All art and illustrations in this series and article have been contributed kindly by the lovely Linran, who can be found at https://linranjiang.info/
The previous article in this series is 7. Katsuobushi (鰹節) Storage and Care (保管方法).
To remove the blade, hold the shaver so that the sharp edge of the blade is facing up, and hit the bottom of the plane with a mallet. You may need to hit the plane quite a few times. This will not damage the plane as both the mallet and plane are wooden.
Before beginning to sharpen the blade, prepare and soak sharpening stones as usual.
As with many other Japanese blades, the blade of the Kezuriki is single beveled (just sharpened on one side). This means that one side is angled and the other side is completely straight. After sharpening the angled side, we will need to re-straighten the straight side.
After preparing your sharpening stones, place the blade, angled surface down, and hold firmly with both hands so that the surface of the blade is evenly pressed against the stone.
Sharpen the blade by pushing it backwards and forwards, applying pressure when pushing the blade forward and releasing pressure when pulling the blade backwards. The action of pushing the blade forwards shaves and shapes the blade into shape, and the pulling motion only returns the blade to its original position.
You do not want to press the angled surface of the knife completely down on the sharpening stone as you will damage the blade by pushing the shinogi line (しのぎ筋) backwards (see diagram).
Instead, keep a small angle between the blade and the sharpening stone. This angle should be maintained throughout the sharpening of the knife. You can tell if the angle you are using is varying based on the sound. A constant sound means that a constant angle is being maintained and a changing sound means you are not holding the blade at the same angle whilst pushing and pulling.
Just as you do not want to flatten the blade completely on the stone, you also do not want to angle the blade too far upwards. The higher the angle of the blade, the sharper the blade becomes, and the easier it is for it to go blunt. You want your sharpening to last as long as possible and not sharpen the blade every time you use it, striking a balance between sharpness and durability.
As with sharpening all blades, start on a low grit stone before gradually moving to a higher grit polishing stone. For me, I start with a stone that’s around 1500, then move up to 3000 and finally use an 8000 finishing stone.
When the angled side has been sharpened, a burr will form, protruding over to the flat side. The final sharpening step is to remove this burr making the sharpening even.
To do this, hold the blade flat against the stone, slide the blade back and forth, flattening out the burr. Repeat for around 3 minutes or until you can no longer feel the burr.
To replace the blade, insert the blade with the flat side facing down. Gently push the blade in as far as it goes. Turn the plane around and tap it facing against the direction of the blade. Try to tap the centre of the plane to make the plane go in evenly. If you miss, tap the plane on the left or right side to even out the plane. If the blade goes in too deeply, tap the plane on the opposite side to get it to come back out, as mentioned above.
Read our article on how to shave Katsuobushi using a Kezuriki.
Thank you SO MUCH for the detailed and concise information about katsuobushi and the use and care of the kenzuriki! The pictures really helped me to clearly understand how to properly use the plane to get a nice thin shavings of katsuobushi. And when it comes time to sharpen the blade, I’ll have a lot more confidence thanks to your detailed instructions.
You’re welcome! Glad the article was useful to you~
Thanks for this info.
I have a question about maintaining the kezuriki…I’ve had it for a few years now, and it seems to be attracting ants! I believe it’s made of Japanese oak. I bought it in Tsukiji market, and am living in hot humid Singapore.
Ants have specifically seen to horde it and I ca t figure out why. As per the box instructions, I always wipe it with a damp cloth, leave it out to dry before keeping it. Is there a specific way to make sure ants doesn’t come to make it it’s home?
The high humidity in Singapore does actually pose quite a number of problems when it comes to storing some Japanese utensils, especially those made from cypress and oak. There are two possibilities why you have ants attacking your kezuriki, one is that there is remaining food flakes left in your box, especially if you shave katsuobushi (some people use it to shave other stuff like hazelnuts etc). The resulting powder tends to stick everywhere, especially in the corners and ledges of the box, even if you wipe it with a damp cloth. Usually we brush down the wooden box with a mushroom brush or pastry brush to clean it as best as we can before we wipe it down with a damp cloth. Since you’re in Singapore however, maybe try using only a dry cloth to wipe it down after brushing off the powder. Singapore also does have a big problem with fire ants and carpenter ants, the later which tends to be the bigger issue. Especially if they’re the typical small black carpenter ants which are trying to eat away at old and brittle wood, which gets even softer and easier to breakdown due to the humidity. These carpenter ants aren’t going for the residual food in your box but the actual wood and sap itself.
So what can you do about it? If nothing works, the easiest thing to do is just clean off all the ants from the kezuriki and then store it in an airtight box to protect it. You can also cling-wrap it tightly. Alternatively, you could try and fill the box with salt when you’re not using it to deter the ants. Another interesting idea is to sprinkle some essential oils extracted from wood into the box as it’s suppose to be a natural way to deter pests. This idea is more applicable for Japanese cypress (Hinoki) because Hinoki oil is readily available (For example, if you buy a Japanese wooden rice tub made from Hinoki, it usually comes wrapped with a piece of paper sprinkled with Hinoki oil to protect it). However, I’m not sure if Japanese oak is available in essential oil form. You could you other ones such as peppermint, but the lingering smell is quite strong and might taint any food you shave into it.
I did talk to a Kezuriki maker before in Japan about this problem of rice weevils and ants attacking cyprus and oak utensils and he recommended that I dry my stuff over a traditional Japanese hearth (an Irori) and he was dead serious about it, but of course that’s unfeasible because nobody has those things anymore plus there’s a danger of charring the wood. You could maybe consider sunning your kezuriki under the sun briefly for maybe 30 minutes? Any longer might damage it seeing how harsh the sun in Singapore is.
Do tell me how it goes!