How to Sharpen Knives

Question: I am fed up of buying a new knife only to have it get dull and not be able to restore the edge back to factory sharpness. I am resigning myself to having to pay a professional service to do it for me but want to try to learn how first. What are the tools. tricks, or techniques that I need to know before I begin trying? Are there any machines or equipment I will need? -Don in London, England.

Knife sharpening is not a mysterious science. It is quite logical when it's understood. Once learned, you will be able to sharpen any edge without having to pay a business to do it for you. The methods I recommend here are not necessarily the best way, just the way that works for me. Other people do it differently.

First of all, I don't recommend any certain kit or system. A simple, high-quality sharpening stone will work fine. Save yourself a lot of money and forgo purchasing any sharpening gadgets such as the Lansky system. It will only give you a mediocre edge at best.

Though expensive, I've found the ceramic sharpening stones from Spyderco to be the best. They hold their shape and do not require any lubricant. For those on a budget, the aluminum oxide and silicon carbide stones from Norton also work well.

When learning how to sharpen on a stone, here are a few tips. First of all, I've always found it easiest to sharpen away from the edge. Some well known knife makers advocate sharpening towards the edge. Try both and see what works best for you. Secondly, keep the angle between the knife blade and the stone the same for every stroke. If you allow yourself to vary the angle, the knife will never get sharp. I color the edge with a permanent marker to ensure that I am removing steel where I want.

If you can not seem to get any results from with the stone or don't have the time to learn, the only sharpening gadget that I recommend is the Spyderco Sharpmaker.

The last step for a sharp knife is the key. Strop the edge on a piece of leather loaded with polishing compound. I like the green compound from Lee Valley because it cuts quickly. Always strop the knife by pulling the blade along the strop away from the edge, not towards it. A few strokes on each side of the edge will make it shaving sharp.

In conclusion, this is not intended to be an all-conclusive sharpening guide. These methods will not work on all knives such as some global knives like the Nordic Puuko or Japanese knives with no primary edge bevel. It will also not work on planer knives or serrated edges that require a different method. But for most knives, like a Shun kitchen knife, for example, these methods will work great.


2 Comments on "How to Sharpen Knives"

  1. TomPier on Tue, 4th May 2010 4:45 am 

    great post as usual!

  2. WP Themes on Tue, 4th May 2010 6:26 pm 

    Nice fill someone in on and this mail helped me alot in my college assignement. Thanks you on your information.

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