I have a couple of nice Japanese kitchen knives, and a whetstone in two grades. I can sharpen them reasonably well using the stone, but does anyone have any good tips for improving my sharpening skills?
The Japanese Knife Company has a couple of good tutorials on their website. http://www.japaneseknifecompany.com/sharpening-guides .
Update from Joe:
They have videos on many different ways of sharpening knives (diamond steel, wheel, water wheel, stone, water stone, single sided blades). If you check their YouTube channel Japanese Knife Company, they also have videos for maintenance of your knives (stropping using newspaper), storage (magnets or blade up in knife blocks; advantages of different blade protectors)
It's almost impossible to describe the process only with text, especially as some of his advice has to do with the sound of the sharpening or stropping, or showing undesired movements of your arm, so videos are the best way to explain the process online. But even with that, you might not be aware of mistakes that you're making, so you may want to look to see if there are knife or kitchenware stores in your area that offer classes.
I would suggest looking on youtube and finding the Japanese Knife Imports channel. The owner of the shop is very skilled and very helpful in maintaining and sharpening all sorts of Japanese knives. His name is Jon Broida, super nice and super knowledgeable about the subject. He has many videos that will help you get started with sharpening. He also has a website... http://www.japaneseknifeimports.com, the store is Los Angeles. Super fun store if you are in the area to visit. Hope this helps.
I have a "Work Sharp" belted sharpener and have whet stones and diamond impregnated sharpening tools. Japanese knives typically have an extra hardened surface that is supposed to keep them sharp longer. Sharpening these knives removes some of the extra hardening surface layer. Assuming yours are serrated as well, one side is flat without any bevel and should only be smoothed of any burrs, not sharpened. The angle of the edge on the other side should be studied to determine proper attack. There are a couple different gauges made for this purpose.