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How To Sharpen A Chefs Knife
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picking a knife - Page 2post #32 of 405/23/08 at 7:49pmOf course you and Lee are right that the use of a smooth or fine steel is to straighten the edge. "Orthotic" is a very strange word choice though.
Lee's book is largely concerned with wood working tools and not kitchen cutlery. While I wouldn't bet that he doesn't sharpen better than me, I put more faith in a number of other sharpening experts -- especially Juranitch, Martell, Carter and others. I put still more faith in my own experience in the kitchen. Regular steeling, hand washing, and organizing the area around your board are the three best habits you can develop.
A sharp edge -- which is by definition thin, bends and waves easily mostly as a result of impact against the board; but also cutting through tough foods like the dreaded pineapple skin (and whacking the board when it finally gets through). If you leave the edge bent, it will act "dull" even though it's still sharp because the "point" where the two sides meet to form the edge can't see the food. Worse, a bend will cause the edge to roll still farther and pull more of the edge with it. Consequently regular steeling is a VGT (very good thing).
The downside, as you point out, is the constant flexing caused by steeling weakens the steel and promotes breakage in the same way bending a credit card back and forth does. (Sometimes that's actually a good thing. A steel can be very helpful in taking off a wire edge left by poor sharpening.) But at the end of a day, the regular use of a fine-grooved or smooth steel takes less material and does less damage than constant sharpening "touch ups" which grind the bend off rather than straighten it.
The number of times you can use a steel before breaking the edge's metal depends on what type of "sharpening steel," the steeling technique, the edge geometry, the bevel angles, the type of steel used to make the knife, and a number of other factors.
For general kitchen use most cooks should choose a round steel with fine parallel grooves, and should steel their knives with fairly quick, even, light strokes. The knife should not bang the steel, nor be used so quickly the user can't hold a constant angle. The steel angle should be the same or very slightly more obtuse than the sharpening angle.
Knife "experts" often think of Rockwell hardness as the ultimate piece of information regarding the blade steel. More important are the qualities, strength, wear resistance, toughness and edge retention. They're all interrelated to one degree or another. Strength is most closely related to hardness. Strength and toughness usually proportionately -- as one goes up the other goes down. A strong knife is least likely to bend on impact, and most likely to degrade with steeling. A tough knife will bend, but take a lot of steeling before showing much damage. Think about it: The less steeling a knife will handle, the less it needs. The more it needs it, the more it can take. A VGT.
Almost all professionals using double faced bevels use a steel regularly. The exceptions are knives made from extremely strong steel, none of which are at issue here; and knives with unusual bevels which are also not at issue.
An aggressive "honing" or "sharpening steel," so abrasive as to actually take metal and sharpen should be avoided by most kitchen users. Unfortunately words like "hone," "honing steel" and "sharpening steel" have no real meaning anywhere. The buyer must research and choose the sharpening steel carefully.
BDLpost #33 of 405/24/08 at 3:28pmOrthotics... must have them on the brain, on my 4th pair in 10 years and my feet still hurt....Musta meant orthodontics, or straightening out, of which I'll be experiencing second-hand very soon when my kids go for their annual check-ups....
Lee's book on sharpening provides a lot of information on sharpening techniques, and abrasive choices, mono and poly crystaline diamond stones, etc., but I strongly suggest skipping the chapter on kitchen knives. The micron photographs in the first two chapters are very valuable, and I have not seen any other authority on sharpening go through the hassle of making such photographs. In this instance, a picture is truly worth a thousand words....."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 #34 of 406/7/08 at 10:04amWow, there is some great information on this post and the "Best Knives to Use" thread! Steel knives have been covered very well, but what about ceramic knives? I have been wanting one for a while, kind of thinking of a 6" for veggie work. Does anyone own or has used a ceramic knife? Kyocera was pretty much the only brand for a while, now there seem to be several brands. Do they each manufacture their own blade or do they just rename a blade purchased from one major manufacturer? Keep up the good information!!
Thanks!:smiles:post #35 of 406/7/08 at 11:31amThere are a few different types of ceramics used for ceramic culinary knives. Zirconium oxide, is the best. The edge will last longest, and the knife is less likely to chip along the edge.
The tips are always vulnerable. There's a good probability of breaking it off, no matter how careful you are. Another vulnerable area is the line where the blade goes into the handle. The handle acts as a sort of fulcrum and focuses a lot of energy there. This usually isn't a problem unless the knife is misused as a prying tool or dropped. I don't know about your kitchen, but in mine knives are sometimes used creatively (and I don't mean opening paint cans), and sometimes get dropped (usually behind something that can't be easily moved). The internet is rife with sob stories of broken Kyoceras.
Speaking of misuse, the manufacturers recommend that you don't "chop bones" as that may chip the knife. Chopping bones is pretty much an Asian phenomenon; but any knife that can't take that level of abuse is liable to chip when it hits the board hard after cutting through something tough -- say topping a pineapple or going through a thick skinned squash. In my experience more blades are chipped by contact with board than bone. Something to worry about. Remember, you can't repair or reprofile the knife normal sharpening stones.
As you know, ceramic edges don't wear as quickly as even the toughest (which most people mistake for hardest) steel. They also don't bend, roll or wave as a result of impact. So, they require less care. Any knife, used enough, does dull; and ceramic is not an exception. By and large, ceramic knives should be sharpened and re-sharpened at the factory. I understand that it's possible to sharpen some ceramic blades on aluminum oxide wheels, but don't now for sure. You may be able to do some rudimentary sharpening with good diamond sharpeners like DMT, but I don't know for sure. Personally, I wouldn't own a knife I couldn't sharpen myself.
Ceramic DOES NOT get sharper than a well designed, well sharpened steel knife. Sharpness is a function of knife geometry, appropriate sharpening tools, and sharpening skill -- not materials. If you have good knives and sharpen them appropriately -- there's no gain here, except for frequency. In fact, if you're skilled there might even be a fall off.
The claim is that a ceramic edge will last "ten times" longer than a steel edge. In a commercial kitchen, that means every two months for a knife which gets moderate use. In your kitchen it might mean forever. I don't know how you use your knives or what degree of dullness you consider acceptable.
Ceramic knives are VERY light. IMO this is their biggest virtue. But it's a matter of taste. If you like a knife with "heft," you won't like ceramic.
I'm not sure how many manufacturers actually make their own ceramic knives rather than contracting them. I believe Kyocera and Eagle do. I don't know about Asahi and Boker. I believe the Chinese company, Ningbo Kaida manufacturers for sale under several different names.
My personal experience with ceramic knives is limited to Kyocera and tracks the conventional wisdom I've blathered above: They're knives that don't need as much sharpening but need to be treated gingerly. When they're sharp, they're just knives. Nothing special. When they eventually start to dull, they're either a PITA or junk -- depending on how you are about sending things back to manufacturers. Something I find overwhelming.
Your "veggie work," is somewhat mystifying. I use my chef's knife for all but the smallest vegetables, paring, or making the prissiest decorative cuts. I cut brunois and julienne with my 10" chef's knife, and I believe that's the knife (or something very much like it) most folks doing Western cuisine with good knife skills use for most veg prep. We want something long enough to make long cuts with a tip-on-the-board rocking action; to "walk;" and to "run" the knife through rough chops and minces. But to each their own.
When it gets down to it, ceramic blades are more gimmick than breakthrough. Still, the current state of the market is that you can get fairly well regarded knives like Eagle and Asahi at reasonable prices, i.e., under $30 for a 6" utility shape. In other words, about the same price as entry level good steel. If you're interested, why not get one and try it? What's the worst that can happen?
BDLpost #36 of 406/7/08 at 12:04pmI love my knives, what few I have. I just started buying my set also. i went with the Henckel Twin Cuisine line.
Check it here:
Henckels Cutlery Online: Henckels Twin Cuisine and more
Very nice knife, takes an edge and keeps an edge well. I love the weight but most people in my kitchen complain when they pick it up. Almost all of the Twin Cuisine line will literally sit in your palm if you lay your hand flat and open your grip. Also a beautiful design no mistaking my knife from any other at any distance. Got my first three for 80 bucks apiece at the local store who's name i am blanking on. I handled these before I bought them, and loved the heft and feel of the ergo handles, they all have good action on a board (my boning knife is SO flexible). Would say take a good look at the Henckel lines in general as they tend to be a good knife at a good price.
Just be sure to hold and handle any knife before you buy it, best of luck.
p.s. every cook I have ever known that has bought a ceramic knife has broken them."In those days spirits were brave, the stakes were high, men were real men, women were real women, and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri. ""In those days spirits were brave, the stakes were high, men were real men, women were real women, and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri. "post #37 of 406/7/08 at 3:02pmSolid German knives with ergo handles. Decent, but not great steel for edge retention and ease of sharpening. It's the same X45CrMoV that most German manufacturers use through most of their lines. Henckels uses a slightly different "ice hardening" and pushes the HRc a bit compared to the others.
Don't feel like you need to keep all your knives as part of the same brand. The only advantage I can think of, other than the way they look in the block, is that they'll all sharpen the same way.
Good e-tailer. Cutlery and More is very good, too.
Yes to very nice. As to taking and holding an edge well -- not really. A scintilla below average for up-market German knives. Doesn't sharpen as easily as a Forschner Fibrox or Rosewood, and not nearly as easily as any carbon. In fact because of their extra hardening, they're just a touch more difficult than a Wusthof, Messermeister or Lamson -- if not quite as bad as Victorinox "Forged." FWIW, they're not nearly as difficult as the stainless used in mid and up-level Japanese knives. In any case, you can use normal stones to sharpen well enough to cut julienne and brunois. That's a meaningful bottom line.
Edge holding is consistent with other up-market German knives, perhaps a tiny bit better. But it truly sucks compared to Japanese knives in the same price range -- MAC Chef or Tojiro DP by way of examples only. FWIW, both of these sharpen as easily, too. One thing Gunnar didn't mention is how well the Henckels respond to a steel -- very well indeed. Another is the incredibly high level of fit and finish.
Excellent analysyis! The handles and heft give the knives their distinctive personality. They are by no means run of the mill.
Depending on which three, could be a great price. Or could be a lot of dough.
More about, "Try before you buy," later.
That's because it's intended for fish. That extra flex is critical for feeling the board and pressing the knife into a turn when taking a fish fillet off the skin. No law says you can't use it for pork shoulders and chicken thighs if that's the feel you like. No knife is flexible enough to bounce off fish pin-bones, and any sharp knife will take splinters off a chicken bone.
For whatever reason, Wusthof owns the rep as THE German knife manufacturer. In fact, there are a bunch of them making great knives of equal quality. Henckels is one. Make sure you look at Messermeister, F. Dick and Lamson (American manufacturer actually, but the knives are essentially German). At their top ends, the similarities of steel quality, fit and finish, blade profiles and handle-types within equivalent lines are far greater than the differences between manufacturers.
That said, if I were purchasing a bunch of knives in this price range, the first "line" I'd look at would be MAC Professional.
This bit of conventional wisdom is why I responded to Gunnar's post at all. Really, all he said is that he bought some great knives and is really happy with them. Which is great. And then I jumped in with a bunch of quibbles that are almost beside the point of the rich creamy goodness that is Twin Cuisine.
But, I've been thinking about the whole "try before you buy" thing for awhile and am just starting to articulate my thoughts. Think of yourselves as innocent bystanders.
When you pick up a knife at the store you're not likely to learn much beyond some general fit and finish observations. It takes a minimum of hours, more often days to get beyond whatever it is that you're used to and get a sense of whether the handle and balance really suit you. Even then, there are some surprises. Unusual handles, whether "ergonomic," or D shaped, octagonal, or whatever are problematic. You won't know until you've used them for a long time. For instance, Globals were incredibly popular for years. But everyone I knew who bought them -- amateur or pro -- eventually left because of hand discomfort blaming handle and/or balance. And every one of them loved the handles and balance at the store. So, go figure.
Most of the best knives in the world are either not sold at all in American stores, or in only a few in NY or SoCal. If you want a truly good knife, you probably can't follow the "try first" advice.
Don't get right or left-handed handles or blades unless you're sure that only appropriately "handed" people will use them. It's a safety issue. If you don't believe me ask any left-handed person about "regular" scissors. They don't work right -- er, properly.
Comfort aside, the questions of edge taking, holding and acceptable maintenance and sharpening tools and routines simply cannot be answered in the store. The edge that the factory put on the knife is meaningless in anything but the shortest term. If you're a pro, you'll replace it within days. If you're a home cook, it may be a couple of months but the day comes as sure as death and taxes. It's a lot of fun to talk about knives, and dream of spending our last penny on the perfect blade. It's no fun contemplating spending the same amount on the stones and steel NECESSARY to keep the knife in good order.
Fortunately there are some reliable knife purchase generalities. For instance, you're going to like any good European or American three-rivet full-tang handle. If Messermeister can do it, why can't the Japanese? Lower and mid-priced Japanese knives with bolsters (forged appearance) often have handle and fit and finish issues. MAC is the exception. Even the cheapest MACs have great handles and good F&F.
If it's mid-priced or more and it's European or American, it's well made. If it's mid-priced or more and its Japanese, it will hold an edge. Less reliably: US and European knives are heavier than their Japanese equivalents.
No matter what anyone says, the mass-produced German stainless knife that takes an edge easily and holds an edge well has yet to be manufactured. X50CrMoV (Victorinox "Forged," Wusthof Le Cordon Bleu, et alia) is better at edge holding than X45CrMoV, but in the greater scheme of things it's still nothing to write home about.
Most people prefer a little heft when they first try a knife, but over the long haul most with good knife skills prefer lightness.
Most people are used to the cook's knives with a German profile, but most with good knife skills who have tried both prefer a French profile (the Japanese gyuto is French profile).
No knife is better than your sharpening tools and skills.
There are two general knives: Cook's and paring. Everything else is a specialty. Don't stint on your cook's knife. It should be right in every respect. Either plan on replacing $3 paring knives frequently, or get very good steel. You know which specialty knives you use frequently. If money matters, don't overspend on knives you only use a few times a month. There's no benefit to a "matched set." In fact, it's knife to know which knife is which in the block by looking at the handles.
"Forged" is often used as synonymous with quality, but it isn't. Those days are long past. Heavier is not better. Some of the best steels are stamped.
You don't have to spend a fortune for a knife that's as close to perfect as it needs to be. You're not going to find it for a few bucks either.
After that, the prospective buyer at the mercy of guess and internet reviews (the source of all truth), and internet "experts." When you ask, look out for people who recently bought what you're asking about; often they're too deeply in love or disappointment to be objective. Probably the best internet source of information is the "Knife Forum." If you're particularly interested in high to ultra high-end Japanese culinary knives, you want to add Fred's Knife Forum on Foodie Forums. Japanese knives are as over-rated by internet "experts," as German knives are by recent purchasers. Watch out for self-proclaimed experts. First there's the obvious fact that we often know a lot less than we pretend. Second, we have our own biases. Third, we tend to be hobbyists and make a big deal out of distinctions that don't actually make a difference.
It's easy to be seduced by very subtle differences that supposedly are "better." Keep climbing the ladder and pretty soon a little bit better starts to cost a he!! of a lot more. Comfortable to use, and easy to maintain: That's all there is, really. Other differences are for hobbyists.
BDLpost #38 of 407/8/08 at 2:40pm
What a wonderful thread!I think we've all qualified for a Master's Degree in knife selection and sharpening.
BDL- with all the time you've put into this, I hope it's a draft for the knife chapter of your forthcoming book.
For which I can't wait for ;)
Miketravelling gourmandtravelling gourmandpost #39 of 407/16/08 at 8:09pmIt sounds like you have a lot of knives at home. At my restaurant, we perform a lot of cutting from raw fruit/vegetables to meats and chopping through small bones. To keep within budget, we reserve different types of knives rather than having all extremely expensive knives which does it all. At home, I keep a heavy duty butcher knife for the hard stuff and an above average cutting knife for the delicate items. Sharpening once a month usually does the trick for me.post #40 of 401/21/11 at 7:30am
I've rescued plenty of knives from GoodWill/Salvation Army - I don't find many forged, quality knives - but a lot of wood handle, decent stamped steel ones.
I reset the handles, sand/refurbish the wood and steel; Fix nicks, chips and tips, and then build complete sets from them. I even buy old knife blocks for them.
Why do I do this? Because I want people to cook! Every time someone brings me junk serrated, plastic-handle Ginsu-type knives to sharpen, I trade them up to one of my refurbished knives or a set of knives - depending on how likely they are to really use them.
I love "fixing" old knives and making them "new" again. My housekeeper left a complete set of JA-Z Hinkels on my block a few months ago. It took me a week of on and off fixing to restore them. Apparenty her husband learned how to steel from that Youtube video where the guy goes into hyper-drive on his knife-abusing speed-honing. The lands of her chef, slicer and utility knives had up to 3/16" of air-space between the heel and forward radius as they rested on my board.
I gave her some proper training on the steel - and requested she just throw it away if her husband is a slow learner... But fixed them all nicely. She came back a week later and could not thank me enough for how sharp they were.... I got a free stove and oven cleaning out of the deal - yay.Do or Do not - There is no Try. - YodaDo or Do not - There is no Try. - Yoda
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