Dull knives are more than just an annoyance, they’re a safety hazard. Don’t believe me? Fine. I dare you to use a dull knife for an entire month. If you actually do this, what you’d find is that a dull knife requires more pressure to get the job done compared to a sharp knife. And because you’re applying more pressure, you’re at a greater risk of cutting yourself. The safest knife is a knife that does the work for you, not the other way around.
So, what can you do to achieve a hair-splitting knife edge? Well there’s 3 things: honing, sharpening, and stropping. Do these 3 things and dull knives will be a thing of the past! Let’s discuss each of these 3 in greater detail, shall we?
Hone, Hone, Hone Away!
Just what the hell is honing anyways? Without getting too technical, honing is the process of aligning a misaligned knife edge. So, you’re probably wondering how a knife’s edge gets misaligned to begin with. Every time you use your knife to slice, chop, or cut something, you knock your edge off alignment ever so little.
A knife edge is extremely delicate, and even the action of chopping up vegetables can over time result in an edge that is folded over (AKA misaligned). The thing is, we can’t prevent misalignment; we can only correct it. Honing is the process of correction.
I’m not going to get into the details of how to hone a knife, because that’s a discussion in and of itself. Instead I suggest you check out my honing 101 instructable. It explains how to hone a knife in 3 simple steps.
Get Yourself A Sharpener!
I said it before and I’ll say it again, dull knives are a safety hazard. If you have any reason to never use a dull knife ever again, let that be motivated by the safety of you and your loved ones. Without ranting on too much, my point is this: dull knives suck, so we need to sharpen them. Knife sharpening is an interesting topic. It can be as simple or complicated as you make it to be. I prefer simple. It is the process of slowly abrading material (steel), with the purpose of achieving as sharp an edge as possible. When it comes down to it, you have 3 choices as far as knife sharpeners are concerned:
Electric Knife Sharpeners
Electric knife sharpeners take away most of the skill and technique required to sharpen an edge. They’re typically the most expensive of the three types of sharpeners.
What I Like:
- It’s All About Quick Results—Good electric knife sharpeners can get your blade from dull to finger cutting sharp in about a minute!
- Anyone Can Use Them—So easy, even grandma and grandpa can work these. Once you know the basics of knife sharpening, it’s literally plug and play.
What I Dislike:
- Can Cost Quite A Bit Of Money—The good ones can be quite expensive. I’m talking in and around the range of $140-250.
- Electronics Malfunction—Compared to the other three sharpeners, the electric variations are the least durable.
Pull Through Sharpeners
If you’re looking for the most bang for your buck, pull through sharpeners are your best bet. You can find some awesome ones that cost less than a McDonald’s combo meal!
What I Like:
- Not Hard On The Wallet—Unlike the electrics, pull through sharpeners are very reasonably priced. That’s not to say you can’t find a $150 pull through. Price range is about $5-150.
- Perfect For Outdoorsmen—The fact that they’re portable, lightweight, manual (no batteries or electricity required), and easy to use, make them the ideal sharpener for camping, hunting, fishing, and hiking trips. You can even toss one in the car!
What I Dislike:
- Results Are Average—The only caveat with this are the results are average. It sharpens an edge to the point where you should be able to get the job done, but nothing more.
- Wouldn’t Trust Them On My Expensive Knives—Pull throughs are perfect for whipping up a beater knife into shape (I say this from experience). I wouldn’t use them for my expensive collection, and I don’t recommend you do either.
Old is gold. No seriously, old is gold! It’s no surprise that this ancient sharpening technique is still relevant even today.
What I Like:
- You Can Expect Professional Results—If used correctly, sharpening stones can produce results similar to a professional service. Of course, this depends on several different variables: stone quality, sharpening technique etc.
- Most “Natural” Way To Sharpen—One thing I dislike about electric and pull through sharpeners is that they can be a little too aggressive on a knife edge, and they strip off too much steel. With sharpening stones, you have full control over how much steel is abraded.
What I Dislike:
- Takes Time To Learn—Sharpening using stone requires a little bit of a technique and understanding. In that sense, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.
- Confusing For The Newbie—Sharpening stones are a completely different ball game. Diamond (continuous and non-continuous), water, ceramic, and oil stones are what you can expect to find these days. This is just high level though. The deeper you dive, the more detailed it gets!
Last But Not Least, Stropping!
Stropping is something I usually do after I sharpen. To strop is to polish, coat, and align your edge. Think of it as the final step in achieving maximum sharpness. Wondering how to strop? Here’s an instructable I wrote on the topic. Check it out!
You should be honing every two weeks. When honing is no longer effective, then and only then should you sharpen (and strop).
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25 thoughts on “How To Keep Your Knives Blazing Sharp”
I use a sharpening stone. Takes a bit of effort (about 1 hour on a really dull knife), but it doesn’t tear up the knife like the cheap pull-through sharpener that you can buy for a few bucks at Ikea.
That’s not a knife!
Getting in from rabbit shooting with Grandad as a kid, Nan was always shouting at him for sharpening his knives on the undersides of cups and leaving carcass’s on kitchen counter, there were more lopsided coffee mugs in that house, heh.
Dad would use a stone and spit on it to get it wet. Mother always yelled at him!
I sharpen mine on the cervical column of libtards.
Absolutely dead-nuts on with this article. Since my kids were young, I started teaching them proper knife sharpening. They were amazed at the difference in sharpness between the oilstone itself and an oilstone with stropping. When I got it, they thought I was nuts to have the leather strop and compound. After my demo, they were sold. Whenever the middle kid comes to visit (college, nearby), he brings his knives to sharpen and strop if they need it. And he made sure he got a good knife-steel for honing when he cooks.
The other thing people often make mistakes with in cooking is to try to ‘chop’ through the food, pushing the knife straight down, instead of pulling the knife along so you cut with a slicing motion. Not only is this safer, it’s easier and less fatiguing on the knife because you use more of the edge.
Of course, damned few females know how to cook, let alone how to use a good sharp knife, so it’s up to us gents to keep the skills alive for when the pansy-state collapses.
I’m a man of The Ole’ South an’ I say you be raisin’ dem boys an’ gals right by showin’ dem “The Way of the Knife”. Before this Political Correctness Nanny State Mama’s Pajama Boy crap Billy Clinton brought to this country, my sons and daughters be bringin’ their knives to show an’ tell at school an’ the teacher say no word an’ the cops didn’t say nuthin’. No one be stabbin’ anyone an’ no one be lockin’ they doors because we had “The Fear of the Lord” in our hearts, but now I see shootin’s an’ robberies an’ gangbangers an’ ugly mannish women with blue buzzcuts and tattoos be disrespectin’ an’ hittin’ they daddies like The Devil or something one day after bein’ sweet Christian virgins with their purity rings all they lives. It damn good you be teachin’ yo’ kids the way of the gun an’ the knife because The Devil be possessin’ everyone an’ us good folk we needa be able to survive an’ protect ourselves before The Lord can save us in this time of Revelation — God Bless an’ keep America in your hearts.
I’m trying. My oldest’s 6th grade science fair project (at a private school, or he’d have never gotten approval) was a comparison of bullet shape to lost velocity. I bought several different shapes. Under my supervision, he handloaded 20 rounds of each type, controlling all the factors. Then he shot 20 rounds of each, chrony’ing them at muzzle and at 50 yds.
In 6th grade. My two boys can hike, camp, backpack, shoot, run, and a lot more ‘manly’ things that their friends can’t. I’m trying to help the manosphere.
I am still having a hard time to sharpen a knife correctly but with practice I’m better
It’s a good thing to learn how to do it several ways, especially if you go on a camping trip and you cannot bring all your sharpening tools with you.
That… sounds like a whole lot of work for marginal improvement.
Just slap the blade on the belt sander once in awhile. Razor sharp in seconds.
Couteaux sont seulement pour les criminels et ce site de la misogynie et la masculinité toxique doit être arrêté. Bin tous les couteaux.
Sorry, Red Star, but you are wrong. I gather you have never cooked, nor eaten meat.
never underestimate the value of a culinary education. a man that knows how to cook and maintain his own kitchen is slave to no bitch who cant cook at all, much less anything remotely edible. learning the food safety and handling, proper cooking and maintenance of your equipment is how you get and stay independent. you will never have to say”make me a sammich ,bitch” when you know it’ll suck and be half assed anyway. besides, being an educated chef will impress your buddies coworkers and boss more than being a smarmy ladies man and will always get you respect.
Does anyone have info on the gorgeous Tanto in the lead photo, such as make, model number?
If you really want knives that never get dull just buy the Showtime knife set. They’re guaranteed in writing to stay sharp forever and it’ll only cost you three easy payments of $13.33
They slice! They dice! They make julienne!
There’s nothing more wonderful than a sharp, slick knife. I picked up a Smith’s Pocket Sharpener a few years ago, and it’s been a loyal ally.
Great article, essential knowledge for a boy or man. One thing I’d like to add is get good quality steel knives, avoid chinesium steel lol. You don’t have to spend a lot for steel, if you avoid the cheapest pricing, serrated edge, and overly bright chrome-like finished or coated knives, then you’re about halfway there. Having a good quality (and sharpened) steel knife after years of tin knives makes cooking so much more enjoyable. You’ll treat those knives so much more differently, you won’t toss them into the sink or carelessly cutting with them, the quality of you cook goes way up and you’ll take pride in caring for them. I’d love to forge my own knives once day, I’m still on the learning and planning process, but I hope by early next year I’ll start forging knives!
Very informative article! Fairly quick read as well! For years I’ve done everything but stropping. Now I realize why I always had only average results.
I sharpen my knives with a sharpening stone.
Wicked Edge sharpening systems are the way to go! Pricey, but am able to shave my face with even a cheapest/crappiest of blades after a run through on it
The value in a good quality knife vs. the crappy blade is for how long can it hold that razor edge.
I cook every day and my $150 VG10 knife stays razor sharp for several months.
The $25 “Swiss” one I had before would go dull in a couple of weeks.
That’s it idiots…. bring a “honed” knife to a fucking GUN fight~
If you have a good quality Japanese knife, DO NOT hone it!
Especially not on honing steel, but ceramic ones are not recommended either.
The steel is brittle and you most likely will end up with a chipped blade.
Hone it on your polishing stone (4000 and up) instead.