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re: sharpening cheap knives

Ok, I'll admit it. Our knives are really quite dull and there's only so much we've been able to do with a stone at home. I know they're dangerous, but am too embarrassed to take them anywhere for a "professional" sharpening because frankly they are really, really cheap - the kind that come in a big block/set, plus they are several years old.

We do have two other, more "professional" knives that also need sharpening, but I keep thinking if I take those, I'd like to take the others as well, but I just feel like they'd look at me like "who are you kidding, I'm not sharpening those." Should I be embarrased? Have others taken their cheap, knife block set knives to be sharpened?

And as an aside, this probably sounds really whack, but I really need two of my nail gizmos sharpened and don't know where else to take them but to a knife sharpening place. Would it look completely weird to bring these along as well? It seems a shame to throw them out since if they were sharpened, they would work fine. They are cuticle trimmers, like this, and have teeny, tiny blades:

http://tinyurl.com/azypdh

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  1. I don't think you should be embarrassed, after all the guy doing the sharpening wants to make some money... he doesn't care what you bring him. The cost, though, might me a factor to consider. I brought some knives in to be sharpened and it cost about $1.00 an inch of blade. So, a 10-inch knife was about $10.00 to sharpen. If the blade needs to be re-shaped, we're talking about quite a bit more. Bottom line, a cheaply made knife will never hold the edge. If you don't have the money to invest right now, and who does?, you might as well bring the old ones along and see what they say! If the sharpening guy laughs, then you've both had a good laugh... who cares?

    3 Replies
    1. re: RosemarieT

      It probably will be pretty expensive, true, but I keep using the dull knives and I think it's kind of dangerous. Maybe I'll just bring select ones from the block. The big chef's knife size knife and the bread knife and boning knife for sure.

      1. re: RosemarieT

        look up TruHone.com on line. At $5.00 a blade --- they do a fantastic job. I have used some of those local (mobile) guys and frankly they simply ruined some of my knives. (they were in town at the behest, or aegis, of one of the well known national kitchen stores). I could have done better on the grinding wheel in my shop. Anyway -- truhone reshaped blades, took out small chips and put an edge on my knives like they never had. Send your knives via UPS or USPS and they turn them around the same day they get them. As a primary biz, they make and sell big sharpening equipment for food service places and restaurants. This is a sideline.

        1. re: JRCann

          Maybe I'll try them for a Case Chef's knife I have. I bought it years ago and I don't know that I have ever used for anything other than cakes or soft butter, and it didn't do too well with the cake. I can sharpen a knife pretty well. My hunting knives I use for skinning and cutting whole game are like razors, but try as I might, I have never been able to get an edge on this Case mofo, and man I have tried and tried. I believe if I ever could get it sharp, I could keep it that way

      2. For the really good knives, you probably want to take them to the pro.
        For the lesser quality ones, they're likely not going to hold an edge and fall into the "throwing good money after bad" category.
        Something you might consider is an electric knife sharpener like this one http://www.amazon.com/Chefs-Choice-10... that you can use at home to sharpen them frequently as they get dull. They won't get as sharp as when professionally sharpened - but, hey! they lose that edge quickly anyway.
        Read the reviews on the sharpener, as well as the more and less expensive similar models. There are caveats about them.
        I have one that I use on my less expensive knives and it works fine when they get dull and I haven't had time to take them in.
        Since you don't have to worry about messing up high quality knives with one of these, it might be a good purchase.

        7 Replies
        1. re: MakingSense

          Great idea, and good point about throwing good money after bad. Thanks!

          1. re: rockandroller1

            Hand sharpening of knives is not hard. You can buy a stone and practice on your cheap knives and in no time you can learn to sharpen your good knives as well. A win win really. You want want to use the electric sharpener on your good knives.

            1. re: KTinNYC

              I thought this was only for "upkeep" inbetween professional sharpenings. We have a stone at home we've used, but it doesn't do much. And mr. rockandroller learned how to use it from a pretty well-educated chef in his previous life as a line cook, so it's probably not that we're doing it wrong, but they don't get very sharp.

              1. re: rockandroller1

                If he is using a sharpening stone not a steel than he should be able to put an edge on a knife just as well a pro if he knows what he is doing. I have low priced stone with a medium grit and fine grit and I don't have to sharpen my knives more than twice a year. I steel often. Does your stone look like these? http://www.amazon.com/Woodstock-Inter... ?

                You could also go the alanbarnes route but it's pretty costly.

                1. re: KTinNYC

                  ooh, no, it doesn't look like that. Maybe I will suggest he get one. Thx.

                  1. re: rockandroller1

                    This will last you a lifetime and you can sharpen your knives as well as any pro with a little instruction that you can find on-line and some practice. You're on your own with the cuticle trimmers.

                    http://www.woodcraft.com/product.aspx...

          2. re: MakingSense

            The Nov.Dec 2008 Cooks Illustrated recommends the Chef's Choice 130 ($159) and for a simple non-electric hand-held sharpener,the AccuSharp Knife and Tool Sharpener ($11.71)

          3. It's a snap to keep all of your knives razor sharp if you have the right tools. One of these days I'm going to get called out as a shill for constantly recommending the EdgePro Apex, but I'm really just a satisfied customer.

            With just a couple of minutes' work, a complete bonehead with no fine motor skills (yours truly) can consistently put a better edge on a blade than you get from most professional sharpeners. Yeah, it's expensive, but it's a one-time expense; professional sharpening is an ongoing cost.

            http://www.edgeproinc.com/default.htm

            1. I would take them all with you and see what the person thinks. Use the expert's knowledge. I have 3 Forschner boning knives that I love for meat and an expensive block of Wusthof. My dad (retired professional butcher) sharpened them all in less than 15 minutes on a stone . He is 86 so I am going to ask for some lessons soon.

              1. take your good knives to a pro (and not someone who also sharpens nail clippers or lawnmower blades) and have them well sharpened, then use a honing rod to maintain the edge. If they're decent knives, you should only have to do this about once a year. You only really need one good chef's knife for like 90% of what you do, and a paring knife. The cheapies? Get some stones and use them for practice

                6 Replies
                1. re: chuckl

                  "a pro (and not someone who also sharpens nail clippers or lawnmower blades) "

                  A pro would do everything I'd think. More importantly what do they use to sharpen with? Do they do it by hand? Some of these guys will use a big high speed sandpaper wheel and take a lot of metal off during the process. I'd look for someone that uses a slow speed wet wheel like a Tormek machine

                  1. re: Jack_

                    A belt sander is a pretty common sharpening shop tool. Set up right, with suitable belts, they're quite capable of sharpening anything. A belt sander has lots of air entrained in the belt, so it cools down very quickly, and doesn't usually excessively heat the edge. Used skillfully, it's a perfectly suitable tool. Used by a clown, it'll ruin a knife, but a clown can ruin a knife with anything.

                    1. re: Jack_

                      I'm not going to let a guy who sharpens lawnmower blades sharpen my good knives

                      1. re: chuckl

                        I think I'd just talk to the sharpener first how they sharpen, what angles he or she uses, back bevels, finishes, do they do both sides at the same time in a angle machine or 1 at a time, sharpening just until they get a nice burr on one side then then doing the other. If the sharpener doesn't ask me how I use the knife first, how they gonna know how to sharpen it? a knife that I use for slicing should be a bit rougher, as in micro serrations, a knife a use for chopping should have a more polished edge, like there are differences between a rip and crosscut hand saw there are differences in how you should sharpen a knife depending on if you use it to cut with or across the grain.

                        1. re: Jack_

                          excellent suggestions, Jack, would a sharpener consider it rude if i asked to watch them while they worked?

                          1. re: chuckl

                            shouldn't think any more so than any other tradesman

                  2. As you can see, there are many views about knives.
                    You can't necessarily classify "cheap" knives
                    as all being the same. The "miracle" knives often
                    pushed on TV are sometimes made of stainlless
                    steel; they do hold their dges a long time but are
                    difficul to sharpen because because they are
                    so hard.

                    However, many cheaper knives will sharpen fine
                    (Dexter-Russell and Forschner come to mind). As Rosemarie
                    writes, just take your knives to the sharpener
                    and see what he says.

                    On the other hand, I've been using knives for
                    half a century and have never gone to a
                    professional sharpener. My current inexpe sive
                    tools are an Accusharp and, for honing, a ceramic
                    rod thingie from Wustfhof. Never any trouble passing
                    the paper test.

                    1. Not all cheap knives are bad, but some just are. Some lousy knives are simply incapable of ever becoming really sharp due to lousy steel - or neglect over the years.

                      You say there's "only so much you can do with a stone." Are you using it properly? If not, it's not the knives' fault and you just need to learn proper technique. I personally think the Japanese method is superior to the arcing European sharpening style, but both will get a knife sharp if done properly.

                      If it's the knife, know when to say uncle. Lose the cheapos and get a few decent knives. You don't need a huge set - and you don't need to drop huge amounts of money. You could go with Forschner Fibrox or a Tojiro DP. All you really need is a good chef's knife, a paring knife, and a serrated bread knife.

                      1. If you're going with inexpensive knives, why not see if an inexpensive sharpening solution might not suffice? How about this thing for little money?
                        http://www.amazon.com/Chicago-Cutlery...
                        The Chefs Choice is too expensive. Contrary to a lot of people, I don't like it. That AccuSharp manual sharpener looks dangerous to me. The Magna Sharp Mouse has a magnet in it so it stores someplace handy, like on the fridge or the micro-wave. Once you get the angle set on the blades, you can use something like this frequently and very lightly in place of a steel.

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: yayadave

                          I'm with yaya here. For one penny more than his suggestion, there's this one:
                          http://www.rei.com/product/670968

                          You can also put a really nice edge on a blade using the bottom of a ceramic
                          coffee cup. The unglazed ring that sits into the saucer. Hold the cup upsidedown
                          in your left (if righthanded) hand, tilt the blade at about half of half a right angle, and
                          draw it across the cup bottom. Ten or twelve strokes with medium pressure on
                          each side of the blade and you'll be back in business.

                          1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                            I think if you have very cheap knives, you have actually the opportunity to learn how to sharpen on a stone properly. I have done so with mum's old/dull/70's knives, with a very cheap conbination stone (240 grit to create the edge and 1000 grit on the other side to polish it). I bought it on amazon for £3.00 (GBP) http://www.amazon.co.uk/Kitchencooksh... and together with the minosharp guides http://www.amazon.co.uk/Minosharp-Sha..., it did the job. The downside is that as the steel won't hold the edge very well, you will then have to do this very often (at least on the 1000 side).

                            Once you have learned the skills, you will more confortably upgrade knives and buy a decent stone for them.

                            Tojiro DP's are unbeatable for the Quality/value rate and as someone else said, you really only need to buy 3 blades (and probably 6 max if you like to filet and do your own stocks - 8 or 10" Cook, 4 or 5" paring, Bread, boning, Filetting and a Clever).

                            I second the coffee cup advice (or any other Ceramic/porcelain under plates), however it will only really work for honing not re-sharpening.

                            1. re: marcodalondra

                              Except that "honing" = "sharpening"

                              I'm not sure what you're trying to say there.

                              1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                Honing is not the same as sharpening. Honing brings an edge back to true - sharpening actually creates a new edge.

                                1. re: sobriquet

                                  Exactly!

                                  By honing you can only re-allign a "bendt" edge but you will never re-sharpen a consumed or chipped edge.

                                  1. re: marcodalondra

                                    Well, no. There are a bunch of overlapping terms and it's pretty silly to start nerding out over them here when all rockandroller wants is to get her cheap knives working again, especially since everybody's got their own opinions, but here goes.

                                    Sharpening is the all-inclusive general term. Sharpening consists of grinding and honing. Steeling is the final stage of honing. While all steeling is honing, not all honing is steeling. Steeling is the bent-edge thing you're talking about.

                                    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honing_(...

                                    Grinding is done on a wheel. Honing is everything else done on stones. Grinding is a fast way to change the shape of a blade. Honing will do that too, but much much more slowly.

                                    Since we're not talking about taking these knives to a wheel, everything mentioned so far including waterstones and coffee cups falls into the "honing" category.

                                    But more to the point, if you are suggesting that the ceramic is not able to remove a considerable amount of material, you are mistaken. Give it a try. It does a job about like a 600-grit stone. Not the best of all possible edges but vastly superior to what rockandroller has described as her starting point. Don't use a nice cup; you'll end up with a lot of hard-to-remove grey stripes of metal dust all over the bottom.

                                    1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                      Actually Chuckles is right - honing is sharpening on a stone. However the common use for honing as applied to kitchen knives is actually steeling. They should get their language together so as to stop the confusion.
                                      When ever a cook talks about honing, he really means steeling.

                        2. I'd suggest taking the whole lot in, watch him do the good ones, and then ask if you can have a go for the cheap ones. Chuck him a little extra, and you might learn a useful skill

                          1. Many years ago my best frriend's father worked at a manufacturing plant. He had this hollow tube made out of mullite. It was some sort of ceramic thing they used for welding. It would hone a knife edge better than anything I have evr seen commercially produced

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: sarge

                              was it because of the smoothness of the material?

                              1. re: chuckl

                                Don't know. It had some grit to it as I recall. I wikied it and see it is a ceramic compound

                                1. re: sarge

                                  Well, here's a mullite tube. It costs twice as much as a ceramic rod, but it's twice as long.

                                  http://www.coleparmer.com/Catalog/pro...

                                  1. re: yayadave

                                    Except one that's no longer usable as a crucible is still quite likely to be usable as a sharpening rod. And if you work in the plant, it's worthless scrap, so it's free. Mullite is a pretty fine grained aluminosilicate, but it's not exactly valuable as scrap.

                            2. A friend went to a local grocery chain store which also used to house a professional knife sharpening service. Apparently professional knife sharpening services have gone the way of high button shoes. But the greeter at the grocery store suggested checking out the SHOEMAKER!!! Apparently some have grindstones hooked up to their buffing wheels. My friend checked with the shoemaker, and he was pleasantly pleased to hear they charged three dollars per blade, as opposed to about 20 bucks for the pros. No idea how good the shoemaker is with knives tho

                              1. Hand sharpener about $10 and Dollar Tree knives will save you hardache (and money) in the long run