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Knife Sharpening - Avoid Sur La Table

If you want your knifes to actually be sharp, avoid Sur La Tables knife "sharpening". First off, it's over priced. They charge by the inch. Secondly, and most importantly, they don't get them sharp. What is the point if they aren't going to sharpen them. Sure, you'll leave with fancy little bag and your knifes in branded cardboard sheaths, but they won't be any better then when you brought them in.
I wasted my money on this service earlier this year but they wouldn't give me a refund over the phone and living in Lincoln Square I hadn't had the occasion to stop back by the Lincoln Park store for a refund. Thanks guys.
The good part of this is that I too the advice and drove down to Northwest Cutlery on Lake street. It's in warehouse section underneath the green/pink line tracks. They know what they're doing! They use large spinning stone sharpeners and it's 3.50 per knife, no matter the length. My knifes have never been so sharp and I'm loving cooking those pesky green onions again.

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  1. I agree 100%. Sur Le Table did mine once and I didn't notice any improvement. Fortunately they did it for free, so I literally did get what I paid for.

    Went to NW Cutlery on Lake and my chef's knife is like new again. FYI, they also stock the full line of MAC knives which are used by many top chefs (Thomas Keller, Charlie Trotter, etc.) as well as an intersting selection of chef's supplies.

    1. I just received an email from sur la table today offering free knife sharpening! Glad to see your post, I'll skip it.

      1 Reply
      1. re: xena

        Yeah, I received that email this morning also. That is what prompted me to write this post. I'd been meaning to for a while, but this was good impetus.

      2. Thanks for the recommendation. I've been meaning to get my knives sharpened for a while, but had no idea where to do it since, as you know, it's hard to find a trusty place to get good knives sharpened. Next time I head to Chicago, I'll have to go to Northwest Cutlery. Do they sharpen knives while you wait, or do they take a few days?

        1 Reply
        1. re: kcchan

          They did it in a few minutes while I waited.

          Lots of neat stuff to see while you are there too, including a box of beat up old butcher knives on a shelf near the floor - handles all nicked up, one with electrical tape around it. Look like old props from a slasher movie. Thought about getting one just to get a rise out of my wife next time I quarter a chicken.

        2. I know NW Cutlery and the are good at what they do BUT they will gladly take your $3.50 no matter what would be best for your knives... If you you have some VICTORINOX/Forschners , Dexters , older Laguioles or other "butcher style" blades that need some knicks cleaned up, deburred, and re-edged head right over.

          Similarly if you need a F. Dick Dickoron steel they have the best prices and selection. AND EVERYONE NEEDS A Dickoron!!!!

          NW is NOT the place to go to have a Global (or other Asian) blade tuned-up, nor would I recommend taking a quality German knife to them.

          I am sure this will sound pedantic, but the best way to approach knife sharpening is to FIRST begin by correctly steeling your knifes MORE OFTEN than you think they need it.

          If you've already whacked up the edges seek out someone who truly cares about putting a better than factory edge on cutlery: http://www.holleyknives.com/aboutus.html

          1 Reply
          1. re: renov8r

            I took a pair of Wustoff Culinar knives in and they came back nice and sharp. However, I don't have much to compare it to. I just know they are sharp as all get out.

          2. Can't speak to SLT's virtues/vices but can attest to the performance at NW Cutlery. In addition to quality knife sharpening and knife selection they have "industrial" cooking supplies at good prices.

            1. I've had good luck having my knives sharpened at the Wooden Spoon in Andersonville. They were cheap, quick and good (and convenient to Lincoln Square).

              The Wooden Spoon
              5047 N. Clark

              1. How very embarrassing and true this headline is. I couldn't agree more after my experience in 2010 I will avoid Sur La Table for my knife sharpening. I just got off the phone with a store manager after all four of the knives I dropped off were badly scratched on the sides. The lady at the cashier tried to tell me that "this is normal" for all knife sharpening. I was shocked when I spoke with the Store Manager and she also tried to tell me that this is normal. If you have a high end expensive set of knives and you value them and plan to keep them for the long term be sure that you do not take them to SLT. I will never let them sharpen my knives again and will be taking my knives to a professional to have them sharpened properly by hand and properly finished and polished like a craftsman would. I guess I am never shocked any more that people don't take care in maintaining other people's property when it comes to cars or housing repairs etc -- quality of workmanship has dropped. But, when it comes to Sur La Table and sharpening of knives I expected hand sharpening and great care to be taken. My knives look like they were run through an electric knife sharpener by a high school student with no training and no idea what they are doing and were not properly finished at all. Avoid SLT for this cheap free promotional services and go to a knife sharpening pro. As a longstanding SLT customer they have badly offended me here and I was shocked how flippantly they dealt with this issue. "That's what happens when you sharpen knives using our machine" is not what you want to hear when some hack has scratched the hell out of a knife that you have owned for over 10 years and totally damaged a brand new Henckels that doesn't even have a year on it. SLT should know better and offer better service to their customers than this. I will try to attach a photo showing up close the scratching that was done to one of my brand new knives using their machine. Awful.

                1 Reply
                1. re: jdsboston

                  I'm sorry even more folks had damaged goods. I have since purchased a DMT sharpening "stone". I keep things honed well with this little guy and go much longer without finding a professional. I have put some scratches on my Shun 7inch, but will live, since I can't be too indignant with myself.

                2. I have only used Northwestern Cutlery for many years and they are probably the best sharpeners in Chicago not to mention that their assortment of fine cutlery is outstanding. They usually finish my orders while I am browsing around and usually I find something to purchase. I have also bought some very nice Shun knives there. So ditto on your recommendation.

                  1. My experience with Northwest Cutlery was not as positive as others....yes, my knives came back sharp, however, they were significantly smaller....they had taken off between 1/16" to 1/8" of steel on each of my knives....this was fine for our inexpensive Chicago Cutlery knives, but I would be unhappy if it were a Global or premium european brand.....a boning knife would only have two or three sharpenings before being too small to use.....

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: mkaufman

                      Ahhh, the beginning of wisdom about cheap sharpening service; you get what you pay for. As mkaufman duly notes, once a sharpener becomes concerned about not taking off too much metal, the whole game changes. It now requires more care and a more exacting system of sharpening. Once you folks learn what it takes to sharpen a knife PROPERLY, you'll understand that nobody in their right mind would do it for $2-3 dollars a pop unless they were gonna do it quick and dirty by running it thru a machine, on a bench grinder, or on a belt grinder. Oh, and if you're gonna do it on a bench grinder, you're gonna hollow/concave the grind...which is ok if your knife came that way, but most do not. Like I said, you get what you pay for. When I do a knife, I use a very expensive $350 system and it takes me at LEAST 15-20 minutes to do it right, which includes precision angles, proper deburring, and final stropping with multiple compounds. I also take care to only remove as much metal as is absolutely necessary for the required edge. It's a labor of love, and why I charge between $1.50 and $2 per inch. Even then, it's barely worth my spare time, which is why I only do it on the side. Trust me, you do get what you pay for, so it's only worth it to do a good sharpening on expensive "user" knives, not the cheap stuff. For the cheap stuff, yeah, $3 is about right. gotoran@gmail.com

                      1. re: mkaufman

                        I wonder if it has something to do with the quality of the steel? I have a couple of expensive knives, including a Global that I've had them sharpen a couple of times with no issues. However, I did take them a Calphalon paring knife once and it came back noticeable smaller.

                        1. re: rjka

                          It has almost nothing to do with the quality of the steel, although the edge will last shorter or longer depending on which steel is used and how hard it is used. It has more to do with the skill of the person who is doing the sharpening. It's extremely easy to take off too much metal with the sharper grits, ESPECIALLY if you're using a machine and not hand sharpening.

                          1. re: ayokay

                            Also, some stainless steel blades have considerably harder Rockwell hardness and therefore are very difficult to sharpen. Because of that, I can imagine attempts at sharpenig cause more of the steel taken off during sharpening.

                            1. re: igorm

                              As long as you stop once each side raises a burr, there shouldn't be any problems. It's when you mindlessly drone on with the sharpening, and stop paying attention that you run into problems.