Sharp Knives

Don Baer

Staff member
Leo's knife thread go me thinking that I really don't have the proper way to sharpen my kitchen knives. I have a bench top belt sander and a pedal grinder with a blue and white stone (left over from my turning days) but they are out in the shop. I have several grit of fine sand paper up to 2000 grit for "scary sharp" but again that all out in the shop. When I am in the kitchen I don't want to go out to the shop to just sharpen a knife. I have a single wet stone that I keep in a drawer in the kitchen but is is kinda course and I don't even know the grit so I started looking for something to keep in the kitchen I looked at several of the guided system but just wasn't every impressed so I finally decided to opt for this to keep in the house.

It'll be here tomorrow so I am calling it a Christmas present to my self.
I keep trying to learn how to sharpen freehand on stones. Guess with that new brodark knife that's getting here, I'm going to have to really work at it, lol.
I have used an inexpensive Lansky kit for so long I don't know what I would do without it. I only use this about once or twice a year. I see it is now about 3 times what I paid for mine but based on how long they last they are still cheap. A diamond "steel" takes care of everything in between. The Lansky sets the angle and hones the initial edge. The "steel" gets used every time a knife is pulled from the block. Speaking of blocks, proper storage is a sharp knife's best friend. If they are tossed in a drawer, don't wate your time :D.
Oh man, I don't even want to get started on the discussion of what kinds of sharpening gadgets I have. I have so many its not funny. Something as bit fancier than the lansky, belt sander, worksharp, slow speed grinder, shapton stones, etc... The list goes on.
All I really want to do is grab a stone, and a blade and through the use of muscle memory just get a nice sharp blade, lol.

My dad could always do it, and could get a filet knife so sharp with a simple stone it wasn't funny. I think it's just a skill that you have to work at and practice to get right. Just like playing an instrument.
I can do it with the gadgets, but...
I admit to being mildly dubious on a 4 stone set that's only $32.. but materials science has come a long way so it'll certainly be interesting to see what you think of them.

One note of caution is don't throw any residue water down the sink as it WILL settle into your U trap and be an eventual problem, tossing it on the yard works fine though. I suspect they're probably fairly soft so likely more pull stroke and less push.

If you have trouble holding angles for whatever reason the Lansky set is probably the best deal for getting a consistent edge. I still find the setup a bit annoying because I have the attention span of a squirrel.. but it's really not bad at all.

For basically all of my kitchen knives I have a arkansas translucent and a spyderco superfine, I mostly use the spyderco because it works dandy dry (I occasionally give it a scrub) so it's really low hassle. Neither of them is very good at edges that need a lot of work (to slow..), so I try to keep up on it enough that they don't need much work. If I need to take more material off.. well.. yeah see Brents comment haha.

A few tricks for hand sharpening are:
  • lock your wrists to maintain the sharpening angle. Allowing your wrists to rotate will cause you to round the edge.
  • vary pressure, start with more then ease up to draw out a finer edge (matters more if you're not working through stones).
  • use your body and the blade as an angle reference, I kind of just lift the blade up into the stone until it's at the edge and then lock my wrists there.
  • There are several kinds of sharp. There is sharp around 300-400 grit which is a "serrated sharp", a lot of people actually like this although I find the edge doesn't hold quite as well, but it's quick and easy to put on and cuts basically everything (except arm hair haha), and then there is 6000+ into polished sharp. In the middle there's "it should be sharp but is a tad frustrating to use" because it's not quite sharp enough to push cut but it lacks the serrated edge.
I thought I knew how to sharpen knives. I actually took a course in college called Meat 101 and one of the first things we had to do was learn how to hand sharpen the two knives we were going to use in the course to break down a carcass; a breaking knife and a cimeter/butcher knife. The breaking knife was small with only an 8" blade and it was for cutting up smaller pieces and trimming. The cimeter had a 14" or 16" blade. We used two stones; and a steel. The first stone was a carborundum with two sides (one fine and one coarse) and I have no idea of the grit. The second stone was a ceramic stone and it was used after the steel which was used to align the microscopic serrated edge formed on the edge by the stone. That ceramic stone made the edge razor sharp.

Interestingly enough my father-in-law, while he was in medical school during the 20's learned how to sharpen scalpels and other surgical instruments on a ceramic stone. He gave that stone to me and I still have it. It works great. I used it after using waterstones and really got my knives sharp.

But when I bought the Worksharp Ken Onion Special knife sharpening system I really got my knives sharp. Following the regimen outlined in the directions I sharpened all my kitchen knives the first time starting with 120 to establish the recommended convex bevel and then proceeded to use the 240, 400, 1000, 2500 and 6000 grit belts. I can now sharpen my knives in half the time and that slightly convex bevel seems to last a long time. And those knives are really sharp. In all honesty I can't tell the difference between the edge from a 2500 belt and one from a 6000 belt. I don't think the meat knows the difference either.

I have gotten a lot of practice by sharpening all of the knives I made on that machine. I really like it and the built in guide system makes it easy to get a consistent bevel. The beauty is that sharpening is accomplished by drawing the knife across the belt while it is running

I guess I am just lazy but that machine really makes it quick and easy to get a razor sharp edge on a blade.
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Hone our kitchen knives proably once a year. Get a fine edge and then as mentioned steel works just fine every time blade is used. Works for me but wife can't use the steel so it's up to me. The Rada knives we have just don'r seem to need sharpening. but these are more specility knives, tomato slicers,bread slicers and large carving knife.
My dad was very good at hand sharpening, but that's because he spent lots of time doing it. One of his ways of relaxing after work was to sit in his recliner chair watching TV and sharpening the kitchen knives. That always left an interesting impression on the boys who would come over to visit my sister. (Cleaning his guns made a similar impression, lol.) In his later years he tried several guided systems. He liked using the Laskey system to establish the bevel of knives than needed lots of work.

I never did spend the time he did gaining the skills, but I did inherit a couple of his guided sharpening setups that I use every once in a while on beaten-up knives. (I have the Tormek if they're really bad, but have only needed to use that on friends' knives that had been trashed. My kitchen knives seem to just need an occasional diamond or ceramic steel for a touch-up. Among various brands, I have a set of Global knives that have never needed any attention in the 8 or 9 years I've owned them. (They're kind of my special occasion knives, so they don't get a lot of use.)
Another satisfied Work Sharp Ken Onion Edition user here. Takes a bit of getting used to, but gets the job done without a lot of elbow grease. Haven't touched my Lansky system in a couple of years.

Sharpening a kitchen knife 101

I use stones in the kitchen. I do OK - but not good enough to shave the hair on my arm.
The new knife I bought with the damascus and the VG10 core shaved the hair on my arm out of the box.
My henckles knives - NO
The Henckles absolutely should, but my sharpening is not good enough - YET
I have used scary sharp for a LOT of years in the shop and I get my shop tools to shave sharp - but U use a guide.

I am trying to learn the waterstone WITH a guide in the kitchen

I do agree with Ryan on a good quality stone is not cheap - BUT - cheap stones are better than no stones.

I think using a guide is an important piece of the puzzle.
So far I have not used a guide and I do not get razor sharp.
I get really sharp - yes - but not quite razor.

I am learning.

I was also looking at the same set Don linked to and thinking about it.

I do have 1000, 6000 (cheap stone with a guide) and I have a 1200 (good stone)

I am working on my Henckles Satoku knive and I will get is razor sharp.
Once I get that one - I will do the rest of the Henckles knifes.
Once I get all my knives as sharp as the new Bodark - I can make side by side comparisons on edge retention.
I am thinking the Bodark is light years ahead.

So far the Bodark knife I bought is not loosing the edge after using it several times - one time was to cut a rotissire chicken in half - thru the back bones.
NO WAY would my Henckles keep the edge as long as that.

I have also been watching a pile of youtube on how to sharpen a kitchen knife with a wetstone.
I keep trying to learn how to sharpen freehand on stones. Guess with that new brodark knife that's getting here, I'm going to have to really work at it, lol.
I believe you are getting a Japanese style knives and from what I have read they only have a single bevel on the blade unlike the western design knife which have a double bevel so I would check that out before you sharpen it.
OK - now my Henckles knife is now razor sharp.

I used the cheap 1000, 6000 wetstone on the 1000 grit side - NO GOOD
I spent about 1/2 hour of stroking the knife on the stone with the guide.
YES - I could get a nice beveled edge and it was looking good, as I examined it in direct sunlight, but will not shave my arm.

I put that cheap stone aside and got my 1200 good stone.
Within a few minutes I was able to shave my arm.
I did not try the 6000 side of the cheap stone - I have no confidence in the cheap stone at this time.

So to Don's post about the sharpening kit - NO - I am NOT going down THAT road.

So when I was working I was engineer in charge of the high precision grinding processes.
I bought and installed a 1/2 million dollar machine and we started making our own master disks and grinding air gages.
This is where I was working down to 10 millionths accuracy.
The grinding wheel - the stone - is part of that process.
There is a lot of science in the making of the abrasive - the wheel - the stone.
There is the grit or actual "stone" and there is the binder that holds the grit together.
It get technical so I am going to leave it at that.

Just like the cake mix of the steel in the knife, I am going to say that the sharpening stone is equally important.

In my case today - the cheap stone just does NOT cut it.
I noticed a markedly difference performance between the cheap stone and my 1200 stone that I would call a middle grade stone.
I do have high quality stones but way too small to sharpen a kitchen knife.

What I end up with on my Henckles Santuko is a 1200 grit razor sharp edge
It is razor sharp but not where my Bodark knife is with a polished sharp edge.
The Henckles edge looks really good slightly mat edge - but not chrome shiny like a knife made of 440 stainless steel with a good amount of chromium in it.
I woll look under my magnifyer later.

So - I am now on a quest to find some good quality water stones - 500, 1000, 4000 and maybe 8000 or 10000

Any suggestions as to what and where to get these stones as well as a good guide?

The one decent stone I have is KING - from Lee Valley
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I am using one of the earlier Wicked Edge kits, specifically the Pre-2017 Field & Sport Sharpening kit. Wicked Edge is constantly evolving their system. Probably an indication that no system is ideal or maybe because it is better to constantly offer something "better" to keep the money rolling in. I don't bother to keep track of what is new with them. They do offer some upgrades to existing units, as long as your unit is not too different from what now exists.

For the most part I am happy with what I have. My model does have it's limitations. Mainly long thin blades (like my 10" slicing knife) as there is not a lot of support near the tip of the blade. Also very small knives need a small angle adapter which I really need to get. One of biggest cons to their system is the price. I was able to buy an economy kit and am set. If you view all their kits you can see you could spend some significant cash. I think it becomes more of a hobby for some while I am only interested in sharp knives.
Did your knife come with a plastic sheath to protect the edge and your skin. I don't know how you store your knives but I think it is important that the edges are covered with a plastic sheath, a knife block or something that protects the edge and your fingers.

By the way I am good at spending other people's money. :D
+1 on the wicked edge. Makes it easy to maintain the angle for any angle, japanese or western.


I have a couple of knife blocks. I really like the one with the little straws in it. Someday once I figure out what knives I really like I should make a custom knife block for them.
Did your knife come with a plastic sheath to protect the edge and your skin. I don't know how you store your knives but I think it is important that the edges are covered with a plastic sheath, a knife block or something that protects the edge and your fingers.

By the way I am good at spending other people's money. :D
Yes it came in a plastic sheath and that was in a foam insert in the box.
That is how I store it.

I don't let my knives touch any other objects
They are in a block kept seperate from all else.

I don't NOT throw them in the sink
They do NOT go in the dishwasher
They are "carefully" cleaned and dried by hand