View Full Version : Sharpening Kitchen Cutlery...Need Advice

john hobdeclipe
04-13-2008, 07:19 PM
We have acquired 3 items of HENCKELS cutlery to add to my wife's selection of nice knives. Only problem is that they have been treated rather poorly, and the edges are damaged beyond the ability of a sharpening steel to fix. I'm not sure I even want to tackle this with a whetstone.

So my question is to you knife makers out there. How do you finish your edges and get them to the point that they can be maintained with a steel? Do you use a belt sander? What kind of belt? What grits? (I have a 6" and a 1" width sander.)

I searched through the archives, and found the threads that relate to maintaining the cutting edges, using a sharpening steel or stone. But that's not the info I need...I need to go back at least one more step, I think.

As usual, thanks in advance for any help.

04-13-2008, 07:48 PM
You cant go wrong with Lansky. Use the coarse, medium and fine and it will put the edge in shape for the steel.

04-13-2008, 07:49 PM
I am not a bladesmith but I have sharpened a lot of knives and have had good results using a sheet of 320 wet/dry paper such as used for autobody work. Put a magazine on a flat surface, wet the paper with water or light oil and have at it. The magazine allows just a bit of surface flexibility to better follow the curves of the blade. If you need to remove lots of metal then a belt sander with fine grit and oil will speed things up. (woodworking belts are too coarse). A diamond grit stone is also good but the cheaper ones tend to leave a lot of scratches.

If you want a super finish then just keep moving up to finer grades of paper. 2000 will produce an optic grade finish.

04-13-2008, 08:37 PM
I keep my set of Wusthof Trident stainless knives sharp with water stones, same as my other knives. The 1000/6000 combo is enough, but I always finish with the 8000 out of habit.

I do all the cooking here. The knives stay sharp because I always use them on a wooden cutting board.

I would not use a steel unless I wanted to make them duller.

04-13-2008, 09:07 PM
I like Japanese water stones for wood chisels and plane irons but not kitchen knives. I think they saw better with the saw teeth left by a steel or stone. Think pro's (meat cutters are using ceramic "steels" now. I've started using the Lanski diamond system but don't use the extra fine for kitchen knives. Love my Old Timer with the extra fine finish though.

04-13-2008, 09:15 PM
I like Japanese water stones for wood chisels and plane irons but not kitchen knives. I think they saw better with the saw teeth left by a steel or stone.

You have a point, about the sawing action. The hardest thing to cut is a ripe tomato. My water-stoned knives can do it, but even a somewhat dull serrated knife handles this task.

04-13-2008, 09:16 PM
Second on the Lansky,it allows you to matain a consistant angle on both sides and will give you an edge you can literally shave with.
You are able to select the angle to suit the application that the knife will be used for,sharper angle for fine cutting and fileting, or less of an angle for chopping.
Really great system.

04-13-2008, 09:49 PM
Sounds like someone put the knives on a grinding wheel and really messed them up. I've made custom knives for over 18 years. I use a 2 x 72 inch belt sander.

You already have the tools you need to sharpen the knives without investing in a Lansky or any other sharpener.

Use the 1" BELT SANDER. Start with a 120 grit on an unsupported area of the belt. You probably have a roller at the top. Place the blade on the belt with the edge facing you. Use the angle necessary to remove the bad grind someone put on the blade. Nice firm pressure back and forth, may take a little practice but the slack belt will put the edge on, just watch for the wire edge that appears.

once the bad grind is gone, switch to a worn 400 grit and bring the edge up. finish on a leather strap or buffing wheel if you have one.

04-13-2008, 09:53 PM
I use both the Lansky and the Edge Pro


Bruce Griffing
04-13-2008, 11:27 PM
I have used waterstones, a Makita horizontal wet grinder with a 1000 grit water stone, oilstones and sandpaper. With care, almost anything will get a knife pretty sharp. I always hone after with a hard felt wheel treated with green chromium oxide. That will take it from really sharp to incredible. I think the most important sharpening accessory is a small handheld microscope. I have a thirty power and a fifty power. If you use one consistently, your sharpening skills will increase rapidly. The ability to really see the edge is of immense help. The microscopes are cheap BTW - $10-$15.

04-13-2008, 11:33 PM
Houdini969 gives good advice. The slack in the belt gives you a good edge at the right angle if you put the blade up against the belt almost verticle. I use a 600 grit belt on my 1"x42" grinder, I get the belts from Brownells gunsmith supplies. Hard to find the finer grits in that sized belts. Then use the steel in between sharpenings.

04-14-2008, 03:58 AM
Jantz is a knifemaking supply, and they carry a huge variety of belts in the various 1" and 2" widths. I've heard a cork belt loaded with Flitz will work wonders to put the final edge on, but I've never tried it.

Another option is cardboard wheels and a cheap buffer.


04-14-2008, 05:24 AM
Another option is cardboard wheels and a cheap buffer.

Thats the only way to go,Grizzly,Bass Pro,ect sells the paper wheel set up for about $30.00.
Mounted on a cheap 6 or 8" grinder and your in business.
After you us the paper wheels you'll throw the sticks and stones in the trash.
You can sharpen a stainless blade that you can shave with in about 30 seconds.

Bruce Griffing
04-14-2008, 09:02 AM
I agree that honing is the way to go, but I prefer the hard felt wheels to paper. I have used them on a grinder or a buffer. It is best to turn a grinder around, so the top of the wheel is moving away from you. It may be obvious to most, but you cannot safely hone with the wheel (hard felt or otherwise) moving toward the edge. Since I like to hone with the edge up, like grinding, the turn around is necessary. I used to hone on a cheap grinder fitted with a felt wheel, but the motor would get in the way for long knives or blades. I recently got a cheap HF buffer with a motor that is smaller in diameter than my 6" hard felt wheel. That solved the interference problem.

04-14-2008, 11:54 AM
Good info about getting the edge right the first time. However, women sometimes use and wash my knives. :mad: They also don't let me keep my buffer on the kitchen counter. After a knife is sharpened correctly once, I have found the wooden block which holds two white ceramic dowels at a 45-degree angle to work for me to touch up a sharp edge before use. Any other kitchen counter suggestions?

thnx, jack vines

04-14-2008, 12:10 PM
If they're cooking, don't argue!
Just get em their own knives.

04-14-2008, 12:16 PM
Those hand held sharpeners with the crossed carbide bits worh well to straighten the edges after using a properly sharpened knife and they fit in a drawer.

04-14-2008, 12:17 PM
My wife is a professional Sous Chef, and uses a commercial grade electric sharpener. I use my Baldor 1720 rpm buffer with a Scott Murray drum sander, with belts from 220 down to 600, then a muslin wheel with white buffing compound. She needs sharps in a hurry, I can take my time.

Montezuma, IA

Jack Burns
04-15-2008, 07:48 AM
My father was a professional meat-cutter for nearly 50 years at a provision house serving some of Chicago's finest restaurants before retiring several years ago. So growing up the son of a pro I had the good fortune of learning how to properly sharpen knives from an absolute master and here's a few of the things I learned at my pappy's knee:

1. Forget all the gadgets and other hi-tek mumbo-jumbo and just concentrate on the basics; in proper knife sharpening, technique is everything!

a. First, oil your stone, liberally;

b. Hold the knife at ~30 degrees to the stone and *gently* push the blade away from you in long, sweeping strokes alternating sides every three or four passes to constantly break the wire edge;

c. Repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat;

d. Finally, 'set-up' the edge with a smooth 'steel' (you do have one, right?) drawing the blade towards you on alternating sides (a plastic safty stop installed just above handle is highly recommended here regardless of experience) and then gingerly try to shave your forearm;

e. Smooth skin means yur done -- any stubble at all, return to step c.

In all the years I watched, my dad never once used anything but cheap hardware store oil stones (total of 3 in ~50 years as I recall), plain ol' gas station engine oil, and a smooth steel to frequently straighten edges as he worked.

2. Kitchen knives get much harsher treatment than pros' give theirs' and are nearly impossible to keep even reasonably sharp without constant attention.

3. Trying to maintain a decent cutting edge on any kind of stainless - regardless of brand - will ultimately prove a complete waste of time and a total exercise in frustration!

4. Now that you know about stainless knives, dump whatever ya got now at a local garage sale and get yourself some high quality carbon steel blades, probably at a mere fraction of the cost. I'm still using some Chicago Cutlery blades my dad gave me years ago and if Baxter is still in business, so much the better.

Happy slicing.

Kind regards,


04-15-2008, 08:08 AM
Trying to maintain a decent cutting edge on any kind of stainless - regardless of brand - will ultimately prove a complete waste of time and a total exercise in frustration!

4. Now that you know about stainless knives, dump whatever ya got now at a local garage sale and get yourself some high quality carbon steel blades

just based on the small amount of metallurgy one is exposed to in the shop, i always suspected this, that stainless knives were a big compromise on blade quality but easy on maintenance.

The Japanese seem to make a lot of laminated cutting tools, dead hard carbon in the middle sandwiched between mild steel. Given that a typical carbon knife would have to be let down, wouldn't the laminated idea with dead hard core provide the best edge? I guess that would make it more prone to chipping.....maybe going from tempered to dead head is immaterial to a tomato :D

Norman Atkinson
04-15-2008, 09:44 AM
As the post has wandered somewhat, I live in a place which had its emigrant sword makers. They made swords by the cementation of carbon by hammering from wrought iron. Nice stuff when a sword was so good that it could be wound into a gentleman's top hat.

However, I have been in France again( the usual sort of thing- mountains, property and whatever- but I watched a series of TV 'shorts' which filled in the gaps in the lunch time news. Here was a guy making kitchen knives from broken coiled front suspension springs as a cottage industry.

Mais oui, mes amis?


04-15-2008, 10:54 AM
I've used the Edge Pro Apex and the Lansky's both with good results. I'll try some of the other methods mentioned.


04-15-2008, 11:11 AM
my current favorite method for "reclaiming" the edge on edged tools is as follows. this applies to kitchen knives as much as it does to splitting mauls. the difference is the level of precision exercised in any of the steps and the extent to which you have to pay attention to heat build up while grinding/sharpening.
1. if blade is severely nicked or damaged, profile to shape with belt sander/grinder (knives, chisels, etc.) or a disc grinder (mauls, grub hoes, etc.)
2. define the edge geometry - use a disc grinder (mauls), flap wheel (hatchets, cleavers), or surface conditioning disc (knives, carving tools) to define the edge geometry you want.
3. sharpen the bevel - i currently swear by surface conditioning discs (SCD) to actually sharpen most edges. if you have a selection of coarse, medium, and fine, you can put a shaving sharp edge on any tool in your inventory.

if you don't have one already, and assuming you have a supply of air, a right angle die grinder with a roloc type R disc holder and a selection of SCD's and sanding discs is easy, fast, and VERY effective. just watch the heat...

04-15-2008, 12:07 PM
done it before ,I just went at it with a belt sander , and a fine belt to restablish the edge , then using a diamond file bevel the edge.

One kitchen knife, i engine turned for a laugh, looks good, i mean to use a scraper and try to flake another blade one of these days!

I am sure flaked pattern s on a knife could be marketed to the samuri sword , granite counter ,top year end bonus types as the ultimate kitchen knife.

04-15-2008, 02:00 PM
Just my experience and opinion, but there is no quicker way to ruin a good blade than to go at it with one of the "V-shaped carbide" hand sharpeners. If I'm out fishing and plan to replace the knife every year then the carbide gizmo with the plastic handle is in the tackle box. It's a quick-and-dirty way to keep an edge on a knife which is being used in remote locations. IMHO, it has NO place near a quality blade at home. I have one Dexter ham slicer which still bears the scars of being assaulted with the carbide. Never again!

BTW, I use Russell-Dexter for my knives. Still made in USA, available both in stainless and carbon steel. The Feds forced the commercial users to go to stainless with plastic handles so they could go in the dishwasher. I've got a bunch of their wooden handles, some nearly 100 years old, and much prefer them for looks and feel. I haven't found the stainless blades to be quite the devil's spawn some here make them out to be. I use some of each and find the Dexter stainless to take and hold an edge just fine.

thnx, jack vines

04-15-2008, 05:39 PM
Go to www.leevalley.com and check out their sharpening stuff under woodworking. I use their 15 micron belts on my 1x42 belt sander then follow up with the leather belt and some green polish. It takes less than 2 minutes per knife and you can shave with them. My Lansky sharpener is now obsolete. I recently made a leather covered wheel for my 6 inch bench grinder too. I laminated two discs of half inch plywood then glued a leather belt to the circumference. Man this puts a nice edge on wood chisels.

04-16-2008, 08:30 AM
To me the most difficult yet most important thing to do to a damaged edge is to grind the edge perfectly dull to the depth of the nicks. That's right, square with the blade. Then when you grind the bevel, what will be the edge is in the middle of the dull edge and can dissipate heat better and less prone to overheating. Grind at a sharper angle than desired and leave a small square end to remove at the finished angle with your choice of something cool. Grinding and grinding and grinding on the apex of a sharpened edge provides only a tiny area for heat to travel back into the heavy body of the blade. And nothing lost, you have to remove all that metal anyway.

Although the results may be good enough, finishing hand-held on a soft sharpener of any kind will destroy any previous efforts to hold a desired angle. The first 0.0001" of the edge must engage and cleave the work before the work sees anthing behind it. Who knows what the angle is at this level when the tool is mushed into a loaded soft wheel?

john hobdeclipe
04-21-2008, 10:07 PM
Before this thread drops off into the netherworld, let me thank everyone for their input.

The knives in question have not been attacked by a grinder, just thrown about, run through the dishwasher, tossed in with the other knives in the drawer, and are very dull and badly nicked.

Based on the opinions offered here, I've decided to bring them back to life by using my 1" belt sander with grit up to 320, then finish with a whetstone.

I bought a junk knife to practice on, as I am expected to bring these Henckels to perfection with no errors.

Regarding the debate about carbon steel vs stainless: I don't doubt that for professional, production use carbon steel knives are far better. But for home use, I think the top quality stainless blades, well sharpened and well treated are probably a better choice.

Anyway, thanks again for the input. I have my new sanding belts now, so one day this week I'll do the edgy deed.

04-21-2008, 10:53 PM
I just saw this, and don't really have much to add, but here goes anyway.

Sounds like Jack Burns and I may be brothers? My father was also a professional meat cutter for most of his life, and he sharpened much as Jack describes. I don't cook that much, but I have my own knives nobody else is allowed to use. Not generally a problem, my wife is a bit scared of them as they are completely unforgiving. There are 3 main blades, each sharpened for a particular task and maintained almost exclusively on a fine smooth steel. With proper use and care, there is little need for anything else on working knives. I keep her's functional at the level she likes, still sharp enough by most standards, but I refuse to use her's for anything more than cutting open a box...