Just to prove that we're not merely sharpening geeks, here's an interesting side note. The word whet pops up in some unexpected places. A small species of owl is called the saw-whet owl because the sound it makes reminded people of the sound made when sharpening a saw with a file. And the phrase "to whet your appetite" comes from the idea of your hunger growing sharper at the thought of food.
Jigs, such as the industry-standard Edge Pro, are an extension of the stone method, as they use simple but cleverly designed armatures to maintain a consistent angle between the stone and the blade. They’re extremely effective—professional knife sharpeners are some of their biggest champions—but they’re also expensive, and really practical only with a dedicated workbench.
To answer an obvious question: The difference between 15 degrees and 12 degrees is so slight that a 15-degree sharpener is fine for both kinds of bevels. So if a dedicated 15-degree sharpener is all you need (that is, if you own only Asian or post-2011 European knives), we have good news: Chef’sChoice makes the otherwise identical Pronto 463, which contains a single Asian-style sharpening slot. (For the testers at Cook’s Illustrated, the Pronto 463 is the top choice among manual sharpeners.) And if you own older European knives exclusively, the company sells a dedicated 20-degree model, the Pronto 464.
If you’re a dedicated home chef, or if you simply demand the best possible edge that doesn’t involve messing with stones or jigs, we recommend the Chef’sChoice Trizor XV Sharpener. Cook’s Illustrated also names this professional-grade electric model as the top pick in the category, and I’ve used a similar model, the 1520, to great satisfaction on my heavy Wüsthof chef’s knife and cheap paring knives for six or seven years now. (The fact is, Chef’sChoice dominates the high-quality sharpener market.)
Mospro knife sharpener has great qualities, and it has received positive reviews from people who have tried it. It has a comfortable handle and a non-slip cushion on the bottom that keeps it secured when placed on a surface. The knife sharpener is very easy to use. It comes in a material that makes it very durable hence providing excellent service to the user. The two stage coarse and fine sharpening system does not disappoint the user.
Place an old coffee mug upside down so that the bottom of the mug is exposed to the air. In a pinch, a coffee mug can serve as a surprisingly effective sharpening tool if you don't have any fancy equipment. The ceramic material of a mug is a material coarse enough to get good results. Indeed, some honing rods even use ceramic material to keep a blade homed in between sharpenings.
The EZ Hone Knife Sharpening Systems is an exclusive product that was designed by Dan Kirschman of Dan’s Whetstone Co., Inc. with the novice knife sharpener in mind- however, numerous experienced knife sharpeners use this product as well. This design features the end-block reference angle so that anyone can learn and maintain a good working edge on their knife. This design facilitates four different grades of stones and highlights an ultra fine stone, making it available and affordable to the general public. This compact field item, with its reusable container and one ounce bottle of oil makes it a popular product for household and field use as well.
People often describe the Trizor XV as putting a 15-degree edge on a blade, but the reality is a bit more complex. It in fact produces what Chef’sChoice calls a Gothic Arch Edge, which consists of three distinct bevels, the final one at 15 degrees. Not surprisingly, the company claims that this “blade architecture” is more durable than a single bevel. More convincingly, the testers at Cook’s Illustrated and America’s Test Kitchen use the Trizor XV on all their knives and actually convert 20-degree knives to the Gothic Arch Edge. (Europe’s medieval cathedrals, too, attest to the strength and durability of the Gothic-arch form.)
Sharpening kit: Sharpening kits appear at the top end of the market for knife sharpeners, as they have multiple parts to ensure a proper result. The kit allows you to set the sharpening angle you want to use, while working from course to fine sharpening. Sharpening kits work great for both sharpening and honing. Using a sharpening kit properly requires some time invested in learning to use the kit. However, for those who demand a perfect blade, the sharpening kit achieves the desired result with full manual control.
The manual Brød & Taylor Professional Knife Sharpener was the most distinctive tool in our test. Unlike the rest of the models we tried, it employs the V-notch system in which you “carve” a new edge on sharpened tungsten-carbide stones. As noted above, typically you can find such systems in cheap one-step sharpeners that have a deserved reputation for removing too much metal from blades and producing wavy edges that cut poorly and dull quickly. And going into our test, we were skeptical. However, thanks to clever and precise engineering, the Brød & Taylor model produced an excellent edge. It allowed us to hone and polish that edge simply by changing the angle of the blade, producing a sharp, even, stable, and durable edge that nearly matched that from our upgrade pick, the Chef’sChoice Trizor XV.
Now turn the knife so that the blade is no longer pointing towards your body. Continue to maintain the angle of 10 – 20 degrees and the gap of approx. 5 mm from the back of the blade to the sharpening stone. Slide the cutting edge up and down over the sharpening stone. Grind both sides of the blade alternately, around five to ten times on each side.
Visually, a very sharp knife has an edge that is too small to see with the eye; it may even be hard or impossible to focus in a microscope. The shape near the edge can be highlighted by rotating the knife and watching changes in reflection. Nicks and rolled edges can also be seen, as the rolled edge provides a reflective surface, while a properly straightened edge will be invisible when viewed head-on.
You might not need to spend hundreds of pounds to get the best knife sharpener, but you do need to know what you're doing. Warner gave me a crash course in the technique. As a newbie to this method, it took a while to get used to (especially since Warner handed me a knife that had never previously been sharpened) but after half an hour's practice and a little encouragement, I got the hang of it. Here's what I learned...
A steel is the shorthand term for a steel rod used to straighten knife edges. Any decent knife set includes one, but few people know exactly what it does, much less how to properly use it. If you don’t have a steel, go buy one for about $20. Joe will show you how to use it to maintain a sharp edge. Don’t waste your money getting a diamond-coated surface. You don’t need it to know how to sharpen a knife.
Chefs and meat cutters frequently pause and “steel” their cutting edges. Steeling doesn’t sharpen an edge; it straightens it. That’s necessary because the thin edge actually bends or warps while you’re cutting. If you could see the edge under a microscope, it would look wavy, and it would feel dull while cutting. Steeling the knife straightens out all those waves to restore a straight, even cutting edge. So when your knife begins to seem dull, don’t sharpen it—steel it first. Every time you grab a knife for the first time to begin cutting, steel it before you even get started. But it’s important to do it right or you’ll just make the edge worse. And don’t act like one of the Iron Chefs on TV and do it all up in the air—you’ll eventually wind up in the ER. Rest the end of the steel on a cutting board and do your steeling the safer and more accurate way. It’s very important that you steel at an angle between 20 and 30 degrees. Photo 1 shows you how to figure that out.