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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: http://www.holleyknives.com/qualityco...

            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 cutting...is 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

                  2. Instead of a steel, I'd suggest the Two-Stage Sharpener from Wusthof itself. No worry about the proper angle. To merely touch up the edge, just pull the knife a few times through the "fine" ceramic sharpener. There are various Wusthof sharpeners, so look for the one that says "Two-Stage." Available on the Web for $19.95.

                    1. Many CH threads on knife-sharpening, my conclusion is how you sharpen depends on what you value.

                      Value your knife as an heirloom, the satisfaction knowing you’re treating a precision tool right, as an opportunity to meditate as you sharpen it? Spend the time to learn and then use sharpening stones, or to find a top-quality professional and then plan around the knife being in the shop.

                      Value time not spent maintaining cooking tools? Spend 2 minutes using a 2-stage manual (or electric) sharpening device. It’ll use up the knife, but probably not before you stop remembering what a kitchen is, and get the knife quite sharp.

                      I’m lazy, so I use the Chef’s Choice 460 manual sharpener on the Henckels “Professional” 9” chef knife I’ve had for 20 years. I abuse the knife by cutting chicken bones and frozen vegetable blocks, but I expect it to last at least another 20 years. I also don’t expect my executor to pass it on to anybody, despite the fact that it slices tomatoes quite well.

                      1. I have have had my Wusthof Grand Prix (They don't make this set anymore only the Grand Prix II) for well over five years. I have never had any of my knives professional sharpened or sharpened at all as a matter of fact. I could grab any knife and cut thin slices from a sheet of paper. they are razor sharp. All but one. The paring knife, which my wife uses frequently. I always steel my knives after each use. That way I can grab a sharp knife and go to town. On the other had my wife has never used the steel. Ever!
                        I think some how you have let this blade get dull to the point that a steel will not do any good. I would have this professionally sharpened. Be sure you are using the steel at a 15-20 degree angle and a cutting motion leading from blade edge. Some people do it the "Gordon Ramsey way" leading from the back of the blade toward the edge, but I have never done this and most KNIFE experts don't either. I am not saying you cannot, in fact a lot of people do. To each their own. As far as the type of steel I have a Wusthof. I would suggest the same.
                        Be sure to provide proper storage for this blade. I hope you are not just placing this in a drawer with all you other knives. Lots of thing can happen to a blade in a loose drawer. I have mine in a knife block. Look for a knife block that allows the blades to lay on their sides. I have seen some that are vertical and you are slicing the block on the way in and out.
                        Finally just treat your knives with respect. I really mean that. Hand wash always. Never let them lay around when not in use. Please don't place them in the sink to be cleaned later. They are not like the rest of your tableware. I am sorry they must be treated like royalty. In return, when you pull your blade, you will feel the difference.

                        1. Hey foodrocks - You never did answer the cutting board question from mojo. I suspect that could potentially be a factor as well... but you did go to culinary school so I can only assume you're not using glass or marble?

                          1. Would manual sharpenning be better or the use of electric sharpeners? Is the outcome the same, only personal preference?

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: itstangy

                              Manual sharpening is preferred because you have control over what's going on. With store bought electric sharpeners, the knife blades often get eaten up (in my opinion) and the sharpening doesn't last very long. A good wet stone sharpener is probably the best but even then you need to know the angles, etc. If at all possible have your knives sharpened by a professional knife sharpener... and I'm not talking about the butcher in your local grocery store. The gadgets consumers can buy will only help KEEP your knife sharp, they won't necessarily give the best sharpening available that will last.

                            2. Get rid of your CORIAN chopping board.

                              Stop steeling your knife.

                              Buy a Wusthof "two-speed" knife sharpener ($19.95) and use it just very occasionally.

                              You'll be amazed at how long your Wusthof knife stays sharp!

                              Seriously, to dull a Wusthof, Henkels or similar high-quality knife within three days of it being professionally sharpened means that:
                              - the surface you are using for preparing food is absolutely wrong for any knife (glass, marble, granite, CORIAN and certain other man-made materials, etc.);


                              - you are using your steel in a highly unsatisfactory way.

                              Best of luck, Dennis

                              1. My Wusthof's were the same way until I invested some $'s in good sharpening and maintenance tools. Now, they are as sharp as our Shun's, though need more maintenance.

                                Wicked Edge sharpener.
                                Change profile to 15 degrees.
                                Maintain with an extra fine diamond rod or a ceramic rod.

                                Pro sharpening is no panacea. I've had more knives than I care to remember messed up by "pros". Either learn to do it yourself or buy some cheap stainless knives that tend to be quite capable.

                                The comment on the cutting board is accurate. We now only have wood boards. This was not always the case. We learned good sharp knives and plastic boards don't go together.

                                1. Invest in a Smith's Adjustable Edge Pro. ($149.95)
                                  I have a full Wüsthof Classic set for 20 years and a few extra Wüsthof knives I acquired since. They were never as sharp as my Global, Shun Classic, Shun Edo, Hattori, Miyabi and other expensive Japanese knives, so I bought the new sharpener on which I can adjust the angle of the knife edge. I resharpened all my Wüsthof knives to 18 degrees, down from 22-24 and stropped it for 5 minutes (each) on a leather strop. They are like razor blade now. Wüsthof with one exception made of soft steel, HRC 54-56 at best. It needs more steel anymore frequent sharpening. Still I use the Japanese knives now.

                                  1. I cannot fathom how many people who enjoy cooking have not learned to sharpen their own knives. It is not that difficult. All it takes is a willingness to learn, patience and practice. If I was running a culinary school it would be the first objective in the curriculum.

                                    14 Replies
                                    1. re: mudcat

                                      I think people are scared to sharpen their knives, not due to laziness or unwillingness.

                                      I knew a few friends of mine who won't sharpen their own knives or even let me sharpen for them because they believe the edge angle has to be exactly the same as the factory, and they also believe once the mistake is made, it is irreversible.

                                      I am somewhat certain that they get these impressions from numerous knife sharpening machine advertisements.

                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                        Yeah. I've always been a little afraid about sharpening my knives. From what little research I've done, there seem to be so many variables and so many recommendations for how to go about it, that I've just been intimidated. Some of it is laziness: I've never found the time to take a class. I should remedy that. I'm also too lazy to sharpen my own because, lucky for me, I live a 10-minute subway ride from Korin and I'd just never be able to do as good a job as they can.

                                        1. re: JoanN

                                          < I live a 10-minute subway ride from Korin and I'd just never be able to do as good a job as they can.>

                                          This is a perfectly great option. People in Korin know their stuffs. I think mudcat are concern about people who never sharpen their knives. Certainly, cowboyardee and I have talked about this awhile back.

                                          A lot of people are scared to ruin their expensive knives because they spent quit a bit for their knives. They don't sharpen on their own because they don't know how. They don't send out to professional sharpeners because they have heard of horrible stories. They don't use knife sharpening gadgets because they know these gadgets are not optimal.

                                          At the end, they end up really dull knives which have not sharpened for 5-10 years. I am sure you know at least one or two like this.

                                          At some point, a suboptimal sharp knife is still much preferred than an absolutely dull knife.

                                        2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                          It amuses me that some of the people I've sharpened knives for were also very concerned that I keep the factory angles. Despite knowing pretty much nothing about sharpening, they strongly believed that changing the angle off of factory bevels would ruin the knife.

                                          This is strange to me, as I view factory sharpening as a monkey waving a knife at a grinding wheel and hoping it comes out ok. I've had to fix the majority of the bevels that come on new (or never sharpened) knives. To expect that a - likely - minimum wage factory worker would grind precise angles on a power grinder is somewhat absurd.

                                          Interestingly, Global did some CATRA tests that show that a skilled sharpener can give hundreds of percent increases in edge retention over factory sharpening:


                                          1. re: Cynic2701

                                            <they strongly believed that changing the angle off of factory bevels would ruin the knife.>

                                            They were scared by the repeating advertisements from knife sharpener machines. The marketing of these devices is based the fact that "knife sharpening is very difficult", "factory edge has to be maintained"....etc. The more they can convince home cooks of these messages, the more likely they can sell their products.

                                            So yes, you may even call this a "scare tactic" :)

                                            Of course, this is why Wusthof partnered with Chef's Choice to precisely market a home sharpening device that matches that special Wusthof PEtec edge (you will love this video):


                                            Now that you mentioned it. I have sharpened knives for a few people. Most of them were surprised that the finished knife edge can be sharper than the factory edge. They were "Oh my. You know the knife you have sharpened for me? It is sharper than when it was new"

                                            1. re: Cynic2701

                                              Bottom line. Once the edge is no longer sharp enough for the task it really doesn't matter what the angle is.

                                              I sharpen a Japanese knife shortly after I get it. More often than not the edge put on at the factory was meant to make it a useable tool but not take it past where it can go. That is left up to the buyer to finish to their needs

                                            2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                              If I hired you to sharpen my knife and I found out that you capriciously changed the edge angle, I'd demand that you put it back where it belongs. Either you do it properly, or don't do it at all. Your friends probably have you accurately pegged.

                                              1. re: sdfsdfds

                                                <I'd demand that you put it back where it belong>

                                                What is so special about the factory edge anyway? Factory edge is often designed to be the lowest denomination.

                                                "The next compromise is in the factory edge angles. Most kitchen knives come with an edge that is at least 25 degrees per side, frequently even greater. If you add the two sides together you get a 50 degree included angle. And that’s the best case scenario. "


                                                Most professional knife sharpeners has a preset angle setting for sharpening their knives. They don't intentionally find out the angle of your knives and then match them.

                                                < Either you do it properly, or don't do it at all. >

                                                And I will argue that changing the knife original angle does not exclude it from doing it properly. Having the knives unsharpened is not.

                                                1. re: sdfsdfds

                                                  So what is proper? And why the personal attack?

                                                  1. re: sdfsdfds

                                                    First of all, I don't think Chem would EVER do anything to a knife's edge capricously. He's accumulated too much knife knowledge to do that!

                                                    Secondly, I agree with him. I, too, think that most people believe their knives must maintain a specific, marketing-defined edge in order to 'work'. That's just not true! In fact, it's not even necessary to keep the edge angle constant! Before the proliferation of 'sharpening systems', all knives were sharpened by hand once they left the factory. (And what did people do before knives came out of factories?!? The horror!!)
                                                    Y'know what? It simply doesn't matter.
                                                    Sorry, but it's true.

                                                    Thirdly, if you hired ME to sharpen your knife, I'd try to evaluate what edge angle YOU would most benefit from. Playing into that would be the quality of the knife, the manner in which you use it, the surfaces you cut on, & your tolerance for having it resharpened sooner rather than later.

                                                    Remember, it's just a sharp piece of steel. Use what works best for you.
                                                    Everything's a trade-off.
                                                    Nothing's set in stone.
                                                    (Or steel, as the case may be.)

                                                    1. re: sdfsdfds

                                                      What's the proper angle? Did you test to see if a lower angle would work better for you? Did you experiment to see if a complex edge grind would be better suited to your cutting style? Zero bevel? Microbevel? Multiple bevels? Asymmetric or symmetric bevels? Do you get better performance with >10 degree differences per bevel? Do you have the know-how or equipment to test edge angles?

                                                      Factory edges - despite manufacturer claims - can vary wildly, as the edge is typically ground by hand on a power machine by a factory worker. Some companies (e.g. boutique Japanese manufacturers) take sharpening as seriously as the grind and heat treatment; you should also expect to pay for such a service.

                                                      Heat treatment can even vary from knife to knife and batch to batch. As a knife collector and sharpening fanatic I've noticed that even with two knives made of the same steel from the same manufacturer, there have been occasions when one knife has notably lower performance despite having the same grind and edge angles (which I put on and measured myself).

                                                  2. re: mudcat

                                                    A lot of people think sharp knives are more dangerous than dull ones. Not me. I have a couple of scars from dull knives that keep me on my toes, so to speak.

                                                    1. re: sr44

                                                      I have a few from sharp ones that made me take notice and get my technique in line. It doesn't take much effort to cut deeply with a very sharp edge

                                                      1. re: scubadoo97

                                                        Yeah, while I think there's some truth to that statement (for one thing, a sharp knife is less likely to slip, and probably makes a "cleaner" cut when you do cut yourself), I have certainly cut myself more than once on a newly sharpened knife, and seen others do the same.

                                                        If your knives are razor sharp all the time, you do get in the habit of respecting them, but a newly sharp knife is always dangerous if you've gotten used to a duller one.

                                                        Good technique goes a long way to avoiding cuts - I almost never cut myself while actively using knives, but I do cut myself carelessly when doing things like washing them.

                                                  3. The knife is not getting sharpened correct, your steeling procedure is incorrect, your cutting surface is harsh, or you're abusive the your knife.

                                                    Choose the one that fits.