Having tested my step-mother's knife sharpener (from Williams-Sonoma, see link below) on her very dull (and mistreated) Wusthof knives, I decided to purchase one for use with my own Wusthof Classics. The sharpener worked very well on her poorly-treated knives. I take very good care of my knives, but I have never been able to get the hang of using a steel. I simply can't get my mind to translate the correct motion to my hands, and I'm always worried about not using the correct angle.
This knife sharpener is very easy to use, but I'm worried now about what it might do to my knives--could it sharpen them up in the short term, but be damaging in the long run?
I'd love to hear from Chowhounds who have experience with this sharpener or others like it.
Also, I have two "specialty" knives--the Wusthof offset bread knife and the Wusthof Hollow-Ground Santoku. Will either of these be adversely affected by sharpening with this tool?
I recently bought a Presto Eversharp electric sharpener, as I also had not been able to get the hang of using manual devices. I followed the instructions as closely as I could, and was a bit taken aback to see that it had visibly reduced the width of the knife (right up near the handle, where it's not possible to get the blade in contact with the wheel in the machine, there's now a slight notch). However, the knives came out very sharp. That was two to three months ago, and I have been able to maintain them up to now with just honing. So, although this machine seems to take a bite out of the blade, it shouldn't be necessary to do that very often. For honing I usually use a small manual device that you pull the blade through; it is designed to hold the blade at the proper angle for you.
I have used a Chef's Choice for 15 + years and it has not damaged my knives in anyway. A steel is not so much for sharpening but for honing a knife and bringing the edge back between uses and sharpenings. If you were to look at a knife's edge after use, under a microscope you would see that the edge of the blade would look a little rough. Honing with a steel smooths that rough surface and aligns it so that you can cut more smoothly.
I've also been using one for about 10 years. I'm not sure what sort of damage you fear, but you're more likely to mess up a blade trying to learn how to sharpen a knife by hand or taking it to someone less than highly skilled. (Keep in mind that many commercial knife sharpeners that places like delis use don't do such a great job - the knives a lot of those places use are not great quality in the first place and they tolerate the removal of a lot of metal to put an edge on them, knowing they'll be replaced after so many years. Not the sort of thing you probably want to do with expensive knives at home.)
One note, you should NOT use a steel when you use these sharpeners - they're designed to put a multi-angled bevel on the blade and using a steel will mess that up. It won't hurt anything, but it will take more metal off the knife over time than if you just use the finest grinders on the sharpener for occasional touch-ups between more extensive re-sharpening.
These sharpeners might not keep knives *quite* as scalpel-sharp as a perfectly hand-sharpened knife (so I've heard), but (a) they do an excellent if not perfect job, (b) proper hand sharpening is a real skill that most people will have trouble developing in any event and (c) it's a hell of a lot easier to use the machine.
"I'm not sure what sort of damage you fear "
Haha, you're right. It's just that I realized that I was going only on the recommendation of the WS employee, and I hadn't really done any research on the topic. These knives are precious to me--they were a gift, and there's no way I could afford to replace them myself. And I do too much chopping to go back to anything less!
This is all to say: Thank you for the reply. I look forward to sharpening my knives care-free.
PS--Thanks, too, for the tip about not using the steel with the sharpener.