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Long story short: I horribly suck at sharpening the traditional way, so I got a Lansky sharpening sytem and I'm very pleased at the results. Now I want good knives, and a friend of mine is traveling to Japan soon and I'd like to give him a shopping list.

As far as I read, Japanese knives are typically sharpened in the 10-15 degrees range, sometimes on a single side, but the Lansky system won't do below 17 degrees.

So is there a 'compromise' kind of Japanese knife that has super good steel, a sharp edge, and yet that is sharpenable in a Lanksy system?

  • The problem with any fixed-angle sharpening system that does not allow lower angles is that you should occasionally (not necessarily every time you sharpen) sharpen at an angle below your actual edge angle, followed by sharpening at your desired edge angle, to compensate for the knife getting thicker behind the edge. With some japanese types, you can use the blade road as a physical guide to doing that on a whetstone. But in this case, you will need both a sharpening system (there are others) and a whetstone. Check if clip-on angle guides with a whetstone are suitable for you. – rackandboneman Jul 29 '16 at 13:35
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    Oh, and... single bevel knives almost always are built like that, the blade road can be used as an angle guide, a secondary bevel only requires you to pitch the blade a few mm, which isnt that difficult to do. Oh, and the reverse side needs to be sharpened too, at 0 degrees optionally followed by a tiny secondary bevel (VERY SIMPLIFIED, do not take that as instruction!). Whetstone not optional here. Oh btw, knives are sometimes sold not fully sharpened in Japan; this is not a defect unless full sharpening was agreed on with the vendor. – rackandboneman Jul 29 '16 at 13:46
  • The clip-on angle guide is a good suggestion. But won't the scratching of the guide on the stone affect both the guide and the stone? – malaverdiere Jul 29 '16 at 15:00
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You can sharpen the Japanese knife to 17 degrees. It won't be ruined or anything. I'm sure I just horrified some people, but I accidentally did this for years, sharpening my Victorinox knives at 22 degrees (because they're European, so obviously they're 22 degrees, right?) when they're factory sharpened to 17 degrees, so I've got real-world experience here even if I shouldn't admit it. :)

Otherwise, check out a sharpener built for Japanese knives instead. I've had fantastic results with this model from Chef's Choice: https://www.amazon.com/Choice-Trizor-EdgeSelect-Electric-Sharpener/dp/B0018RSEMU/

  • That machine looks amazing, but I'd rather not spend a lot of money on sharpening tools. That Lansky system was supposed to be my 'last' expense :) – malaverdiere Jul 29 '16 at 15:01
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    If you have a Japanese market nearby, they might sharpen knives for customers, or know someone who can. – user3169 Jul 29 '16 at 17:03
  • It is true that you can change the angle of a knife by sharpening it. However a really nice Japanese knife would be designed specifically with the narrower angle and the way it performs, for example how the food falls away from the knife while you are chopping or how the blade flexes, may be slightly altered. If you really want to invest in a nice set of knives, it is worth it to get another knife sharpener. – Uncle Long Hair Jun 26 '20 at 13:45
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If you feel you can't sharpen them well, then send them to be done professionally. Keep the boxes for the postage.

Most japanese knives are very hard and if you care for them, you probably won't need them sharpened more than every 6 months at most.

You can easily strop them using any thick piece of smooth leather, that will keep them tip top.

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