Alright, let’s just start this off by me saying I’m not any sort of expert when it comes to knife sharpening and this is just a crash course.
My husband is a Knifesmith ( here’s his Etsy shop and his Facebook page) but I don’t think I have much of an advantage as far as knife sharpening goes because of it. I learned what I know mostly from watching older family members sharpen knives and I learned how to use a steel during a pig butchering class given by Farmstead Meatsmith’s in a college program.
I know there are other ways to do all this that might even work better. I also know my ways work and I’m content with them until I learn some new superior method.
Equipment You need
Stone or sharpening block – such as this ,this or this
Steel- this is the closest I could find to the one I have
I made a video because I know I couldn’t learn to do this without watching someone so I supposed you might not be able to either. I know it’s not the best, and my sharpening in it is more than a little strange since I’m trying to watch the camera to make sure I’m still in view while sharpening.
Oh and yes, that chiefs knife needs washed. Don’t hate me for being lazy and making bad videos!
Here’s a blooper where the camera falls over and I make strange noises, in case you haven’t laughed yet today.
Here’s the actual useful video, if you’re interested.
Where to start?
If you’re not sure if your knife really needs sharpened just run it on a steel a few times and check the blade, many times you can bring an edge right back with just a little bit of steel. If a little steel love doesn’t work then you will need to use a stone.
I always start from the handle end and go towards the point, I vaguely remember being told that’s the right direction but I do it mostly out of habit although I think it would be much harder to do it the opposite direction.
One of the most important things is to the match the angle you hold the knife to the stone, sharpening block or steel with the angle of the edge on the knife. Otherwise you won’t sharpen it right.
Make sure to keep the number of strokes on each side the same, this helps keep the burr aligned, too much on either side will make it roll over.
Also try to keep your strokes even, long and consistent, that way the edge will stay consistently sharp.
I think using composite sharpening sticks or a natural or artificial stone is best. I am not a fan of those sharpening block things. Please, this works better, I promise!
To check if the knife is sharp run your finger across the blade, not up and down. Across it, like across the road or across the river. Not down, or you are might cut yourself and I don’t want that to happen on my account!
You should feel a grab running your finger across the blade either direction. If one direction feels smooth the burr is rolled over and you need to work more on the opposite side to get the burr straightened up.
What does the steel do and why do I need it?
The steel works by straightening out the “burr” which is the microscopic cutting edge of the knife. When the knife is used the burr eventually rolls over and stopped cutting as well, eventually at some point it wears off, the knife gets dull and needs really sharpened then.
When you sharpen a knife on a stone (or whatever) always run it on a steel afterwards to make the edge nice and straight.
Other bits of info…
Make sure to wipe your steel off every once in a while and clean your stone when you are done with it.
Depending on what stone you have you may need to use water or oil or neither with it, make sure you know what you should be using and use it! Using the wrong thing could damage your knife or your stone.
Learning to sharpen is definitely an art a well as a science, I highly encourage you to use a cheap knife you don’t care about as a guinea pig when you are learning.
Go forth and make yourself a kitchen full of sharp knives!