how to sharpen a Japanese knife

How to Sharpen a Japanese Knife [Step By Step 3 Different Process]

  • a couple of years ago
  • / By gias
(Last Updated On: October 19, 2020)

Numerous Japanese chef hones their valuable knives at the end of the everyday work. Edge life versus the simplicity of honing — it is up to the culinary expert to adjust this contemplation and pick a suitable knife. Nonetheless, they should pick a knife that coordinates their dimension of sharpening experience and meets their needs.

Know Your Knife Before Sharpening Begin

Before sharpening, it is absolutely important to figure out how to see and feel a sharp edge. Ideally, a chef should hone the knife directly out of the box. This will create the most grounded edge and is particularly important for conventional Japanese knives.Japanese knife

  • The first step of sharpening a knife is observing the current condition of the knife. Does your knife actually need sharpening? It is suggested that knife should be sharpened before they turn out to be excessively dull sine sharpening an extremely dull knife will require substantially more time.
  • What’s more, it is essential to know the nature of the Steele or material that the knives are made of. Stainless steel knives conventionally require sharpening every 2-3 uses where Carbon steel knives require after each use.
  • And according to the steels, a good quality stone must be chosen that will make the sharpening process easier.
  • Choosing an angle to sharpen your knife is more essential than anything in which an angle guide could be helpful. Most of the Japanese knife has a bevel on both sides and it should sharpen each side to 20 degrees which means this creates a total angle of 40 degrees. There are some traditional Japanese knives that are only beveled on one side. In that case, one side may be sharpened to 0 degrees while the other side is at 0 degree for a total angle of 20.

Moreover, a chef must read and learn their knives in every aspect when he aims to sharpen it.

Decide a Sharpening Strategy

400;”>Japanese knives come with a single bevel whereas Western knives tend to have a double-bevel. So it becomes quite obvious to decide the right sharpening strategy as sharpening technique for single bevel is different than double bevel knives. There are numerous successful techniques has been employed to sharpen Japanese knives but 400;”>Whetstone sharpening is the most effective way to sharpen a Japanese knife.

Preparations for Sharpening

Before pursuing any sharpening techniques, it is important to first understand how to prepare for sharpening and how much it should be prepared. Determine how dull the blades are so you know what grit size you’ll need on the sharpening stone. The more resistance, the duller your knives are. Chose the perfect style of Sharpening stone that suits your blade perfectly.

How to Sharpen a Japanese Knife with Whetstone?

A knife is the most essential tools for a chef but rather than that it is essential to keep the knife sharp. Sharpening with a whetstone is the best method to keep the knife shiny and get a smooth sharp edge. A whetstone is a rectangular block of stone that is used to sharpen and hone the edge of a knife. Though whetstones do require a bit practice according to experts, using whetstone is the best way to keep the knife in top condition. Here is the procedure to sharpen a knife with whetstones.

Step 1Sharpening a Japanese Knife

Before start sharpening, you need to prepare your stone first. First of all, you need to soak the stone in the water around 5 to 10 minutes until it absorbs the water and a liquid film appears on the surface. Then splash some water on the top and keep re splashing during the sharpening process if the stone ever gets too dry.

Step 2Sharpening a Japanese Knife step 2

Position the stone on something solid so that it doesn’t move while sharpening. Many whetstones come with holder but anyone can just place it on a slightly damp tea towel on the table.

Step 3Sharpening a Japanese Knife step 3

Keeping the knife’s heel pointing towards your belly, hold it at a angle around 12-15 degrees and slide the blade forward and across the whetstone covering the total length of the blade, glide the blade up and down the stone. Keep it doing around 10 minutes and once you’ve done with one side, flip over and repeat the process on the other side of the blade.

Step 4

The final steps are honing the blade using sharpening steel and then rinse and wipe the blade dry it.

Benefits of Sharpening Knife by a Whetstone

Sharpening with whetstones is a centuries-old technique. To get a practical benefit, sharpening by hand with whetstones become favored by professionals worldwide.

  • Sharpen by whetstones, you will get a much-sharpened knife than other sharpening equipment.
  • It’s very easy to adjust angles and pressure on sharpening strokes while sharpening with a whetstone.
  • From softer stainless steels to extremely fine-grained high carbon, it gives a longer lasting edge in every type of blade. It also helps the knives to remain thin which is just as important as the sharpness.
  • Using whetstones, you will achieve quicker results than other sharpening stones

Need to be aware of

  • When placing the stone on a damp cloth or towel, make sure that both of them are on a flat surface.
  • It is important to sharpen in the same direction, whether it’s front-to-back or back-to-front.
  • It is essential that whichever lubricant you are using, don’t change it after the first use.
  • Always let the stone dry thoroughly after use and then store it, otherwise, it might decrease its quality

What is a Honing Rod?

Honing rod (in some cases referred as sharpening steel, whet steel, sharpening stick, sharpening rod, butcher’s steel, and chef’s steel ) is rods that are great for finely polishing and realigning edge. These are up to 1 foot (30 cm) long and flat, oval and round in cross-section.

How to Sharpen a Knife by a Honing Rod?

A dull knife may need only a few strokes across a honing rod to correct its edge and restore its sharpness without the need to run it through a sharpener. Honing with rod is also faster than sharpening a knife and it does not remove metal from the blade.

Step 1honing a Japanese knife step 1

With the left hand (or the correct hand on the off chance that one is left-given), should hold the honing rod point-down, with its tip laying solidly on a dry cutting board — as though it were a substantial nail chef going to pound into the board.

Step 2

With another hand, you should hold the knife crossways against the steel with the back of the blade (the part nearest the handle) touching the steel. You should be gone to be pulling the knife backward, toward yourself.  It’s better to start with most of the blade in front of the steel.

Step 3how to honing a Japanese knife

You should tilt the blade so its forefront meets the pole of the honing steel at a 22½-degree edge. It should be recollected that 90 degrees are a correct edge, and 45 degrees is half of that. So 22½ degrees is only 50% of that.

Step 4

keeping up this 22½-degree point, you should tenderly force the sharp edge toward yourself while at the same time skimming it down along the pole of the steel. You need to cover the whole length of the cutting edge, keeping the edge at that 22½-degree edge the entire time. Envision you’re endeavoring to cut off a thin bit of the blade steel. It should have improved the situation multiple times.How to honing a Javanese knife steps

Step 5

Then you should change it to the opposite side of the sharp edge, at that point giving it ten additional strokes on the steel and finally, it’s finished!

Is it possible to Sharpen a Japanese Knife by honing rod?

It is usually said that sharpening Japanese knives with honing rod is just strictly forbidden. But it can all benefit from a tune-up on a honing rod when you don’t have time. A lot of honing rods have superfast abrasive that can remove a lot of steel from the edge and in a very short time. A knife with softer steel like a global knife, it is quite okay to use honing rod to sharpen it but most of the Japanese knives are made of harder steels and use of honing rod is mostly considered a bad idea for harder knives.

How to choose a honing rod?

while choosing a honing rod, the first thing should come in mind that the rod or steel is not for sharpening but for honing.

Step 1

While Choosing a rod, one of the most important criteria should be considered is its length Make sure that it is at least 2 cm longer than the knife and it should be magnetized to catch metal waste

Step 2

Be aware of which type of honing rod you are choosing. You should choose a gentle one which is not to cause damage to the blade with harder steel.

Step 3

There are mainly three types of honing rod is available such as Stainless, Ceramic, Diamond. Stainless honing rod is most common and suitable for most knives and they remove only microscopic amounts of metal and will straighten just about any kind of knife blade. Ceramic rod are harder than stainless rode and it requires a reasonable amount of care. It takes off a bit more metal with each pass than a steel hone, and will actually sharpen a blade slightly  

Diamond honing rod is the hardest one and it removes a fair amount of metal, coming closer to a true sharpening than the other two types. But  you shouldn’t use a diamond hone on a regular basis

These rods are slightly expensive and these are the right one for honing if you don’t want to hone very often

Step 4

Choose one with an ergonomic grip that will fit your hand comfortably and one that’s made of a non-slip material. Slipping during honing could lead to damage, both to the knife and you.

Honing vs Sharpening?

Honing knife Sharpening knife
Honing is a process to straighten the edge of knives that already have a sharp edge. Sharpening is a process which actually removes steel from a knife’s edge, thus applying a new, sharp edge.
Honing is dependent on whether a knife has just lost its sharpness due to constant use Sharpening is  dependent on whether a knife has become really blunt
When a blade is in good shape but needs to perform at its absolute best, then you should hone it. When a knife is in rough shape and needs to return to par, then you should sharpen it

How to Sharpen a Knife by Electric Knife Sharpener?

Before you begin sharpening, be careful that the entire knife blade will fit through the sharpener so that you could get a  better result.Sharpening a Japanese knife by electric knife sharpener

  • First place the blade in the slot provided and pressed down as far as possible to connect with the grinding stone. You should Start with the heel of the knife and pull slowly through to the tip.
  • Slide the knife through the slot so that the sharpener could automatically set 15 – 20-degree angle of the knife handle.
  • Gently pass the blade through twice on each side. As electric knife sharpeners are so efficient, it will only take two passes through the machine to reshape and sharpen the blade.
  • Now re-sharpen the blade on the coarsest stone, move on to the finer grit stone and pass the blade twice across on each side.
  • And finally, rinse the knife and dry them with a towel.

Electric knife sharpeners may grind off more steel than necessary that will reduce the life of your knives. So be focused during the process.

Is electric knife sharpener good to sharpen a Japanese knife?

The beneficial aspect of using electric knife sharpener for a Japanese knife is overwhelming. Electric knife sharpener ensures that the knife was held at the proper angle and that all of the stones and the strop would be well maintained. Most electric sharpeners have pre-set point manages that enables the chef to simply set the knife in the guide and slide it through without any stresses. Moreover, it can set more precise sharpening than is possible with a manual sharpener

How to choose a good Electric Knife Sharpener

As for electric knife sharpener, some of the aspects should strongly be considered while choosing one.

Step 1: Choose one with strongly abrasive sharpening stones or wheels.

Step 2: Choose one with adjustable, accurate and easy to operate angle guide.It will help to make sure that the knife is at the best angle for most accurate sharpening.

Step 3: For a dull, blunt knives coarse abrasiveness is excellent where finer abrasives are good for polishing and touch-ups

Step 4: Pick models that offer rubber grip handles and non-slip rubber feet and look for the one that accommodates serrated as well as straight blades and that can handle carbon, stainless steel and alloys.

Step 5: Check the portability to make sure either it is mains operated or do use to sharpen a knife by electric knife sharpener

The benefit of an electric knife sharpener to sharpen a knife

  • The first and the foremost advantage of electric knife sharpener is that they are safe and they do not require much skill and dexterity
  • No one desire to make knife sharpening a hassle and A electric knife sharpener takes a very short time to complete the process
  • It comes with diamond abrasives that are hard to beat in terms of sharpening quality.
  • These sharpeners are also ergonomic and it is easier for left-handed users to work with it.


  • It’s an advantage that electric knife sharpener comes with an angle guide but a guide requires a lot of guesswork and need for manual precision on your part out of the way.
  • Most of the electric knife sharpeners usually generate lots of heat, which can damage
  • While sharpening with it, if you impose extra pressure on the knife, you may get a cut and also it will affect the severity.

Whetstone vs Electric Knife Sharpener

Sharpening with Whetstone Sharpening with electric knife sharpener
Sharpening with whetstone  is the best method to attain a very sharp result but it requires much more time and skill Sharpening with electric knife sharpener is a very fast process and easy to use and get a good result
It is very useful for thinning knives It’s not suitable for thinning knives
There is an ideal sharpening to ensure a long sharp life for your knife The sharpness of your knife will last for a short duration if you sharpen your knife by electric knife sharpener
Whetstone sharpens a knife without damaging it’s steels or materials    Lots of material loss in this process, compared to sharpening with a stone.


400;”>Japanese knives which are made using traditional Japanese blacksmithing techniques require a perfect level of sharpening experience and knowledge of sharpening techniques. There are so many methods to sharpen a knife such as sharpening stone, sharpening rod, sharpening system, electrical sharpening machine etc.

To maintain a Japanese knife, it extremely necessary to decide a sharpening technique first and the best technique depends on the type of steel of the blade, experience with sharpening and own preferences. sharpening with whetstone one of the century-old sharpening process that results in a very sharp edge but the first concern of sharpening process should be determining the appropriate time to sharpen a knife before it gets too dull to recover its shiny edge.


Leave a Comment:

Hun Puthic says

This article is really helpful for the people which never knew how to sharpen their knife thin and more thinner. Actually, I just knew that there many type of sharpener to sharpen the knife.

Thank you for sharing this article.


    gias says

    Thanks, Hun Puthik for your comment!


James says

Very detailed explanation with great pics! Thanks for sharing


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