Aritsugu Aoko Honkasumi Yanagiba 300mm(12")
Japanese Kitchen Knife Review

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Aritsugu 300mm(12.25") Yanagiba


- In one word: A Nightmare. Although, I can't blame that only on Aritsugu's ultra-hard and wear resistant steel. The truth is I was over-confident with both, my sharpening expertise and my sharpening equipment. Like I said above, the blade had no real bevel. So, I've had to do the sharpening job from the scratch. Having already sharpened Wilson utility hunter - CPM-10V steel at 64HRC, and Akifusa(Ikeda) Gyuto SRS-15 steel at 64HRC, I was quite sure it wouldn't be such a big deal. Man, I was so wrong! What I missed, or overlooked was the sheer length of the blade. I guess it's hard to say I missed 300mm long blade, but I didn't consider how much of a work it would be, and second mistake, I didn't account for the missing initial bevel. It's a lot less metal to remove when you're simply bringing down the edge from 16° per side to 12° or from 15° to 13°. The most abrasive stone I've had in that period was my Edge-Pro Apex sharpening system 80 grit whetstone. If you have used Edge Pro before, you know it's just about an inch wide and few inches long. Before Aritsugu honkasumi yanagi, I've never seen a knife that was too much for Edge Pro. Well, Aritsugu's yanagiba was such a knife.

I've started sharpening around 8pm, planning to be done well before midnight. I gave up around 2am, just half the blade sharpened, I was completely wasted and pissed too. 80 grit whetstone which as usual eats the steel alarmingly fast was just scratching the 65HRC+ blade. I've had to use excessive pressure to get miserable speeds of cutting, and eventually I've screwed up the edge, closer to the heel. In the middle, I switched to Edge Pro diamond stones. As usual those are not recommended for the steel knives, mainly for ceramics. Because the steel is too soft compared to ceramics, so the diamond crystals get stuck in the steel and chip away. That's the explanation from the makers of the edge pro. I figured 65HRC+ steel wasn't gonna be that soft for the diamond stones. So I went with those. Around 3 hours of grinding got me through the half. Let me remind you, this is a chisel edge, or a single bevel knife. So, as usual half a job for V grind or convex edges means one side, but in this case half means just the half of the single side. In the end it was clear, I wasn't equipped properly to do the job right. I've abandoned the sharpening and went to sleep. Next day, I've ordered the meanest benchstone I knew of - DMT 8XXC diamond sharpener. 120 grit, really rough and very aggressive sharpener. And to complement it and get rid of the bad scratching it leaves I've acquired Bester 700 grit synthetic Japanese whetstone. I was pretty well equipped with finer grits, including bunch of microabrasive films and 8000-12000 Kitayama synthetic Japanese whetstone.

Take two commenced few days later, now with DMT 8XXC on hand. This time the sharpening went much faster. In less than hour I was able to cut the bevel, correct most of the mistakes I've made on my first sharpening attempt and bloody my thumb, because I wasn't paying attention when it was grinding against the stone. But I was happy, I got the beast beaten. The rest was a lot simpler and faster. Probably 20 minutes or so with Bester 700 grit whetstone to get the scratches smoothed out and then the usual 15¥, 5µm, 2µm abrasive microfilms, followed by 8000-12000 Kitayama whetstone and finally, 0.5µm Chromium Oxide charged strop, 0.3µm Aluminum Oxide abrasive film and plain leather. I've set around 12° primary bevel initially. Then I figured I wasn't really familiar with this knife and added ~3° backbevel. So, the total edge for now is around 15°. Which when I am not very lazy I will convert to chisel bevel again. I.e. back side will be 0°, which will leave 12° primary edge and later even that will go lower if I see the knife can take it. So far all the indications are that it will not be a problem. The edge is wicked sharp. It was one of the very few blades I've cut myself with. Interestingly enough, the cut was a result more of a touching than sliding my finger over the edge accidentally. Small, very clean edged cut, which healed in a day or two, but reminded me, that one can't be too careful around the sharp knives, and perhaps even more careful with dull ones.

In the end, the lesson was learned. I wasn't that good with sharpening, and this endeavor allowed me to learn more and ask more questions about sharpening, improving my technique and setting higher standards for myself. Second, I got better sharpening equipment for this type of work and considering that mainly it was benchstones of various grits and I was quite efficient with freehand sharpening, I can use them well, and be mucho more efficient with sharpening, as those stones cut much faster compared to sandpaper. Third, the amount of metal to be removed can render even the trusty and tested sharpeners pretty much useless. Fourth, estimates and guesstimates need to be more defensive, not overly optimistic as I was :) Fifth, that's not really new, I've learned that I've had a lot more to learn, but then again, the whole life is like that.

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Last updated - 05/19/19