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Sharp Knives and Sparks

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 16, 2007 3:18 am    Post subject: Sharp Knives and Sparks Reply with quote

I've been obsessing over my knives lately (decent quality from germany, not marked as far as I can tell so I can't tell you the maker.. does that mean they're probably cheaper than I've been lead to believe?) but I've had them for a while and they need a good sharpening to get all the dinks out. It's been put in my head by people such as
the honorable Alton Brown
that electric knife sharpeners are a no no. I've tried sharpening them on an oil stone and it works somewhat well, but the steel is pretty hard and it would take me forever to get all the dinks out and they'd still not be perfect, so I want to take it to a professional.

But then I do some more searching and I find this website telling me that the sparks often created by sharpening wheels (like in the video on Good Eats) means that my knife's edge is being overheated, distempered, and softened. Chef's Choice sells knife sharpeners so you can imagine the conflict of interest... and the idea of distempering the edge doesn't seem nearly as prevalent as the idea of screwing up my blade on an electric sharpener.

What makes things worse is that I go onto Alton Brown's other website in partnership with his endorsed knife line and I find an electric sharpener and a whet stone for sale (both of which the lowly home user is not supposed to use.)

So frustrating! I feel like giving up and using an electric knife or disposable razors for everything. So what says you, should I just buy an electric sharpener and hope that a wheel doesn't become misaligned.. keep doing it by hand, or bring it to the professional and limit myself to a honing steel?

Oh, and are there any opinions as to whether a round honing steel or a flat one (such as the one seen in the Good Eats episode, hanging on Alton's pot rack) is better?

Thanks for your help

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Joined: 26 Oct 2005
Posts: 535

PostPosted: Mon Apr 16, 2007 3:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Regarding Alton's YouTube clip, I have always used a round 14" F. Dick steel before each use. My knives have been sharpened 2-3 times in 25 years of use. A very long steel makes it easy to sharpen/hone my 12" slicing and chef knives. Frequent use of a steel will keep your blades sharp enough to shave hair practically forever.

You should do a search of this site. There are MANY threads where this is discussed and debated. Maybe Michael should move this into one of those threads.
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Joined: 04 Dec 2006
Posts: 95

PostPosted: Mon Apr 16, 2007 11:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The realm of knife sharpening is vast and varied. I sharpen my knives on a waterstone using a Japanese technique. I can make most knives significantly sharper than the factory edge with some time on the stone.

Here are some useful articles:

I would swear on a sharpening kit that included:
-a low grit stone or diamond plate to shave off the whole layer with the dinks (you can find one in hardware stores)
-a combination stone with a medium/fine grit to get a razor edge (I got this one)
-a ceramic steel or leather strop to touch up the blade between sharpening

The sky's the limits, the optimal setup is a DMT diamond plate, three or four Shapton waterstones (2000, 4000, 8000), and charged leather strop.
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 26, 2007 6:19 pm    Post subject: Knife Sharpening Reply with quote

I used to sharpen knives by hand, using Arkansas stones, then Japanese waterstones. These gave a nice edge, but you had to be VERY careful to keep the same blade-to-stone angle from stroke to stroke as you sweep the blade across the sharpening stone.

Otherwise, you end up with a more "rounded" edge.

For the past 5 or so years, I've used a Lansky Sharpening System. This is a fancy name for a VERY simple tool to use (even for us Chem Engineers). I use it on every thing from dinky 1" blade pocket knives, to 8" Chef knives, to 10" Bowie style blades.

You attach a clamp fixture to the spine of the blade, then the abrasive stones are attached to a steel guide rod. The end of the guide rod fits in a hole in the blade clamp, and you scrape the stone across the blade edge, like normal. It's very easy to maintain a constant angle (the angle is user adjustable, via different holes in the blade clamp), and you end up with a hair popping edge.

My set looks like this:

Just Google or Ebay to find the cheapest price. I also use the stones dry (no oil). When you get enough metal built up on the surface of the stone, just scrub it with some dish soap & a scrubbing pad, and you're ready to go again (once the stone dries, that is).

Very easy to use, and painless even for the amateur.

I've got no financial interest in Lansky, but am just a satisfied customer.

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Joined: 25 Jun 2010
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 25, 2010 4:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It is much better that you will sharpen the knives by machine not by hand.
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 13, 2010 3:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

In Japanese Hocho knives the best solution is a Japanese water stone. They are a very different models but normally the professionals have three stones:

- coarse stone (Grit.220-400)
- sharpening stone (Grit 800-2000)
- honing stone (Grit 2000-12000)

Home cooks can use a combination stone with two grains.

The Arkansas stone are too hard and can damage the blade, a sharpening steel is also prohibited. Sharpening using a machine is not recommended, because the heat (dry machine) can damage the steel.
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buttered popcorn

Joined: 01 Oct 2010
Posts: 6

PostPosted: Sat Oct 02, 2010 4:19 pm    Post subject: Sparks Reply with quote

mean noting , except that your knife has a high carbon content. The sparks will not harm your knife at all. If a small section of your knife edge goes blue, then that part has no more temper, and over time will create a wow there, or a hole. Thios and gouges can be ground out by a knife sharpener. Get a cheap two part hardware store two part stone and use it. The only way to learn to sharpen is to go at it. There are tons of videos and directions all over the web. Just practice with your worst knife. It is also possible that your knives are to hard to take an edge without being sent out. In that case, consider getting carbon steel knives. Above all , drop the mental loops and just go at it.
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