How to sharpen a santuko (santoku?) knife...

sunnycoNovember 29, 2005

A friend of mine is asking how to do this, and I have no idea. Is there something special that needs done? It has the non-stick grooves, and that is what threw me.



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Timely thread ... I, too, am wondering the same thing.

In particular, from what I've read it seems that Japanese knives (e.g., Shun) have a different type of edge on the blade than their more common European knives. Given this, does a special technique need to be employed when sharpening these?

I currently take my knives to the local butcher every 6mths or so for sharpening ... wondering if I'd need to take special care with a Shun, then?

Also, can a steel still be used for "touch-up" sharpening at home with a typical Japanese knife?

    Bookmark   November 29, 2005 at 1:19PM
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The Shun santoku (I've seen it spelled both ways) has a harder inner layer of steel, which allows it to take a more acute edge than other knives. I understand that about 18-1/2 degrees is a good sharpening angle for it.

The Edgepro Apex sharpener is a really good one. One of the nice things it does for you is allow you to set exactly the sharpening angle to use.

Some Japanese blades are ground on one side only. This allows a very thin edge. I don't know exactly how one sharpens one of those. (I assume that you still have to do some work on the flat side to remove the "wire" that forms when you're grinding the other side.)

You absolutely should steel your Shun santuko. A smooth steel is better than a grooved one, because a grooved steel acts like a file and actually cuts the surface of the knife. All you want to do with a steel is straighten out the cutting edge. (As my steel is grooved, I've taken to steeling my knives against the shaft of a spoon or fork. This works quite well, even if it is a bit unconventional.)

The graton edges don't require any changes in sharpening--they're don't even extend to the cutting edge (at least not on my santuko).

    Bookmark   November 29, 2005 at 3:59PM
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Hmmm...I'm a little confused (and potentially annoyed) about something. When I recently purchased my Shun Santoku knife, I also purchased the Shun sharpening steel to replace the cheap steel I had been using.

However, at the Korin "knife care" webpage (see link below), I just read the admonishment:

Do not use a sharpening steel to sharpen your Japanese knife. Using a sharpening steel can damage your blade and change the body style of your knife.

So what the heck?!? Can I use a sharpening steel on my Shun knife? If not, then why the heck do they make one?!?

Here is a link that might be useful: Korin knives - knife care

    Bookmark   December 9, 2005 at 2:13PM
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netarc - I read (or tried to read, it's oddly worded) the reference you left and I have no idea what they are trying to say about deforming the body of the knife. I've been working with knives over 40 years so I would like to think I'd learned a thing or two along the way. Anyway. If you understand what a steel does you will likely be less concerned. A steel does not sharpen a knife. By that I mean it does not remove metal from the edge and by that removal create a brand new edge. A sharpening stone does that. A steel is designed to take the small flaws that occur along the edge of the knife and straighten them out, if you will. More specifically, it makes all the little imperfections "line up" Think of it as creating a micro version of a serrated blade. These little nicks, cuts, grooves spikes etc exist but using the knife causes them to become rather random. A steel organises them into a more uniform system that cuts much better. I see no reason a steel would be a bad thing for a Japanese knife. That said, the more highly polished an edge the finer steel you need to do this realigning. A mirror polished edge (and I have done many of these, just for the "fun" of it) has the same imperfections, but they are much smaller. Trying to align them with a much more coarse steel would make the edge rougher. That may be their concern.


    Bookmark   December 9, 2005 at 2:34PM
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They are saying to not use the steel to SHARPEN the knife. Since it's not really meant for sharpening, I think they are just making a distinction. But I think they could have worded it better. That does seem confusing.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2005 at 12:45PM
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Like Sony's infamous "flat brade screwdriver", I suspect there may have been something lost in the translation...

Perhaps they are attempting to draw a distinction between a grooved ("sharpening") steel and a smooth steel? I have certainly seen other exhortations not to use grooved steels on fine knives, because they act like a file and cut metal from the edge of the knife, in a very uncontroller manner.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2005 at 5:20PM
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I recently received the Sur La Table catalog and Kai puts out an electric knife sharpener now. What does everyone think about this? Is it good for sharpening the shun knives since the manufacturer put it out?

    Bookmark   December 21, 2005 at 5:32PM
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Twinkledome, I would not recommend using an electric sharpener for most home applications. They do make water cooled sharpening wheels that work very well and will not destroy the temper on your knifes edge but most electric sharpeners will make it way too easy for you to put too much heat into your knife, damaging it forever.


    Bookmark   December 22, 2005 at 10:08AM
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Thanks, Ken -- I really like my Shun knives and want to treat them right. It really is scary thinking you could ruin one of them by being ignorant of their care.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2005 at 12:43PM
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You're absolutely right. Back in college (I started in metallurgy) I used to take my knive to the lab. I used the oil quenched buffing wheel to polish the edges (was I a geek or what?). The edges I got were just amazing. You could shave with these things. Even under the microscope they looked perfect. They had a mirror finish (on the edge!). I don't do that kind of thing any more but I still manage to get them pretty sharp. After I run them over the fine stone a few times I rub them (backwards) on a peice of leather. It isn't the oil quenched buffing wheel but it isn't bad either. Knives are so much more fun to use when they are sharp.

Enjoy yours!


    Bookmark   December 22, 2005 at 4:54PM
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I have Shun knives. My father always used a whetstoneƂwater stone to sharpen the knives in Japan. I also have an electric sharpener, but everybody told me not to use it for Japanese knives because Japanese knife edge (face side and back side) are different angle of sharpening unlike American knife. ???
I found a site that shows how to sharpen Japanese knives.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2007 at 1:37AM
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I earlier in this thread suggested 18-1/2 degrees as the sharpening angle for Shun double-bevel knives. This is what I was told at Sur la Table. I have since read in a Shun brochure that they sharpen them at 16 degrees, so I apologize for posting incorrect information.

I recently sharpened my Shun santuko, and it was indeed around 16 degrees.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2007 at 3:24AM
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I sharpened my Wusthoff santuko, and it was 11 degrees. 15 degrees was too sharp compared to the original factory edge. I looked at it with a jewelers loupe as trying a little bit at 15 degrees, and only the tip was ground. Sharpening at 11 degrees turned out to be the correct angle to match the factory edge

    Bookmark   June 3, 2007 at 8:11PM
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Sharpening a santuko is no different from sharpening a regular knife. The angle might be a little different, but that is minor. Finer angles make a knife sharper, but less durabe, as there is less metal supporting the edge. Sharpening angles are therefore always a compromise between sharpness and durability.

All non-ceramic knives should be steeled frequently. All steeling does is restore the bent portions of an edge. It does not remove metal. Myself, I use a plain steel, one without any texture at all.

With kullenschiffs (the 'dimples' on many santukos and slicers), you have to understand that once enough metal is removed that the kullenschiffs reach the cutting edge, the knife can no longer be used. The metal in the kullens is so thin that now that it is no longer supported by thicker steel on all sides it may break off in food and possibly injure your diners.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2007 at 10:30AM
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I too, have a santuko knife and wondered about sharpening it, due to the non-standard design of the blade (wavy "non-stick ridges along both sides, but not near the edge of the blade itself).

It's still new enough and has never been in the DW, so I have not sharpened it yet, though I use a steel hand-held device for all my other knives. My india oil stone and Arkansas stones worked great with my dental hygiene scalers. I could bring back a blade from just about any instrument, no matter how badly someone had tried to ruin it; but I have never used stones for my knives.

Our local Sur Le Table has free knife sharpening once a week, so I have thought of bringing the santoku in and then (hopefully) watching how they do it. That would be a good place to start - at least for advice, if not the actual service itself.


    Bookmark   June 24, 2007 at 1:55PM
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> All non-ceramic knives should be steeled frequently.
> All steeling does is restore the bent portions of an edge.
> It does not remove metal. Myself, I use a plain steel,
> one without any texture at all.

After using a steel on my cheap Henkle knives, I get gray dust when I wipe the steel lengthwise with a towel. I start by washing the steel, check it with the towel, then try the towel after working on a knife. If I use the steel wet, that increases the amount of gray stuff on the towel.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2008 at 5:22PM
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Santuko knives are good sunnyco! However I don't think there's a different way of steeling such. The ones that come in a knife set is not necessarily recommendable (most of them are actually rough), you can have the regular basic sharpening steel as it has a very fine grind on it. Diamond steels are good too, because it maintains the 22 degree angle to the steel. If you have further queries, Ask Chef Phil is ready to help. ;)

Here is a link that might be useful: Ask Chef Phil NOW

    Bookmark   July 29, 2011 at 2:46AM
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