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Written by Peter on September 15, 2015

How do I sharpen a kitchen knife? - A guide

Having the right tools enables one to keep kitchen knives sharp and in great shape. This enables you to use them with great easy, also makes them reliable. Most knives are made of steel and become blunt due to constant use and might be your worst enemy in the kitchen. Well, then how do I sharpen a kitchen knife?

It's important to sharpen a kitchen knife to keep the tools ready for use!
It's important to sharpen a kitchen knife to keep the tools ready for use!

Sharpen a kitchen knife is at times referred to as honing and it’s actually not a science as most people usually assume it is. Also there are some who fear sharpening it since they have had bad experiences during the process. Honing refers to straightening of the knife blade, making the edge straight and ready to be used by you or a family member.

Tools used includes:

  • A honing steel or something called butchers steel: this are used for regular maintenance and sometimes for aligning the blades of a knife so that they can cut cleanly every time you use it.
  • A water stone or a sharpening stone or: is usually bought from hardware stores. It is usually flat and rectangular and has a grade of fine or coars depending on the knife type you want to use.
  • Automatic or electric sharpening machines: these are bought from departmental stores and vary in quality. It is however advisable to avoid them and do it yourself as they end up damaging your knife rather than sharpening it.

Sharpening a kitchen knife using a honing steel

  • Use a towel or a dish cloth for your honing steel and hold it with the point down into the towel vertically. The knife should be held at a 90 degree angle i.e. perpendicular to the center of the honing steel.
  • Tilt the knife away and put the blade at a 45 degree angle. The handle should be tilted halfway again between 45 degrees and parallel to the steel, thus attaining an angle of 22degrees for the knife from the honing steel.
  • Honing of the edge: begin by honing, move the knife forward until the steel is touching the honing steel. While maintaining the angle at 22 degrees, pull the knife backwards to you all the way across the blade, until the tip is passed. Repeat the process by doing the other side of the knife for around five to six times. This is is a very good technique to sharpen a kitchen knife.

Sharpen using a whet stone

  • Place the stone on a counter top with the coarse part facing up. To stop it from sliding place a wet towel under the stone
  • Using one hand, hold the knife by the handle and hold the edge against the stone with the point first. The cutting edge should meet the stone at an angle of 22 degrees and then stabilize the blade with the other hand.
  • Using appropriate pressure, begin by sliding the blade forwards and across the whetstone covering the entire length of the blade and keeping it at 22 degrees
  • Do this 10 times, then repeat the same on the other side of the blade.
  • Turn the whetstone on the fine grit side and repeat the above procedure on both sides of the blade.

Since sharpening a kitchen knife is a skill, most people who spend time in the kitchen know it’s actually not easy to learn how to do it professionally and most professional sharpeners learn it through apprenticeship from other skilled people. A lot of caution should be taken when honing or sharpening the knives to avoid damaging them and also causing injury to yourself. It is however advisable to maintain your knife well in the kitchen for it to give you proper results.

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