You may have heard the old saying “a sharp knife is safer than a dull one”. Well it turns out that this saying is completely true. A sharp knife is less likely to slip on what you are cutting, which is one of the main ways that people accidentally injure themselves. And if you do slip up, a sharp knife will give you a cleaner, less painful cut than a dull blade would.
But even if this saying weren’t true, you would still want to keep your knives sharpened. After all, a sharp knife just makes life easier. If you are out in the wild, you need your blades to be at full functionality. Unfortunately, many people don’t regularly sharpen their knives, often because they simply don’t know how. If you aren’t sure how to keep you blades razor sharp, this post will give you all the information you need to start using a knife sharpener.
Knife sharpening is a learned skill. While relatively simple, it requires a bit of finesse that can be difficult to learn. This is complicated by the many varying opinions as to how it should be done. That being said, anyone can do it once they understand what they are doing.
A knife gets dull because the pressures put on the blade slowly remove and reshape the metal on the edge of your knife, making it round instead of pointed. The goal in knife sharpening is to reshape the metal into an angled wedge shape. This is done by grinding away small bits of metal until the blade is sharp again. In order to do this, you will need a sharpening stone, a good angle, and the right style.
There are two main features that your stone should have. The first one is a low grit or rough side. This side is used to reshape the edge or your blade. The second feature is a high grit or fine stone. This side is used to really put that finished edge on your blade.
If you don’t already have a stone, the variety of stones can be intimidating when you are looking to buy. While we recommend a water stone, it doesn’t really matter what kind of stone you use so long as you keep the stone in good condition. It is even possible to sharpen your stone with various household objects if you don’t have a sharpening stone at hand (click here to learn more). However, if you really want a good edge on your knife you are going to want to get a good quality stone with two different grits.
Once you have your stone, you need to find the angle at which you hold your knife. This angle will determine how sharp and durable your knife will be when you are done. A 30 degree angle will give you a relatively dull edge, but it will be quite durable and you shouldn’t have to sharpen it for a while. This angle is best for axes or other chopping knives.
For most other knives, you will want an angle between 10 and 25 degrees. 10 degrees is extremely sharp and good for food prep, but it will not last long. Most general use knives should be sharpened to around 20 degrees for the optimal sharpness and durability.
Regardless of what angle you use, the key is to maintain that angle constantly while sharpening your blade. You will also need to lift the handle of the knife a bit when you get to the tip so that the tip also gets the right angle.
There is disagreement among experts as to the best way to sharpen your knife. However, everyone agrees on the basics.
Once you have found the best angle, slowly push the blade forward along the stone, maintaining the angle the whole time. You don’t have to push hard, just make sure you maintain a gentle pressure. Once you’ve pushed it to the edge of the stone, go back to the beginning and repeat until it is relatively sharp, making sure that you sharpen both sides of your edge. Then you should switch to your fine stone and repeat the process to put that good edge on your blade.
Here is where different styles come into play. Everyone agrees that you need to sharpen both sides of your edge to prevent a lip from forming. But some people switch sides after each push. Others do one side for a while and then flip to the other side. Some people also pull the knife in addition to pushing it. Some people say it takes an hour to really sharpen a knife, others will do it in under ten minutes. And some people sharpen each section of the blade individually, while others move the knife as they push so that each section gets sharpened as they go.
In the end, style is really up to personal preference. Do what works for you, and let us know about it in the comments below!
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