The days of visiting the knife sharpener are gone. It is rare that you will see a knife sharpening truck roaming the streets, dinging its bell, on a search for customers. Those days are gone because newer, easier methods of sharpening knives have been developed. You no longer need to know special techniques and methods to properly sharpen a knife. You don’t need to worry about holding your knife at the perfect angle to get a nice straight edge.
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.
The Work Sharp WSKTS-KT Knife sharpener is the only sharpener on the market, which can handle every knife in your home. This device uses flexible abrasive belts, which enables it to sharpen different types of knives, from straight blades, curved knives, filet knives, tanto knives, gut hooks and serrated knives. Regardless of the shape of the blade, this sharpener is ready.
This is an important but often confusing aspect of the sharpening process. When you sharpen knives, especially on coarser stones, you'll notice a burr form on the opposite side of the edge. It can be difficult to see, but easy to feel. Carefully feel for the burr by running your finger from the spine of the knife to the edge. The burr will jump from side to side as you sharpen each edge, and once you've felt the burr move to both sides, you can move to the next finer stone. Once you get to the finest grit, the burr will become smaller and smaller!
A shinkansen is a Japanese-style pull-through sharpener named after the famous bullet train. It features two sets of ceramic wheels set at the right angle for sharpening a Japanese blade, which takes out the guesswork of the waterstone. Simply hold the handle with your left hand, then saw back and forth gently through the coarser wheel to sharpen, before switching to the finer wheel to polish.
So, why are there four slots? Unlike many other electric and manual sharpeners which sharpen both sides of the blade at one time, this sharpener sharpens one side at a time. Therefore, two slots are for the rough grit and two slots are for the fine grit. This is especially helpful for those people who prefer to only sharpen one side of certain blades.
Japanese whetstones (also called water stones) – both natural and synthetic – are known for their quick-working qualities, not only for Japanese blades, but also for their Western equivalents. The small particles that do the cutting are loosely bound together in the stone, and so during sharpening with the whetstone, the surface particles are quickly washed out, allowing new, sharp, particles to start working on the blade. These whetstones must be lubricated only with water! Never use oil or other lubricants!
To take off the fine scratches and the burr left by coarser stones, and polish the surface, one can use stones starting around 2000 grain. Above that there is theoretically no upper limit, but at the same time stones above about #10000 provide no measurable practical improvement in the edge. It is also interesting to note that above #8000 grit, there is no Japanese measurement standard. With all the stones labelled as having a finer grit, one simply has to take the manufacturer’s word for it.