Whether we are talking about expensive or cheap knives, with or without a ceramic wrap or a wooden handle, they are all subject to the same issue, with time: they dull down. And, as surprising as it may seem, a dull knife has the potential of being far more dangerous than a sharp one. Accidents can happen to anyone, but in the case of blunt knives, they are more likely bound to happen.
Mastering how to sharpen a knife at home correctly can eliminate the risk of injuries and save you some money in the process. Here’s the ultimate guide on how to properly sharpen your knives. Find out how to care for them to enjoy your knives as long as possible!
Each to its Own: Types of Knife Sharpeners
Even if this the first time trying to figure out how to sharpen a knife at home, by now, you’ve probably figured out already that there is more than one way to do it. It is an intricate and delicate job, as you have several means and materials at your disposal, depending on your specific purpose. But first things first, here are the main types of sharpeners along to their particular details:
Unlike the name suggests, and contrary to popular belief, these items are mostly meant for upkeep, not the actual sharpening. They are long, thin rods which primarily hone knives that are already sharp, or at least in decent condition. The knife hone is perfect for day-to-day maintenance, but it can’t do much for blades that are already dull. They’re pretty easy to use, as you just have to hold them in one hand, and with your other hand, sweep the blade across its surface, applying constant pressure.
It is the ground stone of most professional kitchens out there. While it may not be the fastest method available, it’s undoubtedly one of the most efficient ones. A knife sharpening stone will always help you even the blade perfectly so that your knife can cut through almost anything. It’s particularly useful on dulled knives, and less recommended for their daily maintenance.
Based on the materials and their intended use, there are three main types of stones available for you to choose from:
- Oil Stones: you have to grease these models with oil before using them, and thus, the whole process behind oil stones for sharpening knives can end up being quite messy.
- Whetstones: these models need to be soaked in water before use. They are much more fragile than the other models, but the best whetstones for knife sharpening out there will always deliver a flawless, super-sharp blade.
- Diamond Stones: much like the name suggests, diamond stone knife sharpening can be a little bit pricey. However, you can use them dry, without having to soak them in anything prior, and they are by far the most durable entry in the list.
Handled or Electric Knife Sharpener
There is quite a couple of electric knife sharpener models currently flooding the market. Some of them are basic, others come packed with additional gears and features, and most of them will get the job done a lot faster than your average stone. That’s not to say that they will also benefit the health of your knife in the long run!
Most of the models available out there use motorized abrasives, which can seriously damage the blade during sharpening. Unless you go for the best electric fillet knife on the market, the risk of it chipping at your blade remains pretty high. We’d mostly recommend handled and electric models for cheap, short-term solution knives, on which you don’t place much value.
How to Do It Without a Sharpener
Believe it or not, there are several answers to ‘what can you use to sharpen a knife?’ that don’t necessarily require a sharpening product! Some of them are more traditional, while others are more modern and advanced. It also depends on the materials and quality of the kitchen knife set. But one thing that you can be sure of is that we’ve already given each one a try, and the results were surprisingly satisfactory.
How to Sharpen a Knife with another Knife
It is one of those old-school rudimentary alternatives, which current experts find barbaric and inconceivable. And, in most cases, they would be right. In theory, the blade shouldn’t touch anything significantly harder than a wooden board.
But we bet that at one point or another, you’ve seen one of those reputed sushi chefs rubbing one fish fillet knife over another. It is usually possible due to the high-quality of the blades, and it can be done in two distinct ways:
- First way: run your best fillet knife along the thick side of a much harder and resilient one, much like you’d do it when using a sharpening steel.
- Second way: you can use another knife to hone the first one. While this will not sharpen it, it will realign its blade, making it cut better.
How to Sharpen a Knife with a Leather Belt
On a long enough timeline, even water could have visible effects on the blade of a knife. But in more realistic terms, it’s less likely for a leather belt actually to end up sharpening a dull blade. Nevertheless, if you try to sharpen a knife with a leather belt, you can transform its otherwise OK blade into a samurai sword-like edge. It is possible because leather tends to give in, molding itself to your knife’s angle, something that a rock-solid stone can’t.
Its width directly determines the sharpness of the edge, so it’s only natural for a rolled over blade edge to be wider than a straight one. Thus, when it comes to sharpening the blade using a leather belt or leather in general, the first and most important rule is to do it only for intact blades.
How to Tell If It’s Sharp Enough
All knives, especially ones you use daily, referred to as the chef’s knife should be refinished every once in a few weeks, depending on how often you use them. There are a couple of general factors that can help you figure out whether or not your blade is sharp enough, and you need to learn how to how to sharpen a knife at home. If you experience even the slightest difficulty when trying to cut something, and you need to apply pressure on the blade, then you know you have to do it! Dull knives are often more dangerous than sharp ones, because you have to apply more pressure, and this can make them slip.
Is it Possible to Over-Sharpen Your Knives?
Just like with any other good thing in life, an excess can completely derail things and turn them into a confusing mess. When you’re trying to learn how to sharpen a knife at home, you should also pay attention to the process, not to over-do it.
Fortunately, no matter how hard you try, you will be unable to change stainless steel properties. That is as long as you aren’t using any heavy-duty gear or overheat the blade first. But what you can achieve involuntarily, by doing it too often and too much, is changing the blade’s edge profile, leaving a burr instead. The best way to keep track of this is by paying attention to the edge to notice the slightest deviation.
Quick Tip: you can use a magnifying hand lens of 10-15X when sharpening the knife, as this is the best and fastest way to notice any change in the blade’s profile.
How to Keep It Sharp
The most common and recommended tool for kitchen knives, in particular, is the sharpening steel, which is ideal for regular use and maintenance. The stainless steel pile aligns the blade of the knife so that it sharpens each time you rub it across. Most sets of knives include one, so you shouldn’t have any problems in getting one from your nearest convenience store. Alternatively, you can use a knife sharpening stone. The main characteristics of an ideal one would be flat profile, rectangular shape, and a super-smooth texture. It, however, will depend on the set of knives you want to refinish and how hard you want to sharpen it. There are also sets of sharpening stones, which include several stones with different textures.
And then, there are other types of manual or electric tools available in stores, like, for example, the ceramic sharpener or the best electric knife sharpener. They can vary greatly depending on their price range and manufacturers, but in the long run, they are not a real substitute for the sharpening steel or stone, which you probably already have. Besides, some of these tools can end up doing more harm than good. It is advisable to avoid them, save some money, and sharpen your kitchen knives yourself.
Quick Tip: one of the best ways of telling if you’re doing an excellent job in keeping your knives sharp is by cutting across a rolled-on aluminum foil. If the line that you cut is perfectly straight, then you know you have mastered how to sharpen a knife at home properly.
Sharp as a Blade Outro
Any respected chef out there can confirm that a good, sharp knife is the essential tool in a kitchen. A sharp knife is not only more effective, but paradoxically, it is also much safer. It retains the firmness of the cut, without applying too much pressure and thus cannot slip at the risk of injuring you. You should have already learned this from our ultimate guide on how to sharpen a knife at home.
Our dedicated MyKitchenAdvisor testers have gone through no less than two months of daily trials for each of the types of knife sharpeners enlisted in our guide. They tested no less than twelve different models of kitchen and fillet knives, and countless studies and testimonials, to bring you this cutting edge review. We hope that you have managed to learn more and appreciate more the value of a perfectly sharp blade and that our guide will help you with your search. If you have mastered how to sharpen a knife at home, feel free to share your thoughts and experience on the process!