Knife sharpening 101

Greetings Carnivores,

A few days ago an old friend of mine asked me to blog about knife sharpening so, I present today a few words about Sharpening 101.

At some time or another we’ve all spent good money on the latest and greatest new fangled gizmo, guaranteed to sharpen to Samurai sword sharpness, your old and worn out kitchen knives. You’ve probably even chased a bell ringing old Italian man down the street (admit it … you have). The truth is, if you don’t have decent quality knives to start with, you’re kinda chasing your tail.

It’s REALLY important to note; you can hurt yourself faster and inflict a more grievous wound with a dull knife than you will with a sharp one and the reason is this: you’re working much harder, putting much more force behind a dull knife than you would normally with a sharp one. It really behooves you therefore, in the interest of your own safety, to keep your knives in good shape. I personally spend a few minutes each morning bringing my knives back from heavy usage the day before.

Ok so, for those of you who DO have decent quality knives and still don’t really have a trusted method of keeping your edges in good shape, I suggest you invest in a couple of good Whetstones. As far as ones I would personally recommend, you just can’t beat the Japanese. Whetstones are to be used with water as a lubricant, keeping them wet throughout the entire process. I suggest you buy a combo stone, one that has a rough surface on one side and a smoother one on the other. You can of course buy three stones of varying grit. It just depends on how much money you want to spend.

Soak the stone for 20 minutes before using then, place it on a towel to keep it from running away when you to start to push and pull the blade across its surface. Begin by choosing an angle of between 15 and 22 degrees. There are little ‘guides’ you can buy to help you maintain the correct angle but, I personally find them a hinderance … to each his own. You want to maintain this angle each ‘pass’ you make with the knife on the stone. KEEP ADDING WATER TO THE SURFACE AS YOU WORK. Lay the heel of the knife on the stone, at the correct angle and with firm pressure slowly push and pull the knife back and forth on the stone moving as you go from the ‘heel’ to the ‘tip’. MAINTAIN THE SAME ANGLE THROUGHOUT. It’s NOT a race so, take your time. Once you have reached the end of one pass, ‘flip’ the blade over and repeat on the opposite side. Do this as many times as you see fit … it really just depends on how rough your blade is to begin with. Remember, you should always try to keep the same number of ‘passes’ on each side. you don’t want to work one side of your knife more than the other.

Now that you’ve done the short strokes a few times on each side of the knife, (pushing and pulling back and forth) it’s time for the long strokes. Again, starting at the heel, slowly drag the knife towards your body, keeping even pressure and maintaining the same angle all the way to the tip. Flip the knife over and repeat on the opposite side. Perform this action a number of times on each side of the blade. You’re now finished with the ‘rough’ side of the stone. Now, turn the stone over, wet it completely and perform the ‘long’ strokes from heel to tip on the smooth side. This will ‘finish’ your edge and complete the sharpening.

If you find it’s STILL not sharp enough for you, repeat the process again. Remember: this is a bit of an art and it takes a long time to become good at it … practice makes perfect.

The final step is to get yourself a good Honing steel. The Steel is a tool used to keep the blade in shape between dates with the stone. Just remember to use the same ‘angle’ you used when sharpening on the stone. Please be gentle when using the steel too … I remember my Dad hacking away at the steel before carving the Sunday beast … I think he thought the faster the hand movements the better the job … the poor knife. But, … I digress.

There you have it Carnivores and, to my good friend Dave: call me buddy … I’ll come over to your place and do it for you, … it’ll only cost you a beer.

Stay hungry Carnivores. Remember to ‘like’ and ‘share’ my posts at http://www.facebook.com/carnivoreconfidential and follow my stuff on Twitter @DougieDee

6 thoughts on “Knife sharpening 101

  1. Yes, do you want to place an apple on your head – oh, wait that was with an arrow :^)

    On a more serious note, perhaps I have the wrong type of stone but I know the one I have in kitchen said to use oil to wet it.
    My chisel sharpening stone in the garage is coated in whatever oil is handy as I’m not worried about toxicity with the chisels.

    Why water as opposed to oil? I wash them with hot soapy water anyhow.

    Why do some recommend using the stone dry?

    I’m full of questions today.

  2. Hey Dave. Therer’s LOTS of info out there on the net regarding Oil vs Water vs Dry stones. IMO Water stones are ‘softer’ and tend to need resurfacing often. This is easily done with sandpaper on a very flat surface. The major difference between the two ‘wet’ stones is the oil variety tends to be non-porous where the water stones are. However … using oil on a stone designated for water use will reduce it’s effectiveness. Hope this helps buddy.

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