The thumbnail test (not recommended for novices) - With this test you take your newly sharpened blade and run it oh-so-delicately over your thumbnail. If you feel it digging in even a tiny bit, it’s likely sharp enough. If on the other hand it just slips and slides across the surface of your nail it’s not sharp yet. Again, this test is only recommended for people with lots of experience handling knives and even then they’d probably be better off just grabbing a tomato or a piece of paper.

By employing separate sharpening slots, the ProntoPro 4643 is capable of sharpening both older European-style knives (such as from Wüsthof and Henckels) and Japanese-style knives (such as from Mac—which makes our favorite chef’s knife—and Shun). The difference is in the angle of the bevel that forms the cutting edge: Traditional European knives have roughly 20-degree bevels, while Japanese knives have roughly 15-degree ones. If you own both types of knife, or if you do a lot of heavy work in the kitchen (like chopping up chicken carcasses), you’ll appreciate this feature, as a 20-degree bevel is best for tough jobs. Note, though, that Wüsthof and Henckels have stopped making 20-degree knives, having switched to 15-degree or 12-degree designs exclusively in 2011; the reason is that for all but the heaviest tasks, these more-acute bevels cut better and, with the ongoing improvements in steel alloys, hold their edges for just as long.

Pull-through machine: A pull-through sharpener, also called a manual sharpener, works best with kitchen knives. You'll pull the knife blade through the sharpener, which includes guide slots with the sharpening agent inside. Some pull-through sharpeners allow you to adjust the angle of the blade, which helps with different types of knives. Some provide multiple guide slots, ranging from coarse to fine sharpening.
If you follow Joe’s instructions and still can’t get a good edge, chances are your knives have been abused to the point that they need a pro’s touch to restore the edge. You can do it yourself, but it takes expensive electric tools or a lot of tricky manual grinding on a stone. But for well under $10 per knife, a sharpening shop can bring your edges to better-than-new condition. Then you’ll be able to keep them that way using Joe’s techniques. Search online for “knife sharpening” followed by your city and you’ll surely find a local sharpener. And don’t give up on high-quality knives that have a chip or notch in the blade. A pro can grind out any imperfections and reshape the edge. Yes, you’ll have a slightly narrower blade, but you won’t even notice.
This tiny, retractable rod has actually been designed for light sharpening and honing all in one step. Based on its size, I believe that this rod is best used by those who are uncomfortable flinging long knives and rods around as they attempt to put a finer edge on their blades. Its compact nature also makes it perfect for those who need to bring it with them on the go.
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