the Idahone fine  10" or12", or the DMT CS2.  The DMT is "unbreakable" or nearly so. The negative is that they tend to come from the factory a little rough -- easily cleaned up with a piece of sandpaper.  The Idahone is fantastic as is.  If I didn't already have a perfectly good fine rod, I'd buy an Idahone -- unless I were planning to schlepp it around in a knife roll -- then I'd go DMT.

FWIW MAC makes a "MAC Black" rod which is very similar to the DMT but more than twice the price.

Smooth aka polished steel: 
Lots of choices in terms of manufacturers.  The Forschner is very reasonable.  Mundial makes some bargains.  F. Dick "Dickorons" are beautifully made, but not cheap.  Don't worry too much about "hardness" relative to your Japanese knives.  Steels do their work with geometry and mass, not hardness.

Fine, or very fine steel rods:   The good ones are expensive.  The cheap ones are cheap.  Fugheddaboudid.  Get a ceramic.

Glass:   The HandAmerican Borosilicate rod is the best steel I've ever used.  By light years.  Very, expensive, but worth it if you can afford it and you're into it.  HandAmerican sells a kit with both the Borosilicate and a Idahone fine Ceramic.

Two rod kits:
  My own kit includes an HA Borosilicate and a very worn down fine Henckles.  I use the borosilicate for deburring and for steeling when my knives still have a fresh polish.  When the HA no longer does the trick (usually about a month) I switch to the Henckles until I have to hit the stones (about another month).  Knowing what I know, yadda yadda, if I were doing it now, I'd buy the Idahone instead of the Henckles whether as a stand alone or as part of a two rod system.

It's a lot of money and equipment to solve a fairly simple problem, but... Works for me. 

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Joined Dec 23, 2004
After using both for quite awhile I've come to feel the Idahone is superior to the DMT CS2.  Of course, the DMT still retains the edge in durability, but if this isn't important I'd recommend the Idahone.  I agree with BDL that for hard knives the HA Glass is the finest hone available.
Joined Jan 1, 2010
Thanks to both of you.  Sounds like the Idahone is going to be the best bet for me right now.  Time to do some online shopping!

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