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Why can't I keep my knives sharp anymore?

post #1 of 3
Thread Starter 

4 yrs ago I got 3 Wusthof knives. They stayed sharp for 2 yrs without needing to be sharpened. I would hone them about once a month. I use them daily a great deal. When they finally needed sharpening, I did some reading and saw where it was suggested that you should hone them at least every other use, if not with every use. So that's what I started doing. I had them professionally sharpened and at the same time I bought a new cutting board (bamboo). The sharp edge lasted barely a month. I have had them sharpened 2 more times, again with the same results. The guy that sharpened them the first time just ran them through an electric sharpener a few times. Heck I could have done that! So when the edge didn't last I assumed it was because they just weren't done right. So the next time, I shopped around and found someone that did it by hand, and it sounded like he knew what he was doing. So finally here are my questions: What is the best cutting board to use (I need another one). Should I use a sharpening steel, or stick with the honing one? Am I honing too often? From what I have read recently, I do think I have been using too much pressure. Could I be using a wrong technique when cutting/slicing? There is nothing more frustrating than a dull knife, plz help! And to think I can remember as a teenager cutting vegies ALL day long for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners with a steak knife :)

post #2 of 3

The best thing would be if you learn to sharpen yourself.  We can talk about the right way for you if you like.  Some are inexpensive, some are easy, some work better than others.  As you said, you can draw a knife through a machine sharpener as well as anyone else.  For that matter, you can rub one on a couple of stones as well as anyone else but that will take some practice.


At this stage of the game, your knives may need to be thinned.  Progressive sharpenings move the edge to a thicker part of the knife, and the bevel angles tend to become more obtuse.  Thinning grinds away some thickness and allows you to restore the old bevel angles.  File that under "good to know," for now.


There are other possibilities as well, but without handling the knife myself I can't diagnose the problem for sure.  Bad sharpening -- even by pros -- could be a part of it.  Considering how little sharpening you've had done, your knives are far from worn out. More than likely the problem is a combination of not enough sharpening and bad honing on your part. 


You should use a rod hone frequently and with very little pressure.  There's no right set schedule, you use it when needed.  In the case of a Wusthof chef's knife that's going to be something like every other meal.  If you're serious about getting the best performance from your Wusties, you may want to replace your hone.  If you want to learn more about steeling, read this


Bamboo boards are very hard.  Partly it's the hard, springy nature of the bamboo itself; but mostly it's all those glued seams.  Hard glue is... well... hard.  This tends to bend your blades slightly at the very edge making them seem dull.  It's called burring, and is something to which Wusthof steel is very susceptible.  The answer is to use your steel, and to change boards to a good hardwood board. 


FWIW, bamboo is not wood, but grass.  It's not good, but not the end of the world either.  Bamboo is down the list from good hardwood and Sani-Tuff (which I don't recommend), and about equal to composition.  It's better for your knives than any plastic I know of, and much better than glass or stone.  


There are a variety of excellent boards from which to choose; but "excellent" and "inexpensive" seldom go together.  We should talk about budget and size, before getting specific about boards.  Regarding size, get the biggest board which will fit in your space and which you can afford.


Edge grain boards are better than long grain (aka side grain), better enough to be worth the substantial price difference, but not enough better to break the bank. 


Just to ballpark you on prices, you might want to Google "Boos cutting boards."  Boos is an excellent brand, and the prices are representative of the quality level.  We have two boards, one an 18 x 3 Boos end-grain, maple, round "Chinese," the other an 18 x 24 x 2 Boardsmith, end grain, mahogany rectangle.  While they're great for us, they may not be right for you. 


That's a start on the subject.  What are your thoughts so far?



Edited by boar_d_laze - 11/17/11 at 8:16am
post #3 of 3
Thread Starter 

My thoughts so far... That I am frustrated. But let's start with the board. As I recall, my other boards have been hardwood so I am sure that has played a role. My entire counter-top/prep area is 15 X 19. My current board is 15 X 21 so it hangs over the edge a bit but it's no big deal. I really think I need one that has "legs" with feet because my counter is right next to the sink, and since I am using the board (and the sink) most of the day, it is wet more than dry most of the time. Thus my frequent need for boards. The cost really isn't a factor though I am not out to spend money just for the sake of doing so. I don't care what name is on the side and I don't care what it looks like as long as it is durable and wont dull my knives. I did look up the Boos and found a 15 X 20 cherry wood with the feet. All the sites I saw had it from $170-$200 except for one that had it listed at $125 which makes me a little leery. OK so go with an end grain, softer hardwood. Fantastic one down :)




The best thing would be if you learn to sharpen yourself. We can talk about the right way for you if you like.


I am afraid the right way for me wouldn't be the right way for my knives. Even in my complete ignorance in the art of sharpening, I feel that bad sharpening would be an insult to fine steel. I love watching someone sharpen a knife that really knows what they are doing. It's like watching a musician play a fine instrument. With that being said, the only way I would be comfortable doing it myself is to go all out and learn everything and become a "master" at it. Sadly I lack the patience to do that and I don't trust the machines. I don't mind paying someone to do it for me, the problem is I am never in the same place for more than 4-6 months at a time. It's hard finding the right person. I suppose if I ever do find the perfect person I can ship them to him a few times a year to do it. I wonder if I would suffer from Knife Separation Anxiety :)


BDL thank you for all the time and effort you put into every response you offer us. You are appreciated!

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