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Sharpening Japanese Knives

Do you sharpen your own knives?  I do.  In fact, I’m kind of obsessed with it.  I firmly believe that everyone should learn how to sharpen their own knives.  You can’t really get the best out of your knives until you really understand sharpening.  Once you have it down, you can change your knives to better suit your style (or even just the task at hand).  If you are rough with knives, you can increase the angle of your bevel to create a more robust edge.  If you have a delicate touch and like the feeling of your knife literally falling through food, you can decrease that angle.  You can thin your knife, change asymmetrical bevels, or put on micro-bevels.  Learning how to really sharpen is the ONLY way you will get the most out of your knives in the long run.

However, I know that there are some of you that have absolutely no interest in sharpening knives, but still want to own and use Japanese knives.  That’s ok.  I get it.  I don’t judge (well… I do.  But just a little).  We also have a knife sharpening service... you can read more about it here:


Here’s the short list of what I am using in my day to day sharpening:
  • JKI Diamond Flattening Plate
  • Gesshin 400
  • Gesshin 2000
  • Gesshin 4000 and/or Gesshin 5000 and/or Gesshin 6000
  • Gesshin 8000
  • Monzento
  • Takashima Awasedo
  • Shobudani Suita
  • A number of other custom and/or prototype stones ;)

Let me tell you why I like each of these items so much.

The JKI Diamond Flattening Plate.  This is the stone flattener i am currently using and have been using for quite some time now.  Its pretty coarse at 150 grit and has a nice surface texture to reduce sticking.  “Stone flattener?” you say.  Yes.  Water stones need to be flat in order to sharpen well on them.  Over time they will dish, or become concave in the parts most used.  This is bad.  It needs to be fixed.  The JKI Diamond Flattening Plate is a great way to do this.

Gesshin 400- Every sharpening kit needs a stone for fixing really bad chips or setting an initial angle.  The Japanese call this an Ara-toishi, or coarse stone.  This is hands down the best coarse stone in this grit range i have used (that doesnt cost $400... there's always an exception ;)  ).  It is VERY fast cutting, works well on all steel types, leaves an even finish, has great tactile feedback, and is just a general joy to use.  It does dish in use, so it will need to be flattened from time to time (or you can learn to use the whole surface of the stone more effectively).  Really, I cant express how much I love this stone.

Gesshin 2000- This is my medium grit stone.  Just like all kits need a coarse stone, a medium grit stone is there to do your day to day work, remove minor chips and nicks, and leave you with an edge that is more than adequate for all kitchen use.  Medium grit stones generally range from about 800 grit to 2000 grit.  The main reason I love this stone so much is that is cuts faster than almost any 1000 grit stone i have used (including the bester, chocera, etc), and leaves a nicer finish.  It resists dishing very well, works on all kinds of steel (including very wear resistant steels), has great tactile feedback, and feels great when sharpening.  This stone makes a great follow up to the gesshin 400.
Gesshin 4000- I find myself using this stone more and more as time goes on.  Its one of the fastest cutting stones in this grit range I have ever used (really, I cant think of a faster stone off the top of my head).  Its on the harder side, which makes it great for uraoshi sharpening and koba (or microbevels).  It also resists dishing very well.  Like the previously mentioned Gesshin stones, it works well on all kinds of steel, from white #2 to ZDP-189.  It leaves an edge that has a great feeling to it and is perfect for all kitchen tasks.
Gesshin 5000- This is a funny little stone.  It took some time to grow on me while i was testing it originally.  However, once i got the hang of it, it quickly found a place in my daily lineup.  Its not the fastest cutting stone out there, but it gets the job done pretty quickly.  I often use this after the Gesshin 4000, as it is a bit softer and leaves a much smoother and even looking finish... damn near mirror finish.  This stone also makes the work of cleaning up the edge a lot easier.  In fact, i find that this stone gives me some of the cleanest edges of any of the stones i have.  It is great at removing burrs and wire edges.  Being on the softer side (not really soft, but softer than the gesshin 4000), it is not the best for microbevels unless you have very steady hands and good angle and pressure control.
Gesshin 6000- This stone is a more recent addition to our lineup.  Its a bit harder than the Gesshin 5000, but softer than the Gesshin 4000.  Its also much faster cutting than the 5000, but not quite as fast as the 4000.  I find myself using this a lot for uraoshi sharpening and microbevels on single bevel knives.  Also, i use this stone for when people are looking for a more refined edge on their gyutos or sujihikis.  It leaves a very nice mirror finish and has very good tactile feedback considering its a splash and go stone.
Gesshin 8000- This is my synthetic finishing stone for most slicing knives and a lot of single bevel knives.  Its softer and very muddy.  It leaves a very refined edge (but still with enough bite for kitchen use).  It also leaves an exceptionally smooth looking finish... mirror on hagane and misty on jigane.  Like the 400, 2000, and 4000, it works well on all types of steel and is just plain fun to use.
Monzento- This is the natural stone I use for single bevel knives as a medium grit stone.  Its very soft and muddy, which allows for a very even and smooth finish.  It also spans a grit range from about 2000 grit to 5000 grit, which allows it to do my medium work and get me ready for a finishing stone.  It also leaves a very nice contrast between hagane and jigane, making it great for awase bocho (kasumi and hon-kasumi blades).  It works best on carbon steels.

Takashima Awasedo- This is a natural stone we sell as a finishing stone that can be used on almost any kitchen knife.  With the exception of very hard, wear resistant stainless steels and powdered steels, this stone cuts very quickly.  It is also moderately muddy and leaves a more refined looking finish than the monzento (but similar in look).  Its a toothy yet refined edge that works on all kitchen knife styles.  Its also a great natural stone to learn on due to its forgiving nature, tactile feedback, and general feeling of sharpening.

Shobudani Suita- This is my holy grail of finishing stones.  I waited a long time to find a stone like this and its just great.  It leaves one of the nicest looking (and most even) finishes of any natural finishing stone i have used.  It has great tactile feedback, is muddy, not too hard or soft, and always fun to use.  I generally finish yanagiba and usuba on this stone.

Prototypes- We are always working on developing new stones for our gesshin lineup, and i am continually testing natural stones.  Its hard work but someone has to do it ;)

Anyways, for those of you interested in sharpening, we now have a Knife Sharpening Playlist on YouTube that goes over all of the things one might need to know to sharpen kitchen knives... you can find it here:
Japanese Knife Imports Knife Sharpening Playlist

Jonathan Broida
Jonathan Broida


1 Response

Maximillan Taningco
Maximillan Taningco

October 12, 2021

Hi Jon! Just wondering how i can get my gesshin ginga back to being razor sharp. I bought it from another cook and it seems like its been sharpened weird, way too high/beyond the edge. Im not sure if that changed the blade geometry making it tapered rather than a bit convex? Definitely feels different from my other shorter yo petty Ginga.

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