Different ways of sharpening your kitchen knives

Which accesory should you use to sharpen a knife?

Your day is going great. You are happy, and your family is happy, too. You are thinking of preparing a special meal that you've been craving for weeks. You've got all your ingredients ready on your kitchen's worktop. You place them on top of your cutting board. You take out your knife, and you are ready to cut your ingredients... but nothing happens. You try, but your knife is not even able to penetrate the skin of a tomato. The day has been ruined... Ok, perhaps we are being a bit dramatic (just a little bit), but what can't be denied is the fact that the entire preparation of your meals can be affected if your knife has lost its sharpness. The evident solution is to sharpen the knife, but how? what to use? how to do it? Do not let panic take over you, because the team of MyChefKnives has prepared this special guide to help you answer all those questions.

Whether you have a small paring knife or a large chef knife, or whether you are professional chef or an amateur cook, the same principle applies in all cases: your kitchen knives must always remain sharp. A blunt knife is not only bad because it cannot cut but also dangerous because forcing it trying to make it cut can result in accidents. Therefore, believe or not, it is safer to use a sharp knife than using a blunt one. Some kitchen knives require more often sharpening than others, but in the end, all kitchen knives need to be sharpened at some point in time.

First of all, we want to clarify the difference between sharpening and honing a kitchen knife. Both terms are often used as if they were interchangeable between each other. However, sharpening is the process in which you restore and redefine the edge of your knife's blade. In the act of sharpening a knife, tiny particles of steel come off the edge. On the other hand, honing is the proocess in which you simply "polish" the edge of a blade that has not lost its sharpness. When honing a knife, you are simply maintaining the sharp edge of a blade so that it doesn't get anywhere close to becoming blunt.

In conclusion, sharpening is done only when a knife becomes blunt, and honing should be done in a regular basis to take good care of your knife's blade. However, because the term sharpening is far more used, in the rest of this page we'll refer to both processes simply as sharpening ;)

But now let's go back to our main question: how to sharpen your kitchen knives? In fact, there are several methods and accessories that you can use to sharpen a kitchen knife, but the most popular ones are explained below:

- The whetstone or sharpening stone: an effective solution due to the abrasiveness of the different materials present in them.

- The manual sharpener: for the cooks with less experience, the perfect accessory to sharpen your knives in an easy way.

- The sharpening or honing steel: the most used method by professionals for being fast and effective.


Sharpening stones

In terms of abrasiveness, there is no better thing to sharpen a knife than a sharpening stone. Also known as whetstones, this type of sharpening accessory guarantees effective results in making your knives sharp again. Because not all knives require the same type of sharpening, there are several types of sharpening stones available in the market. There are natural stones and diamond stones, but the most popular type is the Japanese whetstone. Indeed, here on our website you can find Japanese whetstones from some renowned brands such as Kai and Kasumi. 

Whetstones can also differ from each other depending on their type of grains. Every time that you buy a whetstone you'll notice that there is a number associated to the grit of the stone. Higher numbers represent finer grains, while lower numbers represent coarse grains. Choosing the right type of grains in a whetstone is important to guarantee a proper sharpening of your blade. For instance, if your knife has an ultra rigid blade with hardness rating superior to 61 HRC, then you need to use a fine grain above 2000. As a general rule, the harder the blade: the finer the grain must be.

- Advantages / disadvantages:  



Learn to use a whetstone following our advice- How to use a whetstone?

Even though the results that you can get with a whetstone are truly amazing, this is probably the sharpening accessory that is the most difficult to use. Indeed, using a whetstone requires a certain process that needs to be respected, because if not, your knife will not get the results that you expect.

Given that the most popular of sharpening stones is the Japanese whetstone, below we explain the steps to use it:

  • The whetstone must be soaked in water for around 15 minutes so that it gets deeply moistened. Using a dry whetstone can actually end up damaging the edge your knife's blade.
  • Once the stone is ready, place it in its base or water reservoir so that it remains stable while sharpening your knife. If your whetstone is not sold with a base or water reservoir, put the stone on a surface where it doesn't risk of moving while your sharpen your knife (i.e. on top of a kitchen rag).
  • Place the tip of the blade on the stone's surface keeping the knife diagonal in relationship to stone. Hold the handle with your favourite hand and place 3 fingers of the other hand on top of the blade (as shown in the picture).
  • Start sliding the edge of the blade across the the stone's surface while always keeping the same sharpening angle. To help you maintin the angle you could use the help of a sharpening angle guide. For Japanese knives, the sharpening angle is usually between 10°and 15°, and for Western knives is between 15°and 20°.
  • Continue with the sway movement making sure to apply a smooth but stable pressure so that you dont damage the edge of your knife or the surface of the stone.
  • Do not forget that this process must be done on both sides of the blade, unless you have a single bevel knife (those ones that cannot be used by both right and left-handed people).
  • You'll notice that steel filings will appear, and that is in fact what helps your knife be sharpened. As the filings solidify, add water and continue sharpening the knife.
Please have in mind that with other types of sharpening stones, the steps might vary. For example, with natural stones, it is more recommended to use honing oil instead of water to moisten the surface.

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Manual sharpeners

If you have little or no experience at all in sharpening knives, this will probably be your ideal type of knife sharpener. Manual sharpeners exist in a great variety of design and sizes, but what remains a common factor in all of them is that they have notches with established sharpening angles. Because you don't have the need of being careful in maintaining the right sharpening angle, the sharpening process becomes easy. However, it must be noted that manual sharpeners are not meant to be used with all types of kitchen knives. For example, most manual sharpeners have established sharpening angles adapted to Western knives, but Japanese knives usually require a narrower angle to be sharpened. Nevertheless, this type of knife sharpener remains a great option for home cooks!

- Advantages / disadvantages:


Using a manual sharpener is that easy!

- How to use a manual sharpener?

This type of knife sharpener is without any doubt the easiest one to use. Indeed, you don't need any sort of expertise in order to know how to use a manual sharpener. That is why this type of sharpener is very popular among home cooks.In most cases, manual sharpeners have 2 different slots with pre-established sharpening angles.

The reason why they have 2 slots (also called "rods" or "wheels") is because one if for coarse sharpening and the other one is for fine sharpening. The slot for coarse sharpening is where you usually sharpen your knives that have lost most of its sharpness. This slot usually have blades made of tungsten or diamond. On the other hand, the fine sharpening slot is for the maintenance of knives that still have a sharp edge. Usually, this slot has ceramic blades, and it is used after you have passed the blade through the coarse slot. In both slots, all you need to do is to pass the blade through the notches, and your knife will be ready again for making cuts of great quality! 

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Sharpening steels

In Western kitchens, the sharpening steel is the most popular type of sharpening accessory. Indeed, having a sharpening steel in your kitchen is often considered to be as essential as having a chef knife among your kitchen knives. The sharpening steel (also called honing rod or butcher's steel) is built with a handle and a rod. The latter can differ in shape and size. In terms of shape, you can find oval, round, and flat rods. In terms of size, most sharpening steels have a length between 25 and 30 centimeters. It is important to specify that the rod of your sharpening size must be of the same length or longer than the blade of your knife.

- Advantages / disadvantages: 


One of the many ways of using a steel

- How to use a sharpening steel?

Due to its fast results, sharpening steels are the favourite type of sharpening accessory of butchers and professional cooks all around the world. At the beginning, it might seem difficult to use a steel properly, but after just a couple of times of practice, you'll soon feel like a pro! There are several ways to use a sharpening steel, but here we share with you the steps of one of the most common ways:

  • Hold the steel with the left hand and the knife with the right hand (the opposite for left-handed cooks).
  • Place the base of your knife at the lower part of the rod.
  • Slide the blade along the rod by applying a slight pressure as if you would like to cut a fine slice of the rod while holding the knife with an angle of approximately 20° between the blade and the steel. The movement should allow you to slide the base of the blade all the way to the tip while you make the blade go up along the surface of the steel.
  • You need to sharpen both sides of the blade alternating one side after the other. Repeat this movement 6 to 8 times and your knife will be ready to cut again!

The market is full of several options of sharpening steels from renowned brands such as DICK and FISCHER. In general, sharpening steels are known for being great for maintaining the sharp edge of blades but not abrasive enough for knives that are becoming dull. For when a regular sharpening steel is not enough, you need to use a diamond or ceramic sharpening steel, because these types of steels have more abrasive materials in their rods (diamond or ceramic coatings). Click here to discover how to choose the right sharpening steel.

Find the right sharpening steel for your kitchen here on our site!

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Now you are ready to become a professional in sharpening kitchen knives! With all the information that we have shared with you above, you are now able to know which is the right way to sharpen your knife and to determine which is the right accessory to use. Of course, if you don't have any knife sharpener in your kitchen or if you just simply need a new one, you can get one here on our website! We hope to have saved your day (remember? the one in which your knife couldn't even cut a tomato), and if you have any further questions, do not hesitate to contact us because we'll be glad to help you :)