Maintenance & Sharpening

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Whetstones I Recommend
πŸ›’ Shapton Pro Ceramic, Ha No Kuromaku
(If I wasn’t gifted the Shapton Glass I would have bought this one personally over the Shapton glass because of the huge price difference the Shapton Glass is no doubt better and closer to the #grit rating Guide).

πŸ›’Naniwa Pro/Chosera/Gouken ”Arata”
(Naniwa Pro/Chosera/Goyuken ”Arata” #800 is my go-to medium stone)
If the price is not a deal breaker get the Naniwa over Shapton Kurokoma and even over the Shapton ”Glass” the Naniwa is also thicker about 5mm thicker than the Shapton Kurokuma.

AliExpress World Wide Shipping:
πŸ›’Diamond plate (AliExpress)
(needs pre- sharpening in order to reach the specified grit they are pretty coarse out of the box/package, a diamond plate that works for just $25/$30 USD) Also great for fixing your stone.

πŸ›’Whetstone (Soaking Stone)
Not ideal for beginners despite the beginner-friendly price.

We are going to cover how we maintain your new or old knife. But before we start with the maintenance and sharpening guide we are going to cover all the different types of sharpening stones.

How to choose a sharpening stone, synthetic, ceramic, diamond, etc

For every beginner, you have to start somewhere, but it is quite hard to get the correct recommendation. You have different brands, materials, grits, and more but what is the best solution? What should you buy when you are first starting? Let’s take it easy and start by covering the different types of material.

Does it matter what brand you use?

The majority of the results come from the person and the techniques. So the brand does not matter as much as you think. Therefore I will list the most used sharpening material and their benefits and disadvantages. In the end, all that matters is the technique that is required in order to get the results you want and not the brand or the price of the stone. I have tested multiple brands and even Chinese unbranded stones and it seems like the grit rating is correct in most of the stones. Of course, a well-known brand is better and will last longer, but 90% of the sharpness comes from the technique that is required to get the results.

Water stones/whetstones (Soaking Needed)

The whetstone or also called a water stone needs soaking for around 10min or less before you can use it. They are cheap to produce and the cost varies per brand. But most of the time the grit ratings are correct from various brands no matter where they are made, and you will get a sharp result. The problem is that Waterstones dishes out very fast even after one knife, so the lifespan is not long. This can cause various problems for beginners, it will get harder and harder to master your sharpening technique on that kind of stone. Therefore it is important that you keep the stone flat and leveled all the time especially if you are sharpening it for the first time. While the grit is somewhat correct the softness of these stones varies per brand, the softer the stone the faster it dishes out. Most if not all water stone/soaking stones are made from aluminum oxide as their primary sharpening material it is the binding that makes the difference in how fast something dishes out.

Ceramic whetstone (Splash and Go ”Water”)

The ceramic stone is one of my personal favorites, they won’t dish out as fast as the soaking stones. The ceramic whetstone is also a splash and-go and does not require any pre-soaking. They cost more than a soaking stone but they don’t dish out as fast as a soaking stone and are therefore preferable over the aluminum oxide soaking stones. The lifespan is also significantly longer on a ceramic stone and they are great for knives with a high Rockwell hardness.

Diamond stones (Dry, Splash and Go ”Water”, Oil)

The Diamond stone is something I slowly fell in love with each time I used it. Most diamond stones need a few pre-sharpening sessions in order to reach the grit level stated on the package. All Diamond stones are plated on top of aluminum or steel. I don’t have to flatten my diamond stone at all even after 30 sharpening sessions they are still very flat. You can use it completely dry, or you can splash some water to make the sharpening sessions a bit smoother. You can’t soak or leave water on it for a long period since the steel beneath will rust. The advantage of the Diamond stone is that they are speedy and you can also use them to flatten your soaking or ceramic whetstone. The downside is that you need a lot of pre-sharpening before it reaches the desired grit that was stated on the package. A diamond whetstone is expensive, but I have tested a Chinese-made one that I’m pleased with, and that for just $25/$30 USD. Since you need pre-sharpening, I suggest that you use older knives or cheaper knives first until the desired grit is reached.

Note: while I love the diamond option I don’t use it on high carbon steel or SG2/R2 powdered steel. I find the diamond a bit too aggressive (especially when they are new and not broken in yet with a few pre-sharpening sessions) on this type of steel with a Rockwell of 62+.

Natural stone like the Arkansas (Dry, Splash and Go ”Water”, Oil)

I need more time and testing before I can judge the natural stone. (this will be updated once I have used the stones a lot more).

What grit size do you use?

Grit CategoryGrit SizeWhenWhy
Coarse#120 – #400broken tips, chipsRemoving chips, on a damaged knife edge. Great for thinning knives.
Coarse#400 – #600A dull knife or bend-cutting coreGetting an edge on a completely dull knife. If you leave your cheap knives at this coarse stage you get a toothier edge great for extending the edge retention on cheap low Rockwell knives (especially for manufacturers that do not list the Rockwell hardness which indicates lower than 56).
Medium#800, #1000 – #2000When you feel that the knife is not sharp anymoreGetting a medium, to a fine edge is good enough for home use and meat like Chicken, Duck, Beef, and Pork.
Medium/Fine#2000+-#3000If you feel like the toothier edge of #1000 is not for youMaintenance: Salads/uncooked veggies that don’t get eaten right away. (honing/ touch up/ restaurant) Also a good finishing stone for knives with a Rockwell of 56 -58.
Fine#3000+ – #5000Failed Tomato resistance test, but better to consider if your knife Rockwell is high enough to be able to maintain the edge.For knives with a Rockwell of 58+
Fine#5000 – #6000For raw fish and Rockwell 62+Sashimi (raw fish), nigiri slices. For knives with a Rockwell of 60+
Super Fine: #8000+#8000+Mirror polishAesthetic, Sashimi raw fish without skin. Rockwell of 60+, ideal for Yanagiba’s, etc.

This is just a guideline, how far you want to go is something you have to decide for yourself.

Some manufacturers will feel different, For example, the Naniwa Pro/Chosera/Gouken Arata (All from Naniwa) vs Shapton ”Kuromaku” You get different performance But the Shapton Glass on the other hand is closer to the Above #Grit guidance.

This also means that once you choose a brand it is not recommended to mix and match if you go for aesthetic on your entire blade (not the cutting edge) especially when your progression jump is not high enough.

Naniwa Pro/Chosera/Gouken ”Arata”:
#800, #1000 (Where #800 takes off more steel, therefore, fewer strokes are needed ie; less time is needed)
Shapton ”Kuromaku”

For similar performance as the Naniwa Pro #600, you need the Shapton ”Pro Kuromaku” #1000 to match with the Naniwa Pro #600.

Keep that in mind when you use the above guideline, do not mix and match your progression with other brands or series within the brands unless you have tested them yourself side by side.

So for example the Shapton Pro Kuromaku #1000 is more like the Naniwa Pro #600 therefore when you use the Naniwa #800 stone and progress to the Shapton Pro Kuromaku #1000 you are essentially making your knife toothier instead of smoother and sharper and when you use more progression to get the aesthetic back on your single bevel knives you are reverting all your hard work to something worse in terms of scratch patterns for aesthetic purposes.

Therefore if you decide to mix and match make sure you jump high enough to follow the coarse, medium, fine guidelines.
And if you want to get a specific aesthetic on your single bevel blades or when you are thinning the knife for aesthetic (not talking about the cutting edge but the entire blade itself).

My advice is not to mix and match brands or series.

I recommend a size of 6cm wide and 18cm long for a whetstone, which is the minimum size bigger is fine too!

Coarse stone= #100 – #800
Medium stone= #1000 – #2000
Fine / Finishing stone = #3000 – #6000
Polishing (Optional) – #6000+

Always choose a Progression based on your own skills and needs.
There is no need to go for #800/#1000/#2000/#3000/#4000/#5000 if you only do the cutting edge.
The more progression, you do in between the more mistakes you can make.

Just choose a progression with a Jump in the Coarse, Medium, Fine line, and an Optional Polishing stone of above #5000

Therefore it is better to Jump from Coarse (Edge Repairs), Medium (fixing dull knife), Fine (Getting back the factory sharpness or better), and Polishing (An optional aesthetic usually used for Single beveled knives and not needed on Double Bevel).

Example for most users: If you don’t need any edge repairs, you can skip the coarse stone.
Naniwa Pro/Chosera/Gouken Arata Example:
#800 or #1000 (Medium), #3000/#5000 (Fine/Finishing).
Shapton ”Kuromaku” Example:
#1500 (Medium), #5000/#8000 (Fine Finishing)

Why Nanaiwa Pro/Chosera/Gouken ”Arata”:
#800 to #3000?
For a toothier edge better bite for everyday usage.
Why Naniwa Pro/Chosera/Gouken ”Arata”:
#800 to #5000
Gives a smoother edge less toothy.

Why Shapton ”Kuromaku:
#1500 to #5000
For a toothier edge better bite for everyday usage.
#1500 to #8000
Gives a smoother edge less toothy.

Keep in mind that the above jump chart is meant for the cutting edge only.
For thinning, or single bevel knives you need a progression to get a smoother and faster result if you care about aesthetics.
As you will be grinding the knife too much to reach the desired scratch pattern if you jump to a stone that is too high.

Knife Rockwell Guide
(Recommendation to not go higher on the #Grit Rating of the Whetstone based on knife Rockwell)

#400 – #600
Good for knives with no Rockwell rating which indicates that is it softer than 56 on the Rockwell scale

#100 to #3000 – Rockwell 56 – 58
#3000+ – #5000 – Rockwell of 58+
#5000+ – #6000 – Rockwell of 60+
#5000+ – #6000 – Rockwell of 61+

The reason for this is that the edge of a knife with a Rockwell of 58 or lower can’t maintain the edge for practical use (Cooking) and therefore going beyond a certain grit is inadvisable.

Japanese knives of a Rockwell of 60+:
It is recommended to go for a lower grit stone, so if you think you need #1000 go for #800
Since the knives are harder, it needs more time to shave off the edge ie; less stroke needed, and a lot of time savings.
Professional hand sharpeners usually go even lower since most knives that come in their shop are in a bad state for them, the better option would be a #600 before they progress to a finishing stone.

As a chef, you should not rely on these tests, a chip, broken tip, or bend cutting core are all visual. Once you get more and more into sharpening you will feel what the condition is on your knife and you will be able to tell by the feeling of how it cuts and what stone you should be using instead of relying on those tests.

Stropping on leather, newspaper, cardboard (polish)

If stropping on leather or newspaper has any effect or not, depends on how you finish your sharpening session. If you finish at a #1000 grit then it will help to smooth out the edges and it can achieve a hair-shaving sharp edge (but if you finish on a Higher grit you are already refining the edge). Most people will achieve better results if they finish on a higher grit stone and then transition into a strop. Stropping on just newspaper is good enough if you finished correctly (did not mess up the sharpening process) on a whetstone as it smooths out the edges. Leather + compound is more forgiving in your end result on the stone ie; not finishing correctly on a stone therefore you can refine the edge more with Leather + Compound to mask your mistakes.

Compound Colors

  • Grey: coarse (approx. grain 3000)*
  • Green: medium (approx. grain 5000)*
  • Red: fine (approx. grain 7000)*
  • Black: ultra-fine (approx. grain 10.000)*

*While most manufacturers use the general color codes some have a different color. Always check the approx. grain size specification.

When to use what compound (grain size)

Grain SizeWhenWhy
3000 – Coarseafter #800 – #2000 gritstonepolishing & refining the edge
5000 -Mediumafter #3000 – #5000 gritstonepolishing & refining the edge
7000 – Fineafter #5000 – #6000 gritstonepolishing & refining the edge
10.000 – Ultra Fineafter #8000+ gritstonepolishing & refining the edge

With all compounds you have to make sure the knife is sharpened before, the compound will not bring a dull knife back to sharp!

PS: This is just a guideline if other steps works then it works.
Everything written above is based on my personal experience as a chef, there is no measurable science involved.

You don’t actually need a compound after #6000 grit stone, newspaper, and cardboard would work fine too. Basically the higher the grit you finish on, the less you need to polish or refine the edge with a strop.
It also matters how good your finishing is, on the higher grit stone.

I recommend a sharpening stone up to #3000 and a medium 5000 grain (Green) compound for home cooks, how far you want to go is up to you.

If you have any questions leave them behind in the comment section below

Whetstones I Recommend
πŸ›’ Shapton Pro Ceramic, Ha No Kuromaku
(If I wasn’t gifted the Shapton Glass I would have bought this one personally over the Shapton glass because of the huge price difference the Shapton Glass is no doubt better and closer to the #grit rating Guide).

πŸ›’Naniwa Pro/Chosera/Gouken ”Arata”
(Naniwa Pro/Chosera/Goyuken ”Arata” #800 is my go-to medium stone)
If the price is not a deal breaker get the Naniwa over Shapton Kurokoma and even over the Shapton ”Glass” the Naniwa is also thicker about 5mm thicker than the Shapton Kurokuma.

AliExpress World Wide Shipping:
πŸ›’Diamond plate (AliExpress)
(needs pre- sharpening in order to reach the specified grit they are pretty coarse out of the box/package, a diamond plate that works for just $25/$30 USD) Also great for fixing your stone.

πŸ›’Whetstone (Soaking Stone)
Not ideal for beginners despite the beginner-friendly price.

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    1. Hi,

      Ik ben inderdaad Nederlands πŸ™‚ Momenteel ben ik bezig om te kijken of YouTube en de Website wat kan woorden.
      Dus ik werk momenteel niet in een restaurant, wel een aanbod gehad om in een Japanse ramen restaurant te werken en andere sushi restaurants maar wilde dit proberen.
      Mog het niet lukken, dan kan ik altijd terug.

      Voor onderhoud heb je niet veel nodig een #1000 en een #3000 steen is meer dan genoeg voor thuis gebruik.
      Overigens is het aan te raden om een honing rod te gebruiken het lieft ceramic (alle merken doen het wel goed hoef niet duur te zijn enige wat ik aanraad is een goede handvat en finger guards en een grit size van circa #1000/#3000). Het is af en toe gewoon handig om snel je mes door een honing rod te halen inplaats van je whetsteen uit de kast te pakken.

  1. Hello Chef

    Till now I used an apex/ruixin type sharpener and got an impression that their small stones is not the best option. I would like to try a whetstone or a diamond plates. As per your experience, what is preferred for a beginner – a whetstone or a diamond plate?

    Thank you

    1. I would say both should be fine, but to develop good muscle memory, get a feel for it, a flat whetstone, and preferably a knife with a high Rockwell of 61+. The reason for recommending to sharpen a higher Rockwell is because lower Rockwell knives are soft. It bends over a bit too fast, and it will be harder to get a feel for manual sharpening for beginners. Despite many beginners insist on sharpening lower Rockwell since they don’t want to ruin higher Rockwell knives.

      As for the apex/ruixin I saw a manual sharpening system, which helps you maintain a consistent angle. If they manage to help you maintain that angle, you should get a very good sharpened edge. You are most likely more consistent with that system than manual sharpening. (you still need the knowledge of sharpening to get the edge the sharpening system promised to provide).

      Even the best sharpeners that sharpen for a living will have an error in the angle by doing it manually. (it is important to know why and how, before we improve our technique, I’m currently making a video explaining the why and how so that everyone can develop a sharpening technique that works the best for them).

      1. You are completely right – apex/ruixin allows to maintain very easily the correct sharpening angle. The problem is in stones. Since the whole sharpening system is very cheap, so are the stones. Their quality and endurance is not the best. In addition their working area is small, so low grid stones are washed out very fast and it is impossible to flat them back, and 1000 grid stone shall be cleaned every minute from metal residues with water and soap otherwise it turns to be completely ineffective. In addition, I do not know how correct the grid number stated on the stone. Although knives are pretty sharp after such a sharpening I feel that the process is less effective then it could be with a good whetstone and that’s I what to try this.

  2. Dear Chef

    In your videos, you mentioned several times that wooden handles shall be oiled as a maintenance step. What types of oil may be used? Is it possible to use a vegetable oils that are used in culinary?


    1. I recommend mineral oil because it slightly seals the wood for water resistance. And it leaves a glossy finish, and it also can be used on wooden cutting boards.
      Vegetable oil can be used on wooden handles. The problem is that over time, if not aired out or from multiple washing, it can develop a stale/ moldy smell.
      Things like Olive oil can become sticky and can develop a stale/moldy smell.
      That is why I prefer odorless and flavorless oil like mineral oil.

  3. Thanks for the analysis. I’ll continue as I’m doing. I’ve come to a similar conclusion with honing: I hone on the spot to finish a job–only with softer steel knives–followed by immediate stropping. I maintain an angle of 14-16 degrees for all my knives except my Miyabi birchwood chef knife at 12 degrees.

    The cleaver I just bought comes at 25-30 degrees. Bringing it down to 20 degrees as you suggest sounds very reasonable.

  4. Chef Panko,
    I do all of my maintenance with a loaded paddle strop: green on one side for “tuning” and leather on the other side for polishing. For my knives with a Rockwell of 58 and below, I also hone with the non ribbed part of my Shun honing steel (rarely with my Kyocera 9″ ceramic). The Shun has a built in angle guide that helps me keep a consistent honing angle.

    Would there be any advantage to having loading on both sides of my strop–green as I have it, with red on the other side. That might add to the “tuning” of my harder steel knives. Should I try loading red on the leather “polishing” side?


    1. I remember when I started using a ribbed honing rod on one side and non-ribber on the other 2 sides. I became very lazy and started forcing the hone to give me an extended time to postpone sharpening. But in the end, it takes more time to sharpen since I forced the blade (got rid of that bad habit). Now I use it as my indicator for when I need to plan a sharpening session.

      It actually depends, in most situations the green compound is good enough even for knives with a higher Rockwell (63+). In the end, it depends on how you finished on wich stone. As for Rockwell I don’t go over a stone with #4000 grit if it has a Rockwell of 58.

      Same with the sharpening angle for knives with a Rockwell of 58 or lower, I actually sharpen my Global knives with a 17-degree angle instead of the factory 10-degree angle. Especially when I had to prepare the beef tenderloin.

      Same with Wusthof and Zwilling I actually find it strange that they now changed their 20-degree angle to a 14 degree. I changed it to a 17 degree too for my usage.

      While they both are around the same hardness of 58 when preparing beef it simply can’t hold the edge that they sharpened with out of the box. The edge rolls over a bit too fast therefore I went for a 17-degree angle.

      For home use it might be different you are probably not preparing things like beef every single day. So the factory angle is suitable for most home cooks and won’t be noticeable.
      (probably why they changed the sharpening angle).

      Knives with a Rockwell of 62+ were the only ones that could hold the edge longer with an angle of 12 degrees while preparing beef. But in the end, I changed those to a 14/15 degree since that worked the best for me.

      For Chinese Cleaver I prefer an angle of 20/25 (because of the extra weight on those cleavers the edge is getting a beating anyways on each contact with the board so going lower does not mean it is better).

      Now back to the compound it may have a very minimal effect or even an effect that is not noticeable in performance with a compound. The biggest effect is at wich stone you end on wich knife and Rockwell. Choosing the sharpening angle has a better effect than switching compounds. So I would actually suggest just go for the Green compound and you should be set for most of your knives.

  5. Very informative guide, thanks for your time putting all these options in order, so that a home cook can understand and decide where to invest.

    Looking forward to your new videos mentioning, maybe some real-life sharpening / maintenance scenarios using tools like honing rods, whetstones and stropping leather with compounds. For instance, since I am a home cook becoming enthusiastic with Japanese / Chinese knives, in which order should I invest in the above mentioned tools. Should I start with a 3000 grit ceramic honing rod and a 5000 whetstone and after a couple of months maybe invest in a 1000 grit whetstone? Do I need the 1000 grit stone for a newly bought knife, or the honing rod could do the job for the everyday home cooking preparations? Do I need a leather stropping with compounds if I already have a rod and higher grit stone?

    1. I will add what you mentioned in future videos and guides. Great ideas! Thank you.

      #1 As for the honing rod, I will say stay with #1000 to #1200 ceramic rod.
      It is the happy middle not too aggressive but also not so smooth as a ceramic rod of #3000.
      You get a good result each time you use it and can be a bit lazy since you don’t have to use the stone that fasts and also it will not remove too much material on your knife either.

      #2 I would get a #1000 first, the reason for this is you are going to use a stone once the knife conditions can’t be honed with the honing rod. Once you reach that stage that a honing rod does not work that means that the knife is becoming noticeably less sharp. So a #5000 whetstone is not the best and will have less effect in removing the correct amount of material from your knife. So you need to start at #1000 and then go up if you want based on the chart above. (For knives ith a Rockwell of 60+ 5000 is the max but #3000 to #4000 is good enough).

      If your knife is new, you can get away with a higher gritstone, the order is then different you use the stone as your honing/touch-up. The problem with this is that you need to take out your stone more often so that the condition of your knife does not worsen over time. This is very time consuming and therefore a lot of people get the stones out once the knife is not as sharp as they liked or it has been damaged.

      Leather strop is not necessary, you can skip it if your sharpening technique is good enough you can get away with newspaper or cardboard box. But they are all not necessarily. You may want it to refine your edge and especially if you are new to sharpening it helps by refining the edge more so your mistakes on the stone are forgiven.

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