How to sharpen your Japanese knife

Do you want to sharpen your chef's knife?

It is better to take care of your knife regularly to keep the cutting edge in good condition than to leave it unsharpened for long periods of time.

Many chefs sharpen their prized knives at the end of each working day to maintain razor-sharp blades. For a stainless steel blade, we advise you to do this once or twice a month for home use or once or twice a week for professional use.

When to sharpen your knife?

Some professionals offer 2 simple tests to know if it's time to sharpen your knife:

The tomato :

Test on a tomato: if your knife "breaks" the tomato instead of slicing it, it's time for a sharpening.

The paper :

Take a sheet of paper (preferably A4) and hold it in front of you with your hand. Take your knife and start cutting in the center of the page. Be sure to cut away from your body. If the knife slips on the page or "breaks" it,without cutting it, you need to sharpen it.

Rifle sharpening

Do not use an ordinary rifle on Japanese professional knives . In general, the steel of some Japanese kitchen knives is stronger than the steel used in a cheap sharpening steel, so it won't be very useful and you may even damage your knife. Also, the rifle simply straightens a cutting edge, and will therefore be useless if the knife no longer cuts.

The ceramic rifle is a better choice for someone who has mastered this kind of sharpening. But it will never give the same smoothness of cut and efficiency as stone sharpening .

Advantages of sharpening with a sharpening steel:

  • Simple for daily maintenance
  • Removes little material from the blade
  • Quick results


  • Not suitable for a blunt blade
  • Also not suitable for sharpening the blade

Japanese knife sharpening

Sharpening with whetstone

If you are really looking for the ultimate sharpness in your Japanese knives, a sharpening stone is the best choice .

You may spend a little more time sharpening your knife, but the pleasure of working with a sharp Japanese knife is worth it, and you really will get the best result possible.

Advantages of whetstone:

  • Allows you to achieve a very pronounced edge
  • There are suitable stones for each stage of sharpening
  • Preserves and prolongs the life of knives
  • Allows you to sharpen the blade
  • Suitable for both daily maintenance and full sharpening


  • Takes a little more time
  • Requires a little more practice and training (see the tutorials at the bottom of the page)

How to choose your whetstone?

There are a large number of sharpening stones with different grits on the market, among them:

    • 200/40 0 Grit Stone : The coarse grits allow you to regain an edge and pre-sharpen your blade. But it will absolutely be necessary to continue sharpening with a finer stone, grain 1000 for example because if you stop on a 200 or 400 stone, the edge will remain very coarse.

    • 600/800 grit stone: Intermediate between 200/400 and 1000 grit, the 600 grit stone allows you to make up for a lot of defects, without removing too much material from your blade.

    • Grain Stone 1000 : This is the essential grain stone. Abrasive enough to recover a blunt blade, and fine enough to polish the sharpening and enjoy a very excellent edge.

    • Grain Stone 2000/3000-4000 : This is a very useful finishing and polishing stone for most steels, whether Japanese or European.

The one you need first in your cook's arsenal is therefore the 1000 grit stone and possibly a 200/400 grit stone...

Always soak your sharpening stones in water for 10 to 15 minutes before using them.

If your knife no longer cuts at all and/or it has small impacts (you can feel it by running your fingernail over the edge of the blade) you can start sharpening with a 200/400 stone . If your knife is in good condition, start directly with the 1000 stone , then with the 3000 .

How to sharpen your knife with a whetstone

1. Place the whetstone on a flat surface and find the optimal angle for your knife style. (From 16 to 19° for a German blade and from 10 to 15° for a Japanese blade)

2. Keep the same angle throughout the process.

3. Hold the handle with your strong hand and use your thumb to exert pressure on the upper side of the knife blade.

4. With the other hand, use three or four fingers to exert pressure on the lower (towards the cutting edge).

5. Start at the heel of the blade and work your way up to the tip.

6. Slide the knife blade forward along the whetstone, away from your body. Raise the blade when you reach the edge of the stone and start again.

Here is a little tutorial to give you a nice overview of the sharpening technique on the water stone :

Japanese knife sharpening tutorial n°1:

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