Frequently Asked Questions About Sharpening!
Facts About Knife Sharpening
There's a bunch of misinformation out there about knife sharpening. You may have heard that grinding knives removes too much of the metal. Or, you may be told that hollow ground edges are weaker. You may have even heard that stamped blades are inferior to forged blades. Well, forget everything you think you know.
Question) Skilled sharpening services remove metal each time they sharpen?
Answer) It's true that some metal gets removed every time you sharpen but it's just enough to reestablish the edge. A great knife or tool can withstand years and years of personal use and lose very little mass. You could choose to never sharpen a knife or tools but you'd eventually end up with a blade as sharp as the edge of a nickel.
Question) Knife sharpening or tool grinding is best done by professionals?
Answer) You could sharpen knives or tools yourself but each knife or tool has different metal angled edges with steel of different hardness. These two things mean that you will need hundreds if not thousands of dollars in sharpening tools to get a professional edge. Sharpening your own blades and tools takes a considerable amount of skill to do it right. Plus, it is important to be consistent from one edge to the next and that only comes with time and experience understanding what tool and technique is best for each job.
Question) Are stamped blades as sharp as forged blades?
Answer) Both types of blades can be equally sharp. With modern manufacturing techniques choosing between stamped and forged blades is really a matter of preference. Commonly, most professional kitchens use stamped blade and most forged knifes show up in home kitchens. We sharpen both styles to the edge required for the task the knife will be given.
General Sharpening Knowledge
Question) Does a sharpening steel sharpen?
Answer) Sharpening Steel is a little bit of a misnomer. It is really a "honing rod" and used for maintenance of knife edges, Using a steel will keep your knives "true" or in perfect alignment. The cutting edge of a knife is actually made of microscopic teeth. A steel restores the alignment of these teeth on the edge, and should be used before each session.
Steels are available in a variety of grits from rough to smooth, including the use of diamonds. But, regardless of proper steel use, all knives will need to be re-sharpened at some point.
Question) What should a serrated knife be used for?
Answer) Serrated or scalloped edges are generally used for cutting breads and soft flesh fruit. Serrated edges are also found on table style steak knives. You can find a variety of blade lengths to accommodate cutting baguettes into perfect pieces for bruschetta or slicing a tomato without crushing it. These blades operate on the same principal as a saw.
Serrated knives have become popular steak knives because the serrations tend to not cut into fine-china and stoneware vs. a fine edge knife that tends to cut into the plates finish. Serrated knives are also used to cut rope, seatbelts and small wood projects.
Question) What are the different types of cutlery knife shapes?
German: The most common Western shape is the German blade. The edge of German blades curves up towards the tip. The curve makes using a rocking motion to chop foods much easier. The blade can stay in constant contact with the cutting surface give most users steady control.
French: French blades a basically triangular. The cutting edge is much straighter from the heel to tip. French cutting techniques generally employ more slicing motions rather than the rocking motions. Naturally, the French think it is the best way to go, but it's really a matter of preference. Neither is necessarily superior; but German blades are popular in most places other than France.
Japanese: The Japanese blade design has become much more popular with Western users in recent years. The most popular Japanese chef knife is the Santoku. It is best recognized by it's sheepsfoot shape. The edge is straight and level with the spine of the knife curving down to meet the edge. It has a bit of a "claw" or "talon" shape.
Question) What are the different types of knife steel?
Carbon Steel: Mainly a combination of iron with about 1% carbon added. But, that figure can vary slightly. The addition of carbon to the alloy makes the blade very hard so it holds an edge fairly well. Though this hardness can also make it more easily breakable. Plus, it can be vulnerable to rust and stains. True carbon steel knives are not in wide use today.
Stainless Steel: HIGH CARBON Stainless steel is the industry standard when describing high quality cutlery. Modern technology has brought a variety of formulas for development and production of stainless steel that includes adding enough carbon along with other alloys including, chromium, vanadium, nickel, etc that give knives their strong edge. The high carbon content will increase performance of knives and makes it easier to re-sharpen as needed. High Carbon Stainless Steel knives are resistant to corrosion and staining.
Laminated (Damascus): These blades are made from different types of metals sandwiched together. Many feel this method is the best of both worlds allowing the blade to have the rigidity needed for strength but retain enough flexibility to resist chipping or breaking. The edges can also be harder and ground to a more defined edge.
General Knife Care Knowledge
Question) Should I store my knife in my leather sheath?
Answer) Some metallic components of the knife can react with the leather, and possibly (in the presence of moisture) stain the leather and pit, stain or rust blade, perhaps permanently. Woods and other organics: brass, nickel silver, horn, bone, ivories and plastics all can have reactions with leather when the knife is stored long term in the sheath. Some loosening of the leather knife sheath may also occur when the knife is stored in it for a long time.
Question) What type of cutting board should I use?
Answer) The choice of cutting boards can dramatically improve your knife’s ability to hold an edge. The best choice for keeping your knives sharp is a wooden cutting board. The wood is soft enough that it does less damage to your cutting edge.
The next best cutting board surface is the plastic cutting boards. These cutting boards are relatively easy on knife edges and are practical to use. Unlike a wooden cutting board, the plastic boards can be tossed into a dishwasher for sanitizing. These cutting boards are also available in many sizes and are priced economically.
The last choice in cutting boards would be glass, marble or ceramic boards. These cutting surfaces are just too hard for knives. Constant chopping and slicing on these boards will dull even the highest quality kitchen knives.