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Sharpening Those Knives

When sharpening a knife, there are two things to remember:  1)  At all times use caution, and 2) don’t forget to consider the  five (5) following principles:

  1.  Burr
  2. Sharpening Angle
  3. Abrasive
  4. Consistency
  5. Sharpening Strategy

1)  Burr – This is the rough, almost invisible edge of metal that forms when one edge meets the other edge. If your knife does not have a burr, it is not as sharp as it could be.

2)  Sharpening Angles  –  Most kitchen knives when purchased come with a 50+ degree angle. It is thought by some culinary experts that this is too obtuse. It is recommended for general kitchen use a knife have an edge of 15 to 20-degrees per side for general kitchen use A meat cleaver should be thicker (20 to 25-degrees), while a knife for slicing can be less (10-15 degrees per side)

3)  Abrasives (Grit)  –  If you are using a stone to sharpen your knife, then the grit is of importance. Stone’s with finer grit produces a more polished edge; a stone with coarser grit produces more micro-serrations and tends to wear away the metal quicker.

So what do you need if you are using a stone to sharpen your knives? You’ll most likely need more than one stone. A coarse – medium one for shaping the edge – 300 – 400 grit), and a fine – extra fine one for sharpening the edge (600 – 1200 grit).

Bottom-line – when you are sharpening a knife you are scraping away metal – just depends on how you accomplish it. Some of the more common stones used for sharpening are:

  • Arkansas stone (preferred by traditionalists)
  • Synthetic aluminum oxide stone – very hard and don’t wear like natural stones
  • Japanese waterstones – considered by many to be the best
  • Synthetic waterstones – built specifically for knife sharpening
  • Diamond stones – man-made, should be used with caution as they are aggressive in cutting away metal

The Japanese waterstones and the synthetic waterstones both require water to cut, however, from what we’ve read, no oil or water on the other stones is recommended as this slows down the sharpening process.

 4)  Consistency  –  Maintaining a uniform angle can be difficult, but is necessary to achieve a good cut. This may be why there are so many knife sharpening tools on the market – not that they are magical or any better – they just maintain a uniform angle which results in a better edge.

5)  Sharpening Strategy –  How you use your knife determines your strategy. If you use your knife primarily for slicing, ie., bread, meat, tomato, or anything else where the inside is softer than the outside, you want the edge to have more micro-serrations so as to grip the surface and cut through without too much pressure so as to damage or squash the inside.

If you use your knife for ‘push cutting’, you will want the edge to be more polished (sharper). Some of these tasks might include peeling an apple or julienning vegetables… both require a thin, fine cut.



If you are like most, you have multiple knives for multiple tasks – now you can decide which sharpening method is best for each knife. For those that don’t want to take time or have the patience (that’s me!) to hand sharpen their knives, there are many excellent, easy to use knife sharpeners available on the market. And, don’t forget you can now download your copy of ‘Perfect Jerky’


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