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Sharpening stones vs Sharpening Contraptions?

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
I just started school, about my second term into it. When my knife gets dull, I ask my instructor to sharpen it for me. I know that I can't keep waiting until I'm school to sharpen it. I want to be prepared when I enter the lab, so I was wondering which would be a better choice for home: sharpening stone, or those weird, hand-held contraptions (i.e. chef's choice)?
post #2 of 18
Hello Ryan and welcome to Chef Talk.

We've had extensive conversations on this topic in the past. Try searching with the tool on this site. There should be tons of hits.

Having said that, there may be more comments from members with experience with certain sharpening systems or new equipment that's more recent.

Good luck!
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Moderator Emerita, Welcome Forum
***It is better to ask forgiveness than beg permission.***
post #3 of 18
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the quick response. I'll be sure to check up on the other topics, after i finish my hw :)
post #4 of 18
You may find some reference to this process in another post, but I'll cover it here. I use neither stone nor "gadget" to sharpen my knives. I prefer to use a buffing wheel charged with polishing compound. Felt wheels are best because they don't tend to round the edge over as easily as cotton wheels but cotton will work if you pay strict attention to the edge-to-wheel relationship. I learned to use the buffing wheel when I was learning to carve wood - the edge produced is incredible; razor sharp. If I found a knife had become so dull that I needed to use a stone I'd engage a professional sharpening service to re-establish the edge. But periodic edge polishing on the buffing wheel pretty much eliminates that probabillity.
post #5 of 18
A buffing wheel is great for maintaining an edge, although you'd need a minimum of a 6" electric grinder @ 1750 rpm, and a 3/4" thick felt wheel, both of which can be pricey and bulky.

When a knife becomes dull, a new edge must be established. Like it or not, the only way to do this is by abrasives. The angle, or bevel of the edge is crucial: Too steep and the new edge will break off quickly, too shallow and the edge will wedge apart, rather than cut food. There are various "gadgets" to establish a consistant bevel, and various grits and types of abrasives to do this with.

As with every craftsman who works with sharp tools, the topic of sharpening is a turbulent one, every opinion, technique, and material under the sun has been discussed. I suggest you inform yourself as much as you can about this subject, let your wallet dictate what kind of sharpening method and materials to use, and never stop learning, seeking new ways, or information about sharpening.
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
post #6 of 18
Excellent point....
I believe the trick is to buff and maintain the edge before it becomes dull enough to require resharpening. But knowing how to ensure the proper angle on the edge is crutial. The abrasive in the polishing compound seems to be enough, in my experience, to maintain the edge. It's pretty easy to ruin an otherwise good edge by improper alignment of the edge on the wheel. Keep in mind that, eventhough you may spend sixty bucks on a six inch grinder and a felt buffing wheel, your investment is intended to take care of a set of knives that might easily cost four hundred dollars.
post #7 of 18

As mentioned above, there are many existing threads on this topic. Keep in mind that sharpening a knife takes metal off the knife which you want to keep to a minimum by maintaining the sharpness of the blade by using a honing steel regularly which straightens the blade between sharpenings. This will greatly prolong the life of your knife and keep it sharp.

Just scroll down to the bottom of this page and you'll see Similar Threads.
post #8 of 18
If you are leaning toward stones, go to

a woodworker's supply company which has many sharpening products, devices, and gadgets.

I personally use a combination 250/1000 grit Japanese waterstone for my plane irons, chisels, and kitchen knives, with the addition of a DMT diamond steel for the latter. All are available from Lee Valley, plus a nice little plastic knife-holder that makes it easy to maintain the proper angle while you work your knives on the stone. None of this is very expensive.

If you want to get really sharp, you could add a felt wheel with rouge, but unless you have a drill press (I have a drill press) you will need a dedicated grinder motor, which may be a little bit of overkill for you at this point.

On the other hand, it's always nice to have a drill press around the house. :cool:

You might check your library to see if they have a copy of Sharpening by Leonard H. Lee. It's pretty much the definitive work on sharpening everything. It has a great section on kitchen knives, but it's mostly about woodworking tools. Leonard is, just by coincidence, the founder and retired President of Lee Valley Tools. :suprise:

travelling gourmand
travelling gourmand
post #9 of 18
Ditto the mention of L. Lee's "Sharpening", and if you study Lee Valley's website you will find a knife sharpening kit from Gatco, which is a series of small oilstones mounted on rods, these are guided by a series of notches built into a clamp which holds the knife firmly. This set up, which I belive runs around CDN$ 40.00 can pretty much ensure consistant bevels. There is always a danger when sharpening free hand on a stone of scratching up the sides of the knife, as well as inconsistant bevels. A good stone can cost up to $80 each, the Gatco kit supplies 3 stones, I've had the kit for about a year now and am quite happy with it.

For most of my tools and knives (yes I work with wood too, and have a collection of planes and chisels) I feel the finer the abrasive the better. 1000 grit is good for basic sharpening, but then I go to the next stone, 4000 grit, then the buffing compound on a strop. A knife sharpened with a 1000 grit will have a fairly course and aggresive scratch pattern giving a"bite" to it, not bad for bread or tomatoes, but for cutting hard dense foods (potatoes, cheese) it will leave a serrated surface on the food; and for cutting meats, a rough edge from a 1000 grit stone will equate to alot more energy expended in pushing the rough edge through the meat, and as well the meat will stick to a coarsly sharpened blade alot more than with a mirror polished one.

The "rouge" or sharpening compound comes in stick form, kinda like a giant crayon, (yeah, I know, also comes from Lee Valley...) the particles of this compound are around 8000 grit and will put a mirror finish or your blade. But to touch up a knife with compound you don't need an electric buffing wheel, you can get away with a strop. Basically a piece of leather glued onto a piece of wood, with the leather impregnated with compound, a'la Clint Eastwood's barber stropping his cutthroat razor.

Confused? Take it slowly, raid your local library on sharpening techniques, woodworker's books are great for this, and pick up a "garbage knife" at at garage sale to practice on first.
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
post #10 of 18
Thread Starter 
I really appreciate you guys helping me out. However, I have another question. How would I sharpen a tourne knife? I know I need a round stone, but is it the same method (even, straight strokes)?

thanks again in advance.
post #11 of 18
Use the corner of the stone, and put the stone at the edge of the table so you have plenty of room to sharpen the length of the curve.
post #12 of 18
I eschewed gimmicks years ago. All I use is a good steel, and an old three stone oil bath set by Norton. Remember, its more about maintenence, than it is about sharpening.
post #13 of 18
I did the same. Found the old, huge Norton on eBay and have been happy. (Though it'll drive my wife a bit crazy as I sit there on a Sunday afternoon sharpening knives while we watch British murder mysteries on cable TV. I guess the sound can get a bit annoying.)
post #14 of 18

Knife sharpening equipment

As previously mentioned a buffer, a leather strop, or a ceramic rod will keep the edge burnished to the center like a steel will. None of these tools can restore a flat or damaged edge.

My only complaint with the buffing/stropping method it that the edge is polished very smooth. This is a problem if trying to cut the skin of a tomato, onion, ect. The edge will actually slide off the food. A small amount of micro saw edge is actually beneficial to start the cut and honing stones will help with this. Most rod or wheel assemblies will sharpen a knife, but since they do not know what "type" of cutlery they are sharpening, they tend to sharpen it all to the same degree.

Thick blades, thin blades, wide blades, short blades, boning knives, cleavers are all cut the same. While 20 degrees is the standard for kitchen edges, many manufacturers (particularly Japanese) ,do 15 degrees ;as do I on my boning and fillet knives. But then a bone cleaver would be sharpened around 35 degrees. It takes the skill of the hand and the eye to sharpen a knife at the proper angle and to sharpen out high/low spots on the stone.

Oil stones work very wellk, but are extremely messy.

The Japanese water stones are much cleaner, affordable, portable, and can be used to keep your knives in excellent condition.

I get mine from, but they are becoming somewhat mainstream (finally), and can be found through many sources.

I hope this helps,

post #15 of 18
personally, i take a lot of time and care on my knifes... every night, i take a good look at them under bright light to see any folding, and burring any defects....

i then get out my 4000 grit stone and very slowly work each defect out, then i move onto a 8000 grit stone ive got and take the burrs off then i follow it up with a strop just like the old barbers used to

then i take a finely chipped 4000 grit stone that i well.... cut with a band saw k... lol and one some knives, the ones i use for tomatoes, i add a very slight serration to the base of the blade, just enough to stop it slipping

some people have accused me of loving my knives too much... to which i say "pete doesnt think so"... when i explain pete is my paring knife, i get strange looks
post #16 of 18

Professional Knife Maker weighs in

I just joined . I am a master baldesmith and home cook , and so here is my take on sharpening . I have made over 10,000 kitchen knives. I am not fishing for customers here as I have plenty of work , and if you think I am , then do not bother to read this . I also have a masters in Individualized Education [ CCNY 1974 ] and really like teaching people who want to learn, which is why I joined this thread. I will try to respond in time , also .
First , there is a difference between sharpening and honing . A knife with a well formed bevel that tapers nicely to the edge , is well shaprened . [ Want to know what a sharpened edge feels like , then pluck a new one - memorize that feel otherwise you will not be able to know when you achieve it again.] Then there is the edge or micro bevel that usually dulls first and shines in the light when dull. If you can re-hone a properly sharpened edge each time, you never need to re-sharpen - just re-hone. If though , your bevel gets fatter and smaller , then yes , get the edge re-sharpened . Re-shaprening is with something that will knock back down that bevel or thin it out , so it will slice cleanly [ not like an axe ] . One could use an upside down belt sander , or a 2x48 belt sander start with 100 grit and hold the blade at proper angle and do not roll the edge ] . Use a platen or back plate . But that sort of technique takes time to free hand and do well and you could ruin your knives . Another way that was mentioned is a round wheel . You could mount a cratex wheel and run no faster than 1725 RPM . Cratex is polishing compound impregnated in rubber . Works well if you hold your knife at the proper angle and the wheel is large enough [ 1 inch wide and at least 6-8 inches ] . Otherwise you will have to use a sewn cloth wheel and charge it up . That process is alot to talk about here , though .
It is much simpler just to let someone else get you back to the honing stage . Stones work OK , but one needs time for that . I always recommend holding the knife still and waving the stone while looking down on the edge , but ... Never use oil on a stone, as it will clog the pores . if you have used oil and want to get rid of it or want to use oil , scrub the stone with hot water and soap - better to boil or soak the stone first . I would never put oil on my stone, as the debris sluffed off of the stone clog's up the pores. Result , a dull stone .
Avoid 'butcher' rods . If they are steel and have no ridges , they are useless . That is the best way to ruin the bevel on your knives . They are a hone at best , meaning if they can be held at the proper angle . Very hard skills to learn , but easy to abuse . A have made a number of these honing rods . The rod is raked length wise with opposing rasps at 1800 degrees to get those ridges . Then it is tempered with bread dough on it - yes that's right - at 450 degrees in an electric oven . That will preserve the ridges which is what does the work . Very time consuming to make properly .

One also needs sharpenable knives. The bad news here is that stainless knives are hard as heck , way to hard for their use and some are so hard they chip and will not be able to be re-honed by you . Henckels is the worst , along with Cutco , and many others. Yes , when properly heat treated they can hold a good edge , but good luck trying to re-sharpen. A pro must be able to maintain their own equipment . So what is a chef to do . I sold [ do not sell them anymore ] Jiff-V-Sharp . It has an opposable carbide head , two-three swipes and it re-hones the knife . Carbide is adjustable and replaceable and it will cost $6 in most hardware stores . I noticed there are chinese knock off also , which I have not used . Jiff-V-Sharp has a yellow handle and is made by Smiths.
Aproveche!! Michael Lishinsky
post #17 of 18
Now this is a pretty interesting post, knives have always been a hot topic, and ask any woodworker, sharpening is an even hotter topic--Iv'e seen fist fights break out concerning oilstones and waterstones and bevels.

I have to disagree about steels, or "butcher rods". When properly grooved,(not worn out) they work. It's all about orthodontics, straightening teeth, or in this case the edge. Every time you use the steel you should wipe the knife blade, or you'll get black crud on the first slice you cut. The black crud is tiny bits of 1 micron sized peaks of the edge that have failed and boken off. If you were to view a razor blade edge under a micron microscope, you would see two planes meeting, and at the point where they meet, you have the cutting edge. This edge is very thin and with use will curl over. The steel with it's grooved ridges, will grab and straighten out the edge, but it will eventually fatigue and curl over again. When this has happened too many times the two planes don't meet anymore, and you get a rounded edge, or a dull knife. The only thing to do now is to re-establish the two planes, or bevels, so they meet again and this can only be acomplished with abrasives.

A pro will use a linisher, or narrow belt sander. The belt won't heat up the blade like a grinding wheel can, won't shrink and change diameter like a wheel can, won't break up and fling pieces of wheel at around 100 mph at your face, and are cheap and easy to replace. But the pro also knows how to put an apporopiate bevel of the knife and to shape the knife's edge. If the knife's profile has a hollow in it, if you can see light peeking between the edge and the board it's resting on, then you'll never be able to completly cut through something. If the profile is flat, then you can't rock the knife, which means you'll have to lift the knife with each cut, resulting in fatigue and a far greater chance of injury because you're lifting the knife up and have less control over than you would if part of the knife is still on the board.

The bevel, the bevel, the angle at which the two planes meet is just as critical. If the bevel is steep, the edge will be extremely sharp but very weak, if it is shallow, it will act like an axe, strong edge but a tendancy to split rather than cut. If the bevel is inconsistant, areas of the knife will dull prematurely. The pro will adjust the table on his linisher and put a consistant
bevel on the blade. Many cooks claim they can put a bevel on their knives with stones, but achieving a consistant bevel freehand takes a lot of time and skill to develop. Gawwd knows how many "sharpened" knives Iv'e seen with scratches up and down the sides, with flat spots and hollows, broken tips rounded over, and $60 stones glazed up with vegetable oil (never do this). A jig,or gadget, is needed to ensure a consistant bevel, the pro has a table on his equipment for this, and the woodworker his jigs to ensure his tools have the proper bevels. Call it what you will, but if you don't have white hair and a long beard, chances are you can't do it freehand with a 8 or 9" blade on a 8" x 4" stone.

The whole purpose of using finer grits is to remove the scratch pattern left by the previous grit. A blade sharpend with a 100 grit stone will look like a pair of cordaouroy pants under a microscope. Big deal? Remember an edge is two planes meeting. If both planes are ridged, than the edge will look like a comb, with fragile points ready to fatigue and break off. The finer grit you go to, the smoother the surfaces of the planes, and the more durable the edge. Woodworkers take their tools to 6 and 8000 grit, the pro's will use a honing compound to get knives to this stage, but the scratch pattern should be as smooth as possible. I have never seen a cook yet take his "sharpened knives" to this stage, which is why he is constantly "sharpening" (and shrinking) them.

So forget all the hocus-pocus and glossy mag adds about cyrogenically hardended steel, carbon steel, space age steel, what-ever. Get the bevel and shape right, use a jig, guide, or gadget to ensure this, the abrasives as fine as possible, and use the steel inbetween.
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
post #18 of 18
i would reccomend a king brand 1000 and 6000 grit water stones and larn to use them here is a good read on sharpening
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