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Learning to sharpen my Wusthof Knife

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
I currently own a Wusthof Classic Hollow-Ground Santoku 7” chef knife (here is a link for the knife I own: Amazon.com: Wüsthof Classic 7-Inch Hollow Edge Santoku Knife: Kitchen & Dining ). I’m a home cook that hones my knife daily and has been taking this knife to be professionally sharpened once a year. After reading through a lot of posts on this site and others I’m interested in learning how to sharpen my knife myself (then later add to my knife collection and learn to sharpen those knives as well).

Does anyone have any recommendations on where I start to find the best options for sharpening this particular knife (I’ve searched online but have seen a wild array of opinions)? Also, any book recommendations to teach me the proper technique would be fantastic as well. I’d love to learn how to do this, but I’m not sure where to start first.

Thanks,
Emily
post #2 of 18
I highly recommend Chad Ward's book An Edge In the Kitchen. Beyond that...

Based on my experience as a home sharpener who works freehand, you may find this knife rather slow and irritating to sharpen. Read what you can, buy some inexpensive appropriate stones (Kings are a terrific place to start), and don't be shy of grinding that knife. It is much more difficult to do real damage than you probably think. But because of the steel in that knife, it's going to be slow, and you may come to the false conclusion that you need to press down harder. Don't. That's about the only way you're likely to do any damage -- to the knife, or the stones, or quite possibly to yourself. Just take it easy and be prepared for it to take a little while to get results. Once you've done it once, it will be much easier the next time, and so on.

And then when you get a little nuts and buy a really good knife, you'll be amazed at how much easier it will be!

(Disclosure: after a year sharpening various kinds of Japanese knives on a range of Japanese stones, learning and practicing and so on, I got home and found my old Wusthof was dull as a ballpoint pen compared to what I'd gotten used to. Got out stones, started working, and found it took forever to get anywhere. And then when I succeeded, it needed honing almost immediately because I'd gotten in the habit of sharpening more acutely than the knife can actually hold. Thank goodness my stuff from Japan has now arrived and I can use my favorites -- and leave that awful Wustie alone.)
post #3 of 18
"I highly recommend Chad Ward's book An Edge In the Kitchen."

+1
I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
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I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
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post #4 of 18
Thread Starter 
I just put An Edge In the Kitchen and Knife skills illustrated on hold at the library. Thank you so much for the recommendations, this is exactly what I've been looking for. I can't wait to read them as I have much to learn on this subject.

I assumed I would need to purchase a second knife and something easier to sharpen at home. The Wusthof has been a good knife for me but it was also my first knife purchase and I didn't really know what I would like or what would work best for me.

I have a very petite build. I'm 5, 2" and weigh 108 LB. Are there certain brands of knives that fit better in small hands?

Thanks, Emily
post #5 of 18
Visit this thread at ChefTalk; it's very highly informative on sharpening and sharpening stones. Although I've been sharpening for decades, I've learned some really useful stuff at that thread that might aid in your sharpening.

Use water on oilstones. And, the drier the stone, the better its sharpening action. Go and visit that thread I listed.

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Best and I'm a foodie.   I know very little but the little that I know I want to know very well.

 

-T

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post #6 of 18
No one can tell you that. It really is an issue of personal preference. This is why I suggest you find a local store where you can handle some knives. The other option is to order more than one and return what you decide not to keep.
IIR Sara Moulton is more petite than you and she often uses a 10" Wusthof. I assume she feels she needs the extra weight of the larger knife as she may lack the upper body strength to cut through some items. Sometimes a more petite individual prefers a larger knife to help cut. I don't expect most home cooks will be working with a knife for hours on end like a professional Chef however the size of your knife is some thing you will want to carefully consider if you only intend to get one.
In the mean time here is a link to an article by Chad Ward to tide you over until your book arrives.

Knife Maintenance and Sharpening - eG Forums
I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
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I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
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post #7 of 18
Thread Starter 
Great article, thank you! The article answered a lot of my questions.

Good to know about not needing a smaller knife due to my size. It sounds like my next knife should be a 10". I just picked up these books from the library and they are exactly what I was looking for- thank you!

Emily
post #8 of 18
Emily,

Smaller knives are easier to point and handle generally -- and not just for smaller people. The step from a 7" santoku or an 8" chef's to a 10" chef's comes with a learning curve. It's a little steeper for shorter people with smaller hands (women), but it certainly can be surmounted.

The best way to control longer knives is with good "fundamentals." Those are a proper grip (for most people that means a pinch grip), a soft grip (death squeezing makes the knife hard to steer), a reasonably straight wrist, and reasonably good posture. Of course, good technique will make your santoku work better, too.

There are several good ways to sharpen. Freehanding on stones is not the only one by any means. However if you have all sorts of knives, it is the most versatile. It's another skill, though. It takes some time and effort to learn.

It's a little easier to learn how to use a rod guide setup such as an Edge Pro Apex. It's an excellent method for people who want a lot of precision without a lot of learning; AND are willing to put with the rather tiresome ritual of unpacking, setting up, and repacking.

Another very good method is to use a Chef's Choice machine. It's really for people who can accept the same edge geometry on all their knives, and don't want care if they get the best possible edge. Consider the last statement in light of the incontravertible fact that very few people have the skill or tools to get the best possible edge with any method. Chef's Choice isn't a great choice if you want all sorts of different angles and edge geometries. But if you can settle on 15* and/or 20* with a double or triple (trizor) bevel, and your knives aren't incredibly thick (no heavy duty meat cleavers), they've probably got a model which will suit your needs. No question that they're the lazy girl's friend. You just leave it on the counter and freshen your edge whenever you get the whim. Because they're so convenient they get used. You should ask yourself whether something more difficult to learn and/or less convenient will get used as often as it should.

There are many other alternatives such as ceramic "V" sticks; pull-throughs like the Chef Choice, MAC Rollsharp, Minosharp, etc.. The best of these take a lot of work to sharpen a dull knife (best not to let them get too dull); and none of them are as effective as the better alternative I already discussed. Some people who can freehand keep a set of "V" sticks (the best are the Spyderco Sharp Maker, Idahone, and Lansky "crock sticks") around for "touch ups." However, it's my experience that people who are satisfied with a "V" stick aren't effective sharpeners.

Then there are the "V" guide pull throughs with carbide discs and/or rods. Almost all of them will do a lot of damage to your knife. The exception to this rule is the Myerco aka Blackie Collins sharpener which is pretty good for small knives and usable for large.

Something else to consider is whether or not you're going to be using a rod-hone, aka "sharpening steel." A knife such as your little Wusthof can definitely profit from appropriate steeling. One of the two or three best steels at the price is the Idahone 12" fine (ceramic). MAC's black, fine ceramic is just as good. Fortunately, they're both reasonably priced. If you're going to learn freehand sharpening, or are planning to buy an Apex, you're going to need a steel. Although they're not exactly the same technique, learning to freehand and learning to steel will reinforce one another.

Hope this helps,
BDL

PS. There's a lot of nuance, and a lot of complicated interdynamic relationships when it comes to knives, sharpening methods, and sharpening tools. The only "stupid questions" are those which go unasked.
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post #9 of 18
Thread Starter 
Thank you so much for all of your advice and direction. Welcome back BDL- I always appreciate your feedback.

After reading through the material suggested and everyone’s posts I’ve learned I still have a lot to learn as far as knife skills. I believe by improving my knife skills, my current knife will feel sharper and perform better.

After a year hopefully my skills will have improved and I’ll be ready to purchase a second knife more suited for my needs and one that feels more comfortable in my hands. It sounds like an 8” or 10” chef knife of a different brand will be the better choice. At that time I’ll look at purchasing a knife I can sharpen myself.

In the mean time, it looks like the Spyderco Sharpmaker would be a great first step in sharpening my own knives (I found this one at Amazon, BDL- I assume this is the one you recommend: Amazon.com: Spyderco Sharpmaker Knife Sharpener 204MF: Sports & Outdoors ). Because I hone my knife daily and get it professionally sharpened once a year, I assume this would be a good choice for something to do to keep my knife as sharp as possible between the professional sharpening.

Thank you again for helping me. This forum has been incredibly helpful!

Emily
post #10 of 18
Emily, do you know what system your local sharpener uses on your knives?
post #11 of 18
Emily,

The Spyderco, like other V sticks, is okay but not great. If you bump your professional sharpening to twice a year, you should be okay. For what it's worth, a V stick sharpener takes the place of a honing steel. But owning it isn't enough, you have to use it frequently -- especially if you're using it in lieu of your steel.

It's a good thing you went straight to the Spyderco as opposed to the Idahone or the Lansky. When I wrote the post I forgot that your little santoku came with a 15* edge angle (30* included angle). The Spyderco does 15* as well as 20*, but the other two only do 20*

This takes us back to your professional sharpener. Make sure she or he knows you want a 15* angle on the santoku. Some sharpeners assume all Wusthof Classics get a 20* angle, but the Santoku is an exception to the rule. Unfortunately some sharpeners are not set up to sharpening at 15*. If that's the case with yours, you can either find a new sharpener or accept the fact that your knife has already been reset to 20*, and you've managed to live with it this far.

In the greater scheme of things, reprofiling the knife back to 15* is not that big a deal, and can always be done later -- by you or someone else.

BDL
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post #12 of 18
That's assuming it was a uniform 15* angle to begin with.

Yikes, some stuff defies explanation. Sure the knife might be 15* at the ricasso, but 17* at the tip. Or the right side of the knife is 15* but the left side is 18* or the bevels don't touch at all.

Find a competent tinker in your area. Get some references, usually his parole officer knows where he is. When in doubt, give him an older knife and watch him work.

If he can tell jokes and flirt with you while he polishes, he's a good tinker.

If he can tell jokes and flirt with you in front of your husband, he's a great tinker.

If your husband laughs and gives him a huge tip, make sure you get his business card.

For some reason the talent of sharpening attracts the clown princes of the trade. They work in public, they have to gather a crowd. They are equal parts schmaltz and genius. Their clentele is formed by word of mouth, and a good "bedside manner" is essential to a long career.

After all, why do you think Billy Mays was a salesman of such merit? Yikes, he sold you rags and made you stand in line to buy them. I get 20 bucks per inch to make you drive to my house and witness the deft manner in which I drown a rock...
post #13 of 18
Not in the case of the Spyderco. It is quite a bit more capable than that.
post #14 of 18
Thread Starter 
The guy I go to uses a True Hone Knife Sharpener. I’m going there tomorrow so I’ll talk to him about the 15* angle (thanks for pointing that out).

If the Spyderco primarily does the same job as my rod-hone, then maybe I’m better off getting a regular pull through sharpener and bumping up my professional sharpening to twice a year. Again, thank you for all of the advice. I had no idea that one could use some of these basic sharpeners on quality knives (I thought they were only for the cheap $10.00 knives).

The Tourist- I laughed out loud at your description of a tinker. I’m sure the guy that sharpens my knife isn’t the best but he does a good job and he’s the only one I’ve found in the valley. I’m a home cook that on average spends 1-2 hours a day prepping vegetables with my knife. My friends and family consider me an amazing cook, but on a forum like this, I’m very much a beginner with a considerable amount to learn.

I hope that in the future, my knife skills will improve and my desire for a larger better knife and the need for a true tinker will be there. Until then, I think my best focus is to really work at my knife techniques and set aside learning to use a stone for now.

On a good note, the past few days my technique is already improving and I’m able to more quickly prep for dinner. Thank you all again. I love this forum and really enjoy the passion and knowledge all of you are so willing to share. Thank you for being so willing to answer my questions and help me progress.

Thanks,
Emily
post #15 of 18
Let me suggest a useful test. Ask your guy about angles like this: ask him if he can profile your knife at 10 degrees first, then re-profile it at a secondary bevel of 15. If he understands what you're talking about and can discuss it intelligently, he may or may not be a good sharpener but at least he's knowledgeable about his trade. If he can do this and doesn't have a plausible objection with this particular knife (which I don't know -- I've never even seen one, much less cut with it), you probably want an angle like this.

The idea is that when you cut, you've got the first little bit behind the edge, where you need some durability appropriate to the steel in question. Here the 15 degree angle is reasonable. But behind that, you don't need a big, thick wedge of steel: any decent knife (and Wusthof certainly is that) is more than tough enough well up the shoulder to withstand anything you should be doing with a knife like this. And a thick shoulder gets in the way of your cutting. What's more, every time you do a little sharpening on your Spyderco or whatever, the thicker the shoulder, the more metal you have to grind. So what you do is you first profile the edge very thin -- like 10 degrees -- to set the shoulder where you want it. Then you profile it again -- at about 15 degrees -- to set the actual angle of the edge. Then you sharpen and polish that edge. This method doesn't change how sharp or durable the knife is, but it will make a thick knife act sharper, because as your knife passes through the food its own thickness will get in the way a good deal less.
Just remember that speed comes from mastery of technique, not from trying to be fast. Concentrate on cutting right. The more consistently and often you cut right, the more automatic it becomes, at which point speed just sort of happens. Not to pour water on your ardor -- that's great! -- but be sure to focus on the important part.
post #16 of 18
Well, I have a bizarre sense of humor, but I am a good craftsman.

Say, do you have an old knife, once your favorite but now has slipped to the back of your drawer?

If you do, contact me PM. I'll sharpen it for free and the debate can begin.

If we can do that I'm looking forward to a spirited debate from Chris, BDL and myself about "an American tinker with Japanese tools" polishing a Euro knife.

If your knife is Japanese, then fun is guaranteed.:lol:

Edit: BTW, when I say "bizarre," I mean it. Here's picture of me as a young boy, a few months after joining the club. Yikes, would you let your daughter date this guy, let alone sharpen your best knives?;)

post #17 of 18
Some one forgot to tell you that sportsters are chick bikes. :D
I learned how to ride on a '67 350 sprint.
Still have the bike?
I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
Reply
I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
Reply
post #18 of 18
Thread Starter 
I picked up a pull through knife sharpener yesterday and had my professional knife sharpener watch me use my sharpening steel. Turns out my angle was off slightly for the steel which I've now corrected.

My knife only needed a tiny amount of sharpening, so we used the pull through to see how sharp we could get it. I'm very happy with the results. Just 20 seconds with the pull through and my knife just fell through a sheet of paper.

I spent an hour last night chopping onions, peppers, chili's and tomatoes and noticed a huge difference. I'm thrilled I can keep it this sharp using the "lazy girls" method. It's a perfect solution for me right now the stage of life I'm currently in.

I can't say thank you enough for helping me figure this out- thank you!
Emily
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