Sake Gumi
Umamiventure #25: Knife Sharpening Workshop

The 25th Umamiventure took place at Hida Tool and Hardware in Berkeley. After writing about sharpening Carbon and Stainless Steel knives on Umamimart and receiving a lot of questions, I thought it would be good to take these questions to the source. Chika, the knifemaster, at Hida Tool and Hardware. Chika has been working with knifes for 8 years and gave us a generous peek into her pool of knowledge.

Umamiventure #25: Knife Sharpening Workshop

Umamiventure #25: Knife Sharpening Workshop

Umamiventure #25: Knife Sharpening Workshop

The knife-sharpening demo started promptly at 2:05pm. Chika went through different grits of stones (the lower the number the faster the sharpening process goes), different knife situations (beyond repair, dull, rusted, etc.) and a super informative explanation about the different steel types commonly available today.

Umamiventure #25: Knife Sharpening Workshop

Umamiventure #25: Knife Sharpening Workshop

It was all about the sharpening stones as several Umamimart readers brought their own knives (European and Japanese) to ask Chika how to bring them back to life after years (or generations) of use. Chika was kind enough to sharpen many of the knives we brought in, which also helped us to understand how the stones worked in relation to specific types of knifes and how to assess the condition of a knife.

Umamiventure #25: Knife Sharpening Workshop

Umamiventure #25: Knife Sharpening Workshop

Many of us went home with 1000 grit stones (the most versatile grit for kitchen knife sharpening), and some of us went home with hocho (Japanese knives).

After getting just enough education for a Saturday, we headed to Pyramid Brewery which is across the street from the legendary punk venue, 924 Gilman, where Green Day got their start (from Berkeley to Broadway, who knew?). We were seated outside as a party of nine and enjoyed three pitchers of beers and two sampler platters - which my Japanese husband dubbed the "American-fried-stuff" dish.

This was the first time I hosted an Umamiventure in the U.S., and I had so much fun. It was the perfect balance of education and relaxation.

Thanks to everyone who came, Chika at Hida Tool and Hardware and to the California sun.

Umamiventure #25: Knife Sharpening Workshop

Umamiventure #25: Knife Sharpening Workshop

Now, a few words from the attendees:


Since attending the workshop, I had to chop carrots to make chicken pot pie and decided what better time then now to put my water stone to work. I sharpened all of our non serrated knives and it worked out amazingly. Never before have I cut carrots with such ease.

This Umamiventure was great. I thought it was particularly helpful when Chika looked at the knives that people had brought and gave advice on each of them. I am not a knife person. I don't even really know the differences or uses for certain shapes so I learned a lot. One particularly helpful tip she offered was how to tell when your knife needs to be sharpened.

Another point I found really helpful was actually hearing the sound of the knife being sharpened, because when you are sharpening at too shallow of an angle it doesn't quite make the right sound. It also helped seeing the actual movement. The only thing was that I wish I had paid more attention as she moved up the blade, because I had a hard time sharpening the tip of the knife and maintaining the right 15 degree angle.

The actual shop was amazing. I dream of having a  workshop like that someday with a little shop cat.  That place made me want to give up my laser-cutting and take up wood carving.  All and all the venture was a great one. The staff was super nice and helpful and all the tools make you want to go outside and get your hands dirty.


Things I learned:
- What knife angle to use while sharpening (although Yoko's post already taught me this).
- Knowing that it's near impossible to screw up the knife while sharpening with a stone.
- To NOT use the honing blade to sharpen the knife (oops!).
- How to tell if the knife is sharp by looking for a reflection on the blade edge.
- Knives that could barely cut through veggies CAN be sharpened to easily cut through pork meat!
- Japanese knives are the best (because they use harder steel and will last longer between sharpenings and also because they just look cooler, IMO).
- Where to go if I need knife advice, buy another sharpening stone, or a new knife.
- You can easily hide/carry 9" blade knives in a purse/bag as demonstrated by 4-5 of the attendees.

1333 San Pablo Avenue
Berkeley, CA

T: 510.524.3700

*Umamiventures are organized monthly, traveling far and wide to find good, cheap grub off the beaten path.

**Stay updated on all future trips via Twitter or the Facebook Fan page.

Past Umamiventures include:
1.) Ocean Jewel Restaurant – Flushing, NYC; June 2007
2.) Red Hook Ball Fields - NYC; June 2007
3.) Taste of Jackson Heights – NYC; October, 2007
4.) Sripraphai Restaurant – Woodside, NYC; November 2007
5.) WINTERMARKET – South St. Seaport; December 2007
6.) Jackson Diner- Jackson Heights, NYC; January 2008
7.) Pacificana – Sunset Park, NYC; February 2008
8.) Puerto Alegre – The Mission, SF; March 2008
9.) Dinosaur BBQ – Harlem, NYC; April 2008
10.) Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden – Astoria, NYC; May 2008
11.) Brooklyn Banh Mi Crawl – Sunset Park, NYC; August 2008
12.) Sheapshead Bay Lobster Crawl – NYC; September 2008
13.) Flushing Food Circuit – NYC; October 2008
14.) Strong Beer Month – SF; March 2009
15.) Loisaida Throwback Crawl – NYC; April 2009
16.) Harley Farms Goat Dairy – Pescadero, CA; June 2009
17.) Tomales Bay Oyster Farm – Marshall, CA; August 2009
18.) Din Tai Fung – LA; September 2009
19.) Din Tai Fung – Tokyo; September 2009
20.) Schroeder’s Oktoberfest – SF; October 2009
21.) Fish Taco Crawl – San Diego; November 2009
22.) St. George Spirits & Hangar One Vodka -  Alameda; January 2010
22.5) Everett & Jones – OAK; January 2010
23.) Sammy’s Roumanian Steakhouse – NYC; February 2010
24.) Guerilla Ramen Night - SF; April 2010
Column: Umamiventure


  • Thanks. After you get rid of rust using this thing, do they NOT come back as easily?

    Yamahomo on

  • Funny you ask, because Chika demonstrated what to do in that exact situation! She used a rust eraser (sabitori) and it was like magic. They sell these rust erasers at Hida Tool, but I also found some online.

    Check this out:

    It seems like the Japanese ones are gentler than the American ones since a lot of the American types specify not to use them on kitchen knifes.

    yoko on

  • Please tell me what to do with rusted knife? Mine is very sharp, but rusty.

    Yamahomo on

  • Yamahomo – I suspect that if you keep the knife in a dry location where it’s not prone to rust and that you make sure to dry it off every time after you use it, it shouldn’t rust. But you may also want to bring the knife to a knife shop and have them look at it for you regarding that question. It also depend on what material it is. Carbons rust easier.

    Nobuko – Thank you so much for attending! It was a solid turn out and it was a pleasure having you there.

    yoko on

  • Great learning experience.Thank you very much!

    Nobuko on

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