A: That depends almost entirely on how often you use them. If you are a professional chef who uses his or her knives every day then you should hone them every time you use your knives. But honing has its limits and over time your edge is going to become dull no matter what. Therefore your knives will need to be sharpened at least several times a year. Some chefs, in fact, will use a whetstone on an almost daily basis in order to ensure their knives are always razor sharp. Most of us, however, are not professional chefs and may not even touch our kitchen knives for days at a time. In that case, it’s probably a good idea to hone the edge after every couple of uses and have your knives sharpened once a year.
The paper test - Remove your knife from the sharpener. Grab a piece of notebook paper and hold it vertically in your hand so that one edge is facing straight up. Now take the knife and push it down against this edge. If the blade cuts through without hesitation it’s sharp. If the paper simply crumples beneath the blade instead of cutting the blade needs a bit more work.
The truth is that there is no one recommendation that we can make that will meet everyone’s needs. Every sharpener’s needs are different and every sharpening toolkit will be different. In order to help beginning sharpeners get started with good sharpening stones to build around, we need to understand their individual needs. So with that in mind, let’s look at the basic needs of a beginning sharpener.
Most sharpening stones are made of aluminum oxide, Novaculite, and silicon carbide. They are commonly known as India, Arkansas and Crystolon stones. Crystolon and India are man made while Arkansas stones are natural. Arkansas stones have a fine to coarse texture while India stones are preferred for fine sharpening. Crystolon are mainly used for initial coarse sharpening. Some sharpening stones are mixed with diamond abrasives to produce the optimal cutting edge.
I can personally verify that this will get your knives very sharp. I will spare you all the gory details, but the picture is of the instructions the ER sent me home with after stopping the bleeding and patching me up. I have to say, that’s not what I had in mind regarding “Thanksgiving tips”. So: not only will knives slide easily through spinach, but they will go through finger and fingernail like a hot knife through butter after being sharpened by this whetstone. Very clean, straight cut. Impressive, really. Just take it slow and don’t be a moron like me.
Place an old coffee mug upside down so that the bottom of the mug is exposed to the air. In a pinch, a coffee mug can serve as a surprisingly effective sharpening tool if you don't have any fancy equipment. The ceramic material of a mug is a material coarse enough to get good results. Indeed, some honing rods even use ceramic material to keep a blade homed in between sharpenings.
Our favorite way to sharpen a blade is to use a whetstone—a rectangular block that works almost like sandpaper, helping to straighten and refine the cutting edge on the blade as you slide the knife across it. Most whetstones are designed to be soaked in water before every use, so check the manufacturer's instructions to be sure. (Fun fact: Whetstones aren't actually named for the fact that most are used wet—"whet" is actually just an old word for "sharpen").
It takes time to sharpen a knife correctly. I spent about 30 minutes on an already fairly sharp knife. I then spent two more sessions of about 10 to 15 minutes each. I took it a bit further with a 6000 grit stone and this puts a nice polish on it. Instead of cutting through an onion, it glides or slips through it. It was truly shocking to me to use a really sharp knife. It may take a bit of time to get it right the first time, since this was my first time with a water stone, but it was well worth the effort. I have been trying to figure out the best way to get a really sharp knife.
Diamond hones are made from very small, industrial grade, diamonds adhered to the face of a metal or plastic plate. Also, because Diamonds are so much harder than any of the other sharpening materials, they tend to cut very fast and last much longer than the other whetstone materials. But, they are also often more expensive to purchase. In addition, Diamond Stones generally consist of three different styles consisting of a solid metal plate coated with an adhesive and diamond dust with holes in the plate to allow the swarf to escape, a solid plate without holes for sharpening tools with corners that might catch in the holes, and a plastic plate with islands of exposed plastic interspersed with the adhesive and diamond dust to act as a lubricant.
A steel is the shorthand term for a steel rod used to straighten knife edges. Any decent knife set includes one, but few people know exactly what it does, much less how to properly use it. If you don’t have a steel, go buy one for about $20. Joe will show you how to use it to maintain a sharp edge. Don’t waste your money getting a diamond-coated surface. You don’t need it to know how to sharpen a knife.
There really is no point in having amazing knives if you don’t keep them sharp. Bert from TOG Knives has spent years experimenting with different sharpening methods and bits of equipment to work out the absolute best way to sharpen TOG Knives. If you follow the advice below we guarantee you will become a sharpening Ninja. Watch this space as we’ll be adding more videos in the future…
Hobby microscope view of a 220 grit diamond sharpening stone. Tiny diamonds are electroplated to a perforated metal carrier strip and bonded to a plastic backing. The feature identified with the red line across it measures about 0.08 mm across. The dark area at upper right is a void designed to allow for swarf created during sharpening to be cleared from the diamonds. This relatively coarse stone would be used to reshape a damaged blade edge which would be refined by finer grit stones.
If you’re sharpening high quality knives, you probably don’t want to use a cheapo sharpening stone. But if you’re just getting started with sharpening your pocket knife, there’s no need to get too fancy right off the bat. You can find a sharpening stone at most hardware stores for about $10. This one is very similar to the one I use. Nothing fancy. Most basic sharpening stones come with two sides: a rough grit and a fine grit. The finer the grit, the finer or sharper you can get your blade. You usually start off sharpening on the rough grit and then finish sharpening it on the finer grit.
The Work Sharp WSKTS-KO Knife and Tool Sharpener is a handheld device, which is optimized to handle various sharpening jobs. It comes with a belt sander, which spins around following a triangular configuration. It has a set of angles on either side, which can be adjusted from 15 to 30 degrees, depending on your sharpening needs. Unlike other electric knife sharpeners, which tend to overheat during high speeds, the speed of this one is adjustable.
You've likely seen someone using a honing rod to "sharpen" a knife. But the steel rod doesn't actually sharpen your knife—it just straightens out the cutting edge on the blade to allow for smoother, safer cuts. Sharpening your knife, on the other hand, actually, well, sharpens it. So yes, you need to do both. Hone your knife weekly—every time you use your knife, if you'd like—and sharpen your knife every few months, or at least every year (depending on how often you use it, and how soon you notice dulling that honing doesn't really improve).
Both Belgian Blue and Vielsalm Coticule are ancient stone layers found in the Belgian Ardenne Mountains with characteristics similar to both Novaculite and Siliciclastic sedimentary stone in that it is a metamorphic stone consisting of both gray and yellow volcanic ash mixed with tiny Spessartite Garnet crystals suspended in a clay matrix. However, due to its geology, both types of stone occur only in vertical seams sandwiched between two thick layers of bluish-purple slate and thus, they must be meticulously extracted mostly by hand. However, this type of extraction process is both very time-consuming and very labor-intensive and, quarrymen can only extract the stone for a few months each year due to inclement weather conditions. Consequently, both Belgium Blue and Coticule whetstones tend to be somewhat expensive.