How to Use a Knife Sharpener – Step by Step Guide

If you use knives on a regular basis, you will want to keep them sharp. One of the best ways to do so is by the use of a knife sharpener. Here’s a basic guide on them. Knowing how to use a knife sharpener should be a basic skill that everyone should know. This is mostly because knives are an important tool in a variety of situations. Whether it is in the kitchen or in the outdoors, having a sharp knife is an essential item.

The problem is that knives end up getting blunted through daily use. This is why you’ll want to learn how to use a handheld knife sharpener or something similar to help them keep their edge. However, it can be intimidating at first. We’re here to help though and this article should present you.

Table of Contents

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The Basics

Before you learn about how to use a knife sharpener tool, you will need to learn why you need them. This is where you learn exactly how a knife cut. When you cut with a knife, the edge is where it begins. When you put your strength into a knife, the edge focuses all of that force into its small area.

This is what causes the initial crack or cut. The knife then slips in and starts opening it wider resulting in the cut. The problem is the small edge of the knife is fragile. It can be easily damaged and chipped. The result is a dull edge. The problem with dull knives is that they do have the ability to make that initial cut.

What’s worse is that dull knives can easily slide off and accidentally cut you or others. Fortunately, returning a knife’s edge is only a matter of sharpening it. This is done by removing the blunted material and revealing a new sharp edge.

Buying Your Knife Sharpener

how to use a knife sharpener

The next step in learning how to use a kitchen knife sharpener or any other sharpener is knowing the different types of sharpeners out there. The first one should be the one that most people are familiar with: sharpening stones. These stones have been the traditional way to sharpen knives for centuries now.

They work in the simplest manner: you stroke your knife against them and thanks to their coarseness and their grit, they tear away the blunted metal material and replace it a fresh sharp edge. The most basic of these stones are whetstones, which require you to pour water on them constantly to get the best effect.

The second most familiar type that people encounter is the honing rod. Mostly found in modern kitchens, a lot of chefs swear by their effectiveness. These honing rods are simple rods with an abrasive surface. Knives are sharpened and honed on them in quick motions.

The next type of sharpening tool that you may encounter are actually smaller versions of the honing rods: pull throughs. These small pocket-sized tools are the best for dealing with small pocket knives and it also helps that they are very cheap. Another close relative of these two sharpener types is the crock stick. These are rough triangular rods that are set on a block of wood.

They function pretty much like your standard honing rod, their main difference being their shape and the fact that they already have a solid support. Finally, there are the electric knife sharpeners. These are for those who want their knife sharpening done easily and quickly. The problem is that they can be a bit of a problem to control. Automatic sharpeners are also limited to the knife type that they were designed for.

What Is a Sharpener Made of?

Knife sharpener types are just one classification. This is because, besides different types of sharpeners, there are different materials they can be made of. Here’s a brief example of some materials that have been used as sharpeners:

  • Stainless Steel: This is the traditional choice for sharpeners. Stainless steel is pretty strong and durable. Steel honing rods either have ridges on them or are very smooth. Ridged honing rods are preferred for those who want their knives to cut cleanly. However, steel is too harsh for some knives. Japanese knives are notorious for getting damaged on steel honing rods when being sharpened.
  • Ceramics: Another favorite material for sharpeners is ceramics. These are very fine sharpeners and are usually around 1000 grit. Ceramic rods are a great choice for more delicate knives and a lot of people swear by them.
  • Diamond: The hardest material on earth, diamonds make great sharpeners. No matter how hard your knife steel is, the diamond surface of these rods will rip away the material easy to get you a new edge.

There is a different way of how to use a ceramic knife sharpener and a steel sharpener. It all comes down to how coarse and fine the material is. Coarser materials are great at sharpening. However, if you want your electric fillet knife to look good, you’ll want to use finer sharpeners when the time comes.

Putting Them to Good Use

There are different ways to use sharpening materials. The simplest is with the automatic sharpeners. Just insert the knife and have it run. When you pull out your knife, it should be functional enough for the job. Take note though that manual sharpening will probably do a lot better.

Using a Stone

First, you’ll want to know how to use a sharpening stone. The most basic sharpening stone is a whetstone. These stones are porous and coarse stone that helps scour the material off your knife. Depending on how dull your knife is, you will have varying levels of coarseness to choose from.

For very dull knives, you’ll want the coarsest available, while those that go through regular sharpening can settle for finer stones. Your next step is then to determine the right bevel angle of your knife. The standard choice is around 20 degrees though different knives have different angles.

The right angle will determine how effective the sharpening will be. If you’ve figure out the angle, then it’s time to prepare the stone. This is done by applying water on it if it is a whetstone or oil if it is an oil stone. This prevents material from entering the pores in the stone. When done in your preparation, you should then place the knife at the proper angle on the stone.

You then make a slicing action across the surface of the stone. Do these several times on one side, the proceed to do it again on the other side. This ensures that your knife will have a balanced sharpening.

Using a Rod

Next, you’ll want to know how to use a knife sharpener rod. Since pull throughs and crock sticks operate on the same principle, you should be able to use them easily after you get the basic idea with the sharpening rod.

To sharpen with a rod, you’ll first need to set the rod point-down. The tip should be touching the counter solidly. The next step is to set the blade against it. The cutting edge should be angled to meet the sharpening rod’s body. The back of the blade, which is the part closest to the handle, should be flush against the rod.

The main motion for this is a pulling back motion so you need to pull so that the entire knife edge gets the treatment. Now angle the blade so your knife’s edge gets the full treatment. You then pull back the knife as you slice downwards. You should do this several times for one side of your knife, at least around ten strokes. When that is done, you should then move on to the other side.

When you are sharpening with a pull through, you’ll be doing the same thing, but with the pull the one moving. For crock sticks, the main difference is that you need to careful of the angles. Take note though that these approaches are only for basic single-edged knives. With the knife market out there, there are several different variations out there that go beyond basic knife sharpening like serrated edges.

Is My Knife Properly Sharpened

The big question that many people ask is how to know when you’re done. There’s a simple test you can do to determine the sharpness of your knife. Notice all the hair on the back of your shoulder? They make the ideal way to test it. Just try to slice the hair off your arm. A dull blade will not cut the hair, just folding the chairs around it. A well-sharpened edge would cut all of the hair in its path.

That’s just one of the many ways you can check the sharpness of your knife. Another way is to check if the edge is shiny since dull edges tend to be shinier, while sharp edges have no shine at all. Once you’ve determined the results of your sharpening are successful, you should put them to good use.

Keeping Your Knives Ready and Sharp

Now that you know how to use a knife sharpener and a sharpening stone, you should be able to ensure that your knife is always in good condition. With a brief look at the potential knife sharpeners available and how to use them, you should be able to start sharpening your own knives at home easily. Start experimenting now to see how you can make your knife always ready to go.

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