Last Call: Savor the Japanese art of sharpening knives

Illustration for article titled Last Call: Savor the Japanese art of sharpening knives
Photo: Hakase_ (iStock)
Last CallLast CallLast Call is The Takeout’s online watering hole where you can chat, share recipes, and use the comment section as an open thread. Here’s what we’ve been reading/watching/listening around the office today.

I’ve never paid much consideration to sharpening my knives. Once a year I’ll take them to a kitchen supply shop to get them sharpened—I know I should be going more often. At home I use a $15 sharpening steel, but really, it doesn’t do much actual sharpening. If you look really closely at a blade, you’ll see the edges are bent in one direction or another with repeated use. What a sharpening steel does is nudge the finely bent edges back towards center. But again, it doesn’t accomplish much in actual sharpening.

In recent weeks I’ve been thinking about investing in a whetstone. The Japanese have used this method to sharpen knives for centuries, and frankly, it just looks cool as hell. There’s also a certain gracefulness in watching the Japanese sharpen knives; it’s like dancing the bolero with your santoku. So let’s watch a few sexy knife-sharpening videos, shall we?

From our friends at Munchies comes this video from knife sharpener Vincent Kazuhito Lau. I believe, by law, every knife sharpening video must end with a piece of paper being sliced. This video doesn’t disappoint.

This video, inexplicably, has nearly 25 million views. It’s about how a $1 knife purchased at Daiso (the Japanese equivalent of the Dollar Store) can be transformed into a deadly weapon using a whetstone. Watching that tomato at the end get thinly sliced is very satisfying.

Finally, I geek out watching videos of rusty things that get restored. This particular clip features an especially apt title: Spark Joy Sharpening. It really does.

Kevin Pang was the founding editor of The Takeout, and director of the documentary For Grace.

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Just get the whetstone. I took the plunge when the guy I used to use for sharpening moved away from my area and I regret not trying it out years sooner than I did. Sharpening is so much easier than I thought it would be and it’s actually quite relaxing.  

Also, the risk of loss when learning is fairly low. There’s no way you can damage your knife beyond repair by using a whetstone wrong unless you’re intentionally trying to break things. It’s just too gentle.

Finally, I don’t think I ever mentioned it but my wife and I loved For Grace. Really nice work - thank you!