Ceramic sharpening stones were the early replacement for natural stones. Unfortunately there are huge differences in the quality of ceramic stones so be wary. Some are extremely soft and dish out very quickly and at the other end of the spectrum some are so hard they tend to glaze over in a hurry. Ceramic stones need a good soaking for about 10 or more minutes to saturate the pores of the stone prior to use. As all knife steels are different we tend to find that ceramic stones tend to work better with some knives over others. There are no hard and fast rules but we like ceramic for Ao-ko and single edged knives. The Kaiden Ceramic stones are the fastest cutting Japanese stones in Australia and are recommended for advanced users.
The thumbnail test (not recommended for novices) - With this test you take your newly sharpened blade and run it oh-so-delicately over your thumbnail. If you feel it digging in even a tiny bit, it’s likely sharp enough. If on the other hand it just slips and slides across the surface of your nail it’s not sharp yet. Again, this test is only recommended for people with lots of experience handling knives and even then they’d probably be better off just grabbing a tomato or a piece of paper.
A shinkansen is a Japanese-style pull-through sharpener named after the famous bullet train. It features two sets of ceramic wheels set at the right angle for sharpening a Japanese blade, which takes out the guesswork of the waterstone. Simply hold the handle with your left hand, then saw back and forth gently through the coarser wheel to sharpen, before switching to the finer wheel to polish.
Once you've sharpened one side, you need to flip over, but don't swap the hand gripping the blade – think of it a bit like going backhand with a tennis racket (see above). Lead with the heel this time, rather then with the blade, but repeat the process in three parts. After five strokes on each third of the blade, it's time to check your knife. It's not an exact science, and it all depends on how blunt your blade was to start with (mine was very blunt indeed). But if you sharpen fairly regularly, it should just take a few strokes.
To take off the fine scratches and burrs left by coarser stones, and to polish the surface, you can use stones starting at around 2000 grit. There is theoretically no upper limit, but stones above about 10000 grit achieve practically no measurable improvement in the edge. It is also interesting to note that above 8000 grit, there is no Japanese measurement standard. For stones labelled as having a finer grit, you simply have to take the manufacturer's word for it.
For the common sharpening purpose, generally, people tend to use two phases. In the first phases, they use the coarse stone to shape the edges then jump to the finer stone. In application, these of the two phases can be extended with the grit stone in between. It might be varying in the number of grits or mesh in different types of sharpening stone.
The unique three stone system features a 6" medium Arkansas, 6" fine Arkansas and 6" coarse synthetic stone mounted on a molded plastic triangle with handles on the end for easy stone selection. The sturdy molded plastic base has non-skid rubber feet for safety, a V-shaped trough to catch oil drippings and easy-to- read stone identification markings.
Method 3: Use a Sharpening Stone. This is the best method by far. Not only will it give you the best edge, it also removes the least amount of material. With a fine enough grit, your knife should be able to take hairs off your arm when you've finished. Additionally—and I'm not kidding about the importance of this one—the act of sharpening your knife will help you create a much stronger bond with your blade, and a knife that is treated respectfully will behave much better for its owner. The only problem? It takes a little know-how.
Just to prove that we're not merely sharpening geeks, here's an interesting side note. The word whet pops up in some unexpected places. A small species of owl is called the saw-whet owl because the sound it makes reminded people of the sound made when sharpening a saw with a file. And the phrase "to whet your appetite" comes from the idea of your hunger growing sharper at the thought of food.
We regret that due to technical challenges caused by new regulations in Europe, we can for the time being no longer accept orders from the European Union. If you reside in the UK you can continue to order from our UK websites or shop from our locations and partners. Visit West Elm at www.westelm.co.uk and Pottery Barn Kids at www.potterybarnkids.co.uk.
I've been using these stones for the past day, and they work great. Once you get the technique down that works for you, you can sharpen any knife to the point it can cut through news paper. Tip: make sure you count the amount of times you pass through the stone on one side and do that same amount on the other side. What I usually do is if I know the knife is very dull or chipped, I do 100 passes on each side using the 400 grit. I test the blade on thick paper and if it cuts through I test it on news paper. If it doesn't cut through the news paper I do another 50 passes on each side. Repeat this until the blade can cut through newspaper. After, on the 1000,3000, and then the 8000 grit stone I do 50 passes on each side. This should make the blade very smoothe cutting and polish it. I plan on getting a strop or piece of leather to further polish the blade. The only thing I don't like about this is that this package is that it does not come with a dressing stone so you can re flatten/level the stone after using them.
In addition, the most prized of the natural Japanese Water Stones are quarried in the Narutaki District north of Kyoto, Japan and are commonly available as either bench stones or pocket stones in grits ranging from 120 to 12,000. On the other hand, synthetic water stones are made from Aluminum Oxide and commonly available as either bench stones or pocket stones as well in grits ranging from 220 to 8,000 and, although this is the same abrasive material used to make India Oil Stones, the difference between the two is that the binder that holds the abrasive together enables Water Stones to be much softer than India Oil Stones which, in turn, promotes faster cutting because the worn abrasive material breaks away more quickly and is replaced with fresh, sharp, abrasive material more quickly. In addition, because water stones do not become glazed or loaded with swarf like oil stones can, new abrasive particles are constantly exposed as the stone wears so it continues to cut consistently. Plus, they can be lubricated effectively with water (rather than oil which can ruin some water stones) which combines with the fine particles of abrasive from the surface of the stone to form a slurry which polishes the bevel as the stone cuts. However, it should also be noted that Water Stones do become uneven significantly faster than other types of whetstones although, their softness does make them easier to true again.