How To Sharpen A Knife

 

Don’t Throw Away That Dull Blade – I’ll Show You How To Sharpen A Knife To Bring It Back To Life!

a hunting knife to be sharpened

So many of us don’t know what to do when a knife that was meant for sharply and cleanly carving meats, veggies, and whatnot in the kitchen – or, cutting whatever you need for hunting or anything else in the great outdoors – becomes too dull to even slice butter!  But, I have the answer!  I’m going to show you how to sharpen a knife at home in the most efficient, uniform way imaginable.

I guarantee that the method I now employ can be used by anyone – anywhere – anytime – achieving absolute perfection – creating the sharpness we all need to suit any occasion!  There is only one caveat – KEEP YOUR FINGERS OUT OF THE WAY – because you will be producing an extremely sharp edge to your knives that will neatly cleave the flesh from your bones if you’re not careful!

 

My Knife Sharpening History Of Trial And Error

I’ve been through a myriad of different ways to sharpen knives – spurred on by a number of diverse factions using broadly varying methods:

Home Owners

Typical home owners buy electric can openers with a divot cut-out – usually in back – for sharpening (?) their kitchen knives.

a kitchen knife to be sharpened

I had one of these and I could never get a nice sharp edge on any of my knives.  These generic sharpener attachments only put one angle on a knife.  I’m not even sure what that angle is calibrated to be.  And, an excessive amount of metal is removed which means that after a few sharpenings, the knife is worn down enough that its only use becomes filling up the trash bin.

 

Suggestion For Electric Knife Sharpener Worshipers

If anyone still opts for an electric knife sharpener, don’t get a can opener with a knife sharpener attached, get an actual electric knife sharpener – and, for gawd sakes, get a top-of-the-line appliance.  Please purchase a sharpener that will actually hone knives and put a decent edge on the blades without subjecting them to total destruction.

Presto 08810 Professional Electric Knife Sharpener

I’m talkin’ ’bout the Presto 08810 Professional Electric Knife Sharpener.  It will sharpen from the “coarse” – through the “medium” – and, finally the “fine” settings. The Presto 08810 is specifically made for sharpening kitchen knives.  It does, however, profess to be able to handle hunting knives and fillet knives as well.

The Presto has a “fine tune” adjustment based on the thickness of the blade.  That is – a thicker blade – like a hunting knife – is normally sharpened at a 25o angle – while a thinner blade – like a fillet knife – is sharpened at approximately 17o.  Kitchen knives fall in between – at an angle of about 20o.

After adjusting for the blade thickness, just lay the knife against the yellowish-orange knife guide and pull it across the sharpening wheel towards your body several times on each setting – starting with “coarse”, then “medium”, then “fine” – and this electric sharpener will give you basic, mostly suitable knife edges.

 

Chefs

Many chefs use a metal sharpening rod to put a clean, crisp cutting edge on their knives.

I never could master this technique.  I suppose a “master” chef who has spent years sharpening their kitchen knives with a metal rod sharpener has also “mastered” its use.  But – just as in the case of the knife sharpening attachment on a can opener, I would guess that a lot of metal is being scraped off the knife’s cutting edge – significantly shortening its life.

Noble Knife Sharpening Rod

If you consider yourself a “chef” and not just a common, everyday cook, you may want to get in the spirit by using a metal rod knife sharpener like the Noble Knife Sharpening Rod.  Some of its features include:

  • Magnetized – keeping any metal particles that are removed from the knives from floating through the air. These bits and pieces can be inhaled or get into any food in the area.
  • Hardened carbon steel.
  • Solid, heavy construction and classy looking handle adding to the décor of any kitchen.
  • Will not rust or corrode. The rod is chromium plated.
  • Takes much less metal off the knife edge than many other similar type of sharpeners.
  • Dishwasher safe.

 

Barbers

Barbers use a leather strap to sharpen their shaving razors.

Barbers slap their shaving razors across a leather strap to give them a fine edge.

Since they do this frequently, I would expect a leather strap is sufficient to make the razor sharp enough for the next person in line.  After all, they’re just removing a handful of burrs produced after shaving a customer’s face and neck.

Since I am an average, everyday, happy-go-lucky guy, I don’t sharpen my knives “after each use.”  I have better things to do with my time.

So, this is definitely not an option I would want to consider.

 

DIY-ers

Some DIY'ers use a belt sander to sharpen knives.

Do it yourself (DIY) home repair enthusiasts muddle through the sharpening process using a grinding wheel or a belt sander.

Sparks flying all over speaks of ripping a lot of metal off the blade.  I suspect that both of the grinding wheel and the belt sander will shorten the life of the blade even more than using those can opener/knife sharpener gadgets.  Additionally, it is extremely difficult to maintain even close to the sharpening angle needed for the knife being “reconditioned.”  Few people have that much of an eagle eye – or, that much of a rock steady hand.

For this reason, I’m not even going to offer any suggested grinding wheels or belt sanders to use – because, if anyone buys them just for this purpose, their money is better spent on a Presto 08810 Professional Electric Knife Sharpener, a Noble Knife Sharpening Rod, or a KERYE Professional Japanese Whetstone Sharpener Stone Set.

 

Outdoorsmen

These nature lovers opt for flat whetstones slathered with honing oil.  This has been a tried and true method of knife sharpening for centuries.

The only problem I have with this method is trying to keep the knife angle consistent and correct.  But, “members of the old guard” swear by this method – because, they have perfected it through several generations of knife sharpening folks.

KERYE Professional Japanese Whetstone Sharpener Stone Set

This was my “technique-of-choice” until recently.  The KERYE Professional Japanese Whetstone Sharpener Stone Set is the most versatile and the most obvious choice for sharpening your cutlery in this manner.

This KERYE set is a complete knife sharpening kit.

It has two Japanese grit whetstones.  One has 400 grit on one side (extra coarse) – and, 1000 grit on the other (coarse).  The second stone has 3000 grit on one side (medium) – and 8000 grit on the other (fine).

It also contains an angle guide to aid in keeping the knife at a consistent angle.  The problem with the angle guide is that it isn’t clear what angle it produces and for what width of blade.

This is truly an outstanding sharpening kit.  But, be prepared to find another option to gauge the sharpening angle – such as my “quarter trick” explained next…

 

A Neat Quarter Trick For Keeping A Consistent Blade Angle While Using A Flat Whetstone

Using quarter stacks to keep the right knife sharpening angle.

During my “flat whetstone knife sharpening” days, I discovered a better way to sustain a 17o, a 20o, or a 25o angle when sharpening kitchen knives.  I use quarters – stacked on top of each other under the spine of the blade.  Here’s how it works:

If the knife is 1” wide (from the spine to the cutting edge), I use:

  • A stack height of 4 quarters to attain a 17o angle. (fillet knives and razor blades)
  • A stack height of 5 quarters to attain a 20o angle. (kitchen knives)
  • A stack height of 6 quarters to attain a 25o angle. (hunting knives)

If the knife is narrower, remove one quarter (i.e. a 25 cent piece) from each of the above for each quarter inch less.

For a wider knife, add one quarter (i.e. a 25 cent piece) to each of the above for each quarter inch more.

If you’ve got a knife that is wider than 2 inches, I wouldn’t try this method.  The quarters will be stacked so high that they will, in all likelihood, tip over and not stay stacked under the blade.  Of course, you could scotch tape them all together in a stack – in this case – so they won’t topple over.  But, it’s still a bit difficult to keep the quarter stack under the spine of the blade.

 

After Saying All This, I Gotta Tell Ya…

I’ve tried ALL of these techniques.  And, NONE – not even one – has worked for me – consistently – to provide professional level sharpening.

Then, I discovered Lansky!

Lansky is the knife sharpening system for klutzes like me.  With a Lansky sharpening kit, I can sharpen a knife PERFECTLY – EVERY TIME!

 

Here’s How It Works…

Lansky Standard Coarse Sharpening System

I bought the Lansky Standard Coarse Sharpening System with 3 hones.  It comes with:

  • 3 hones – A coarse red hone (120 grit), a medium green hone (280 grit), and a fine blue hone (600 grit).
  • A small bottle of honing oil.
  • Guide rods – 1 for each of the 3 hones.
  • A multi-angle clamp to hold the blade securely with holes labeled indicating the “angle degree” – printed next to each hole. The lowest hole (bottom) is for a 17o angle, the second lowest hole is for a 20o angle, the third lowest hole is for a 25o angle, and the highest hole (top) is for a 30o angle,
  • An instruction booklet.
  • A storage case.

 

How To Sharpen A Knife With The Lansky Sharpening SystemLansky Super "C" Clamp

I also ordered a Lansky Super “C” Clamp that works with this sharpening kit.  It is a special made “C” clamp that attaches to any thickness of table surface to securely hold the Lansky multi-angle clamp – allowing me to concentrate on the sharpening process.

Without this special clamp, it is necessary to hold the multi-angle clamp with one hand while trying to stroke the blade edge with the hone using the other hand – which is tricky at best.  It can be done but, for a few bucks, why not buy the clamp?

Here’s a pictorial representation of the sharpening angles:

Sharpening angles needed to learn how to sharpen a knife.

 

 

 

 

17o angle – is best for fillet knives, razor blades, etc., and gives a super sharp edge.

20o angle – is generally used for kitchen knives.

25o angle – is suggested for hunting and outdoor knives.

30o angle – is great for heavy duty cutting tools used for cardboard, wire, carpets, and other heavy stuff.

 

Let’s Get To Sharpening The Kitchen Knives

  1. Follow the enclosed instructions to position the guide rods in the hones. When the stones are flat on the table, the round metal guide rods should also be flat on the table.  And, since they are thin, round metal rods, there may be a little bow in them so, if necessary, gently bend them – a little at a time – until you can see that they are laying flat on the table, along with the hone.

Bend the thin, round metal rods until they lay flat on the table with the hone.

  1. Spread a drop or two of honing oil on the hone to cover it (keep the hone slightly oily throughout the sharpening process).
  2. Loosen the front Phillips screw a turn or so – and, loosen the back red-topped screw a bit.
  3. Place the knife in the clamp about halfway from the blade heel to blade tip – and just about halfway from the blade spine to the blade edge.
  4. Secure the blade in the clamp by first tightening the front Phillips screw – and, then tighten the back red-topped screw.

Secure the blade in the clamp by tightening front and back screws.

  1. Place the end of the guide rod in the correct hole on the multi-angle clamp. Since I’m sharpening kitchen knives here, I’ll be using the 20o hole – second from the bottom.
  2. Start at either the blade heel or the blade tip and stroke the hone – at an angle – toward – and along – the blade edge – using as much of the hone as possible with each pass. Just stroke the hone an inch or two along the blade edge at a time.  Do not try to run the hone down the entire length of the blade edge with only one pass.
  3. Pick the hone up off the blade – and, pull it back towards you without touching the blade.
  4. Start the next pass doing the same thing. Make about a half dozen complete “stroke trips” along the entire blade edge – from heel to tip (or vice versa) – on one side – then flip the multi-angle clamp, containing the secured knife, over and made another half dozen complete “stroke trips” on the flip side of the blade edge.

 

TIPS

  • Don’t PULL the hone across the blade towards you – PUSH the hone across the blade away from you. Pulling the hone across the blade towards you can damage both the hone and the blade.
  • If the knife is so dull, it couldn’t even slice butter – or, the blade edge is really beat up and chipped, start with the coarse hone to set a new blade edge. This process could take more than a half dozen complete “stroke trips” along the blade edge.  Then, move on to the medium hone with a half dozen “stroke trips” on each side of the blade edge.  And, finish up with the fine hone – doing a half dozen “stroke trips” on each side of the blade edge.
  • After the knives have been sharpened the first time, subsequent sharpening may only require the medium and fine hones.
  • Upon completion of the sharpening process, rub a couple drops of honing oil into the hones and wipe them off with a dry paper towel – to clean as much of the dark metal shavings off the hones as possible. Don’t use water or isopropyl alcohol – use only the honing oil.

After cleaning the sharpening paraphernalia, put all the tools back into their respective slots in the storage case and you’re done!

 

Lansky Premium Sharpening Systems

For my personal needs, the Lansky Standard Coarse Sharpening System is sufficient.  Recently, I’ve added several additional stones that are made specifically for sharpening serrated knives – and they are utterly super when it comes to bringing serrated steak knives back to life!

They are:

The Lansky Medium Hone for Serrated Knives

Lansky Medium Hone for Serrated Knives

 

and the Lansky Fine Serrated Hone Knife Blade Sharpener.

Lansky Fine Serrated Hone Knife Blade Sharpener

Using only these two hones, anyone can turn the dullest serrated knives – be it serrated kitchen knives – or, serrated garden and hunting knives – into deadly razor-sharp instruments.

Lansky also offers an upgraded version of the sharpening set I have – that comes with a medium serrated hone.  This kit is called, the Lansky Universal System – and, it can be purchased for only a few dollars more than the standard Lansky kit that I have.

Lansky Universal System

For someone wanting to go all out and get a super duper deluxe sharpening system, add another couple of bucks and go with the Lansky Deluxe 5-Stone Sharpening System.

Lansky Deluxe 5-Stone Sharpening System

This top-of-the-line sharpening kit contains:

  • 5 hones – An extra coarse black hone (70 grit), a coarse red hone (120 grit), a medium green hone (280 grit), a fine blue hone (600 grit), and an ultra-fine ceramic yellow hone (1000 grit).
  • A small bottle of honing oil.
  • Guide rods – 1 for each of the 5 hones.
  • A multi-angle clamp to hold the blade securely with holes labeled indicating the “angle degree” – printed next to each hole. The lowest hole (bottom) is for a 17o angle, the second lowest hole is for a 20o angle, the third lowest hole is for a 25o angle, and the highest hole (top) is for a 30o angle,
  • An instruction booklet.
  • A storage case.

 

Wrapping Up

Jim's in the dog house after a response to his wife.

Last week, I was in the dog house.

Why?

Because, when my wife was arguing with me, I asked her a question…

I said, “Honey, what is the difference between you arguing with me – and, a knife???”

She looked at me with defiant and questioning eyes – and said, “I don’t know – WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE?”

I said, THE KNIFE HAS A POINT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Yep!  That’ll put ANY husband in the dog house in short order!!!

 

So, Get One Of These Lansky Systems!

Then, you not only keep your own knives ready for any carving situation – but, you can hire yourself out to sharpen knives for friends and neighbors.

 

NOTE

A professional knife sharpener.

A professional knife sharpener will charge about $10 per knife on the average for just a general touch-up to get a knife that’s already in fairly good shape back to its regular cutting power.  This is accomplished using just medium and fine

Any knife that is really banged up – i.e. a bent/broken tip – or, a chewed up blade edge, expect to pay another $5 or $10 more.  This is necessary to renew the edge using additional extra coarse and coarse hones.

So, sharpen a half a dozen knives for someone else and, you just paid the cost of any of these Lansky sharpening systems – and then some!

Email me or comment if you have anything to ask or to say!  I’m always hangin’ around answerin’ emails and comments!

 

Jim, the Lifelong Gardener

jim@perfect-vegetable-garden.com

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *