What Is the Secret to Keeping Your Knives Sharp?

What Is the Secret to Keeping Your Knives Sharp?

Posted by Clayton on Nov 3rd 2015

microtech knife

From the kitchen to your person, a knife is a common fixture in your everyday life. Although these tools are a common sight, what is uncommon is knife owners who know how to recognize when a knife needs to be sharpened (sooner than you think), and how to achieve a proper edge when sharpening.

There are a few steps in learning how to effectively sharpen your knife, but with a little dedication to the longevity of your knife and the patience to get that razor’s edge gleam, it’s not that difficult.

Maintain a Sharp Edge to Avoid Creating Your Own Problems

  • Learning how to maintain your knife’s cutting edge is a cost-effective approach to knife ownership. Having to pay to get them sharpened or, worse, having to purchase a new one when it becomes dull is a waste.
  • Once you can effectively handle the sharpening process, you can “touch up” your knife rather than completely reshaping it from scratch. Remember, there is only so much steel on a knife, and you want to do your best to keep the majority of it there.
  • Dull knives are more dangerous than sharp knives. Although it sounds counterintuitive, if your knife won’t cut easily, you may be inclined to exert more force when trying to slice, which compromises your control and can lead to injury.

A Sharp Eye Is the Start to a Sharp Knife

If you want your knife to have an edge that can split atoms, then you are going to need to perfect your sharpening skills. The first step in doing this is to assess the edge of your knife. Are there rolls or chips in the blade? How deep are they? Doing a keen assessment of your blade’s condition will give you a good idea of how much metal along the edge you will have to remove in order to make it sharp again and still maintain the same shape of your knife.

Another good thing to note in your initial observation is how thick the cutting edge of your knife is. If you can’t tell if it needs to be thinned by looking at it, you can assess it in tasks it’s usually required to perform. If the blade doesn’t cut through material as effortlessly as it once did, the edge needs thinning.

De-Stress Your Knife Prior to Sharpening

Now that you’ve assessed your knife’s blade, the first step in sharpening is to de-stress the edge. Doing this will remove the weak steel and blunt your blade to expose fresh, strong metal. Pulling it through your sharpening stone with the blade at a right angle to the stone a few times should do the trick. This is no time to be heavy handed.

Now your blade is ready to be re-sharpened, and it is time to choose your angle. Different grinds require different angles for a sharp edge. Typically, you’ll be safe aiming for 15 to 20 degrees. If geometry is not your thing, there are specific tools for doing this, or you can use this trick. Take a piece of paper, which has 90-degree angles, and fold that corner into thirds. Then, take one of these 30-degree corners and use half of that. Hold your knife on this wedge to get a feel for the height, and then replicate this angle when you lay your knife on the sharpening stone.

Some knife owners use shadows to get an edge, some use coins, and still others use a marker to attain that perfect angle.

Successful Sharpening

When you begin sharpening, it is good to begin with sweeping strokes that use as much of the stone’s surface area as possible. Carefully maintain the same angle from the base to the tip of your blade. Use light pressure to avoid chipping or rounding of the blade.

After you have the edge of your knife sharpened to perfection, apply a micro-bevel. To create this super slicing edge, make alternating strokes on the stone at a slightly higher angle than you used to create the primary edge. Keep working to thin it out.

Knowing how to sharpen a knife is crucial for giving your knife longevity. With practice, you can be on your way to keeping your blades as good as new – for years.