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Here I will show you how to sharpen your knife using a Japanese water stone. I will be demonstrating this with a western style knife. This means that the knife has a bevel on both sides of the blade. Japanese knives are different from western knives in that they only have a bevel on one side, and are flat on the other. Sharpening with a water stone is the best way to sharpen your knives, but not all knives can withstand a sharp edge. Cheaper knives are made with cheaper metal that will crumble when sharpened past a certain level.
Japanese water stones range in grit from very course stones to finishing stones. A very course stone with a grit ranging from 80-600 is used for removing a lot of metal at a very fast rate. You will only need a very course stone if your knife edge is very damaged or you want to change the bevel of your knife. A medium course stone with a grit of 700-2000 is used for general purpose sharpening. A grit of 800-1000 is a good choice for a general purpose stone. To hone and polish your knife you need a finishing stone with a grit ranging from 3000-8000. A good all around grit to have for honing is 6000. I am using a two sided water stone that has a grit of 1000 on one side and 6000 on the other. This kind of stone is good for the basic person who does not need to sharpen their knifes daily.
Here is a link to purchase the stone that I use: Japanese Water Stone
I sharpen my knife every time before I make sushi, as it becomes very difficult to make your sushi with a dull knife. For regular cooking I will sharpen my knife once every 2-4 weeks. Depending on the material your knife blade is made out of, or the frequency and kind of use you expose it to, you may find that you need to sharpen your knife more often.
Step #1 | Flattening Your Stone
The first thing that you should always do before using your water stone is to make sure that it is flat. Your stone will always need to be flattened before or after use. I would suggest flattening it before every use. You can also flatten your stone once every couple of uses, but this will decrease effectiveness of the stone and make it take longer to flatten.
First, I make crosshatch lines with a pencil across my stone. I use these lines as my indicator to see when my stone is flattened.
Next, I take my stone and sand it town until I no longer see my cross hatched lines. Depending on the sandpaper you are using you may need to clean the water stone dust off of the sandpaper. I just tap it out onto a nearby paper towel as shown above. It usually takes me about 3 minutes to flatten my stone.
Step #2 | Wet Your Stone
Now that your stone is flattened you need to submerge it in water for about 5-10 minutes. This will get all the oxygen out of stone and prepare it for use
Step #3 | Sharpen Your Knife
Start out with the 1000 grit side of the stone, or whatever grit lower grit stone you may be using. Set a 15 degree angle between the stone and the knife using your thumb to hold the angle in place. Use your right hand to maintain the angle of the stone and your left hand to pull the blade back and forth across the stone. Move your knife up and down the stone and follow through the whole length of the knife as you go. When your done with one side switch to the other for the same amount of time. Then go back and forth lowering the interval of time you spend on each side.
Your stone will form a residue as you go, this should not be washed off because it is very helpful to sharpening your knife. Also as you sharpen you will see that your stone will dry up. You should not use a dry stone, so whenever you hear pitch the of the sound of the knife against the stone change from a gliding to a scraping, splash some water on your stone.
I usually count my strokes as I sharpen my knife. I start at 20 strokes per side then go down by intervals of 5. You may need to start off at a higher number of strokes if your knife is duller
Once I am finished with sharpening on the 1000 grit side, I move onto to the 6000 grit in order to polish my knife. Polishing you blade will keep the edge sharp for a longer period of time. I glide the blade over the stone in a different fashion when polishing my knife (shown above). I still keep the 15 degree angle and I begin with the but of my knife at the top left corner of my stone (held horizontally) and glide it diagonally until the tip of the knife crosses the bottom right corner. I also start this at 20 strokes per side and decrease by intervals of 5.
After all this you should have a sharp knife. You can check if your knife is sharp by cutting a piece of paper. If you find that your knife gets stuck at any point on your blade then you need to re-sharpen that part. After a few times of sharpening your knife you will find that keeping the 15 degree angle comes more naturally.