Knife Sharpening: How Much is Too Much?
I admit, I'm addicted. I get giddy when my just-sharpened Wusthofs whisper through a tomato without denting it first, when the herbs give way to ribbons without protest. I love me a super sharp blade -- but of course they never stay that way for long. I do hone them at home regularly, and that surely helps but even so the knives only keep that perfect edge for a few uses after they're back from the cutlery store. I tend to get them sharpened twice a year, but I'd love to do it more often. I know the consequences -- the more often they're sharpened, the faster they thin out. I'm curious to know how often you all get knives sharpened, and also how much shorter their lifespan will be if I give in to sharpening mine more. I do use them nearly every day, most days several times. Also, how much do you find that honing helps? It makes a bit of difference for me but not a ton -- maybe I'm doing it wrong?
My knives are all older French carbon steel. They are subjected to actual sharpening before July 4th and Thanksgiving. They are honed with each use. They do not seem to be thinning, and they are always sharp enough to cut a tomato into slices through which you could read, using no pressure.
I use my DMT Diafold Magna-Guide kit to re-profile my 8" chefs knife to the way I like it. There is always a balance between sharpness and durability. So I choose angles that are best for me. I end with Extra-Extra Fine 8000 mesh, 3 micron. However, I still notice micro fine scratches left by the DMT 8000 mesh.
Steeling with my "Henckels International Classic Forged 10-Inch Sharpening Steel" leaves a nicer edge because the scratches have been polished away. So the blade does an even better job gliding through the paper test.
IMO, a knife with an edge that's in good condition that hasn't been abused and is steeled every or every other use can go at least a year without sharpening. Of course, I only chop/slice veggies and sometimes slice meat/fish. I never chop bones with my knives so they don't chip. And in turn they don't need to be re-profiled and sharpened.
This is sort of a running experiment of mine. Where I'll only use my steel to sharpen my chefs knife to see how long it'll last. I'm 2 months in so far so good.
My hone is one of those "steels for dummies". It's a two-slotted diamond knife honer and it's supposed to make getting the angle foolproof. It's made by Wusthof too (I think) and I bought it at the cutlery store where my knives came from.
I do take good care of my blades -- never in the dish washer, don't bang them around too much, use suitable cutting surface, don't use them when I can't find the saw, etc. I dry them immediately and hone them fairly often, though not after every use. Maybe I should get better about that.
Your "hone" may be okay as long as you use almost zero pressure on the blade. Otherwise, you're probably better off with something like the Lansky "crock stick" setup that Kaleo mentioned:
It sounds like your sharpening guy is putting a little steeper-than-normal edge on your Wusthofs, which would explain why the edges go noticeably dull so quickly. The linked ceramic rod setup offers two different angles for you to use. You just hold the knife vertically & let it "fall" along the rod as you pull back.
Edit: Oh, BTW, what's your "suitable cutting surface"?
Are you able to post a link to which slotted hone you have? In a general sense, I'm not a huge fan of most slotted hones - they tend not to work very well, and are sometimes counter-productive, especially on a newly sharpened knife.
To your more general question: you should sharpen as much as you need to sharpen to keep your edge sharp enough for you. If you feel your edge has deteriorated after two months, and the hone isn't helping, don't worry about shortening the knife's lifespan; it's better to just keep it in good working order. The converse is true as well: don't sharpen every week just because someone said you should - sharpen when it feels dull to you.
The bigger issue is whether there is some reason that your edge isn't lasting as long as it could. Could be a lot of factors, and I couldn't say what exactly from your posts so far.
- Like I said, I don't always trust slotted hones and sharpeners, though a few work reasonably well.
- Your professional sharpener could be putting a particularly acute angle on the edge, overheating the edge, or leaving a wire edge (though this isn't too likely with a wusthof)
- How do you store your knives?
- What kind of cutting board do you use exactly?
All that said, maybe you just use your knives a lot and like having extremely sharp edges on em, so the common "sharpen 1-2 times a year" advice seems confusing. Then perhaps that advice is just not for you. Nothing at all wrong with that. I sharpen a good deal more often than twice a year myself because I like an extremely sharp edge. I do my own sharpening, so it's a little bit easier for me to avoid removing too much metal and shortening the knife's lifespan than it might be for someone who relies on a professional sharpener. But even so, like I said above, the lifespan of a knife is a secondary concern to having a knife that you love to use any day of the year.
<But even so, like I said above, the lifespan of a knife is a secondary concern to having a knife that you love to use any day of the year.>
That is really a good way to put it. There is no point of prolonging the lifetime of a "dull" knife. That being said, I feel (in my opinion) that sharpening twice a year is quiet a bit for sending out the knives for sharpening. For example, I cannot imagine sending out knives to be sharpened every month.
If the original loves good sharp knives, then I suggest that she either take on sharpening herself or get a little gadget like this Spyderco Sharpmaker:
"There is no point of prolonging the lifetime of a "dull" knife."
That's an interesting perspective which I agree with. The average home user probably won't wear out a knife even if the knife is machine sharpened every day. It'll take many many years to grind away too much of the blade where it's unusable.
<The average home user probably won't wear out a knife even if the knife is machine sharpened every day. It'll take many many years to grind away too much of the blade where it's unusable.>
I dunno my man, you ought to see what folks bring me. There are many a crime against steel committed out here.
Ever have to reduce a bolster by over 1/2" due to some ""sharpening"?
I hone on a strop often but anytime I feel that I'm not getting that super sharp performance either due to edge being rounded or if I'm getting micro chips I will do a light sharpening on stones to refresh the edge. This might be every few months but just depends.
The advice to sharpen once or twice a year is based on average use and the average user.
I know line chefs that sharpen daily on stones. So like I said it just depends on the amount of use and the obsessive nature of the user and what they want from their knives.
A coupla passes on the hone almost everytime I use a knife, maintains whatever edge is on the blade. Sharpening? Whenever I feel'em getting lazy....for me it's about every 3 months, depending on the type of steel. The german blades ("high carbon" stainless) hold an edge longer than my carbon steel knife
Sharpening 1-2 times a year is all Bob Kramer recommends, but he also recommends a crock stick about every month, along with the steel.
You already realize that it's a tradeoff between sharpening more often and wearing down the blade. That's half the battle. Depending on your age, you might have to replace a few knives over your lifetime if you sharpen "too much".
Could be you are honing at too obtuse an angle but with heavy use twice a year you are probably OK.
I tell folks that once the honing steel no longer restores the edge, it is time to bring it back.
A good sharpener will use the least aggressive abrasive as possible for the condition of the blade.
I use about 8 steps dropping in the aggressiveness at each stage. Some blades are sharp enough I may drop a few early ones out.
<I tend to get them sharpened twice a year, but I'd love to do it more often>
It is pretty good. Most people do not even sharpen their knives once a year.
<the more often they're sharpened, the faster they thin out>
Yes, the knives will get worn out, although I won't say they get thinned out. There is a better chance that the behind the edge will get thicken as shown here:
If you sharpen your knives by yourself, then there should be less of an issue. This is because when you do it freehand by yourself, you are trying to sharpen just enough without take off unnecessary metal. For many professional sharpeners, speed is essence. They rather do it quickly, but also take off more metal.
<I'm curious to know how often you all get knives sharpened>
If you are sending out the knives for sharpening, then I think you are doing it right -- about 1-3 times a year. For a home cook, I think 1-2 times is more than enough. When I sharpen my own knives, I do it about once a week to about once a month. I used to do it about once a week to once every two weeks. Now, I have a few more knives, so I can rotate them in use, and can therefore wait a bit before sharpening them.
<Also, how much do you find that honing helps?>
I tend to use harder steel Japanese influenced knives, so I don't hone them at all.
After some electric shock treatment,s I am much better. I won't say I am cured, but I am finally in control of my life.
I bet if I poked ya with a Doi Yanagiba you'd fall right off the Wagon! :D
If you are honing them every time you use them (just a quick couple of swipes on a steel) and are treating them well (hand washing, not using them to open beer bottles, using a good material for a cutting surface) then having them resharpened once or twice a year should be plenty.
If your knives are dulling after only a few uses then either you aren't honing them correctly or something else is going on (see above about treating your knives well).