People sharpen their knives differently. I’m just going to show you one basic method. Please feel free to share your own method and tips in the comments.
Disclaimer: If you have high quality knives, you are better off getting them professionally sharpened. Practice and learn on a low quality set.
Step 1 : Gather Tools
I bought an affordable kit with all the necessary tools. There are much more expensive options available if you have high quality knives or want to simplify the job. This kit suits me just fine.
The Two Main Tools:
There are varying quality of stones. Buy whatever matches the quality of your knife. The finer the grit of the stone, the sharper you can get your knife. Start with a rougher grit then work towards a finer grit.
You can use water or honing oil. The lubricant clears the metal debris that comes off during the process and reduces friction.
Step 2 : Prepare Tools
- Find the rough grit first. Some stones have rough grit on one side and finer on the other. If the stones aren’t labelled, look at and feel the stone to test its grit.
- Pour the lubricant on the stone.
- Find the right angle and keep it consistent through the sharpening. The angle depends on the knife but 20 degrees for a standard kitchen knife should do. If you have trouble maintaining an angle, get a sharpening guide. This kit comes with one at 23 degrees. Most Western kitchen knives are at this angle. If you have a specialty knife or an Asian knife, you’ll have to be more careful in finding the angle.
Pro Tip for finding the angle: place the knife at a shallow angle and slowly move it up. Once the lubricant is pushed out from under the edge to form a thin line, you’ve found the angle on the knife’s “bevel”.
Step 3 : Sharpen
- The key parts of your blade are your bevel, which is the part of the blade that angles towards the other key part, the edge.
- The bevel will usually be a straight. Your goal is basically to shave an equal amount of metal off each bevel so that you have a sharp blade.
- Sharpen one side by pushing the knife away from you along the stone. Apply pressure with your thumbs while you are pushing the knife.
- Towards the tip of the knife, the bevel will be at a different angle, so near the end of the movement, raise the knife handle slightly to maintain contact between the bevel and the stone.
- Do the entire movement about 5-10 times depending on the dullness of the blade.
- Rotate the blade by pulling the knife handle towards you while sharpening: most knives will be longer than the stone, so rotate the blade as you sharpen to get the entire edge of the blade. Maintain the same angle.
- Sharpen the opposite bevel by pulling the knife towards you with the same amount of strokes as on the first side.
- Repeat the entire process with the fine grit stone if you want your knife sharper.
Pro Tip on Cleaning : clean your stone with soap and water to open up the pores and protect the quality of your stones for the future
Pro Tip on Checking Sharpness: with great care and minimal pressure, run your thumb along the edge. You want your thumb’s ridges to get caught at the bevel. An observational check is done by holding the knife in the light and looking for a reflection. Any shiny parts are still dull. You want the blade to reflect as little light as possible.
Sharpening versus Honing
The steel rod that comes with many knife block kits is used for honing the knife. Honing is necessary to straighten out the edge of the blade, as the edge warps during regular use. A burr will form when you sharpen, as the edge is pushed one way or the other to a fine point. This burr is good news since it means you’ve really sharpened the edge to a fine point. You can tell if you have a burr by running your finger along the bevel. If the ridges in your finger catch on the knife, you have found the burr. You should straight this burr out by honing.
Point the steel downwards onto a stable cloth. Place your knife blade at the same angle that you sharpened it at on the rod.
Put the knife’s hilt against the steel and then drag the knife’s blade towards you maintaining the same angle. Repeat on the other side. Repeat the process 5 times (unless the knife is really unaligned).
To smooth the edge (and also hone away the burr) you can use the raw side of an old leather belt by moving the blade along with the edge towards you. Use the same angle as before and cover the length of the blade.