Cutting with a poorly sharpened knife can not only be frustrating, but it can also be dangerous. Indeed, the more you force with your knife, the more you risk cutting yourself. And cutting with a badly sharpened knife is no picnic!
To properly maintain your knives and take full advantage of them, you must remember to sharpen and sharpen them regularly. There are several techniques for sharpening a knife, and all require the use of a tool specifically designed for this purpose.
Of course, you could leave the task of sharpening your knives to a professional, but if you have the necessary equipment, you will find that it is easy and economical to do it yourself. So here is a guide on how to properly sharpen a knife.
Why are knives dull?
Daily use in the kitchen wears out the blade of our knives and this is absolutely normal. The duration of a knife sharpening will depend on the quality of the knife’s steel, the type of steel and the use to which it is put.
The main reasons why a knife can become damaged or dull can be:
- cut on hard surfaces
- exert excessive lateral pressure on the blade
- corrosion by acids such as lemon, tomato, or others
- be subjected to high temperatures (for example in the dishwasher)
- get nicked by colliding with the blade of another knife
Before sharpening your knives, visually evaluate the blade: if you see nicks or deep indentations, you will probably need the assistance of a professional sharpener to recover your knife. If you don’t notice anything unusual, you are ready to know how to sharpen your knives.
1. Tools for sharpening a knife
To properly sharpen or sharpen your knives, you will need the right tool. Here are the most commonly found on the market:
- The whetstone: available in several grain sizes, from the softest to the most abrasive, the whetstone is the most efficient tool and gives the most lasting results. However, it requires a longer adaptation period than other tools for sharpening a knife.
- Manual sharpener: this tool for sharpening knives is surely the easiest to use, even by beginners. This sharpening tool is provided with a slot in which the knife blade is inserted. The disadvantage of the manual sharpener is that it does not fit all knives. For even more convenience, the manual sharpener is also available in an electric version.
- The sharpening gun: Efficient and fast, it is the sharpening technique most widely used by kitchen professionals. The sharpener will be used primarily to maintain a blade, not being designed to restore the edge of the blade.
Find below in the guide the best sharpening stone, the best manual sharpener as well as the top sharpening blade for the knife.
2. Can you sharpen a knife with a water wheel?
It is quite possible to sharpen a knife with a grinding wheel, preferably a wet grinding wheel because the water prevents the blade from overheating. This tool designed to effectively sharpen all cutting tools, however, requires a certain skill when it comes to sharpening kitchen knives.
If you are a woodworking enthusiast, you probably already have this tool in your arsenal for maintaining the blades on your tools. So you could, with a little practice, use it to sharpen your kitchen knives.
However, it is not worth getting a water grindstone if only to sharpen kitchen knives.
3. How to sharpen a knife with a stone?
The best way to sharpen a knife is to use a whetstone. There are other methods and devices available for sharpening knives, but most of them tend to wear too much of the blade.
Take a double-sided whetstone, with coarse grain on one side and a fine grain on the other. Different knives require that the knife-edge be applied to the stone at a different angle, depending on the manufacturing specifications. Typically the angle is around 22 degrees. Then, follow these steps:
- Place the whetstone on a cutting board or counter, with the coarse grain facing up.
- Grasp the knife by the handle and hold the edge of the knife against the stone, the edge meeting the stone at an angle of about 22 degrees.
- With moderate pressure, slide the blade forward over the whetstone, covering the entire length of the blade and keeping the blade level with the stone at a constant 22-degree angle.
- Repeat 10 times, then turn the knife over and hit the other side of the blade 10 times on the whetstone.
- Turn the sharpening stone over to the fine-grained side and hit each side of the blade 10 times.
4. How do you sharpen a knife with a manual sharpener?
The manual sharpener is very easy to use. Here’s how to use a manual sharpener in a few easy steps:
- Place the manual sharpener on your counter or work surface.
- Hold the handle firmly with your non-dominant hand, to prevent the sharpener from moving while in use.
- Insert the blade into the slot, and pull the knife gently towards you, exerting slight pressure.
- Lift the handle as you approach the tip to follow the contour of the blade. Each pull should only last 1 or 2 seconds.
- Repeat until you get the desired result, usually about ten times.
5. How do I sharpen a knife with a sharpening gun?
The sharpener is not really a sharpener. Rather, it is a tool that allows you to hold and realign the edge of a knife blade. It helps straighten out the dips and twists that naturally occur on a knife blade when in use.
The sharpening gun, also called rat tail, will therefore be useful for maintaining your knives. To do this, follow these few tips:
- To start, set your cutting board on the counter and cover it with a tea towel.
- Next, grab the sharpening gun by the handle and position it perpendicular to the board, so that the end of the handle is facing up.
- Hold the handle firmly with one hand and make sure the tip of the rat tail is resting firmly against the towel-covered cutting board.
- Pick up the knife with the opposite hand. Starting at the top of the rat tail, gently hold the edge of the knife 20 ° to the steel of the gun shaft. Be careful not to move the blade in any way.
- While maintaining this angle, slide your knife down one side of the shaft, from heel to toe, while pulling the handle towards you. Then do the same with the other side of the blade.
- Repeat 4 to 5 times per side.
Where we would be with the next household item. No matter whether nail files coated with sandpaper or conventional sandpaper from the hardware store. Both work perfectly to get the knife blade sharp again.
However, the grain should not be too rough, otherwise, too much metal will be removed. If the knife is very blunt, a coarser grit between 100-300 should be used. If you just want to keep the sharpness, you should use a grain size between 600-1000.
When sharpening, the sandpaper should be attached flat and taut on a smooth surface, such as a block of wood. This will prevent the sandpaper from sticking out and cutting into the sandpaper while sanding and damaging it.
Sharpen knives on the go and in nature
Those who use outdoor knives such as hunting or pocket knives often cannot use the household items and household items mentioned above. Therefore, in the second part, I have created a separate list of abrasive objects that are often found outdoors or in nature.
Bricks are most similar to whetstones in terms of shape and application. The brick is slightly moistened and both sides of the blade are ground alternately on the brick at a 10-20 degree angle, depending on the type of knife. If the brick is very uneven, the surface can be smoothed with a second brick.
But even with an uneven surface, good sharpening results can be achieved.
2. Flat natural stones
Smooth stones are often found near streams and rivers. Very flat and wide natural stones are best suited. You may have to search for them a little, but they can be found near any body of water.
You choose the flattest and smoothest stone, moisten it a little and sharpen the knife in the same way as if you were using a whetstone.
3. Car windows
The edges of car glass are not polished at the top and are therefore a bit rougher. The edges of car windows are therefore very suitable for sharpening knives.
However, this method is not suitable for very blunt knives, as the glass pane hardly removes any material. The edge of the glass pane takes on the function of sharpening steel, which straightens the cutting edge. If a knife is too blunt, straightening the cutting edge doesn’t help anymore and the knife has to be sharpened.
Simply crank the car window down and pull both sides of the knife over the edge of the glass pane several times. With this method, too, the angle of the knife to the edge should always be around 10-20 degrees.
4. Second knife
In some cases, a second knife can also be used to sharpen a knife. However, it is important that the second knife is made of harder steel than the knife to be sharpened. This is important, otherwise, this method will not work. The object with which a knife is sharpened must always be harder than the knife steel.
You just take the back of the harder knife and pull each side of the knife to be sharpened over it several times. Here, too, a very blunt knife can no longer be made sharp because no material is removed.
Some of the above sharpening agents are rough and leave behind and rough grinding results. For a knife to cut well, however, the blade must be as smooth as possible. The following means can be used to polish the blade of the knife and to smooth it. This removes bumps and gives you an additional improvement in sharpness.
How does the peeling work?
Removal is very easy and only takes a few seconds. Take one of the following peeling surfaces and pull the knife blade backward, back of the knife over the surface first. If the knife is pulled forward, with the blade pulled first, the surface would be damaged because the blade cuts into the material.
The leather strap has been used to sharpen knives for centuries. Any piece of leather is suitable for this, such as the inside of the belt.
It is best to stretch the belt so that the surface is taut and, as described above, pull the back of the blade over the belt first.
Newsprint is great for removing and smoothing out microscopic bumps on the blade. The surface of newsprint is very fine, but at the same time very porous. If knife blades are pulled over the newspaper, the blades are polished and the metal and grinding residues are picked up by the porous newspaper
It is best to attach the newspaper to a flat and hard surface (block of wood, brick, etc.) and pull each side of the knife blade backward several times, at an angle and with a little pressure over the newspaper.
Cardboard does not give as good results as newsprint, but it is also suitable for removing knives. In contrast to newsprint, cardboard has the advantage that it is harder and no extra pad is required for peeling off.
Place a piece of cardboard on any flat surface and pull both sides of the knife blade backward over the cardboard as described above.
If you are on the go and don’t have a leather belt or other leather surface at hand, you can also use a nylon strap to pull it off. Nylon straps can be found on backpacks or travel bags, for example.
Tension the nylon belt just like you would with leather and pull both sides of the blades backward over the nylon belt with the back of the knife first.
With the necessary knowledge, you can sharpen or sharpen knives anywhere, regardless of whether you have a chef’s knife in your own household or an outdoor knife on the go or in the wilderness. Of course, the sharpening results are highly dependent on one’s own ability and method, but with a little skill everyone should be able to sharpen dull knives. However, these methods often do not deliver as good results as whetstones or sharpening sticks and should only be viewed as a temporary stopgap solution. They can also scratch high quality knives, which is why I don’t recommend sharpening expensive knives this way.