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Home knife sharpening - best (and most reasonable) sharpener?

I have a few knives that i get (professionally) sharpened here and again, but they dont hold their blades all that well. have a wustoff clasic santoku and a henkels chef's knife of good quality. not sure if if they're not sharpened well (the blade seems pretty sharp when i get them back, not amazingly so), or my roommate mistreats them (i use the steel every other time i use it), but they just don;t seem to hold a blade well. so i feel like i'd like to be able to sharpen them up whenever i feel like it.

can you recommend a home sharpener (something effective and re$onable)? some old school equipment i should get (stone of some sort?)...techniques? i'm kind of clueless as to how shrpen a knife....

any help would be aprpeciated -- thanks!

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  1. look at my reply under "I'm buying a good knife: 8-in chef or santoku???
    pâté chinois " Get and maintain a good steel, edge will last indefinately.

    1. It's best to use a knife steel than do home sharpening. I have a Henkels diamond steel and love it, but it does require acquiring the right technique. I practice on an old knife.

      1. Although you use a diamond steel the same way as a regular steel you actually are sharpening the blade, not honing, since the diamond abrasive does remove some metal from the blade. Not a good idea to use one every day, but you can extend the time between professional jobs. Another option is to use a fine grit Japanese mud stone. You use it much like a regular whetstone, but you wet the surface first and an abrasive paste forms on the surface as you work the blade across it. If there is no Japanese hardware or knife shop near you you probably will need to go online to find them. Sur la Table has diamond steels. Or at least they did a couple years ago.

        1. I've seen 2 conflicting methods for using steel for honing. One is to cut down on the steel with the edge (this is on the back of Henckles steel as instructions and other places). The other is to drag the edge up the steel (this is from Joy of Cooking). So how do you hone the blade?!?

          If you're using a diamond coated steel is it the same? What about if you use a grinding stone for a new edge do you draw backwards or grind along the edge?

          1. Ergo Chef makes a great oval diamond steel. It can be had on eBay for ~$25.

            Steeling straightens an edge, however -- sharpening puts a bevel back onto the blade. The choices are to get your knives professionally sharpened, use a stone, or get something like a Chef's Choice electric sharpener. If you have more than a few knives, and can follow instructions, I find the latter option to be a cost-effective option that keeps all of my knives very sharp (simple tests for me are: can I shave my forearm without pressing? can I slice a tomato paper-thin without bruising it? and will the edge last for more than a few weeks if I steel it?).

            Your mileage, of course, may vary. But I would caution against getting a cheaper sharpener (manual or electric) than the Chef's Choice models, unless you want to learn how to use something like a Lansky stone. It seems like you either spend the money for a machine with grinding wheels and angle guides, or you spend the time to use a stone properly, or you send your knives to a pro. There don't seem to be any good compromises.

            1. -----

              Not to start a word-terms war, but there is no such thing as a Diamond Steel. Those should be called a Diamond Sharpening Rod, of which nothing more than an abrasive sharpening stone in a rod form. True Steels hone only.


              1 Reply
              1. re: RShea78

                Sorry about the imprecision. I double-checked and the 'steel' they sell is a 'diamond hone' which, as you stated, is an oval diamond grit stone. A steel, of course, is a file with the teeth facing out in a circle, which pushes a burr back to center and removes any discontinuous irregularities (or at least that's the theory...).

                I would not want to try sharpening (beveling) an edge on a steel, but the removal of irregularities (not nicks, but a discontinuous burr) is probably easier with one of these. Regardless, I have a cheap Wenger steel that seems to work fine. I have heard good things about the Ergo Chef, but perhaps the people using it have perfect steeling technique and can actually use it for low-grade honing -- I wouldn't know.

              2. I bought an Analon manual knife sharpener in Macy's for $25 on sale. It has three ceramic wheels - coarse, fine, and finer. You're supposed to push-pull the knife eight or so times in each section (skip the coarse wheel unless the knife is *really* dull). I guess it works OK. I have a new Wustof's classic chef's knife, and I was surprised that I had to sharpen it so soon (it killed me to put scrape marks on it). It worked much better after I sharpened it, but never as good as when it was new. I called Wustof's customer support number and the woman was very helpful.

                1 Reply
                1. re: xnyorkr

                  Without a stropping step, you are unlikely to ever get back hair-splitting sharpness. Even with a stropping assembly it is not easy. It is not difficult for me to put a shaving edge back onto my full-tang knives, and that might be due to their inherent heft. It takes me several tries to put a really sharp edge back onto the lighter knives, and the irregular shapes of my cleaver and the Ergo Chef 6" knife require attention to technique.

                  I'm not claiming for a second that the electric sharpeners are as good as a professional with a $3000 sharpening rig and an experienced eye. I'm just not willing to send away my knives for a week at a time, and I like to have some control over the process, so I find my electric sharpener to be a useful choice.

                  The Cook's Illustrated people and some of the authors of popular sharpening books seem to agree (although perfectionists point out that a pro will always do better). Here are some considerations and background which I found useful.


                  Here is another handy link for learning how to steel properly.


                  Finally, here is a handy eGullet course on the process, with some interesting info.


                  I don't claim to be an authority, but my knives do stay sharp enough for my use (and sharp enough for my father, a surgical pathologist, to approve of the results). YMMV.

                2. I swear by the Friedrick Dick 11" Multicut sharpening steel.


                  You can find these easily on the web for about $80-$100. I've had company tell me they were afraid of my knifes because they were so sharp. That's the best compliment I can think of.

                  1. STOP IT!!!! Right now! You asked this same question a few weeks ago. Either make a decision or get off the pot. Making the wrong decision is worse than no decision. At least yo can correct a wrong decision. If you are scared of buying the wrong thing, buy it at bed bath and beyond. They take stuff back years after you purchased it without the receipt.

                    1. Get the Chef's Choice 130. I can't believe how long I cooked without it.

                      1. Be wary of the electric knife sharpeners. Everytime you run your knife through there they will loose a little bit of steel. Also when you have them professionally sharpened, it depends on what angle they put on the blade. A 16 degree angle will dull faster than a 22 degree angle.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: fancycook1

                          You remove steel whenever you sharpen a knife. There is no other way to restore the bevel. Professional knife sharpeners, Arkansas stones, electric sharpeners -- they ALL have to remove some metal from the edge of the blade in order to restore a continuous bevel.

                          The (valid) concern is how much steel is removed. At least in the case of the Chef's Choice sharpeners, they realized that they could deliver a reasonably durable and sharp edge by putting a double bevel on in (15 and 20 degrees, I think) and instructing people not to use the #1 slot, where most of the metal is torn off the knife, unless their blades were badly dulled. A truly professional knife sharpener (a person, who operates and perhaps owns, but cannot be replaced by, a machine) will be able to do better than this, and put a continuous convex bevel onto the edge of a knife, striking an optimal balance of durability and sharpness. These people really are worth seeking out (or learning to emulate them!).

                          No rational person is going to use a 16 degree single bevel for anything besides surgery.

                          Note that sharpening is not the same as steeling. Steeling pushes an already-sharp bevel back towards the middle so that the burr is centered over the thing being cut or sliced. Sharpening restores a bevel that has been lost by dulling and has become rounded.

                          More on the subject can be found by Googling 'knife sharpening' or at the following link.

                        2. I think in terms of the job it will do and cost - your original requirements - a Lansky or GATCO sharpener would be the way to go. Both require a bit of setup and coordination, but I have had consistently good results. I do not use oil on the stones, btw, but use them either dry or with water.

                          IMHO, the GATCO is a bit nicer as the stones are wider...

                          For either, I would get the optional table mount/grip..about $8.00

                          1. I use my Wustof steel, about 25 years old, not sure of the coarseness but I'll look tonight, I "cut into the blade", that is I push the beveled edge into the steel and push the knife away from me gradually moving the blade from the bolster to the tip while cutting into the blade at an estimated 20 degree angle on the steel, sorry it is so hard to describe. Never had the knives professionally sharpenened, again over 25 years. They still take a nice set with a few strokes on the steel. I do think the steel is harder than the knives and can see very fine metal shavings which I like to remove from the knife with a dish towel or whatever is handy. I know, the steel is just supposed to straighten the edge but I think it removes a slight amount of knife blade. I also have heard it is a no no but I do the same with the serrated knives, still cut great. Our knives have the black wooden grips riveted on, Wustof and Trident, so we still hand wash and dry them, one of the handles is working loose, the rest are fine, but I think plastic grips are an improvement.