A: For many years there was a heated debate around this topic with manufacturer’s stating flatly the notion their products actually damaged knives was absurd, and many professional chefs claiming not only was it not absurd, it was common for mechanical sharpeners to damage expensive cutlery. So who was right? To a certain extent they both were. The manufacturers were correct in asserting that if you followed the instructions to the letter there was little if any chance your knives would be damaged. However, in reality few people actually followed the instructions to the letter and when they veered from the recommended course the potential was there for damage.
I am just starting out sharpening with whet stones. I have found these stones to be very nice and the instructional videos that come along with the set on knifeplanet are extremely helpful to anyone starting out. The cost of the set was very reasonable and seems to be a great value. The customer service is amazing, I lost the site for the videos and sent an email to get the information and immediately there was a reply with all of the links that I needed. I appreciate their attention to their customers!!
Aesthetics – While it’s true that most people keep their sharpener, (even their expensive mechanical sharpeners) in the drawer until it’s time to use them you’ll still want to be aware of whether your sharpener fits into the overall aesthetic of your kitchen when you do take it out to use. While sharpener designs are fairly limited to be sure you typically have some control over the color and finish of the device as well as design factors like whether the device is boxy or rounded in appearance. With a stone sharpener or a stick however you pretty much get what you get.
Ease of use – Most people in search of a mechanical sharpener want one because they don’t want to be bothered with trying to achieve a perfect edge themselves using a stick or sharpening stone. They want predictable, first class results every time. In that case it’s important that the electric powered device is easy to use, achieves results quickly and with little effort and is designed with user safety in mind. Keep in mind too that it’s easy to apply too much pressure when using a mechanical sharpener and when that happens you’re likely to see unsatisfactory results. In addition there are subtle differences between mechanical devices designed for Asian-style knives and those designed for Western-style knives. This has to do with the sharpening angle discussed above. Don’t get an Asian sharpener if you don’t need precise control over your cuts.
The speed and polishing ability of waterstones attract many sharpeners. Waterstones sharpen quickly and are available in fine polishing grits not found in other stone types. The ability to flatten the stones is a necessity when sharpening with waterstones, so a starting set should include a flattening stone of some kind. Our article, How to Flatten a Waterstone, has more information about keeping waterstones flat.
Now you may wonder, if a finer stone produces a better cutting edge why do I need a coarse stone at all? The answer is that finer stones work much more slowly than coarse ones. The amount of metal a fine stone removes with each pass is much less than what a coarse stone removes. If you have an edge with a good shape to it from a coarse stone, this is not a problem because the fine stone doesn’t have to remove much metal to improve the edge. If the edge is dull, it will take many times longer to reshape it with a fine stone than it would with a coarse one.