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bread knife sharpening

Fritz Oct 14, 2009 06:27 PM

I've been told that serrated bread knives just die after some time and that it's not worth speeding Wustoff money on one and expecting to find a capable sharpener.
T or F?

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  1. Chemicalkinetics Oct 14, 2009 10:59 PM


    Well, all knives get dull soon or later and they will need to get sharpen. It is tough to sharpen a serrated bread knife on your own. You can sharpen the the outer edge, but inner edge will be tough. On the other hand, if you use your bread knife correctly, the inner edge should remain sharp for a long time because the inner edge will never get to contact hard objects like a cutting board or your counter, so maybe sharpening the outer edge is all you will need. Still, it is tough to sharpen a bread knife.

    I think Wusthof is a bad choice for bread knife. Wusthof, Henckels or any German knives have softer steel. They do not maintain their edge well and they are designed this way, so that they are easier to sharp on your own compared to Japanese knives. Unfortunately, for a serrated bread knife, that logic does not help at all. For a bread knife, I think it is better to have harder steel, so the edge maintains for a long time and when the time comes, you can send it to a professional sharpener.

    I have a Shun bread knife. My Shun has VG-10 as its core, a hard steel which holds its edge very well. When the time comes, Shun will sharp my knife for me for free. This is part of the Shun's service. I have to send the knife to Shun with my money, but Shun will sharp it for me for free and ship it back to me for free.

    I bought my Shun Steel bread knife for $70 which is cheaper than a Wusthof Classic bread knife or a Henckel Four Star bread knife (http://www.amazon.com/Shun-Steel-9-Inch-Bread-Slicing/dp/B00022YI9K/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=home-garden&qid=1255586585&sr=8-2). The Classic Shun has a wooden handle and that will cost $130. Same steel, same blade, same handle shape, just different handle material.

    Consider that I can send it back to sharp for free over its entire lifetime. It is a pretty good deal.

    Here is a Q&A from Shun:
    How do I sharpen serrated knives?
    If you send the knife to us for service, we can certainly sharpen any of our serrated knives. We do not recommend using any sort of electric sharpener for this process.


    Your idea is another approach. Just buy afforable bread knives like $27 Victorinox bread knives and replace them every few years. I will say buying 5 Victorinox bread knives is about the same (slightly more expensive) as buying one Shun Steel bread knife and shipping it back to factory 4 times.

    16 Replies
    1. re: Chemicalkinetics
      Eiron Jan 18, 2010 07:19 AM

      Hey Chem, the lowest price I can find on a Shun Stainless bread knife is nearly $80. At this price, do you still think it's a better buy than the Kershaw Wasabi bread knife at half the price? ($40) The Wasabi has the same scalloped edge pattern but uses "Daido 1K6" steel (HRC 58) instead of VG10.

      And do you know if they offer the free sharpening service on the Wasabi line like they do the Shun line? (I think that's partly why the Shun cost more, but I'm not sure.)

      1. re: Eiron
        grnidkjun Jan 18, 2010 07:52 AM

        You can contact them on their webpage and find out if the sharpening applies to all lines they offer:


        1. re: Eiron
          Chemicalkinetics Jan 18, 2010 06:06 PM

          You know. That is an excellent point. I guess the Kershaw Wasabi is a good deal as well. I have preveiously contact KAI and the costume service person said the free knife sharpening service applies for all KAI products. Here is the exact quote (yes, I still have that email):


          Good Morning XXXX,

          We will take care of all of our knives from all of the lines, KAI Inc, SHUN, Kershaw. We do not need your receipt for sharpening. I will include the directions to get your knife to us when the need arises and if you have any other questions, you can always contact me directly.

          Please send your knife in for repair. See below:
          Thank you so much for your inquiry into the warranty of your knife. All of
          our knives carry a limited lifetime warranty.
          If you need to send the knife in for warranty service we need you to
          do the following:
          1.Please enclose with the knife, inside the box, a letter with your
          name, return address and telephone number.
          2.We suggest sending the knife back to us via U.P.S or Federal
          Express. This automatically provides you a tracking number so you may
          verify the knife's arrival at our facility.
          3.Please address the box ATTN: Warranty Department and send it to
          the address listed below. Our website also asks that you please allow 4 weeks for our processes and shipping before inquiring into the status of your knife.
          Thank you again for your inquiry.
          Cheryl Kalleck
          Warranty Supervisor
          KAI USA, Kershaw Knives,
          Shun Knives & Zero Tolerance
          WARRANTY DEPT.
          18600 SW Teton Ave
          Tualatin, OR 97062
          Phone: 800-325-2891 x1110
          Fax: 503-682-7168

          1. re: Chemicalkinetics
            Paulustrious Jan 19, 2010 04:27 AM

            Thank you for that; this thread is now a 'Favorite Topic'.

            1. re: Paulustrious
              Chemicalkinetics Jan 19, 2010 05:32 AM


              What is a "Favorite Topic"?

              1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                Paulustrious Jan 19, 2010 06:16 AM

                If you look just above the first post you will see a checkbox. So check this thread. Then go to "MyChow" and in the menu bar you will see...

                My Posts - Reading List - All Activity - Favorites - etc

                'Favorites' is Chow's way of bookmarking threads. You can always un-bookmark them later.

                Your 'Favorites' list is available to other people to see.

                1. re: Paulustrious
                  Chemicalkinetics Jan 19, 2010 06:31 AM

                  Wow. I didn't know this. Thanks.

            2. re: Chemicalkinetics
              Chemicalkinetics Jan 19, 2010 05:32 AM


              I meant customer service not costume service :D

              Actually, I guess it is not customer service which responded to me. It is the Warranty Department. :)

              1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                Eiron Jan 25, 2010 09:09 PM

                Chem, did you ever directly compare the weight/balance of the Shun Classic bread knife to the Shun Steel bread knife?

                1. re: Eiron
                  Chemicalkinetics Jan 25, 2010 09:18 PM

                  :) Actually no. I have only used the Shun Steel bread knife and have not tried the Shun Classic. I can tell you the center of gravity of the Steel bread knife if you are interested, so you can compare the Classic knife in the store. For the Steel bread knife, its center of gravity at the very end of the blade, right at heel.

                  I didn't worry too much about the weight/balance of my bread knife because I know I won't be using it very often.

              2. re: Chemicalkinetics
                Eiron Jan 19, 2010 06:55 AM

                Thanks! I did take grnidkjun's advice & emailed Kershaw (duh!, why didn't I think of that?), but I still haven't received a reply.

                With this sharpening info in hand, perhaps the Deal Of The Century is going to be this knife:
                I got the chance to hold this knife two days ago & it's both light-weight & extremely comfortable. The handle is another KAI success, IMO. Not like the Shun, which "falls into place" due to its left/right-handedness, but natural in the way its ambidexterous shape is rounded & tapered. It has the same forward/backward scalloped edge as the Shun Series but is a bit shorter at 8". Oh yeah, it's also very, very sharp!

                At only $9.95 & with lifetime sharpening, all this knife needs now is Sam Fujisaka's endorsement! :-) The only reason I'm not buying one it 'cuz I don't want the non-stick coating on my knife.

                1. re: Eiron
                  cowboyardee Jan 19, 2010 05:50 PM

                  A good deal, for sure. But this really is too short for a bread knife. Wish they made one of useful length.

                  Has anyone actually tried the free sharpening service from KAI with a serrated knife? Do they actually sharpen serrated knives properly?

                  1. re: cowboyardee
                    Eiron Jan 20, 2010 06:44 AM

                    Yeah, maybe. I think a lot of how useful a knife's length is, is determined by what you're used to using & what you're using it on. My current bread knife is 9" (40+? yr old Imperial Wonda-Edge), but I rarely use the last two inches on the artisan loaves I slice.

                    So, I'm going to try using my 7" serrated carving knife for a while, & see if it's long enough to be useful as a bread knife. Heck, I don't use it for anything else!

                    1. re: Eiron
                      Chemicalkinetics Jan 20, 2010 07:01 AM


                      I thought it is a crime to use a *serrated* carving knife in the USA. What country are you from again? :P

                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                        Eiron Jan 20, 2010 10:48 AM

                        :-D This is one of my hand-me-down knives from my parents (along with the Wonda-Edge bread knife). It's an ekco "Eterna" carving knife, identical to this one:
                        I don't recall ever using it for carving, even though it's got the traditional carving knife shape to it. Actually, I don't recall using it much for anything. I don't know why I've kept it all these years, really. Obviously, it's the wrong shape for using as a bread knife, especially with the turned-up tip. I guess it's actually more of a 6" to 6-1/2" length unless I rock it way up onto the tip. We'll see how it fits my experiment. :-)

            3. re: Chemicalkinetics
              big50_1 Apr 12, 2012 01:15 AM

              Don't forget Cutco serrated knives and their lifetime free sharpening service (for price of shipping). Had a couple of knives resharpened after about 12 years. Note that the blade height on each knife becomes slightly less because of the metal removed when grinding new serrations. Each knife is probably good for three or four "sharpenings" before the blade shape is significantly changed.

              Personally, I think Cutco serrated knives are awesome. The few Cutcos I have (for bread and tomato) are serrated. I use Wusthof for paring and chef.

            4. Rodssharpeningservice Jan 7, 2010 01:29 AM

              There are sharpeners who will "sharpen it" rounding ouu the serations. It gets less and less serated. but there are some who will sharpen the individual serations and that is preferred. Ask a sharpener first.

              Most serated knives have a bur that you can feel even fro the factory and removing that( with somethig like a hand strop)will improve the cut

              1 Reply
              1. re: Rodssharpeningservice
                lazycook Jan 7, 2010 11:35 AM

                I wonder if a Dremel mototool would work. You can buy all sorts of abrasive tips for it, one of them might be the right size to fit into the scalloped edge indentations. I use one for sharpening my chain saw blades.

              2. Ambimom Jan 7, 2010 01:59 PM

                Accusharp knife sharpeners work on serrated bread knives. Yes they do. I didn't believe it either.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Ambimom
                  cowboyardee Jan 8, 2010 08:54 AM

                  This is true. However I wouldn't take an Accusharp to any knife, bread or not, that is either expensive or made out of hard steel.

                2. Paulustrious Jan 18, 2010 08:57 AM

                  I just use my fine waterstone and run the blade across (at 90 degrees) to the edge of the stone at 45 degrees to the top and the side. Seems to work. I hope you can understand what I mean by that.

                  My Shun bread knife feels like it will be years before it needs sharpening.

                  1. m
                    macbillybob Jan 19, 2010 12:48 PM

                    Bread knifes are the one knife I do not spend much money on. The will stay sharp a long time if you only cut bread. Best I have found is the Victorinox 10.25". Gets great reviews and costs 20 bucks. When you think it is dull, get another one. They will last years. They are kind of like non stick fry pans. Get a cheap one and when it is worn out get another one.
                    Don't get me wrong I like good stuff. My regular knives are all Japanese and were quite pricey. I sharpen them myself to a razor edge.

                    1. d
                      deeznuts Jan 20, 2010 12:59 PM

                      There are two types of bread knives. Those with regular serrations we are used to seeing, and those with reverse scallops. The regular serrations are like shark teeth, and they tear into the bread before the edges get to it. The reverse scalloped knives look like half doughnuts, and actually cut into the bread, with teh intention of less tearing, and less "crumb" being shot out.

                      And the reverse scalloped edge can be easily sharpened. Yes I know about the Cooks Illustrated tests, but they are not infallible. They probalby rate for ease of cutting, which the Serrations provide, at the expense of tearing the living crap out of your bread and other items.

                      Mac SB105 and the Shuns are good, and as covered, Shun's are sharpened by the factory if you send it there.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: deeznuts
                        cowboyardee Jan 20, 2010 01:40 PM

                        It's not entirely correct to say that scalloped edge serrated knives can be easily sharpened. It is true that "easy" methods of sharpening work better on scalloped-edge knives than traditional serrations.

                        But just like sharpening the points of serrated knives is not preserving the knife's geometry and not sharpening the entire edge, traditional means of sharpening do not truly preserve a scalloped edge. You are still only sharpening the leading part of the edge. Admittedly, more of the edge is exposed or leading than with traditional serrations - but only to an extent. The difference from the original geometry will not be as noticeable for longer. But using "easy" methods of sharpening will make a scallop-edged knife less serrated over time. How much time depends on the knife, it's uses, how often and by what means you sharpen.

                        Buying a scalloped bread knife is a decent compromise to allow for easier sharpening. For a while. I'm not trying to argue that they are bad or anything. Just keep in mind that a scalloped knife is still essentially disposible unless you sharpen the entire edge or are able to regrind the edge entirely at some point.

                        1. re: cowboyardee
                          deeznuts Jan 20, 2010 07:03 PM

                          True, I should have said sharpened easier.


                          here is the whole thread, where Dave discusses sharpening the regular serrated knives


                          Just do the right thing and keep all of your edges off the glass cutting board, granite counter top (you should have seen the Kung Fu move i did when my brother in law whipped out a glass cutting board with my knife) etc., and even off the wood cutting boards as much as practical

                        2. re: deeznuts
                          big50_1 Apr 17, 2012 08:15 PM

                          "...Serrations...tearing the living crap out of your bread and other items." Well, yes and no! Think of serrated knives as saws. If you let the tool do the work the cut is clean (that is what it is designed to do). But if you push the tool (knife) then the cut (wood or bread) will be somewhat ragged. I use serrated knives on items like bread, cake and other soft interior items with success. I've used serrated knives to carve a well-cooked turkey where the meat was falling off the bone. A light touch on the knife was needed to prevent tearing.

                          1. re: big50_1
                            big50_1 Apr 18, 2012 07:51 PM

                            Should have said,"...push the tool (saw or knife)...."

                        3. kaleokahu Apr 18, 2012 08:24 PM

                          I'm sure the OP is long gone, but since this thread has been resurrected...

                          For regular serrations, you go out and buy a chainsaw file that fits the serrations' valleys; file it clean, and then touch up with automotive sandpaper wrapped around the file.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: kaleokahu
                            Fritz Apr 18, 2012 08:45 PM

                            and here I are ....... Again.
                            I ended up buying a scalloped Hoffritz for $10 at Home Goods or the like. I'm sure it isn't top of the line, but it's nicely weighted and does a nice job on my breads and artisan TomCat types I buy. I'm sure I'll get 5 years out of it, if not more.
                            The Accusharp does a fine job on my Wustoff with an annual pro job.

                            And when I have to fridge my bread because the "wear" date is approaching and the bread is a tougher cut from the fridge, the Wustoff does a nice job as well.

                            Yes, one can argue for much better steel; and I would love to have an custom all tube Hi Fi system in my blue 246 Dino.
                            But I'm a bit more realistic.

                            1. re: Fritz
                              Chemicalkinetics Apr 18, 2012 08:54 PM

                              <buying a scalloped Hoffritz for $10 at Home Goods >

                              For a $10 knife, it may be easier just to replace in the replace it, than to sharpen it. In fact, most people choose this routine: inexpensive bread knives, and replace them as needed.

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