The Chef Knife Series – Sharpening

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I ran into Darren Champagne at The CrossFit Games last weekend and he asked me about sharpening his Chef Knife. Darren was the winner of the May drawing, which landed him a Glestain Offset Petty Knife and sharpening stone. I totally spaced that he won a stone with his knife and promised him an instructional video on how to use the two together, so here it is.

I first learned how to sharpen a knife as Royal Ranger when I was a young boy. It involved a whetstone and a buck knife and little did I know that I was learning a skill that I would use for life.

I entered the professional kitchen at age 14, where I had my first exposure to the Chef Knife. However, while this exposure came a myriad of sharpening gadgets, there was never a whetstone in sight. There were steels, handheld sharpeners, electric grinders, and even “The Rolling Stone”, a mobile sharpening service that would show up at the back door of the kitchen and sharpen knives for $3/each.

Then, in Culinary School, I was exposed the the Dexter-Russel TriStone (above), which was most similar to the whetstone I learned about in my youth. It was a great big unit and used oil to lubricate the stone instead of water. I liked it and felt comfortable using it, but it still seemed to grind away more of the knife than necessary.

It wasn’t until the Fall of 2007, when I was working in the kitchens of New York City that I was reintroduced to the whetstone. It was some of my first exposure to the handiwork of Japanese Craftsmen and I immediately fell in love. Glestain, Nenox, Ittosai, Misono, Masanobu, everybody had these amazing Japanese Knives and they were razor sharp.

I made a pilgrimage to Korin Japanese Trading Company and I’ve been hooked ever since.

Masanobu

I started with a 10″ Masanobu Chef’s Knife. I was hesitant to go with the irregular-shaped handle, but took the plunge and loved the knife at first. Then, while cracking open a coconut, the knife broke in two! I couldn’t believe it. Korin replaced the knife, but then a month later the replacement broke again, so I decided to switch it up and went with the brand Glestain. I have been using Glestain knives ever since and am extremely happy.

Glestain

With the purchase of any knife at Korin, you receive a complimentary sharpening lesson from Chiharu Sugai. This dude is like Yoda, he has dedicated his life to learning the trade and it shows. I do not do his lesson justice, but I know how to put an edge on my knives and I feel comfortable doing it.

If you ever get the chance to visit Korin in NYC, do it! It’s conveniently located a few blocks from Ground Zero, so take a few extra minutes and check it out. You won’t be disappointed.

If you purchase a knife and can take a sharpening lesson from Chiharu, do it! If not, you can always purchase his instructional DVD which not only teaches you how to sharpen, but gives a history of the trade. It’s a pretty amazing story; after Samurai was outlawed, all of the sword makers began making Chef Knives and they’ve been doing it ever since.

Though I am not a Samurai Warrior, I hope that I’ve shed some light on the topic of knife sharpening. I hope that this article and accompanying video will encourage you to leave your dull knives behind.

I am confident that if you follow my instructions, both you and your knives will be sharper for it…

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