Craftsman Jun Watanabe
Craftsman Jun Watanabe
Meet Mr Watanabe, one of our staff and a skilled craftsmen himself. He is known among our customers for talking about blades like a craftsmen, he has the “craftsman's eye”.
Path to knives
Mr Watanabe was born in 1983, and never dreamed of becoming a craftsmen in his own right. “used to think that sharpening knives was a distant world, far from the norm of craftsmen”. The first company I ever worked for, went bankrupt after 2 years of employment. I found myself looking for work and one day I was attracted to an unusual job ad. It had a picture of a person sharpening knives and the words “A job in your hands”. Luckily the company saw potential in me and I got the job! As I got more involved with the industry, I became more and more fascinated with knives and sharpening.
I do a few different jobs at Sakai Ichimonji, but I really love sharpening knives. I use around 8 different stones to bring a customers dull blade back to life. Sometimes more if they are especially dull or damaged. It can be really tiring, everything is done by hand, but I’ve always been strong, ever since I was a child.
I also do engravings on customers knives. Sometimes I do 30 a day, each time I engrave a knife its a careful process and I hope that the user will take good care of the knife that another craftsmen has carefully and skilfully hammered and sharpening. Between sharpening and engraving, I often feel like my fingers will cramp. But I love it.
The sharpening process
When we talk about a knife’s sharpness, what we are really talking about, is how small can we make the contact point between the blade and food.
When sharpening a knife, there is no end to the number of things you can do to maximise the blades potential
I’ll usually start by removing any excess from the edge or sides of the blade, since flattening the blade will help increase the contact point between the knife and food. A lot of blade edges tend to roll or deform slightly over time, becoming more rounded near the edge.
Next, ill move on to correct any uneven sharpening that may occur. In fact, the sharpness of the least sharpened part is equivalent to a knifes overall sharpness. That un-sharpened or uneven point ,will be where a knife catches and this unevenness can cause the blade edge to deform again. This also shortens the life of the blade. So it is very important to sharpen evenly.
If these two points are observed, the knife will be easy to sharpen the next time.
When I receive a knife from a chef who is a good sharpener, it is really easy to sharpen.
Maintenance that supports good kitchen knives
I can say with confidence that all of our knives are excellent knives.
However, it is not enough that the knives are excellent themselves
Without proper maintenance such as re-sharpening, the true quality of the knife will not be realised.
The best knife and the best sharpening are the only way to get the best sharpness. This is what we try to make our customers aware of.
Common sharpening problems
The most common problem I hear with household knives is "I sharpened it, but it doesn't feel sharp at all”.
This is probably due to the number of “easy sharpeners” that are available these days.
Others think that they have sharpened the knife, just by rubbing the surface with a whetstone.
Sharpening takes patience and precision.
Sometimes even professional chefs come to us and say “the blades shape has changed”, this is because of improper sharpening, the original geometry has been lost.
Some advice I can give is:
Don't be afraid to sharpen your knife, ask for advice on how to do a basic sharpen at home.
Remember that if you don't sharpen your knives they will get worse and also become dangerous when you try to cut things.
If you feel you didn't sharpen it right, bring it to us.
If there is a chip, the edge is misshapen or it’s still not sharp, bring it to us. We can help
What does Mr Watanabe recommend
As a sharpener I recommend knives that I’ve had a lot of experience sharpening. For a traditional Japanese blade I suggest something forged from White Steel #2, and for a Western style blade I suggest something using FV10 like the “Sword” range. I think
I want to mention something that's really important. Just having good materials , doesn't make a good blade. You need the right heat treatment and tempering process too.
These two knives have been heat treated and tempered properly and have great materials, so I’m always impressed by their quality.
When we discuss whetstones, there are almost as many choices as there are for knives. But I like the “Kirameki” series , they have a smooth feel and an easy sharpening action, the blades feel connected to the stone just right.
When you use a sharp knife, your sense of value changes.
Sharpening kitchen knives requires a lot of time and energy, and many people find it a chore. But a good sharp knife is worth the effort and makes cooking a real joy.