3 Easy Knife Sharpening Solutions
Quick and Simple Solutions to Making Your Food Prep More Efficient
Preparing food shouldn’t be a difficult task as a result of a dull knife. Not only does a dull knife create inefficiency, it’s also unsafe. A sharp knife will cut cleanly and effortlessly through the fibers of the food you’re preparing, while a dull knife will require more force to tear the fibers. This guide will explain 3 Easy Knife Sharpening Solutions to keep your kitchen knives shaving sharp, which are:
- Sharpening Steel
- Coffee Mug
- Leather Strop
Before going into the 3 Easy Knife Sharpening Solutions, it’s important to explain the conditions that require different levels of sharpening.
Sharp VS Dull
Knives typically only need a touch-up (honed or honing) to be shaving sharp again, as long as regular maintenance is performed. Factors such as steel quality, and cleaning care will determine how long a knife can go between honing and actual sharpening.
Steel types are continuing to evolve, giving knife consumers more options than ever. The qualities in knife steel a majority of consumers take into consideration are edge retention and corrosion resistance.
Some steels have excellent edge retention, but are difficult to sharpen. Others are easy to sharpen, but have mediocre edge retention. With corrosion resistance, the issue is in the level of carbon content within the steel. Some steels are stainless, others are carbon, and the rest are a mixture of properties that dwell between the two. Stainless steel is more difficult to sharpen than carbon steel. And, for the majority of premium quality kitchen knives, carbon steel is a favored option, as it sharpens easy and has decent edge retention. For a more detailed explanation of knife steels, check out the video below from Johnj189.
Cleaning is an often overlooked, yet essential task for maintaining a knife’s edge. Knives should always be cleaned by hand, and if they’re carbon steel, they will need to be wiped down before being put away, to avoid accumulating rust. Using the dishwasher is one of the worst methods for cleaning knives, as this will nearly always, over time, result in a chipped edge. If you value your knives, ALWAYS wash by hand.
Above is an image depicting a sharp edge (left), and a dull edge (right). To the naked eye, the differences between the left and right images would remain unseen. However, a simple feel of the fingers along the edge, or a test cut through a piece of newspaper will reveal if a knife is cutting or tearing. A knife that cuts will look like the left image, where both angles of the edge meet perfectly in the center. A knife that tears will look like the image on the right, where one angle has rolled over the center. The key to reestablishing blade geometry is to realign the rolled edge to perfect symmetry, without removing any metal, or at least very little. Check out the video below from Murray Carter on how to check for edge sharpness with three fingers.
For most kitchen knives, sharpening supplies.com (More information about angles) recommends an angle of 22–30°. To find the right angle on a sharpening stone or honing device takes practice, but can be easily found. Try placing the blade with the edge facing down on the stone. Imagine the center of the bevels is 40 degrees, and tilt the knife halfway to one side, this will roughly be 20 degrees. From this point you can adjust accordingly for your knife’s specific angle.
3 Easy Solutions
1. Sharpening Steel
I find the sharpening steel to be the quickest and most efficient tool as a Knife Sharpening Solution. The sharpening steel is often considered obsolete by those that receive one in a knife set, mainly because of the lack of information provided regarding its use.
Before I got into knife sharpening as a hobby, I also thought they were obsolete. However, once I realized that the sharpening steel is a tool for quick realignment of the edge, the efficiency of my food prep enhanced.
Holding the rod facing away from the body, slide the knife’s edge outward. To sharpen the other side, place the blade other neath the steel and repeat same motion and number of strokes. *Be careful to not slip the blade off the rod and cut yourself. Being that this tool is a rod, which is round, the angle is not as difficult to find as it is on a flat surface. Check out the video below from Jamie Oliver for an example.
2. Coffee Mug
Ceramic sharpening stones are some of the best options for fine tuning or honing a knife’s edge, but are typically expensive. Spyderco, an industry leader in pocket knives, manufacturers ceramic bench stones in varying grits (medium, fine, ultra fine). These stones are of premium quality and are sufficient for honing any edged tool. For more information regarding these stones, visit the Knife Center website, here.
If a true ceramic sharpening stone is out of your price range, a coffee mug can always be found in the kitchen. The key to this technique is to have a ceramic coffee mug, and that the ceramic is exposed on the bottom.
Finding the angle will be critical here, so be sure to get it right. Placing the edge of the knife on the raw ceramic, use light pressure in sliding the edge either toward or away from the body. Imagine trying to slice a thin layer of material off of the coffee mug, without actually doing it. Check out the video below from Howdini for an example.
3. Leather Strop
Last on the list is the leather strop. A strop is an excellent tool for realigning your edge, since the soft leather eliminates the risk of chipping the blade. They’re typically found in barbershops or with the hobbyist shaving crowd, as they’re perfect for a quick and efficient touch-up before or after use. Along with the shaving hobbyist, knife owners are more and more turning to the leather strop to keep their blades shaving sharp.
The quickest option would be to find an old leather belt and hang it from a nail on the wall in the kitchen. With this option the belt is pulled toward the body, or away from the wall. Some believe this technique can roll an edge (which this article aims to fix), do to the curvature of the belt, and the lack of a flat surface. To avoid this concern, either glue the belt, or other piece of scrap leather, to a 2 ×4 wooden board. Always make sure to use the strop on the coarse or raw side of the leather. Check out the video below from OUTDOORS55 for an example.
*Buffing compounds are typically used on the leather to add varying grades of grit. However, this is not necessary for stropping your knife. There is a large debate as to whether stropping with compounds is honing or actually sharpening.
If used incorrectly, the strop can be cut by the blade’s edge, damaging the leather. To use the strop correctly, place the knife’s edge on the leather (angle is not as important here) facing toward the body, pushing the edge in the opposite direction. Repeat by flipping the blade over and dragging toward the body. Instead of a slicing motion, the strop is used in a scraping or brushing motion. While the video below from The Razor Shop demonstrates with a straight razor, the method is same for knives.
These 3 Easy Knife Sharpening Solutions are used to maintain or touch-up an already sharp knife. So what happens when these three methods won’t get your knife to the standard you need? You will need to reestablish the edge geometry, which will be the process of removing metal to re profile the blade. I recommend studying these videos from YouTube channels such as:
Murray Carter (Carter Cutlery):
These videos will teach the fundamentals of knife sharpening, in addition to a preview of the different sharpening stone options on the market. With all this information, there will no longer be an excuse for a dull knife in your kitchen, which will increase the efficiency of your prep work.