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How do you maintain your knives?


Jon Savage
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Maintaining an edge is a whole lot easier than establishing one. Typically I hit the knives we use most with a 6000 grit water stone once a week (earlier if needed though that happens rarely). That takes less than 5 minutes per knife. Once a year or so I'll take each knife through the full progression of stones I use (1k, 4k, 6K). Assuming I have not been neglecting maintenance that process takes only 15 minutes or so per knife. I don't ever use a steel on our Japanese knives- they are too hard to benefit from it and just get torn up if steeled. One could use a *smooth* steel on these knives to true the edge there are also borosilicate glass rods that are suitable. Grooved Euro style rods though are death to these knives.

I only use my coarse (500) water stone if I need to repair damage, address a severely neglected knife (usually a friend or family member's knife), and of course to set initial bevels that suit me rather than a manufacturer's whim. I also tend to focus on high performance edges- there is a trade-off there since the more acute the edge the more fragile it becomes (in relative terms).

Starting from scratch on a new knife or addressing one that has been allowed to become dull tends to take 30+ minutes so the minimal investment of regular maintenance touch ups is well worth it.

So... What's your knife maintenance strategy?

--edit I prefer freehand sharpening so that is what I am referencing here from my experience but please do share other methods

Edited by 6ppc (log)

Jon

--formerly known as 6ppc--

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For Japanese knives I do EdgePro to a bit below the factory angle followed by freehanding on a legal pad loaded with diamond abrasive paste. Occasionally an individual edge is no longer quite as sharp as I'd like and redo it, starting with the fine stone. I've found that unless you really let the edge go there's no need to use the coarser stones at all.

On Western knives I EdgePro to whatever angle seems reasonable for the knife's intended use, and do a few swipes on the Sharpmaker with the fine stones before each use. I keep it set up next to the knife block so there's very little effort involved. I suppose eventually the microbevel will get to where I have to reprofile the whole thing but so far this hasn't happened.

This is my skillet. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My skillet is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it, as I must master my life. Without me my skillet is useless. Without my skillet, I am useless. I must season my skillet well. I will. Before God I swear this creed. My skillet and myself are the makers of my meal. We are the masters of our kitchen. So be it, until there are no ingredients, but dinner. Amen.

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Touch-up maintenance? The Japanese knives see a wooden backed leather strop charged with green polishing compound. The western ones visit an old glass-smooth steel, or sometimes a ceramic rod.

In all cases real sharpening is done with one or more belts [abrasive or strop] on a one-inch linisher. That's freehanding too, but takes perhaps a minute a blade. The waterstones lie unused.

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I have a set of Shuns that I expect get far less use than those of folks above, so every couple months I taken them over to Northwestern Cutlery. If I'm in a hurry they can knock them all out in about 10-15 minutes.

True rye and true bourbon wake delight like any great wine...dignify man as possessing a palate that responds to them and ennoble his soul as shimmering with the response.

DeVoto, The Hour

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I use one of these, and an ancient(well, 45 year old) 3M silicon carbide whetstone. My 90% go to knife is a carbon steel "Old Hickory" 8" chef's knife.

oldhickory2.jpg

The two notches 1/3 up the blade are from when I dropped it on an appliance cord and it cut through the conductors - made a pretty spectacular shower of sparks. You can see how the whetstone has worn. The tomato slices on the molasses label were cut from a soft old Roma that was in the fridge.

I occasionally clean & resurface the ceramic rod with 400 grit wet-or-dry sandpaper, stroking along the rod so that the sanding marks are perpendicular to the edge of the knife blade when sharpening. The silicon carbide of the sandpaper is harder than the alumina of the rod, and I figure the fine scratches along the rod make it work like a classic sharpening steel, only finer.

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I have an old two-sided Norton oilstone that I used for many years and have since retired to duties like reshaping and grinding bolsters. I also have a file that I use for that kind of work.

Mostly I use a 1000/6000 two-sided Japanese waterstone, and I steel between sharpenings.

I have around 20 carbon steel and stainless Western knives. No Japanese knives--yet.

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Every day before starting my shift at work, steel and strop on balsa wood w/chromium oxide. Sharpen on 1k/6k then move to steel/strop when needed, usually every 3 weeks or so?

Cheese - milk's leap toward immortality.

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An Edgepro, and a ceramic steel between sharpenings. I wrote up a simple spreadsheet with the angles I put on every knife so I can replicate without having to think or re-adjust every time.

QUIET!  People are trying to pontificate.

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I'll use my EdgePro to set and a new bevel when re-profiling but use my Shapton glass stones to resharpen as needed. I use a leather strop loaded with liquid or dry chromium oxide to maintain my edges until sharpening on stones is needed.

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For those who may have missed it, check out Chad Ward`s An Edge in the Kitchen over in the Daily Gullet.

Since reading the book, I use a two-sided dry stone on my kitchen knives and wood chisels.

Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

I just made a cornish game hen with chestnut stuffing. . .

Would you believe a pigeon stuffed with spam? . . .

Would you believe a rat filled with cough drops?

Moe Sizlack

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For my Japanese knives I run them on a leather bench hone loaded with diamond spray before each use. For European blades I use a ceramic Idahone rod before each use. I take all my knives to the stone when they need it. I will go to a higher grit with my J-knives (up to 8k).

k.

I like to say things and eat stuff.

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  • 2 weeks later...

For Japanese knives, I think we need to distinguish between Japanese-style Japanese knives and Western-style Japanese knives. I have one of the latter - a Togiharu Inox steel Santoku, and I hone it regularly on my Wusthof steel with absolutely zero negative effects. I checked that this was OK with the Japanese shop where I bought the knife - Korin in lower Manhattan - and they said it was absolutely OK.

Of course I also have a two-sided Togiharu #1000/#4000 stone for long-term maintenance, and have taken a course in how to use it. (And could seriously use a refresher. It's not easy.)

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While I fastidiously maintain my straight razor with water stones, an ultra-fine ceramic hone, and linen and latigo strops, I'd much rather cook with my kitchen knives and let someone else see to their sharpening. Fortunately, a knife shop is co-located with the cigar shop/club I patronize, so they make fairly regular visits for maintenance. Between visits, all they see is a steel.

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My wife bought an Accusharp. I was a little skeptical at first, but it works fine and fits in well with my 'good enough' nature. I will probably buy more sharpeners and knives over my lifetime than many, but won't spend more overall.

It gives me a good enough edge that I can get a satisfyingly clean slashes in my baguettes with a chef's knife - which I find to be a tougher test than tomatoes or meat.

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I have had good results from the Bark River leather strop (one side green, one side black) to maintain my set of Global knives.

The Globals are convex ground, so a few light strokes on the strop is all that is required to keep them in top working order.

Luke

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For Japanese knives, I think we need to distinguish between Japanese-style Japanese knives and Western-style Japanese knives. I have one of the latter - a Togiharu Inox steel Santoku, and I hone it regularly on my Wusthof steel with absolutely zero negative effects. I checked that this was OK with the Japanese shop where I bought the knife - Korin in lower Manhattan - and they said it was absolutely OK.

Is your Wusthof one of those grooved metal steels? Those can be pretty aggressive. The Togiharu isn't that hard of a steel -- I think they are 57-58 hrc. So using a rod of any sort is less of an issue. My Japanese-style knives are all 60+ hrc. The edges don't fold over as much and the thinner edge is prone to chipping, so aggressive steels aren't a good match.

With that said, I think a fine grit ceramic rod would be an improvement over any grooved steel and they aren't that expensive. I do have one rod that I sometimes use with my harder steel Japanese knives, which is made out of borosilicate/glass. It is finer and less aggressive yet than the ceramic rod. I used to employ it more often, but I love my strops so much now that I don't use it as much.

Edited by mr drinkie (log)

I like to say things and eat stuff.

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With that said, I think a fine grit ceramic rod would be an improvement over any grooved steel and they aren't that expensive. I do have one rod that I sometimes use with my harder steel Japanese knives, which is made out of borosilicate/glass. It is finer and less aggressive yet than the ceramic rod. I used to employ it more often, but I love my strops so much now that I don't use it as much.

I agree about the ceramic, I use the rods from the Spyderco device, fast, and works well...The steel is to easy to get carried away with(for me at least).

Bud..

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OK, please school me on strops. What would be appropriate for my Togiharu?

It _is_ soft steel. That said, it hones up really nicely on the Wusthof. Which is that cylindrical, grooved steel to which you refer. Just a few strokes on either side and it can slice paper again.

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