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Jun 4, 2007 02:38 AM

My Wusthof Knife is NEVER sharp enough...please help!

Hey everyone. I splurged last year when my knife set got stolen and purchased a Wusthoff 10 inch chef's knife. I have had this knife professionally sharpened numerous times, and use a steel before and after each use religiously. Could someone please explain to me why my knife if completely dull and won't cut through even an onion a mere three days after being sharpened? Do I need a better steel?

Also, please note that I used to live in Chicago and went to a great place to get it sharpened, and it still happened. Now I am living in Adelaide, South Australia with nothing but a key shop that sometimes sharpens knives, so my options are more limited. I know this knife can work, so any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

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  1. ["Could someone please explain to me why my knife if completely dull and won't cut through even an onion a mere three days after being sharpened?"]

    Three days in a busy pro kitchen or three days of normal home use?

    1. what kind of steel? If a knife has just been sharpened, the edge only needs realignment on a smooth steel. Many of the steels on the market are too aggressive and will destroy the well placed edge if not used correctly.

      1. Go to a hardware store and buy yourself a sharpening stone. You shouldn't need it so often, though. I suspect your use of the steel may be the problem.

        The steel is just to true the edge, not to sharpen. You may actually be dulling the blade by too many swipes along the steel (2-3 is just fine) or having the angle between steel and blade too great (about 15 degrees is perfect).

        1. What kind of cutting board do you have? There are a lot of nice-looking boards that actually damage knives.

          1. While their are reproducible standards for things like the angle of the edge put on the blade and the hardness of the steel there is no standard measurement for sharpness. What this means is that too much subjectivity is involved in judging the sharpness of knife and in sharpening process itself. Empirically examining the edge under high magnification to ensure that the edge has a uniform angle and no deviations is about the only way to judge the result of sharpening without resorting to some sort of "performance test".

            Several woodworkers that I know can judge the sharpness of chisels and whittling knives by shaving a bit off the top of their thumbnail -- a really sharp edge will produce a nice curl that looks like a minature of the shaving a sharp wood plane produces. If you try this with a big kitchen knife you had better have steady hands or a painful cuticle nick (or worse) will result...

            While I like the atmosphere at Northwest cutlery and have purchased things there I am not a fan of the huge grinding wheel method of knife sharpening. The basic problem is that they cannot really monitor the edge as closely as it ought to be done. Too manual...

            I am big believer in having a few knives and matching the fineness/sharpness of each to the task at hand. This prevents excessive damage to the blades and results in less overall maintenance. If I really need to hack at a heavy bone I use a heavy cleaver, slicing a cooked roast calls for a very different knife, as does chopping raw vegetables. With that sort of "division of labor" I can honestly say I had knives that go years with nothing more than steeling...

            When one of my knives need light sharpening I rely on the Lansky system or the Chef's Choice unit.

            For top notch professional sharpening these folks have NO equal:

            I wonder what kind of steel you are using, I swear by the F. Dick Dickoron in the medium oval -- head and shoulders above ANYTHING else. It is pricey, but in all but a commercial meat packing operation ought to last a decade or more.

            I have found that cutting boards also can have huge impact on how long an edge remains serviceable. The quality wood boards are the gold standard, though a medium density NSF-certified nylon board won't beat up a knife either. The softer plastic boards tend to grab the fine edge of knife and seem to but excessive torque on the cutting surface -- while the too hard corian type board lead to visible flat spots on the edge.

            Get out a magnifier and study your edge, there is a lot you can learn by just inspecting it. If you can really serious and make a profile view/tracing you'll see exactly which parts are wearing/misaligned.

            Good Luck!

            8 Replies
            1. re: renov8r

              That's what I was gonna say!!!


              1. re: Davwud

                Thanks everyone. I suspect it may be my steel too...I really don't know the differences between all of them, I have a pretty basic circular one (yup, thats about as technical as I can get with that one!), but even the chefs at my culinary school told me to use the steel before and after this wrong? What is the best sort of steel to maintain a 10 inch chef's knife for home use? I only use it for home use, which is at least once a day, so no heavy duty work, but I do cook from scratch nearly every day, so I'd like it to be sharp. I also suspect I need to spend a little time finding a professional sharpener around here, because the knives we use at work hardly ever get sharpened(but when they do, its heavy duty) and have never seen a steel, and they can slice through anything just fine.

                1. re: foodrocks

                  Ditto on the sharpener. Either get a sharpening stone or a manual sharpener, which I like better because there is no guesswork on the angle. You simply pull the knife through what looks like two sets of circular disks. My sharpener is a Wusthof that has a wooden handle, got it at WS. I don't remember what it cost, but it is a lot cheaper than a knife. This is the one that you pull the knife through several times to sharpen. Your steel is not sharpening the knife but truing the edge, and you may be undoing the edge by holding it at the wrong angle. It needs to be pretty close to parallel, not perpendicular, or you will "square" the edge rather than help it stay sharply angled.

                  I also agree on the other possible culprits such as the surface you are using to cut. Hopefully no one has suggested that you cut on granite or another hard surface.

                  Finally, and I don't mean any disrespect or want to suggest that you are not a fine cook, but are you using the right knife for the job? Most of us are not professionals and we simply use what we are comfortable with, usually a chef's knife, so this is not a silly question. No matter how sharp my knives are, and they are so sharp that they have been known to trim the fingernails of unsuspecting guests trying to help in my kitchen, there is no substitute for a serrated tomato knife. I bought mine for a few dollars in a supermarket twenty years ago when I was moving into my house and couldn't find the cutlery that was packed away. I literally purchased the cheapest knife the store sold so that I could cut sandwiches in half for lunch that day. My expensive top line knives can't do to a tomato what it does -- so it may be something to think about.

                  1. re: foodrocks

                    You may want to brush up a bit on the technique for using the steel. Regardles of the type of steel, if you're using it at too severe an angle, its going to take the edge right off of the knife rather than straightening that edge back out after use.

                    With the use you're describing, I can't imagine that the knife if losing its edge just from that (unless, of course, you've got a defectively made knife...unlikely with a Wustof, but possible). So, I'd look to how you're using the steel and pay attention to the angles. As noted above, 15 degrees should do to the trick.

                    1. re: ccbweb

                      Isn't the angle on German knives usually more like 22 degrees or so? I usually imagine a right angle, half that to get a 45 degree angle, and then half that again (except with Japanese knives).

                      The hardness of the knife and the type of steel matter; in this case, if it's a smooth steel, you'll need a lot of strokes; if it's the kind of rough textured one, maybe 7-8 on each side; if it's a diamond steel, just one or two. And as others have said... not too much pressure. I've heard it said that the sound should sound "musical".

                      Also, you could try doing mail-order with a better sharpening place.

                      1. re: will47

                        I think anything in the 15-20 degree area will work. I do more or less what you do but start with the right angle, take half, then my best guess at a third of whats left...I'd bet we end up at about the same place. My knives are, mostly, Henckels.

                        1. re: will47

                          One tip is to use a sharpe marker and mark over the bevel then when you start to sharpen you can see if you are too steep or flat based on the amount of ink removed . Too steep and you will only remove ink near the apex of the bevel and too flat and you will remove all the ink plus unmarked metal. This will allow you to maintain the sharpening angle so you are not re-profiling your knife.

                      2. re: foodrocks

                        I have an EdgePro sharpening system that works wonders on my knives. It came with a ceramic steel. Unlike a smooth glass steel this does more than align the edge. I use it to finish sharpening my knives after passes on the stones and to touch them up. One only needs very light contact with the steel and as has been mentioned no more than a 15 degree angle. It might look cool to swipe the blade aggressively over a steel but if you want to preserve your edges technique is more important than looks