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knife sharpeners?

I can't seem to get the knack of using a steel - so I am wondering your thoughts about buying one of those electric knife sharpeners that also just hone the edges. Otherwise I have been using for the past umpteen years an antique Aladin sharpener that I hold down on my counter and run the blade thru (it also could have been attached to the inside of a cabinet). I know that some are for Japanese blades and others have separate edges for making the differentiations. This was supposed to be my last year's holiday gift but I put it off not sure that it was a good thing to do to my knives.

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  1. I have used a "Chef's Choice" for 10 years, prior to this I only used a multi-grade wet stone. The advantage of the Chref's Choice is that yyou eliminate the need for a steel; since the CC has a strop wheel that hones the edge and aligns the molecules to a razor edge. There are several models for the CC; I have the 3 wheel model that covers even nicked or damaged knives.

    7 Replies
    1. re: ospreycove

      "aligns the molecules to a razor edge"?

      Aligns the edge probably. I don't think it can align the molecules.

      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

        Chemical....Actually it seems to be brought down to the molecular level.

        (Source Broadway Panhandler Manhattan)
        Honing (Butcher's) Steel

        A knife's edge has an irregular tooth-like appearance under a microscope. These teeth aid in cutting, but it is best to rub the very edge of the blade to perfect smoothness with a honing steel. A honing steel is typically a hardened, magnetized steel rod with tightly spaced grooves etched into the shaft. The steel smoothes and de-burrs the edge with the tiny metal particles clinging to the magnetized steel as it re-aligns the molecules in the knife blade to maximum sharpness. The shafts on steel rods typically range from 9" up to 14" in length. In order to ensure a smooth stroke, a steel length of at least 1" longer than your knife blade is recommended.

        1. re: ospreycove

          I don't know. I just don't believe the "aligns molecules in the knife blade to maximum sharpness". First, the magnetic field on a honing steel is way too weak to make any molecule realignment. Second, there is no real reason to believe a magnetically aligned blade is sharper. In fact, when knives are made, they are heated a temperature which would randomized the atomic structure and they are cool down. There is no any attempted to magnetically align the molecules.

          If any of these is true, then people should never use a magnetic knife strip to store their knives, because the magnet would alter the molecules and dull the knives. I am pretty sure that statement is false.

          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

            By molecules, methinks they mean "large groups of molecules". I.e. microscopic chunks of steel.

          2. re: ospreycove

            You might be able to re-align the molecules of steel or ferris based (iron) metal while in a molten state, but moving or realigning metal with a magnet in it's cooled and hardened state would be something I would like to see.

            First off all the magnet would have to be very strong, a permanent magnet (non electric) would never be strong enough. An electro magnet might be able to do it but you better have the knife and the magnet securely and accurately positioned and tied to hundreds if not thousands of pounds to keep them from moving and being drawn together. This type of magnet would be so strong it would make steel objects fly through the air at a high rate of speed. You would turn it on and half the objects in your house would fly at you, nuts, bolts, knives, TV's, stereos, your teenager with braces, your dogs collar, etc. This would be an enormously popular video on you tube.

            If you could accomplish all this, I think you would just distort the metal if not possibly produce heat and ruin the temper or anneal.

            1. re: cajundave

              "but moving or realigning metal with a magnet in it's cooled and hardened state would be something I would like to see."
              I forget a lot from metallurgy in college, but the molecules in steel and aluminum continue changing forever within the structure. See artificial aging

              1. re: Dave5440

                Some metals are classified as precipitation hardening metals. When a precipitation hardening alloy is quenched, its alloying elements will be trapped in solution, resulting in a soft metal. Aging a "solutionized" metal will allow the alloying elements to diffuse through the microstructure and form intermetallic particles. These intermetallic particles will nucleate and fall out of solution and act as a reinforcing phase, thereby increasing the strength of the alloy. Alloys may age "naturally" meaning that the precipitates form at room temperature, or they may age "artificially" when precipitates only form at elevated temperatures. In some applications, naturally aging alloys may be stored in a freezer to prevent hardening until after further operations - assembly of rivets, for example, may be easier with a softer part.

                Examples of precipitation hardening alloys include 2000 series, 6000 series, and 7000 series aluminium alloy, as well as some superalloys and some stainless steels.

      2. be aware that a sharpener and a steel perform two totally different functions.

        1 - the sharpener does as advertises, removes metal to sharpen
        2 - the steel merely straightens the edge from use without removing any metal

        jfood has the three stage chef's choice as well (only use 2 on a bi-monthly basis). he also uses a steel each time he takes the knife out to use.

        10 Replies
        1. re: jfood

          A little more info on the honing/stropping of a fine edge.

          July 26, 2010
          Did You Know – Part 6 (using a sharpening steel)
          I thought I might write a post about using a sharpening steel because I learned about how one works only a couple of years ago.

          Finding out how it works gave me the confidence to use it more often and more effectively.

          A sharpening steel does not sharpen a knife, it actually only maintains a sharp edge by realigning the molecules of the blade.

          A steel will not work on a blunt knife.

          Done regularly, along with careful hand washing, drying and storage you will preserve the blade a lot longer.

          1. re: ospreycove

            it is a great little addition to the knife drawer...thx

            1. re: jfood

              I have a Lansky sharpening system. It seems to give the sharpest edge of anything that I've tried, but it's real fussy to use and a pain for real large or real small knives. I have the regular and the diamond Lansky sharpening systems. It's also kind of scary to use and you can cut yourself very easily if you're not careful. The Chefs Choice electric sharpener sharpens the edge ok, but it seems fussy to use also and you have to run the knife through many times if it's really dull. I never can seem to get a real sharp edge by using it. I also have some of the manual ceramic "chock stick" type sharpeners. They work ok at first, but seem to clog up with metal dust after being used a few times. To me there doesn't seem to be any real easy or quick way of sharpening knives. All of the methods seem to have their drawbacks.

              1. re: Antilope

                I use crock sticks and think they're really quite good and easy to use. I clean them using a sponge and Bar Keepers Friend scouring powder to clean them and they work like new. Yes, it's a bother but a minor one.

                1. re: BluPlateSpec

                  Try a single ceramic crock stick as your "steel", and you probably will never touch a real steel again.

            2. re: ospreycove

              A steel with grooves in it is a file, as is one made of an abrasive. They most certainly remove metal from a blade, and can be used to make a dull blade sharp. They're actually really aggressive at removing metal, and don't have any place near a knife made of modern hard steels. The old "steel realigns the edge" idea is nonsense. Steels work, when they work at all, by removing material from the edge.

              1. re: dscheidt

                you may find that not many will agree with the statment that a steel is "really aggressive at removing metal" and "Steels work, when they work at all, by removing material from the edge".

                It is more of a honing than a sharpening.

                You and jfood will have to agree to disagree.

                1. re: dscheidt

                  Quote: 'The old "steel realigns the edge" idea is nonsense. Steels work, when they work at all, by removing material from the edge.'

                  Grooved steels do both. How much of each they do depends on how rounded the grooves are, the technique and pressure used, and factors in the knife itself - how tough/brittle the metal is, relative hardness, how acute and thick the edge is, edge distortion. Beyond that, they also contribute some degree of 'glassing' to the edge - sort of smearing the metal as opposed to abrading or bending it (smooth steels and glass honing rods do a lot more of this).

                  As an example, a grooved steel used well does not removed metal very aggressively from old soft-carbon steel knives (like carbon Sabatiers) because the metal is more malleable than brittle. These are the knives that grooved steels were designed to pair with. In real world usage of course, some metal is almost always removed. But that's not what really causes a soft-steel knife to feel sharper after a few passes of a grooved steel.

                  If you find that your grooved steel is removing a lot of metal from your knives, there is probably either something wrong with your technique, or you're using it on a knife it's ill-suited towards.

                  1. re: cowboyardee

                    Cow......Learning to use a steel properly is far more important than spending the better part of a night laboring over the whetstone. There are as many YouTube videos and online guides to using a steel as there are stars in the sky, but the key is to do it lightly. By using a steel, you're attempting to realign a few molecules of steel back into a cutting edge; heavy pressure will only lead to a truly dull blade.

                    1. re: ospreycove

                      "Learning to use a steel properly is far more important than spending the better part of a night laboring over the whetstone."

                      Depends on what type of knives you use and how sharp you want them to be. For some knives, steels are useless or nearly so.

                      Also, you drastically overestimate how long it takes to use a whetstone once you know what you're doing with it.

            3. Smilingal, what type of knives do you have? Are you looking to get others?

              It makes a big difference as to whether an electric sharpener is a good idea.

              I'm not experienced with the Aladin sharpener, but how do you like it? I know that the carbide sharpeners often wind up needing their carbides replaced often. Has this been the case with it? How old is it? Did it sharpen well when new? How about now?

              18 Replies
              1. re: cowboyardee

                The previous post was a quote from Tom Mylan, (see below), in his article in Atlantic Mag.
                I guess professional butchers have their own way of doing things...................

                Tom Mylan - Tom Mylan is the executive butcher and co-owner of the local, sustainable butcher shop The Meat Hook in Brooklyn, NY. He loves good meat, good music, and good whiskey, but not necessarily in that order.

                All Posts | Email Mylan

                1. re: ospreycove

                  His advice is good for butchers and the majority of home cooks using western-made knives.

                  I was just pointing out that there is more than one way to skin a cat (or bone a chicken). Using a steel on a yanagi for example would be a very bad idea.

                  Also, if you're like me (not to say you should be) and you like your knives a good deal sharper than is strictly necessary for most kitchen tasks (using knives made of very hard steel with very acute edges), then a steel is significantly less useful than it would be for Mr. Mylan or his presumed readership.

                  1. re: cowboyardee

                    COW. Granted, I am not one to buy works of art knives, and I do not criticize those that do. I am proud of my collection of custom and production knives obtained from small "messer fabriks" in Germany. Purchased when I was living there. For me, and my use, buying ultimate grade knives is like buying a a Cosmi Autoloader Shotgun for $9,000.00 when my Winchester pre 1964 Model 12 (now worth only about $600.00) is more than well suited for my upland birding needs. It is all where you find your happiness.......lol

                    1. re: ospreycove


                      Harder steel knives do not have to cost more than softer steel knives. A Tojiro DP knife is slightly cheaper than a Henckels or a Wusthof. That is the whole point why some people believe these hard steel Japanese knives are putting pressure on the standard European knives. Many are in similar price range. These hard steel knives are work knives, not "art knives". They just do not work well with a honing steel.

                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                        Chem.......yes, I have a few Japanese knives too, and the difference you state is well noted!!

                      2. re: ospreycove

                        Agreed. I'm often worried when talking about sharpening and such here that others will think I'm implying they're doing something wrong. A forschner or two along with a honing rod and either a chef's choice or occasional professional sharpening is completely adequate for a serious cook.

                        Some people like having copper pans. Or fast cars. I like the feel of an extraordinarily sharp kitchen knife, even if the extra time I'm spending sharpening it to perfection is starting to cut into the time I save using a knife so sharp. I just enjoy it. I dunno why.

                  2. re: cowboyardee

                    I have a Chef's Global and Henkels Santuko a Sabatier Chef's - these are the ones I use the most often - then a few smaller ones. The Aladin is this 5" plastic piece that has the sharpener in the groove. It is almost silly that this sharpens the knives as well as it does - but as I said - I do feel it has been losing it's ability. I manually run the blade thru many times until I feel that it sounds and feels different than it did when I started!

                    1. re: smilingal


                      You have nice range of knives. Personally, I am not a huge fan of electric sharpeners. I prefer sharpening stones, or any manual sharpener. However, back to your specific question, if you like an electric sharpener, then you should consider the Chef's Choice M1520, mostly because it can handle the ~15o edge bevel of your Global and the ~20o edge bevel of your Henckels and Sabatier.


                      It is not cheap.

                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                        yes - I have had my eye on that Chef's Choice - and i will probably splurge - but of course with a 20% B,B,+B coupon. Even with chef's assistance, I can't seem to get the knack of the honing blade - and I guess i would also have the same trepidation with a stone.

                        1. re: smilingal

                          What does "I can't seem to get the knack of the honing blade " mean? Do you mean a knife seems to get more dull after putting it through the honing blade? Maybe you need to strop the knife. Try putting it on a leather belt or on your jean -- just to verify this is the case before getting more expensive leather strop.

                          I am going to throw this question out for others who know more.

                          To all, I am wondering if you need to strop or polish the blade after the honing stage of an electric knife sharper? I am wondering if this is why smilingal (original poster) does not get good results after the honing stage. On one hand, this is often true for manual knife sharpening. On the other hand, my impression is that the honing stage on these electric sharpener is not really done on an extra fine surfaces, so stropping may not do much.

                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            Interestingly, the original Chef's Choice triple angle machines instructed the user to never, ever use a steel or any kind of hone as it would ruin the special shape of the edge the machine made. They insisted that you hone only on the final wheel - usually a ceramic wheel. I don't know if that is still in there or not.

                            My problem, when I owned one of these years ago, was that honing on the machine never produced a sharp enough edge for me, and I would have to go through the entire cycle each time I needed a little touch-up. I put a significant amount of wear and tear on my knives before I figured out that this was ridiculous. Thank goodness I learned the lesson on my Henckels and Wustoff knives, and not my Hatori or Al Mar VG-10's.

                            1. re: applehome


                              Thanks. Yeah, I remember the whole Chef's Choice trizor. I think it is still there. VG-10 is nice :) Well, I like it anyway.

                              1. re: applehome

                                I have a two stage chefs choice and I use a steel in between sharpening. I am sure my knives are not as sharp as cowboy and chem but if I can slice a tomato or raw beef I am ok.

                                From what you have said it sound like the marketing guys at chefs choice are full of it when it comes to the third stage. This is often the case with manufacturers, they think if they stretch the truth it will sell more.

                                1. re: cajundave

                                  I still don't know if the third stage on the Chef's Choice is: (a) not improving the edge or (b) making the edge worse -- for applehome and smilingal

                              2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                I meant that I guess no matter how I try i don't feel comfortable working with it for fear of messing up the blade so I suppose therefore i don't do what needs to be done for an adequate job. I meant working with a steel not on a machine.

                                1. re: smilingal

                                  I suggest you to (1) buy a cheap knife and (2) practice on it. You can steel your Henckels and Sabatier, but you probably don't want to do that to your Global.

                                  1. re: smilingal

                                    My problem with the chef's choice was that I could not use it to touch up. But if I went through the whole cycle, it came out plenty sharp. Also if I used a steel I could use it for a while, but when I went back to the machine, I had to start from scratch. I was afraid of the wear and tear on the knives - I quickly got to the point on these forged knives that I had to grind down the bolster.

                                    1. re: applehome

                                      "I quickly got to the point on these forged knives that I had to grind down the bolster"

                                      Ounch. That is one reason I am holding back on the Sabatiers knives. Thanks for the information.

                        2. AccuSharp Knife and Tool Sharpener

                          It costs ~$10 and does an AMAZING job.


                          Now, I'm not making the argument that it does a better job than a Chef's Choice (at $140, it had better!), but consider this $10 tool will easily carry you along nicely for months and months before you even need to think about taking it in for a professional whetstone sharpening (which will cost you $8-10 anyway for a standard chef's knife). In fact, I've gone a year now without a professional sharpening-- only using this ridiculously simple manual sharpener, and every time it returns a razor edge to the blade. This even put an amazing edge on 15 year old cheapo knives that I've been carrying around since college. Amazing.

                          Mr Taster

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: Mr Taster

                            Does this unit do alternate angles? Will it work on Globals as well as western knives?

                            1. re: applehome

                              No idea! What I do know is me dull knives no dull no mo.

                              Mr Taster

                            2. re: Mr Taster

                              Best I can tell from smilingal's account, this is pretty much the same type of device as the Aladin sharpener she has been using. Very quick, puts a decent edge on (depending on the knife), no angle control, shears off a decent amount of metal, carbides wear out comparitively quickly. Sound about right?

                            3. OK, I hate to rain on the parade here, but grab your umbrellas folks.

                              Among other things, I have been a knifemaker and worked in a custom kill/cut and wrap plant. I have had probably 25 different sharpening systems over the years. Water stones, paper wheels, belt machines, Chef's Choice, the pocket rods, the bench stones, microtome stones, diamond steels and stones, edge guide doodads, etc., etc., pretty much everything. Between hunting and the meat plant, I've used knives A LOT, dressed a lot of animals. The knives I make I try to get as sharp as possible. I've got GREAT hand-eye, and know the theory and instructions like I wrote 'em. I even bought a microscope to see what's really happening at the edge.

                              Yet I SUCK at sharpening, and my experience is that 95+% of other people suck at it, too. Even when they've tried for years to learn, like I have. Now when I say I suck, I mean that I can sharpen my kitchen blades so that they have SOME edge and aren't so dull they're dangerous. But nothing like a TRULY sharp piece that has been done by someone with the "knack". Hair-popping sharp that makes tomatoes fall into 2mm slices all by themselves.

                              My friend Bob Kramer is a master ABS bladesmith who has the knack. He's also probably the most highly skilled sharpener alive anywhere. Bob says folks who use their knives for household and cooking use should have their blades PROFESSIONALLY resharpened once a year, and licked on a ceramic rod "steel" monthly. That's it. Hollow-grind, chisel-grind, flat, convex, all the same.

                              The only rub is finding a pro sharpener who isn't with us imbeciles in the lowest 95 percentile. If you live anywhere near even a medium-sized city, there are some available to you. AVOID the grocery-store butchers (who are like me--they just THINK they know sharp).

                              So, save your money and counterspace and buy yourself some freedom from frustration. It's one of the few things that is NOT better done by DIY.

                              Shower's over gearheads--back to gadget coveting.

                              18 Replies
                              1. re: kaleokahu

                                I was where you are until I bought the Edge Pro System. It's more of a jig than a device. It lets us poor schmucks that don't have steel in our blood get a lot closer to that shaving utensil each and every time you sharpen. However - having said that - you don't always want to shave with a kitchen knife. Understanding what you want to use the knife for is as important as knowing how to sharpen it.


                                1. re: kaleokahu

                                  That matches my sentiment... weekly sharpening with the $10 AccuSharp gadget (w/ daily steeling of course) and leave the real sharpening to a pro with a whetstone. That seems to me like the best way to go, rather than dumping the big bucks on an electronic gadget that, at its best, is just an approximation of a professional sharpening.


                                  Mr Taster

                                  1. re: Mr Taster

                                    I don't believe that kaleokahu was speaking well of any gadget - but I'll let him speak for himself.

                                    Unless AccuSharp makes one for the super-thin knives with their narrow angle, you're leaving out the OP's Global. Of course, Global has their own ceramic pull-through (Minosharp). One of each would still be cheaper than the Chef's Choice.

                                    Chef's Choice does make a unit (1520) that can do both angles, although I hate the thought of a Global on any electrical machine. The hard, thin metal is more brittle than western steel - and you can more easily chip or burn in a spot. Globals should be hand-sharpened.

                                    I use an ungrooved steel hone every time I pull a knife out of the block - I don't see how I could get by with a weekly pull-through and still keep what I consider to be a sharp edge. The VG-10's and other hard steel blades do hold out better, but they require honing as well, for which I have a ceramic rod. They also get touched up on the stone quite often, and that's where I have a problem with the Chef's Choice - in my mind, there's no such thing as a touch up - you're building the edge up from the base each time.

                                    1. re: applehome

                                      I didn't mean to imply that kaleokahu espoused any gadgetry... I meant that my belief matches his in that "only professionals can do a truly proper sharpening job".

                                      That's why I do what I do in the interim-- choosing a device that maximizes effectiveness while minimizing cost, labor and precious counter/cabinet real estate. Mind you, I don't take apart carcasses so I have no need for specialty or expensive blades. I use Victorinox Fibrox 8" chef's knife and 4" paring knife for 95% of my cooking needs. Stamped blades, amazingly comfortable handle and sharp, and inexpensive enough that you don't have to treat them with kid gloves.

                                      Mr Taster

                                  2. re: kaleokahu

                                    I couldn't agree more. I'm a good cook, have worked as a chef, but I suck at sharpening knives -- I'm dangerous with a Chef's Choice -- so I take my knives (Wusthof stainless, early 1980s vintage), to a professional sharpener once a year or so. I steel each knife about every other time I wash it, right before I put it in the knife holder, and I always have sharp knives.

                                    It's one of the best things I've ever done for myself, and it wasn't expensive, under $10 for an 8" chef, 6" sandwich, and 3" paring.

                                    1. re: kaleokahu

                                      For another perspective:

                                      Not that there's anything wrong with sharpening by a skilled professional, but hand sharpening isn't all that difficult. It can take a while to learn, though.

                                      True, there are some people who are just naturals at it and can do amazing things with a waterstone
                                      Maybe this is the 5% you're referring to?

                                      I'm no master, but I can put a much sharper edge on a knife than a Chef's Choice could, and I don't think I'm any wunderkind for doing so. I've also taught a couple people to hand sharpen. They can both get a decent knife sharp enough to pop hair, blitz through tomatoes, and leave clean edges on sashimi. Maybe I was just lucky that I and those I've taught were all in that special 5%, but I sort of doubt it.

                                      If someone doesn't want to learn to hand sharpen, that's totally understandable, but certainly more than 5% can pick up the knack to a useable level. Used to be that all professional cooks sharpened their own knives.

                                      Sorry you had difficulty learning. Were you just frustrated that you couldn't get a knife as sharp as a really masterful pro, or did you have a hard time getting a useful paper-shredding, armhair-popping edge?

                                      1. re: cowboyardee

                                        Hi, cowboy!

                                        Do you mind elaborating a bit more on this "hand sharpening" tehnique of yours that you are talking about.

                                        You've got me really interested in wanting to learn.

                                        What type of tools or gadgets do I need?

                                        I dont want anything electric.

                                        1. re: achilles007

                                          This link has a video demo. The guy is using the smaller version of the system that Leolady and I talk about down lower in this thread (the video guy's model [IM200] has an 8" stone, but since I have some 10" knives, I got the 11.5" IM313 model):


                                          1. re: achilles007

                                            The minimal one needs for hand sharpening is a knife and a flatstone. Obviously, we all have knives. As for stones, the older American way is to use an oilstone. However, waterstones are gaining for popularity. Waterstones are more expensive, but you can get a relatively cheap one at ~$20 dollars.

                                            For intro knife sharpening, I thought Mark Richmond videos did a good job:

                                            I thought videos from this following guy is pretty good as well:

                                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                              Hey Chem:

                                              What do you charge for sharpening, and do you have a satisfaction guarantee?

                                              Your Friend Kaleo

                                              1. re: kaleokahu


                                                I don't have a satisfaction guarantee because I am not a professional sharpener. :)

                                                I must have unintentionally mislead you. Sorry. My career profession is: chemist.

                                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                  But you sound like you know what you're doing, even so...

                                              2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                The Richmond videos look great. About the Youtube ones: any idea why I see his text written all over the video window? (I can't see much of anything but the words he's speaking.)

                                                1. re: Bada Bing

                                                  Bada Bing,

                                                  The caption is a new feature on youtube. Some videos have it, some don't. On the lower right on the youtube screen, there is a red icon "CC". Click on it and the captions will disappear. Hope this help.

                                                  I will say that Mark Richmond's videos are just a bit more informative especially on waterstone and Japanese techniques. Thomas Stuckey's videos are well-spoken and confident. His technqiues work for both oilstones and waterstones.


                                                  I find it is a bit more helpful to search "Thomas Stuckey expertvillage" on youtube to get a list:


                                                  Most expertvillage videos are really horrible, but Thomas Stuckey's video are good.

                                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                    Thanks for the tips! I haven't known about expert village, but I instantly noticed how many of his comments were, basically, "Thanks for an expert village video that is actually good and informed!"

                                                    1. re: Bada Bing

                                                      :) Your welcome. Yes, people thank Thomas because many expertvillage videos are mediocre or downright horrible. Here is a bad (and funny) video:


                                                      Please do not actually follow the instructions. The knife is the wrong knife. It is a nakiri bocho, not a cleaver. The techniques are also wrong.

                                          2. re: kaleokahu

                                            I'm with kaleokahu. Get your knife professionally sharpened. I use a place here in San Diego, for a $20 I got 4 chef's knives, plus a paring knife, carving knife and kitchen shears sharpened well enough to cut through the fabric of space-time. Really, really sharp. I'd rather spend $20 once a year for awesome performance than spend $60 for a sharpener that only does a mediocre job with my knives.

                                            More here: http://indirectheat.blogspot.com/2010...

                                          3. My grandfather was a butcher, I remember watching him when I was a kid, he would grind his knives on a wheel, this is very abrasive and removes a lot of material, but sets the angles that you're working with. Then he would spend hours with an Arkansas stone, honing the blades, honing only removes small amounts of metal as it removes the scratches left by the grinding stone and refines the angles. Afterwards he would steel the blades on his stag horn handled "A. Dick" sharpening steel. Every time he picked up a knife he either steeled it or stroped it on a large leather strop, only then would he start to cut. This was over 50 years ago and he was using carbon steel knives. Butchers, go through knives relatively quickly, so grinding was not particularly an issue. I also remember his well worn butcher block, a lot of meat was cut on that 18 inch thick end grain maple block. It was shaped like a sadle on one corner from all the choping and cutting.

                                            I use a Chef's Choice 3 stage sharpener, but only when the knives get really dull. It replaces the grinder and to some extent the Arkansas stone my grandfather used. I have neither his skill nor patience with a wetstone. However, I still use his A. Dick steel with the stag horn handle.

                                            Sharpening, grinding and stoning, leaves what is commonly refered to as a wire edge on the cutting edge of a knife, plane iron, or chisel. To be really sharp this wire edge has to be removed and the edge that remians needs to be kept in allignment with the bulk of the blade. That's where the strop and the steel come into play. If you're using the steel as a file, your not using it properly, that's not what it's ment to do. Some steels are smooth, howver most are ridged, the reason for the ridges is to increase the psi of the steel on the blade without inrcreasing the pressure that you need to apply. The purpose of the steel is to allign that razor sharp edge to the proper angle and that's why you use the same number of alternating strokes when steeling a knife. Your knife should be steeled regularly, my grandfather did it every time he picked one up. This procedure may be different with Japanese knives, but for the more malable steel western knives, this is the procedure. Don't be afraid of the steel, it really doesn't matter if you're at 18° or 22°, this will keep your knives sharper longer.

                                            Most importantly treat your knives with respect, no glass cutting boards, don't throw them in the sink and get to them latter, don't cut acidic foods and leave the knife sitting around until latter, etc. all of these things will extend the time between sharpenings.

                                            10 Replies
                                            1. re: mikie


                                              Thanks for your post. I never thought about it much, but I think you are right--and smart--about the grooves being on steels for pressure rather than filing.

                                              What you call a wire edge, I call a foil, but you're absolutely right--it's gotta come off. I usually take it off with a 3500 rmp buffer wheel (CAREFUL to run the wheel OFF the edge) with white chrome rouge, but simply stropping on the cardboard back of a writing/legal tablet works fine, too.

                                              I'm curious about your steel. I have several very old German steels, but none by "A. Dick". Are you sure your grampa's is not by F. Dick?

                                              1. re: kaleokahu

                                                Are you sure that ran 3500 rmp and not 3500 rpm?

                                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                  Well, I was standing on a ramp, but the wheel was turning in RPMs.

                                                  My question about A. Dick was a sincere one. Now ask me again what I meant.

                                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                      I meant that A Dick might be different than F. Dick. Maybe you know.

                                                      1. re: kaleokahu

                                                        Upon further review the call on the field has been reversed, it's F. Dick. It's got to be close to 70 years old, my grandfather had his grocery store in the 40's. I guess I haven't looked at the name on it in a long time.

                                                        1. re: mikie

                                                          Hey, that's great you have that--a real heirloom, and useful to boot! Goes to show us that the most valued things don't need to be new, high-tech, or expensive, and that we should keep what works for us. I bet you think of him whenever you reach for your steel.

                                              2. re: mikie

                                                Mikie - enjoyed reading your memories of your grandfather! Perhaps I have to take a knife sharpening class. I am too intimidated by a steel.

                                                1. re: mikie

                                                  "Don't be afraid of the steel, it really doesn't matter if you're at 18° or 22°, this will keep your knives sharper longer."
                                                  Most of your advice is good, and probably you know this already, but I wanted to point out that if your knife is set at 22 deg per side and you're steeling at 18 deg, you're not accomplishing anything. You're glazing the secondary bevel. You can safely steel a few degrees more than your knife's edge, but not less than it.

                                                  This is why I recommend that people find their knife's edge angle by placing their knife flat on wood/hard leather/plastic and slowly tilt the spine up while pushing forward until the edge bites into the surface. That's the knife's edge angle. Steel at or very slighty above that angle. With time and practice, most find that hitting the edge while steeling or sharpening actually sounds different than missing it.

                                                  1. re: cowboyardee

                                                    Obviously you are correct, I was trying to make the point that it's not imparitive that the angle be exact, all you really want to do is "bend" the edge back in line with the blade. The thing is, if you miss on one stroke it's not going to ruin the knife or even the edge for that matter. You just continure to steel the knife so you get about 6 good strokes on each side. I don't know anyone who can steel at precisely the same 22.5 degree angle on every stroke.

                                                    I sharpen a lot of chisels and plane irons, but I still use a guide to get the angle right. There are a number of gadgets for knives as well but they are a bit more involved. I've seen a guy sharpen a knife on a Torkek water cooled sharpening system, but I've never seen that mentioned for kitchen knives. He sharpened a guy's pocket knife to the point of scary sharp and it took him about 5 min. The Tormek has a two grit grinding wheel and a leather strop wheel. They are very pricy, about $600.

                                                2. I use this manual multi-stone sharpener:


                                                  Actually, Amazon's price right here is not hard to beat elsewhere. I paid something like $150 all told. Note, though, that the system can be configured with different arrays of stones for different effects and degree of edge, and the different stones affect the price point.

                                                  I haven't tried to shave with one of my sharpened knives, but I was able to learn pretty quickly how to get an edge that slices right through a sheet of paper. Another plus: this thing can sharpen axes and chisels and pretty much anything with a non-serrated blade.

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: Bada Bing

                                                    I use this sharpner too, and steel between sharpenings.

                                                    1. re: Leolady

                                                      Yes, I use a steel, too.

                                                      Did you also find it pretty easy to learn to use the Norton mullti-stone? I was not happy before with smaller stones, but I found that the large and long (almost 12") surface of this set-up made it much easier to keep an even bevel along the length of a chef's knife.

                                                      1. re: Bada Bing

                                                        Yes, it was easy to learn. I grew up with sharpening stones so it was no big deal. I love this system. But back when I bought it I paid about $90.

                                                  2. Best sharpening solution I have found, after years of fussing with steels, wet stones, dry stones, etc, is a gizmo called a Fiskars RollSharp. No worrying about angles, etc. The angle is built in. And they're relatively cheap, around $12 on Amazon.com. I use mine on Mac knives, old French carbon-steel knives, pocket knives, boning knives, fish-filleting knives, you name it. About $12 from Amazon.com.

                                                    1. Not sure if this was mentioned earlier but if you insist on sharpening your own knives, take a look at the Meyerco Sharpen-it. Last time I checked it costs around $20 or so on Amazon and it is pretty easy to get a decent edge on your knives. Your knives will need to be touched up fairly often using this gadget but it works okay for most kitchen work. On the other hand, I will confess that I have recently used a mail order sharpening service and they did much, much better than what I was able to do on my own. Contact Philip at www.TheSharpKnife.com. He did an amazing job on my Henckels. I still like to try to do most things myself, but every now and then I reward myself with a treat!

                                                      1. Chefs choice is good only on the better models though. If you spend less than $120 bucks than you got a low end chefs choices which are a waste of money.Hewlett diamond steel is your best bet for $24 quick and easy.

                                                        1. But the OP doesn't want another steel.

                                                          If you don't want to do all the complicated stuff with wetstones and different grits and whatnot, and if you're already using an Aladdin, you might be happy with an Accusharp (for knives, they also make them for garden tools, scissors, etc). Just use it with a light hand. It can take a lot more metal off than you want to if you put much pressure on it. My son won't use a steel at all, and I don't like to, so his knife set when I got here was horribly horribly dull. The steel wouldn't do the job at this point, or at least not in my hands. I bought him an Accusharp and I've got all his knives sharp again. It didn't take long, just a minute or two the first time and a few strokes each time I use the knife. I wipe the blade with a clean dry piece of floursack cloth and it just leaves a light dusting you can barely see behind, so it's not eating the knife blade up. I sharpened my mother's carbon steel knives for years with one of those rolling knife sharpeners and they lasted just fine (and were probably easily 40 years old to start with), but the Accusharp is easier to use, quicker, and not as hard on the blade (if you use it with a light touch).

                                                          As you can see from many of the replies above, knife sharpening can be a very complicated process which some people really love to do and are quite good at. However, I prefer a garden variety knife and the ease of sharpening myself. If you have very expensive knives, maybe you don't want an Accusharp, but if you're already using an Aladdin I think you'll be happy with the Accusharp. It is set to a "standard" bevel which I think is 21 degrees , you wouldn't want to use it on a knife with a double bevel, a chisel edge, or a special purpose knife with some odd angle, but for your usual goodish to good kitchen knife, I like this sharpener very much.

                                                          If you want to get a little fancier, I also have a Crock Stick that works pretty well. I think the newer ones have a handguard, but mine is about 25 or 30 years old and it does not have a handguard. Just google "Crock stick". These are set to specific angles too, 20 and 25 degrees I think.

                                                          I like this guy's tutorial on knife sharpening:


                                                          He doesn't mention the Accusharp but that article was written in 2003. I'm guessing he wouldn't like it (that doesn't affect my opinion of it for my own use, but may affect yours). He does seem to think the Crock sticks are OK, and he likes something called the "Sharpen-it". Crock sticks and the sharpen-it run around $30 to $40 so that's still fairly affordable, IMO. Actually there is a crock stick on Amazon that's about $15, so it may be a more affordable option for you The $15 model does NOT have a handguard. It is more trouble to use than an Accusharp but easier than a steel.

                                                          16 Replies
                                                          1. re: ZenSojourner

                                                            Accusharp uses carbide and it pulls to much metal off the knife.You will take your chef knives down to fillet knives in a few years with those things.Only good for fishing and hunting knives..IMO

                                                            1. re: ZeroSignal

                                                              I've been using one Accusharp or another for a long time. I can't remember when I bought the first one, lost it, replaced it, gave that one to my dad, etc. A long time ago - maybe 10 years or more.

                                                              My knives are not wearing out. If you use too much pressure you will take more metal off than you need to, but it would take decades to noticeably wear your knife down. I have NEVER seen visible filings as a result of using this. Other people swear they have. I swear they must be using too much pressure. All I get is a little grayish residue when I wipe the knife clean with a piece of white cloth, and not much of that. Now that the knives are all sharp, you can barely see anything when I touch them up before using.

                                                              Again, if you have super fancy knives you might want to use something else, but for my garden variety knives, all I care about is that they're sharp when I want them to be sharp, and I don't have to get a PhD in honing to get them that way.

                                                              I do get my chinese cleaver professionally sharpened every couple of years (or did before it disappeared into storage) and the guy who did the sharpening always remarked that the knife appeared to be well-taken care of, so I'm pretty sure if the Accusharp was destroying my knife, he would have noticed it.

                                                              Compared to those roller things the Accusharp is about a million percent better, LOL!

                                                              Picture of rolling knife sharpener:


                                                              1. re: ZenSojourner

                                                                Still wouldnt use an accusharp on anything better than a Dexter or Forschner.To many sharpening widgets out there now a days. Water stone is best bet but have to have the knowledge on how to use it properly.I still think a diamond steel(followed by a ceramic steel) is your second best bet from a stone not to hard to get angle right.Otherwise spend $150 on a good electric.I see peoples knives all the time that have been killed by crap sharpeners or worn to hell on an ACCUSHARP( must of been the pressure :) )

                                                                1. re: ZeroSignal


                                                                  I won't even use it on my Dexter and I have several of those. Dexter makes decent knives if you know what you are doing. Easy to sharpen and can take an ok edge. Edge retention is not great, but not horrible. Very standard 420 HC stuff at HRC 56. Really, itis an average or below average steel. ....I think waterstones are the best, and it does requrie some knowledge, but the knowledge required is minimal. Certainly, it is easier to learn how to use a waterstone, than riding a bicycle.

                                                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                    I agree, I just didnt want to belittle the Accusharp that much.Only problem with a waterstone is when your sharpening japanese knives.They use different angles so you gotta be pretty good to sharpen them.

                                                                    1. re: ZeroSignal


                                                                      I agree. We had a previous post on this Accusharp:


                                                                      I don't think it is a bad tool, but it is not something I personally would use on my Dexter knives and certainly not the higher level knives like my Shun, Tojiro, CCK, or Tanaka. Accusharp is a shearing tool as you have nicely pointed out, so it is very different than a grinding tool. It will take more metal off and it will not get the same level of edge sharpness as a grinding tool (like a stone). I think wood work is a good example. A wood plane (a shearing tool) will take off more wood off than sandpaper and it cannot yield the same surface as a sandpaper (a grinding tool). Obviously we can argue what is the definition of "taking too much metal off", but Accusharp will take MORE metal off than a waterstone and yield an inferior edge. To say it otherwise, will be same as saying a wood plane does not take more wood off than a sandpaper.


                                                                      Don't get me wrong. It is an easy tool to use and it does its job very well. Just like the fact that a wood plane is a very useful tool.

                                                                      I still think it is easier to use a waterstone than bicycle. Well, it took me longer to learn to ride a bike anyway. :)

                                                                    2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                      Well I DO have a Dexter and I DO use my Accusharp on it. That's the knife I get professionally sharpened every couple of years.

                                                                      Hasn't hurt it in all the time I've had it. The knife I've had for about 25 years; the Accusharp, for however long ago it was when I first came across it.

                                                                      But then you guys don't have to use it. It's certainly no worse than the Aladdin that the OP is already using.

                                                                      1. re: ZenSojourner

                                                                        The problem with recommending the Accusharp here is that the Aladdin sharpener that the OP has already been using (and is apparently looking to get away from) is essentially the exact same thing.

                                                                        I also think people can overstate quite how quickly a chefs knife will become a fillet knife via an accusharp - it does quickly remove metal, but the bigger problem is that the knife will be very thick behind its edge in a short period of time. With home use, it would still take quite a long time to visibly change the profile of the knife. Professional use, on the other hand...

                                                                        1. re: ZenSojourner

                                                                          I know you have (rather had) a Dexter knife. I have mine too. I am just telling Zero that what I would or would not do. I didn't say everyone has to do what I do. I wrote:

                                                                          "I won't even use it on my Dexter and I have several of those"

                                                                      2. re: ZeroSignal

                                                                        Dude, I wouldn't spend $150 on a KNIFE, let alone on a sharpener! LOL!

                                                                        I guess everybody has their hobby obsessions. I'm not sure what mine is, because I probably think (whatever it is) that it's totally reasonable. It's only someone who doesn't share the obsession who is likely to recognize it.

                                                                        OP doesn't want ONE steel, let alone 2. Hopefully the OP has found something useful in all this, whatever their level of interest.

                                                                        1. re: ZenSojourner

                                                                          thank you all so very much - and this is an ongoing discussion with so many having their own favorite ways to care for their tools/treasures. I am still using the dumb Aladdin - which by the way, never leaves any trace of shavings - even when I bang it on the counter to check if anything is left inside. It is not a roller. But none the less, I still would like something more "official". I have had this, believe it or not, for over 30 years - yes, that's right, it was a baby gift that I received when I was born! lol - Anyway, since I started this thread, I uncovered a hand-held Coleman with two different planes - guess a sharpener and a finisher. Doesn't work too great - it was stuck in my junk drawer - and I guess it is! I think I might cave in --- perhaps for the holidays - and purchase the Chef's Choice - at least it seems that it is one that I can do.

                                                                          BTW - I also have seen that Kyocera came out with a knife sharpener for the ceramic blades! That was interesting. I love that little knife - it is like a toy - but watch out - it IS sharp!
                                                                          Thank you all for this ongoing debate!

                                                                          1. re: smilingal

                                                                            The only thing I've ever seen leave shavings is that rolling sharpener! All sharpeners remove some metal, but you shouldn't be seeing shavings (and you're not, LOL!)

                                                                            Glad you've found something that you want to try.

                                                                            1. re: smilingal

                                                                              Kyocera is a well known company for ceramic knives. Ceramic can have a very good edge retention due to the lack of edge rolling. The problem is that it is very tough to sharpen one.

                                                                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                They actually dull very quickly (I have 2) the edge angle is also very steep and you would never get a rolled edge it would break off if not for the steep angle. Also you can buy a diamond stone from edge pro that fits the apex for ceramic knives, There is an article on why a diamond stone should NEVER be used on a steel knife, unless its superhard but i can't find the link to it.

                                                                              2. re: smilingal

                                                                                Hello, I strongly recommend NOT using electric or rotary sharpeners, I used one for a few years on my well used knives and ended up with edges that needed to be professionally redone. I now pay for yearly professional sharpening and use a local mobile service that is fantastic, the owner also showed me how to properly use a steel to keep them honed in between sharpening. I have several ceramic and Japanese knives as well as a Global and various mid range knives.

                                                                                Good luck and I hope this helps,

                                                                              3. re: ZenSojourner

                                                                                Dude, I wouldn't spend $150 on a KNIFE, let alone on a sharpener! LOL!

                                                                                Wow you must think a lot of these guys are nuts then,

                                                                      3. ok - so I just came in from buying myself a present! I bought the Chef's Choice Edge Select 120 - but now I think that I should have looked elsewhere because after reading this again I now remember about the angleselect 1520. OH GEEZE - what a confusing dilemma. But I finally caved in and splurged - the question is now if I go on a hunt for the better one. Does anyone know clear differences??

                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                        1. re: smilingal

                                                                          If you have waited sooooo long to tend to your knives, they probably need a complete sharpening. I've used the Chef's Choice on Chiago Cuttelry, Henckels, and Wusthof knives and it can make a world of difference, especially once you let them get really dull. It may not be the best, and it certianly isn't a replacement for the watter stones and diamond hones that some people are proficent with, but it beats the crap out of using a dull knife. It's simple and it works, don't overstress yourself, if you need more to worry about, I'll e-mail you a list. ;)

                                                                          1. re: mikie

                                                                            i decided to splurge more and exchange it for the 1520 - this way I won't have to be concerned about my Global. Thanks for the list - I am sure mine is longer than yours!

                                                                        2. A knife edge is like a micro saw edge. What happens over a period of time is the teeth roll away from the center kinda like this )( . When you hit it against the steel it rolls the teeth back to center.The better the steel the less rolling you get of the teeth so it stay sharper longer.

                                                                          I would look for Diamond stone Sharpener. Chef Choice is made to keep cheap knives going. Spend your money of your knife not your sharper. A good Knife you should be able to hit it on sharpener 3 or 4 strokes and it should as sharp as the day you got it.