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Old 09-12-2008, 06:19 PM   #1
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New smaller gyuto and end-grain board.

As I noted, I had ordered a new knife from JWW and it came a few days early. I didn't know my Japanese was that good.

As you can see, it is a smaller gyuto, and fits easily inside the dimensions of a 14x12 end-grain cutting board.

I had just unpacked it as the photo was taken.

The blade is now taped and in the freezer, the board has gotten a thorough coating of food-grade mineral oil.

I will update you as events develop.


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Old 09-13-2008, 11:32 AM   #2
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I hope I have enough mineral oil.

It is now Day-2 of my preparartion of the new cutting board and knife.

As the cobwebs cleared over the first latte' of the day, I slathered on a new coat of mineral oil to the obverse side.

I believe the board will have to flipped many times before the saturation point is reached. The first two applications were wholly absorbed and the board was dry to the touch when I returned home.

After I finish this post I am going to make the first stone cut on the knife. This will show me if the bevel is cut straight and uniform to the reverse side. When and if repairs are needed and then completed, the knife will return to the freezer for the final stone polishing.

BTW, the Viking cutlers used to bury their newly minted swords in a frozen fjord. They had an old expression, "A good sword seasons a winter." Some tinkers believe this is the first historic reference to cryo hardening.

That's not what I'm doing here. A Japanese edge is quite thin. While the debate continues amongst sharpeners, the prevailing idea is that if the edge is frozen it stands up better and straighter to polishing stones.

I'd like to hear your comments and opinions. So many of you are cooks and chefs, feel free to give me some feed-back as to a continuing but uncompleted project.
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Old 09-13-2008, 12:21 PM   #3
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It is now later in Day-2.

As I set up for sharpening and polishing, I noticed the glint off of the cutting board. Considering how much oil was applied, I was startled to find that fully half of the oil had been absorbed.


You might ask why this is such a big deal. In actuality, it provides the chef the best of both worlds. For example, many boards feel like they were dipped into a thick plastic solution. This is good for cleansing, and an excellent way to guard against Salmonella.

However, when discussing Japanese knives, often constructed of laminated steel (be that 'clad' or folded and welded) the slicing process and the board which is utilized blend into a "system." This sytem is quite tactile, and adds to the joy of preparing food.

This new knife while smaller, is a gyuto. It is a chefs' knife. It will be used for more 'determined' work short of chopping. (And even then I've seen four-star chefs chop with them.)

My job then is to provide a chef or cook a superior Japanese knife, and a traditional bamboo board and provide some very realistic safety concerns.

The food-grade mineral oil I use will allow the board to be dunked and rinsed in soapy water. Now granted it will have to be maintained. A touch of oil periodically helps.

And now for the gyuto. It was taken out of the freezer, marked for the registration of the first cut and then lightly touched on both sides. The left bevel was near perfect, with more of a shallow bevel at the belly. The right side shared this condition, but needed a few more swipes at the tip.

All of this is shaping work--none of it is polishing. But as I broke the burr on the final light pass, I wondered if the knife was going to perform. It still had the protected tape on the body of the knife, but I picked up a sheet of newsprint and easily cleanly sliced the paper with a gentle touch. And the angle of this gyuto is not quite as steep as the nakiri.

If you've seen the Alton Brown's tutorial on knives, you'll know that he regards his brand as "scary" sharp. These ideas are a scale for one tinker telling another (often across the continent) the degree of perfection.

This scale is: sharp, very sharp, scary, spooky and toasty.

No you won't find this in an encyclopedia, and many times we speak on the phone with a voice inflection to drive home the point. However this gyuto, repaired with coarser stones only, is already past "scary."

Consider this. I still have one stone, several polishing papers, two brands of paste and glaziers glass to go before I'm finished.
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Old 09-13-2008, 09:20 PM   #4
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What a day! The gyuto needed some more tip work on the right hand side, and then I used an 800 grit stone to begin the polish. It took several "flips" to get the repair integrated into a smooth appearing bevel.

(The cutting board is still being oiled.)

The paste polishing was equally challenging. Even with clean tapes and a rather mundane paste I began to get micro-scratches. This happened earlier in the week, and I cleaned and polished every edge of the fixture and mounts I could find that might be pressing on the blade.

Finally, I applied paste polish to a fine piece of leather scrap and hand buffed the troublesome portions.


Usually, I wipe the excess paste from the blade and do a finishing buff with a dryer polishing tape. About this time I was wondering if there was something in the tape itself that might be marring the finish on the bevel.

In the final pass, I simply let the fine paste run all over everything. The glass slid easier, and while quite messy, the bevel polished even brighter. A slight adjustment even polished off any remnant of a burr.

The finished item looks terrific, and cuts like a laser beam!
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Old 09-13-2008, 10:49 PM   #5
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Thanks for the info. That's an awesome looking knife, and cuting board.
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Old 09-14-2008, 01:50 AM   #6
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I believe that knives get sharper after the third sharpening, and I have no scientific reason to underline this fact. I do know that many clients over the years report that their edges "come alive" on this third charm polishing.

I do have a theory. I approach sharpening and polishing as a craft, not doing metal mill work. I do not count strokes because blades (especially folded Japanese knives) are not symmetrical. In fact, several of my recent purchases show that their handles did not even align straight to the blade.

As I polish over time, more and more of the minute imperfections of the blade get removed. Finally, at about the third sharpening, I have pretty much found all of the irregularities by accident.

Now, Ron, you're a tinker. If you inspected this knife in it's present condition you might report, "Spooky, looks like a repaired tip." and you'd be right. However, in my association with a chef, we are working together to "refine" a tool.

The chef gives me a synopsis. I polish. He updates me with a critique. I buff with better paste. He's happier, but finds a spot. I repair it...

This is the association of chef/tinker I'm talking about.

Right now, no question, this little gyuto is ready to earn its keep with any sous-chef you care to name. In a month or two, this gyuto will easily earn bragging rights. I believe this knife has promise, it's nice now.
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Old 09-14-2008, 03:03 AM   #7
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I have just finished wiping the excess oil from the board, cleaning the surface, and now pressing the knives and board combination into service.

I wasn't truly happy with the flash my camera utilized, but the board is definitely more beautiful in real life, please check out the first photo as I unpacked the box.

Now I need a good recipe and the start of preparation!

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Old 09-14-2008, 08:00 AM   #8
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I am amazed! To take the kind of preparations, freezing, taping, polishing, etc..., to properly sharpen a high quality knife and then use it on a HARD, cheap, resin filled bamboo (grass) surface confuses me.
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Old 09-15-2008, 01:56 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The BoardSMITH View Post
bamboo (grass) surface confuses me.
It depends on what you are trying to accomplish.

As my study of knives, polishing and history went on, I found the techniques of feudal Japan interested me the most. There are knives in museums today that are sharper than anything we can construct now.

And of course, as my collection of personal knives increased, I had to find a method in maintaining them. The intense study began.

As I have told most of my clients, my future lay in the past. In reality, back to the future. The best examples were the hammered-and-folded sort of cutting instruments. And even their thinnest blades had strength and hardness.

The traditional "American knife" has a Rockwell hardness of from 55 to about 59. Most Japanese knives, even those costing under 100 dollars, have an HRC of 62 through 64.

So, now we have a knife representative of a bygone age, and the skills and tools to maintain the edge. Many people like to integrate other facets of a hobby into their routine.

The Japanese society of 1200 AD was mostly peasant and agrarian. Their implements were a collection of items they could readily find or make. And anyone could find sticks or "grass."

The boards we use of bamboo adhere to this idea. You might not be able to find or afford hardwood, but a traditionalist can find bamboo. Even the idea of quietly sitting in contemplation preparing your board is another aspect of this blade culture.

And since the blades are harder that our European derived softer metals, there is no penalty for slicing across bamboo with a nakiri or sashimi.

On some very reflective nights, my wife and I gather in the kitchen, discuss our day or ideas. We quietly slice a simple meal with knives upon bamboo in a ritual spanning hundreds of years.

There may indeed be refinements in modern society. But in a world of instant gratification, some still hike, some canoe, and some of us oil a bamboo board. I'm not sure I want to change that.
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Old 09-15-2008, 11:33 AM   #10
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I will stick by my original statement, why go to all the trouble to properly sharpen a high quality knife and then use a resin filled grass cutting surface.

In 1200's Japan, they used what was available and used natural glues. Today the bamboo boards aren't made as they were but are made in little sweat shops using resins instead of glues. Those resins are incredibly hard and tough on your edges and may cause chips and nicks.

As you quietly sit and contemplate that antique culture, contemplate this, your board is almost to hard to use, incredibly cheap to make, filled with very hard resins and finished with bean oil most likely. Might as well cut on a glass or rock surface.

BTW The darker bamboo in your board is carbonized. It was boiled to produce the darker color. Isn't natural.
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