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From Manual Knife Sharpening to Fancy, Electric and Hand-Held Sharpeners

Jan 13, 2008
There are two sides to the knife sharpening issue: old fashioned and modern. Many people have returned to the old fashioned way of sharpening their knives with a honing stone or whetstone and oils, while others prefer the precision of an electronic, sometimes hand held device that sharpens knives to perfection.

Today's Knife Sharpeners -

There are several different types and styles of electric and non-electric knife sharpeners on the market today that range in prices just as much as styles and types. And using a hand-held or electric sharpener is not as intimidating as using a honing stone because you do not have to get the angle just right - the device does all of that work for you. The electric or hand-held sharpeners have all the angles figured for you. They are usually simple to use and can make fast work of sharpening so you can get on with what you are slicing. They are also convenient for sharpening serrated knives and things like pinking shears that are impossible to sharpen with a honing stone.

TV Knives and Food Shows -

The increase in cooking shows has had a large impact on the knife and sharpening business. Many of the cooks show how to properly handle and maintain or sharpen the knives on their shows.

What Is In That Blade?

To begin with, steel of the knife is the heart of the knife, and what it's actually made of is a closely guarded secret among industry insiders. What we have learned is that this steel formulation is made for wear and stain resistance rather than holding a high performance edge. However, the tradeoff is the heat treatment that leaves the steel softer than it should be. The harder the steel, the sharper the edge stays for a longer period of time.

Through Thick and Thin -

Then there is the debate about the knife being thick or thin. There is a myth that a thick knife is better, but studies show that a thick knife will not hold a sharpened edge as long as a thinner knife will. Thinner edges cut better, putting less stress on the blade and therefore, last longer.

Depending on how comfortable you are with sharpening your knife, that is how you will want to sharpen your knife.

Types of Knife Sharpeners -

Some knife sharpeners sit on the counter, or can be stored away until needed. When you need them they are set in place and you drag your knives across a pre-angled honing stone set within the sharpener. This usually resembles a square or rectangle with several V's in it and when you plug it in, (its electric) the stones vibrate at a certain speed and you simple take your dulled knife across the honing stone, and when you bring the knife out the other end you have a sharpened knife. Some models have an abrasive slot that will polish as well as sharpen the knives.

In addition to the counter top sharpeners, there are hand-held sharpeners which are held in your hand and can be made to be used as electric, battery operated, or as a hand powered model. Either model would use a stone or some type of abrasive to sharpen the knife and polish the blade, just as the counter top models do.

Sharpening Serrated Knives -

When sharpening a serrated knife, pretend that there is no serration there. Sharpen the back of the knife blade and this will save the serrations longer. You can also use a diamond tapered or ceramic file to individually file each of the serrations so they don't flatten out and go away completely when you use a regular honing stone, an electric, or hand held sharpener. The serrations last longer because they don't come in contact with the hardened surfaces as much as the edges of a regular blade might, and you want to keep it that way.

There are several ways to tell if your knife is sharpened enough without hurting yourself. There is the Q-tip method in which you push the fuzzy head over the edge of the knife. Any burrs or nicks would catch on the fuzz and unravel, pulling the cotton from its place.

Another test is the pen test in which you angle the pen about 30 to 35 degrees on a flat surface, then take the knife and lay it straight up and down on the pen. Pull from the heel to tip and if it bites in, you've set your angle just right. If it slides off, then you have to go back to the drawing board and sharpen some more.

No one model or way of sharpening your knives is better for the knife or works better than the other. Find the best one for you!
About the Author
William "Cole" Doggett is a knife expert and owns an Internet knife shop, Knife & Supply Company, LLC at Knife Sharpeners. His website is devoted to all things pocket knives, swords, kitchen cutlery, sharpeners, machetes and a wealth of information. Stop by!
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