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What's your take on these electric knife sharpeners?

post #1 of 106
Thread Starter 
I'm looking for an electric knife sharpener. I sifted through more recent threads on this forum but I want to have a take on more recent machines. I'm a home cook who uses knives daily but I don't give them the kind of use they'd get in a professional setting. I DON'T want to buy sharpening stones, no matter how superior they may be. They're not in consideration.

I have a small set of Henckels knives (chef, santoku, boning, paring, etc.) and one Global 5" cook's knife. I know the Global has a different edge from the Henckels, so I wonder if there's a machine that's not too expensive but could sharpen both blade styles. I've looked on line and am leaning toward the Chef's Choice 110 (about $90) or the Edgecraft Chef's Choice 120 (about $150).

Your thoughts please? If I'm going to spend that kind of money, I'd like to hear from the "knife people". :D

Thanks in advance,
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Moderator Emerita, Welcome Forum
***It is better to ask forgiveness than beg permission.***

Gear mentioned in this thread:

post #2 of 106
Cook's Illustrated and BDL have recommended one of the Chef's Choice models. One of them includes a 15 degree angle for Japansese knives as well. i don't remember which one though.

Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
post #3 of 106
I've been using the Chef's Choice 130 for a couple of years and have been happy with it. It's not a good choice for Japanese knives, though, because there's only one edge angle.

Is this the best choice? I dunno! And that's my official opinion.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
post #4 of 106
Both machines have a good reputation.

Be warned!

When you combine an electric motor with an abrasive stone, you have a machine that is designed to remove metal--your knives will "Shrink" every time you sharpen them......
...."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 #5 of 106
I don't understand your point, Foodpump. Everytime you touch a blade to an abrasive stone you remove metal. That's what sharpening is all about. Doesn't mater whether the driving force is an electric motor or your hands.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
post #6 of 106
Electric sharpeners remove a lot more metal than by hand.

One of the very few things that everyone who sharpens can agree on, is the fact that the finer abrasive you use, the longer your edge lasts.

Course grits--800-1,200 range leave fairly deep scratches that weaken the edge. Should these scratches be removed with succesive finer grits, in the 8000 range, the edge is virtually scratch free, and therefore lasts longer.

I don't know exactly what the grit is on the most electric machines, If it is under 1000, the edge it leaves won't last very long--unless finer abrasives are used afterwards.

My personal experience with machines--at the workplace--is that knives "shrink" very quickly, an special care must be taken to ensure that the "belly" of the knife stays intact and that ther are no hollows or dead spots.
...."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 #7 of 106
I would go with a manual sharpener. The Edgepro models do a great job and they use a jig to set the angle.
post #8 of 106
Chef's Choice makes a model that does both 15 and 20 degree edge angles. It's prosaically designated the Model 1520. It isn't cheap but it comes closest to what you said you want.

Possibly better is getting either their three stage XV Model 15 or thier two stage 315s and letting the machine reset the edges on your German knives. My net friend Fred, who is a true expert, says that German steel won't hold a 15* edge angle without the edge collapsing (i.e., rolling and requiring either frequent steeling and/or resharpening). However the Chef's Choice manufactuer, Edgecraft, suggests a 15* edge for better Germans; and in my experience, based on hand sharpening a number of Henkels and Wusties, they hold the edge fairly well. That is, they'll work sharper with the more acute edge, but the edge will need extra and more frequent attention. No big deal if you keep the Chef's Choice on the counter.

The Edge Pro Apex, the rod-guided system recommended by Mary, is relatively expensive AND also tedious to set up. That said, you can get an excellent edge -- as good as a good sharpener can get from most stones -- without the learning curve stones require. There are other, less expensive rod-guides like Lansky but none of them work as well as the Edge Pro.

I'm thinking the Chef's Choice XV or 1520 would be best if you can afford them. Otherwise the 315s.

Hope this helps,
post #9 of 106
So where have you been BDL?

1) Tour of Michelin 2 and 3 star restaurants

2) Screaming Eagle winery secret tasting

3) Asian street food tour
post #10 of 106
Ya' know, I really tried to stay out of this thread. I felt that no matter how I parsed my verbiage, my recommendation would come out as negative.

Yes, many knives are sharpened by experts on mechanized equipment. Many home cutlers use a machine called a Tormek that you can buy over the telephone.

But these home Chef Choice style machines aren't in that class, not by a country mile.

(And I would never 'drag' a Japanese laminate through a Chefs Choice! I'd rather ride a Kawasaki.)

Go to a kitchen store in your area. Ask the owner which tinker does his work and the sharpening for the preferred chefs in that area. Clearly one name will be mentioned over and over. Go see that guy. A few bucks more is well worth not permanently damaging a great knife.

Do not take this as a put-down. Every knife I have seen 'sharpened' in this mechanized fashion has had far too much metal nibbled away right in front of the choil or ricasso. Knives damaged in this manner have their collective lives shorted by years.
post #11 of 106
Hi Tourist,

I'll start by saying that if there was a skilled knife sharpener nearby, then I would choose to take my knives to him/her from time to time.

That said, and with due respect to your skills, I think there is room for more context to be added to that argument.

By that I mean, if I buy a good quality knife that I can home sharpen independently to a usable standard by investing once in something like a Chefs Choice machine, and as a result only get 20yrs wear instead of 25yrs - how unreasonable a choice does that become?

I'm not saying you lack the virtue of a good argument from a purist's point of view, I am saying that as an equation, which is what it may be for many home users (basically - is it worth it to me to have to rely on a 3rd party?), I think as it stands, it lacks the information necessary to make a balanced judgement.

Can a home user not expect to achieve a serviceable blade with such a machine?

Percentage wise (and I understand that there are variables), on average, how dramatically would you expect the serviceable life of a blade to be reduced?

post #12 of 106
With due respect to Tourist's opinions ...

Assuming you use your knife fairly frequently -- prepping 1-1/2 meals per day -- without frequent maintenance on your part, i.e., steeling, a knife sharpener won't be able to keep your knives really sharp unless you're taking them in every week or so. So that's not really much of an option if you want sharp knifes.

Frequency is very much knife dependent. A good Japanese made western style knife requires less edge maintenance than a typical European or American made knife. This has to do with the quality of steel used to make the respective knives.

Also, the skill set required to use a steel aka more appropriately as a "rod hone," is pretty much the same skill set it takes to sharpen on stones. If you can steel, you can learn to freehand with a fairly flat learning curve.

[/quote] By that I mean, if I buy a good quality knife that I can home sharpen independently to a usable standard by investing once in something like a Chefs Choice machine, and as a result only get 20yrs wear instead of 25yrs - how unreasonable a choice does that become? [/quote]

Good question and a valuable way of looking at the situation. But...

Perhaps now is a good time to mention that the real weakness of the Chef's Choice system is not its aggressiveness but the fact that the stones and/or strops load up and need cleaning -- but the home use machines cannot be cleaned by the user.

One of the dirty secrets is that maintenance tools need their own maintenance. For some people -- almost all of whom are male (including me) -- this is an opportunity to make sharpening as much a hobby as knives themselves.

Returning to your question, and to the false assumption which prompted it, a current model Chef's Choice, used properly, won't eat your knives any faster than a hand or rod guide sharpening. What it will do is eventually reshape the blade because it can't sharpen right up to the finger guard/bolster on those of your knives which have them. A once a week sharpener is probably looking at more than five years before it becomes apparent. But it depends on the knife.

Most reasonably proficient freehand sharpeners do a better job than all but a few services. It's mostly a matter of using the best sharpening surfaces for the particular knives and spending the time to develop a really good edge.

Of course there are some really good services out there. Jakpanese Knife Sharpening, for instance. The good ones are very expensive, far more than a sane person would consider for normal maintenance. They run in excess of $20 an edge.

Yes. Not the best edge, but a very good one. Chef's Choice "trizor" style edges (triple bevel) are slightly longer wearing than their double bevels.

I wouldn't expect much if any difference. In any case, as always, "it depends." In this case it's dependent both on who you would use the Chef Choice, what the alternative method is, and how it's practiced. I'd expect most commercial restaurant and butcher services to eat knives about twice as fast a Chef's Choice. Despite Tourist's faith in "tinkers," in my experience, most sharpeners are more fast and dirty than clean and reverent.

BTW, very few kitchen knife sharpeners use a Tormek -- it's really more for carpenter's tools. Most commercial sharpeners use small or medium vertial wheels. In any case, for all wheel (Tormek is a lateral wheel) or belt sharpeners, whether lateral or vertical, if you use a jig or table to hold the angle, the tip becomes highly problematic. On the other hand, if you freehand the angle, you've lost all the advantages of a machine except speed.

The "tricks," such as they are, to using a Chef's Choice depends on running the knife through the guide at a smooth and moderate pace, with very little pressure beyond the knife's own weight and using your sense of touch to follow the changing contour of the edge as it apporaches the tip.

A Chef's Choice machine is an excellent choice for people who don't want to learn to sharpen and aren't knife hobbyists. It will keep your knives sharper for daily use than most services. It isn't nearly as much trouble as a rod guide. It doesn't requre the comprehensive skills freehanding does.

If you like you can use me as a specific example of a skilled, freehand sharpener. With appropriate stones, it would take me around half an hour to completely reprofile (including repair of minor chips), sharpen and moderately polish to a very fine edge a typical German or Japanese knife. On the other hand, you could do the same thing to not quite so good an edge on a Chef's Choice in less than ten minutes.

I can take a slightly dull knife to very sharp in about five minutes. On a Chef's Choice, going to sharp, would take about two.

For most home cooks, the time saving isn't so much about time as about burden and convenience. The great thing about Chef's Choice is that they get used and knives are kept sharp.

When you think about knives you should start with the interdependent ideas that: 1) Almost any sharp knife can perform almost any knife task better than almost any dull knife -- regardless of quality, "balance," shape, or other considerations; and 2) All dull knives are essentially equal.

Hope this helps,
post #13 of 106
Thanks for that BDL, I don't want to tread heavily in this thread, I'm certainly not one of the knife people that can best advise Mezzaluna. I am interested in some of the considerations that might drive me towards one direction or another.

You introduced the dimension of honing. I think it's possible that an individual who has rejected the idea of using a sharpening stone, may not automatically reject the idea of using a steel to hone and maintain an edge.

Given that possibility, if someone was regularly and usefully applying a honing rod to some purpose (I mean on a session basis as opposed to an abstractly chosen calendar based rotation such as weekly), is it possible to suggest the frequency on which you'd expect that blade to need sharpening, compared to one where the edge wasn't being maintained?

Apply the conditions above, if that sharpening were professionally applied as opposed to home machined, would you expect that blade to need sharpening less frequently?
post #14 of 106
You need never apologize. All you have to say is "Chico, I disagree." Heck, half of the fun of being a member on a forum is the debating.

I'll start my rebuttal with the discussion of the alloys. For simplification, let us begin with "European" alloys. Yes, they are soft. When I sharpen the truly poor examples a cascade of black swarf flows off the back of the Edge Pro like an ebony waterfall. To their credit, they don't wear out my stones.:lol:

I do like the upgrades in "American" steels, with Crucible leading the way. They have even improved their good alloys. You can buy knives in CPM-154CM that has a smaller carbide construction than 154-CM, and that's a great steel all by itself. Even Shun uses VG-10, so advances in ZDP-189 and S30V are icing on the cake.

As for "Japanese" steels, I admit that they are my favorites. Yes, you can buy cheaper 'clad' knives, but give me a folded laminate any day.

Yes, a Tormek is used by many home hobbyists. But it does have a cooling feature, and if you must used something mechanized, it has many additional fixtures available for precise work.

As for cost and the repeated expense of addressing the wear, most good tinkers have a "route." They check-in or call the client and schedule times when they are needed. If the head chef has stressed proper steeling techniques and good knife habits, a tinker will rarely have to go through the entire slate of a kitchen's knives.

Yes, lots of knives cost 20 bucks a throw to sharpen. However, on the good upscale stuff I charge 20 per inch.

So let's play a little game. Let's imagine that we were all seated at a restaurant now talking and debating, and a noted chef brings us plates of hor d-oeuvres. There are two plates of fugu.

One of the plates was made with a sashimi pulled through a Chefs Choice. The angle might not be exactly as it left the factory in Japan, and the bevel surfaces are the standard grit of an off-the-shelf machine. Even if the chef is the highest master, the edge may or may not be the uniform or polished instrument traditionally needed. Then again, it might be just fine.

The second plate of fugu was prepared by a sashimi polished by Dwade Hawley. As is standard for a tinker, he knows the chef in depth. As in any professional relationship, the chef has exacting needs, expectations, and perhaps even the correct Japanese names of waterstones he prefers. Since the chef receives the critical performance he demands (and since Dwade is the best in the craft), this chef's extensive training provides a textbook product.

Now granted, the plate prepared by the Chefs Choice edge might be perfectly alright. A good workman does not blame his tools, and these chefs are the best.

Given the scenario--with your life on the line--which plate do you sample? Be honest.:chef:
post #15 of 106
Hi The Tourist,

If we could move away from the perfectionist chef whose life is on the line, and for whom I'm happy to accept your expertise would be more than welcome. It's not however the context in which I understand the original question is set.

Paraphrasing BDL and accepting the many variables - he suggests that on average a home user who preps 1.5 meals a day and doesn't hone their edge may need to sharpen roughly once a week to maintain a serviceable edge.

If, as you appear from the quote to accept, the Chefs Choice can provide a serviceable edge which BDL suggests doesn't profoundly affect the longevity of the blade (reshapes over time - but that's not the same as ruining the ability of the knife to function reasonably) and given the cost of sharpening per knife which you outlined above, is there a scenario in which you can say that it's not sensible for such a user to opt for the Chefs Choice option?

For example - consider a user who prefers not to manually sharpen their own blades, but is reasonably proficient with a honing rod and who focuses on using appropriate surfaces, employing good knife action etc. Do you believe such a user can affect the frequency at which the blade needs to be sharpened sufficiently that it becomes economically more attractive to seek out a professional?

At this point I am thinking that if I had a preferred knife or 2 that for whichever reasons had become valued above other knives, I may well like them to be professionally maintained if I knew for a fact that the integrity of the blade would benefit by comparison. I think though that would be a result of an emotional investment, rather than practical need.

For all other knives, I think unless there's new information, I find options like the Chefs Choice quite attractive, at least while I'm building up time spent practising with a stone and deciding if that's something that is an appropriate choice for me also.
post #16 of 106
While that might seem logical at first glance, it becomes a limiting factor.

For example, many of my friends can't swim, but they don't live near water. Or is it that they choose to live inland because they can't swim..?

If you have a cheap knife, Sears cookware and a mundane sharpening system can you successfully whip up cordon bleu quality cuisine--or are superior signature dishes so far over your skills that good equipment is unnecessary?

Laugh if you will, but having a nicer car, warmer clothes, more comfortable boots and superior cutlery will enhance even our most routine pursuits.

Sure, I hope the next telephone call is from Cat Cora, but I also sharpen for many of my wife's fellow teaching staff members. (There's four school knives on my work area right now.) But figure it this way, if those knives make their job easier, and they find cooking fun, then they cook more often and try new things.

And every tinker I know--including the ones I can't stand--does pro bono work for churches and subsistance hunters. Better tools make their lives easier, and I feel that the working poor deserve my time.

I once gave a blue steel knife to a barista taking culinary classes. He's now the head chef at a four star. It's just the butterfly effect.
post #17 of 106
Nothing there to laugh at, I'm quite comfortable with that.
post #18 of 106
I don't find it odd, either. But I hear these comments all of the time.

A new culinary student will opine that he can only afford cheap cutlery, thereby creating another set of ills.

I was a motorcycle mechanic for a few years and bought the best wrenches I could. Over thirty five years have passed since then and most of those tools are still in my toolbox.

If a career in preparing food is your goal, then find a good supplier, learn about sharpening or find the oxymoronic honest tinker, and read a little Japanese history.

From my perspective 'cheap knives' are tantamount to saying that you will use cheaper brakes until you can drive better.
post #19 of 106

A combination of work, computer problems caused by a hacker, health, vacation, have kept me away from both the net and the gmail accounts I use for the BDL personna. All of those fires are out now, though -- a funny thing to say consider I live in the SG Valley.


Unfortunately and unsurprsingly the answer falls into the great slough of "it depends." With the right knife, profiled to the right geometry and an appropriate hone (or set of hones) the answer is "yes."

Steeling is wildly misunderstood and usually poorly practiced. What you want is a knife that's not made from too hard a steel; a hone (or set of hones) in the fine to extra-fine to glass-smooth range; and a skill set that includes holding a constant angle, a fairly soft touch, and absolutely no banging of the knife against the hone.

Proper honing doesn't actually "sharpen." What it does is straighten an edge which has been rolled and waved by impact (usually against the board). A few hones are "glass smooth," and that's all they do. Most hones have some texture. Depending on the state of polish on the edge these hones can blend coarse scratches creating some degree of polish; or, they can create some scuff which act as micro serration giving the edge bite. The bite compensates somewhat for the progressing dulling by wear of the edge -- allowing more time between sharpenings. However, because of the geometry of sharpening that doesn't save much metal.

Before you ask, the best hone for the money is the Idahone 12" fine ($25ish). The best hone at any price is the HandAmerican borosilicate ($100ish) -- but it's only effective for knives that are already pretty sharp and relatively finely polished. MAC makes a nice ceramic hone. HandAmerican makes very nice "glass smooth" metal hones. F. Dick's "Dickoron" line is top of the line metal -- as good as the HandAmerican and just as if not more expensive. Forschners are a pretty good bargain -- at least until you compare them to the Idahones. OTOH, unlike the Idahones you can't shatter a Forschner.

Hones are not only useful for edge maintenace but for deburring as well.

A rod hone is not a good tool for asymmetric edges. The hone tends to create more problems than it solves once you take an edge much past a 60/40 asymmetry.

Just for reference -- I'm not trying to sell you my choices -- I use a HandAmerican borosilicate for deburring between my soft Arkansas and surgical black Arkansas, and for the first couple of honings after the knife is polished. Once the edge starts to scuff I switch to a Henckels extra-fine (no longer manufactured) which I've had since the mid-seventies and has been made even finer by wear.

One last remark concerning hones. I half- bought and was half-gifted my first Hand American borosilicate from and by a friend. I wrote about it fairly frequently in my sharpening posts here and on other fora; wrote enthusiastically. After a year or so, I dropped it, it broke, and I wrote about that too -- if not quite so enthusiastically. Hand America wrote me and offerred to send me a new one. I wrote back and explained that I'd purchased it used and that the breakage wasn't a manufacturer's defect. They still replaced it with the newer, more expensive model -- free.


I think I've been farily clear that a good freehand sharpener can get a sharper edge than a Chef's Choice. That said, one of the nice things that a Chef's Choice can do, which most freehand sharpeners cannot, is create a nice multi-bevel. The trizor ege is especially robust. While it doesn't wear any better than a flat profile it does resist rolling and waving better and needs less frequent maintenance.

As to cutting fish in general -- given a skilled cutter and an appropriately shaped knife of appropriate length -- the sharper the edge the cleaner the cut. A super smooth cut is far more pleasant on the tongue, especially with raw fish, than a cut which feels "furry" as a result of sawing with too short and/or too dull a knife.

With fugu in particular -- I'd probably prefer the fugubkiki to be sharpened by the skilled hand sharpener rather than the Chef's Choice for the reason given above and not for safety.

In my opinion a Chef's Choice is a good option for people who otherwise wouldn't sharpen their knives frequently enough to keep them really sharp. Like any other system, they are not without limitations. Nor are they best solution for everyone.

post #20 of 106
In this regard I think you are absolutely correct. It's a sad fact, but correct.

For example, the same thing is said about serrations. In just about every knife forum one hears that "a serrated knife will cut better when in disrepair than a plain edge."

That said, is this how you want me to approach a client, or partner with a dedicated chef who wants to enhance his signature presentations? I would rather work harder for a chef who wants a gyuto that would scare Luke Skywalker.

No matter what your view of those TV chefs might be, you'll notice that they serve or "plate" their best presentations in unique dishes. To be sure, the food would probably taste the same on Melmac. It is clear that some chefs try to refine every element of a meal. My service is one of many enhancements they utilize.

I don't sell many dishes, but my one contribution to your craft is to make sure your cutting implements are the best for your endeavors.

It's a partnership. I once reported in another thread the joy I had watching a skilled sous-chef block out a leg of beef with a sharp butakiri I had loaned him.

I think you can find blue steel butakiris on the 'net for around 25 bucks. I always carry the stones, pastes and glass necessary to sharpen them. Considering your observation, I wonder if they realize that a simpler, cheaper and more efficient course of action exists.
post #21 of 106
Thanks for that BDL.

I expect the natural approach for most home users would be to seek to sharpen a blade when it appears the working edge is beginning to dull, rather than work to a prescribed regimen.

That said, I was focussed on the assessment of honing as I've been carrying around a memory of reading that knives should be properly sharpened a couple of times a year, and maintained using a rod between times. I just checked and that kind of advice is still around in several places.

sharpen knives twice a year - Google Search

Whereas if I understand correctly, your estimated average frequency of sharpening of once a week, is based on the home user not adequately using a rod and so relying more heavily on sharpening rather than maintenance for the serviceable edge?

Again to keep it on topic (waves hello to Mezzaluna :)), that frequency of need being one factor affecting the relative value of options like Chefs Choice.
post #22 of 106
Great discussion!

I am not a knife expert, understanding only the basics here. What I do understand is that quality knives, of which I own two Japanese knives that are used daily, deserve quality care which includes sharpening. I send each out once a year for professional sharpening and touch up the edges with a chromium oxide loaded strop very often. They stay sharp and never disappoint.

I also understand that there are people who are looking for the easy, fast and cheap way out. So an electric sharpener is their choice. Those who would use good stones will not use an electric sharpener because of the damages caused. Those who use electric sharpeners aren't as fussy about their edges and will not go to the trouble to sharpen with good stones. Like comparing a Mercedes with a Yugo. (As a professional woodworker, I hand sharpen all my chisels on good stones. I can't handle rough edges. They tear.)

Sorry if I made anyone mad. This is just my opinion.
David The BoardSMITH
David The BoardSMITH
post #23 of 106
Oh, I don't perceive that anyone is mad. It's a forum, a place for debate.

I should probably add your same sentiments. My comments and beliefs are simply that, a personal point of view. Obviously you can use any product you desire, and if it works for you, that's your best course.

In the final analysis we have shown folks products and ideas they might have not considered.
post #24 of 106
BSMITH and Andy,

You guys are both on the right track when it comes to understanding what's going on and creating (or following) a regimen. Let's see if we can refine your understanding.

There are two aspects to dulling: Wear and waving/rolling.
Every time a knife gets used a little bit of the edge "wears" away.

This means the edge which touches the food gradually broadens out. Speaking of the edge ... Because it's so fine it tends to bend a little bit, and even though the edge itself is still narrow it acts dull. When the edge is pushed back and forth, it's "waved," and when it's folded over on itself it's "rolled."

There are four parts to sharpening: Profiling, sharpening, polishing, and honing.

Profiling is the first part of a major resharpening. It's something most home knives only need a couple of times a year. A very hard knife, like a good Japanese made blade, would probably only need it once annually -- yo BoardSMITH. Profiling means moving a lit of metal in order to set or reset the bevel angles which were improperly set to begin with, or deformed with wear. On top of normal wear a lot of home sharpeners "feel" the old bevel and sharpen to the feel. Without getting to the whys and wherefores, over time, that makes the edge angle increasingly obtuse.

Profiling is done with very aggressive, coarse stones. Anything coarser than 250# ANSI (American) or 500# JSI (Japanese) is a profiling stone. They move a lot of metal in a hurry. These stones leave a lot of scratch on the bevel, and a very rough edge. If you're sharpening a good knife, it's a good idea to hold off on these stones until you're sure of your technique. You can do a lot of damage with them.

Sharpening is the second part. If the knife isn't too worn the edge can be restored on a medium stone which doesn't remove too much metal. If you've just profiled the knife, the "sharpening" part of the procedure may be no more than the first stage of polishing. Usually though, it involves creating a "fresh edge" by drawing a "wire," aka "burr," then breaking it off clean; i.e., deburring.

The sharpening grits may slightly overlap profiling grits and overlap polishing grits by quite a bit. Roughly 350# to 1200# ANSI, and 600# to 2500# - 4000# JSI (depending on the stone -- waterstones vary). Most home users find that an edge finished towards the high end of the "sharpening" range is plenty of polish. The edge will be fairly smooth but with a tiny bit of bite. Unless you're cutting a lot of sushi you probably don't need more polish. For instance, the most common final stone in the meat cutting industry (and most restaurants as well) is a Norton fine India, whcih is right around 350#

Initial polishing will remove all the micro-serration from the edge, useful when a super clean cut is needed for shaving or raw fish by way of examples; but after that it doesn't do much to actually make a knife sharper. For culinary purposes anything beyond a JSI 8,000# to 12,000# polish is vanity. It might be worth mentiong that as polishing becomes increasingly fine, western style sharpeners tend to strop (often using pastes) while Japanese style polishers continue to use the same back and forth sharpening action on stones.

"Honing," which is straightening out rolls and waves, can be done on a flat stone or a rod hone. On a rod or oval hone it's sometimes called "steeling." Knives with highly asymmetric bevels such as single sided Japanese knives don't do rods. Instead honing is done with a "touch" up on a fairly fine stone. You can do the same thing with a western profile edge as well -- although a flat stone won't work nearly as efficiently as a rod.

So what does all this mean for the home user who does not use stones?

For a typical chef's knife, of "good" quality (like a Wustoff), steel it at least twice a week. Get a gizmo like a "Sharpmaker,"sharpen it every six weeks or so. Send the knife out for a professional sharpening at least once a year.

Alternatively, if you have a three stage Chef's Choice, use the finest stage as your steel, and run your knife through it a couple of times a week. Every couple of weeks, use the second stage. Twice a year use all three stages.

Although it can do an adequate job on fine Japanese knives, I wouldn't use a Chef's Choice for anything really good. This isn't so much out of fear that the machine would do damage (the asian knife Chef's Choice models won't), but part of the joy of a really good knife is maintaining it. In other words, pure hobbyism.

Japanese knives with very asymmetric edge bevels are different and requre different maintenance. My maintenance schedule would be something like: Every other use on a polishing stone. Every week to every other week on the sharpening stones. Every month or so on the basic sharpening stone (~1000# to ~1200#), and twice a year reprofiling. That said, BoardSMITH's regimen seems fine to me too.

Apropos of nothing, I favor a four stone approach: Profiling, basic sharpening, sharpening/polshing, and polishing. If you want more polishing than this can develop I suggest stropping on chromium oxide or diamond paste on some sort of float.

Apropos of a tiny corner of sharpening: Don't believe Norton's grit numbers when it comes to Arkansas stones. Novaculite crystals (they do the job in all Arkansas stones) tend to all run about the same size. What makes Arkansas stones different is the matrix which holds the crystals and the number of crystals in it. Furthermore, Arkansas stone performance on the particular vein and mine from which it came.

post #25 of 106
As always, a thoughtfully crafted and informative reply BDL, and I thank you for it.

I'm aware the only electric knife sharpener that's been mentioned to any degree, is the Chef's Choice range and you've offered some useful suggestions in post #8 on the subject of some of those models.

In respect to the extract below from Mezzaluna's original post, are there any other makes of electric knife sharpener worthy of consideration?
post #26 of 106
In any debate you have to define terms and discuss postulates. In this regard, the discussion breaks down for me.

I'm stuck on the idea of "worthy of consideration." Just because something (anything) might be the 'best' of a group of similar devices doesn't mean it's on the top of the heap for performance.

I'd rather see a chef take the money he was going to spend on a Chefs Choice and buy a decent stone and a book on freehand sharpening--or even a Edge Pro model Apex.

Not only would the actual cost be similar, but he carry those items and his skill to whatever kitchen he worked from in the future.
post #27 of 106
General agreement here.

A professional cook, using good knives, and using them alot would probably be far better served by learning to freehand sharpen on stone than using any machine or jig.

But of course there are other circumstances. For instance, a butcher in a processing shop might not have the time to hand sharpen as often as needed. Anyway, they're not her knives. More to the point, many home cooks simply do not want to learn freehanding nor want to invest the time in setup, teardown and storage of a rod guide.

When it comes to prices, the options are surprisingly competitive.

post #28 of 106
Andy and I discussed this a little in by email, but the question is lingering on the board and deserves an answer.

I'm not really familiar enough with anything other than Chef's Choice and a few of the super-expensive pro machines to give a recommendation.

"Master Grade" makes three models using user replaceable, soft wheels. I like a lot of things about the design, but have never personally used the machine. I know a couple of butchers who have the commercial model in their shops (one custom butcher, the other a butcher for a chain) and they like them. But I've never used it and can't recommend it. If you Google Master Grade you can find some negative feedback. My feeling is they're worthy of investigation but I'd rather other people spent their money to do it. I'm happy to go into more depth if you like as long as your recognize that on my part it will be entirely theoretical gleaned from google and Master Grade's own ad copy.

Waring has a Chef's Choice "like" machine which goes for around $300 (street price). Never used it. It's a Waring commercial product, chances are its good. Also, chances are pretty high it's actually made by the same company but marketed under the Waring name -- just like Shun's electric sharpeners are

Again with Chef's Choice -- Chef's Choice machines work. They don't screw up your knives, as long as you use them appropriately (don't press too hard, use feel to follow the shape of the knife tip, don't twist the knife as you pull it). They have two significant weaknesses. First, they can't adjust for knives which require special bevels. It's a one or two size fits all sort of deal. Second, Chef's Choice machines need factory servicing every year or two -- if only for (a relatively inexpensive) cleaning.

post #29 of 106
I'm with you here for about 95%.

The only differing aspect of this discussion is the possible use of an Edge Pro Apex.

As for setup and tear down, it takes me less than a minute to pack up my Pro model when I go to a client's facility. In fact, the soft case that an Apex comes in could slide into your riding jacket if need be. As for a chef or butcher, such a rig could fit into one's employee locker and consumer little, if any, space.

But my concern is not just a Chefs Choice. It always amazes me when a consumer picks the worst, easiest, and cheapest commodity knowing in advance that they will receive poor performance.

And in the long run, their knives will lead shorter lives. In two decades, I have never had a client report that a waterstone sharpened knife has been consumed by sharpening. However, you can make a knife virtually "disappear" by constant aggressive grinding.

It's not the method here, it's a mindset.

A few years back a co-worker at a Gander Mountain where I set up came back early from a vacation. He reported that he had lunched a transmission. He showed me pictures of his truck, a 1998 rust bucket.

He stated, "Well, Chico, not everyone can afford a new truck like you."

My truck is a 1997.
post #30 of 106
Thanks BDL, I appreciate your posting your thoughts about those options. :)

Hi Chico, :)

Sure, and while there may be room to play around the edges when engaged in debate and/or information sharing, ideally responses are ultimately framed by a desire to recognise and work with an OP's stated needs.
While I understand the drive towards the suggestion to use stones, not to recognise that their use was specifically stated to be undesirable risks the thread becoming another chapter in a philosophical battle ranged over worth, rather than a practical response to the OP's question. I'm more than happy to own that you'd be an ideal person to drive and enrich a thread with a wider remit and I'm sure you would encourage a lot of people to try their hand at using whetstones.

Within this context at least however, there's a point at which there becomes the need not to focus on those things that aren't in play, and recognise the framework that has been presented. The focus being to see if there's a way to widen awareness of those options that do remain, in a way that meets the OP's needs.

I have no idea what the personal investment (eg. skill development, time taken) as opposed to the financial investment is in the Apex Edge Pro system(s), but as I don't suppose it has the drawback of needing to be factory serviced that sounds like an option of interest. However, and I don't mean this as an attack of any sort, while this option has been raised as not entirely trivial by BDL, you yourself haven't posted anything that suggests that it is far enough away from a users perception of buying individual stones and hand sharpening, to make it a useful inclusion in this debate.

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