Knife Sharpening Tips

Important Facts:

  • Knives made of the finest steel will hold an edge longer, but even the best knives dull with use-and the initial factory edge only lasts for the first few days or weeks of use.

  • For more than 99% of the knife's useful life, its edge performance depends entirely on how it's re-sharpened. The replication of the initial factory edge is not particularly relevant, especially since modern day sharpeners can put a better than factory edge on every knife.

  • · Keeping your knife sharp is important-besides being easier and more enjoyable to use, sharp knives are safer. Dull cutlery requires excessive force to cut, increasing the risk of knife slippage and injury.

  • Cutlery becomes dull when the edge begins to fold over or break off.

Choosing the Right Sharpener

There are two basic types of sharpeners, those that straighten and condition the edge (traditional sharpening steels) and those that use abrasives to create a new and sharper edge.

Straightening the Edge

Sharpening Steel
The traditional sharpening steel can straighten and recondition the edge but requires skill and practice to avoid doing more damage to the blade than good. The straightened edge is still weak after "steeling" and can quickly fold again. Eventually, steeling breaks off too much of the edge and is no longer effective. The average person doesn't have the skill or know how to use a sharpening steel correctly. The margins for error are slim because there are no angle guides and using the steel proficiently requires effort, skill, patience and lots of practice. Diamond steels produce better results because the diamond abrasives will actually sharpen the edge of the knife blade even if the angle is not correct The recent introduction of a precision-guided steeling device, however, now gives consumers the ability to steel like a pro. Note: All knife manufacturers recommend periodic professional sharpening in addition to regular steeling.

Creating A New Edge
Electric and Manual Sharpeners
Chef's Choice recommends using a multi-stage sharpener-whether electric or manual-with guides (to ensure angle control) and diamond abrasives (which will sharpen any metal alloy and never overheat/detemper the blade).

  • Create An Edge That Resists Folding. The secret to keeping knives sharper longer is to make certain your knives are made of a high strength steel and then to create an edge shape that resists folding. The strongest edges are arch-shaped, not small angle, "V" or hollow-ground. The arch-shaped edge is multiple-angled on both sides, in order to provide more metal to support the sharp cutting edge

  • Avoid Detempering the Blade. Conventional old-fashioned single-stage sharpening wheels or grinders remove excess metal and can overheat the edge so that the steel is weakened and folds over quickly again. Never use overly aggressive single-stage sharpeners (like those built into many can openers) which grind away excessive metal and detemper the blade. Select sharpeners that use diamond abrasives. Because of their extreme hardness, diamonds remove metal efficiently without heating or damaging the blade edge.

  • Shape and polish your edge. To obtain the ultimate edge, use a sharpener that has multiple stages. Proper sharpening requires both shaping the edge with coarser abrasives in the initial stage and polishing closer to the edge with finer abrasives in the final stage. The sharpener angle must be slightly larger in each successive stage. The use of finer abrasives, which remove only microscopic amounts of metal, is very important for re-sharpening the knife, thereby extending its life.

Stones, Rods and Files
The historical method of using a sharpening stone can create a new edge, but will require skill and extensive practice since it is very difficult to maintain a consistent or accurate sharpening angle by hand. Some stones also tend to be messy because many need to be coated with oil or water when using. Rods and files can be used to sharpen knives but the burden falls on the user to consistently maintain the correct sharpening angle. Diamond stones, rods and files will produce the best results.


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