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Q&A -- Knife Maintenance and Sharpening

266 posts in this topic

As for lapping your stones, you can use a coarse diamond benchstone but the cheapest way is mylar-backed silicon carbide sandpaper stuck to a sheet of plate glass.

I've heard horror stories from very reputable people who tried to lap a diamond bench stone. Using one to lap another stone whould be equally scary to me. It might be a brand thing. The stones reportedly ruined were DMT by the way.

I'll stick to the sandpaper. :wink:

PJ


"Epater les bourgeois."

--Lester Bangs via Bruce Sterling

(Dori Bangs)

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Before I do the rest of my knives, I'm definitely going to order an extra-coarse stone for the initial grinding, though. That took a long-ass time.

Yup, a coarse stone is a handy thing to have. I had a Trace Rinaldi TTKK (Talmadge Tactical Kitchen Knife) in D2, a super hard tool steel, that I wanted to rebevel. It took two days with the medium stone I had on hand at the time. I immediately got a coarse stone and a diamond stone. There was no way I was putting up with that again. :rolleyes:

Aw, crap.  In all my babbling I forgot to ask my question: with this gatco thing, I'd always used the oil.  Tonight I started to use the stones dry for no real reason except that I didn't feel like getting the oil all over.  But they really didn't cut as well--it was instantly noticeable.  So is this what you were saying about how once you use oil, you have to keep using it?  Or does that only apply to the nicer honing stones you were talking about?  It sure is freakin messy, and I wouldn't mind stopping using it...

The Gatco is a fine system. As for the oil question -- yes, that's it exactly. As Joe pointed out, some natural stones can be used dry. Others load up too quickly and need oil. If you've used oil on your stones in the past, you'll probably need to keep using oil to float the metal filings out.

Rather than hosing down your stones with oil, though, you could try putting a couple of drops on the stone and wiping it down with a paper towel or cloth. Every 10 passes or so oil and wipe again. This is just a guess, but it might be worth a try.

Glad you liked the tutorial! Thanks for the compliments. I really appreciate it.

Chad


Edited by Chad (log)

Chad Ward

An Edge in the Kitchen

William Morrow Cookbooks

www.chadwrites.com

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As for lapping your stones, you can use a coarse diamond benchstone but the cheapest way is mylar-backed silicon carbide sandpaper stuck to a sheet of plate glass.

I've heard horror stories from very reputable people who tried to lap a diamond bench stone. Using one to lap another stone whould be equally scary to me. It might be a brand thing. The stones reportedly ruined were DMT by the way.

I'll stick to the sandpaper. :wink:

PJ

Argh! I wouldn't try to lap a diamond stone, but you can lap your other stones with a diamond stone. I'm with you though, the mylar backed, self stick sandpaper on plate glass is the way to go. I also use sand to even out my stones.

Yup, a little sand on the garage floor -- apply even pressure on the stone and grind in circles. The sand will pulverize and leave a powdery coat on the bottom of the stone. The distribution of the powder shows you where you still have low spots. The low spots will be darker than the flat areas. I just grind until the surface is uniformly coated.

Chad


Chad Ward

An Edge in the Kitchen

William Morrow Cookbooks

www.chadwrites.com

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Nick,

Usually, tips seem to round when you get a little sloppy with the last part of the sharpening stroke.  This can happen really quickly when you're using sharpening doodads of various sorts, and eventually happens freehand as well.  My advice: pay a little more attention to the end of each stroke.  When you're done, stop the knife on the stone, and consciously lift the tip straight up and off the stone instead of letting it drag in any way.  A little bit of this and it will work into muscle memory.

Joe,

Thanks for your suggestions. I think the main thing is, as you say, to pay a little more attention. Blunting the tip is one of those things that happens little by little over years of many sharpenings and it's so easy not to notice what's happening until one day you go - what have I done to the tip of this knife? :shock:

I'm glad to hear I'm not alone in this. :smile:

Thanks again. Nick

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Argh! I wouldn't try to lap a diamond stone, but you can lap your other stones with a diamond stone.

Correction: He was using the course diamond to lap a waterstone when he ruined it.

Guy's name is Brian Burns and he's a double psycho with serious sharpening AND woodworking fixations. His book taught me the wonders of double bevels in plane irons. A different concept and purpose from your double bevel for knife blades but interesting in that he also found references to his technique in colonial-era literature.

He claims he can hand-plane aluminium. Now that's freakin' scary.

PJ


"Epater les bourgeois."

--Lester Bangs via Bruce Sterling

(Dori Bangs)

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PJ, This is a little off the subject, but sometimes when I'm sharpening twist drills, I sharpen the immediate edge with less relief (back-off) , but then give more relief a little ways away from the edge so the chips have more room and you can drill a little faster. It has the advantage of having a little meat behind the edge and holes come out rounder.

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Nick, unless it's a big, expensive drill bit I won't even try to sharpen them. I just chuck them.

I've thought it through and here's the problem with expensive diamond stones. They're like sandpaper--when they don't work anymore you throw them away. No way to restore them.

You're shortening the life of your diamond stone every time you use it to lap a finer one. Think about it. The finer stone you're trying to dress is always doing some grinding itself, albeit at a much slower rate.

I researched all this shit a couple of years ago until it made my head hurt.

Once again, Chad's article is an excellent overview.

PJ


"Epater les bourgeois."

--Lester Bangs via Bruce Sterling

(Dori Bangs)

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I have a question about wooden handles. Am I too late? They seem to dry out. Even after I oil them, they dry out pretty quickly. What's the best way to keep them healthy?

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I have a question about wooden handles.   Am I too late?  They seem to dry out.  Even after I oil them, they dry out pretty quickly.  What's the best way to keep them healthy?

Never too late m'dear. Even when the thread gets locked and archived I'll answer questions in the general forums. I suspect the other instructers would be willing to do the same.

As for wooden-handled knives, I've had much better luck with food grade mineral oil than with citrus oils, furniture oils or polishes. You can pick up the right kind of mineral oil just about anyplace that sells good cutting boards (Linens & Things; Bed, Bath & Beyond; etc.). Just give them a good wipedown with the oil, let them dry for a while to soak in the oil then remove the excess oil with a paper towel.

Oilier, less porous woods like coccobolo and rosewood won't need as much as the more porous woods used for, say, Chicago knives. Water, dishsoap and heat will dry those out pretty quickly. But the food grade mineral oil should make a big difference.

Hope this helps,

Chad


Edited by Chad (log)

Chad Ward

An Edge in the Kitchen

William Morrow Cookbooks

www.chadwrites.com

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Thanks Chad. How often do you think I should do this?

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Thanks Chad.  How often do you think I should do this?

Well, about as often as you'd recondition a cutting board. I do my cutting board about every month or two. If your knives are in really bad shape it might be more frequent than that until they're saturated and the gaps/cracks seal. Another idea is to take all of your wooden-handled knives & put them in a plastic container then cover with the food grade mineral oil overnight. That way they'll soak up everything they can. You can drain the oil back into the bottle when you're done. That's a little drastic, but it would probably work.

Good luck!

Chad


Chad Ward

An Edge in the Kitchen

William Morrow Cookbooks

www.chadwrites.com

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Well, about as often as you'd recondition a cutting board. I do my cutting board about every month or two.

Chad, what brand and kind of cutting board are you using?

End-grain boards are obscenely expensive but, as I'm sure you know, they are the only way to go.

Of course I could make one in my spare time if I had any. :laugh:

PJ


"Epater les bourgeois."

--Lester Bangs via Bruce Sterling

(Dori Bangs)

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End-grain boards are obscenely expensive but, as I'm sure you know, they are the only way to go.

You can ge them at IKEA for less than 20 bucks... real end grain.


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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Well, about as often as you'd recondition a cutting board. I do my cutting board about every month or two.

Chad, what brand and kind of cutting board are you using?

End-grain boards are obscenely expensive but, as I'm sure you know, they are the only way to go.

Of course I could make one in my spare time if I had any. :laugh:

PJ

Well, I'm a firm believer in the idea that you should use the biggest cutting board that you can stand upright in your sink. Unfortunately, my sinks suck. So right now I've got a standard edge-grain board, but an end-grain board is in my sights. I kind of like the Boos boards, but there may be other gems out there that I don't know about. I'm sure slkinsey has a couple of sources we could tap. Sam?

Chad


Chad Ward

An Edge in the Kitchen

William Morrow Cookbooks

www.chadwrites.com

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End-grain boards are obscenely expensive but, as I'm sure you know, they are the only way to go.

You can ge them at IKEA for less than 20 bucks... real end grain.

yes - and though they're not absolutely even, they're much better than most edge-grain.

chad,

as for dried handles: i've got this huge old sabatier, and the handles have shrunk a bit - du you really think they could be made to "fill out" again? and could a handle with a crack, too?


christianh@geol.ku.dk. just in case.

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chad,

as for dried handles: i've got this huge old sabatier, and the handles have shrunk a bit - du you really think they could be made to "fill out" again? and could a handle with a crack, too?

Hmm, depends on how much they've shrunk, how big the crack is and how long it's been there. Dry wood handles can sometimes be revived with a mineral oil bath. Sometimes the damage is too extensive. It's worth a try, though.

If that doesn't work, you can have the knife re-handled. This is really not that difficult and there are hundreds of knifemakers out there who can do the job for you. You may even have one nearby. If the knife is worth it, having it re-handled is certainly something to consider. You can go with a nicer wood (like coccobolo), micarta or just about anything else. I once had a custom kitchen knife with carbon fiber handle slabs. That was really nifty.

If you need some help finding a knifemaker, let me know and I'll see if I can put you in touch with someone.

Chad


Chad Ward

An Edge in the Kitchen

William Morrow Cookbooks

www.chadwrites.com

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that's nice of you, but as i live in denmark...anyway, i should be able to find one near by.

i'll try bathing the handles in oil, frequently.


christianh@geol.ku.dk. just in case.

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Chad: I hope you are still available for questions. After reading your very informative article, I ordered a Spyderco 204, and the Japanese utility knife from Lee Valley (both are quite nice). It doesn't seem as if the 204's preset angles are right for the utility knife; how would I maintain this blade using the 204? Also, what does one do if one drops a knife and dents the edge? Thanks. --PR

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I'd like to tag another question if I may.

Do you have any specific advice on sharpening Global knifes? I would imagine that you would need different angles?

Thanks.

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Chad: I hope you are still available for questions. After reading your very informative article, I ordered a Spyderco 204, and the Japanese utility knife from Lee Valley (both are quite nice). It doesn't seem as if the 204's preset angles are right for the utility knife; how would I maintain this blade using the 204? Also, what does one do if one drops a knife and dents the edge? Thanks. --PR

Sorry for the delayed reply, my ISP's been a bit wonky the last couple of days.

Congrats on your purchases. Both the Spyderco sharpener and Lee Valley knife will serve you well. The angle on the Lee Valley knife is a little odd and doesn't lend itself to maintenance on the Spyderco unless you want to rebevel it. I wouldn't recommend it just yet. It'll be fine for a while. What I do with mine is use the "Mousepad Trick" or a simple hard-backed strop loaded with CrO2 paste (both available from Lee Valley). That lets you maintain the factory angle for quite a while before having to do any serious sharpening. Do not use a grooved steel on the knife, you'll just chip out the knife.

The carbon steel sandwiched into the soft stainless is very hard by Western kitchen knife standards. It'll stay sharp for a long time if you rinse and dry it thoroughly every time you use it -- maybe even during cutting if you're going through a lot of acidic foods like tomatoes, citrus fruits or onions. The acids will attack the edge and degrade it far more than cutting will. You've got to keep this knife clean and dry.

If you've dented the edge, you can use a smooth steel or a very fine grit ceramic rod (700 grit+) to roll the edge back into position. It'll take a while, but it's better than sharpening away the impacted area. If it's a major dent, lay the knife flat on a work surface and use the steel or rod as a file, stroking toward the edge with light to moderate force to slowly fix the dent. The really nice thing about this knife is that if you completely screw it up, it's only $16 to replace it :biggrin:.

Take care,

Chad


Edited by Chad (log)

Chad Ward

An Edge in the Kitchen

William Morrow Cookbooks

www.chadwrites.com

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I'd like to tag another question if I may.

Do you have any specific advice on sharpening Global knifes? I would imagine that you would need different angles?

Thanks.

Hmm, I'm not sure what the factory edge on the Global line is. I'll look into it and get back to you. I do know that one of the Japanese knife makers -- either Global or Mac -- has a special sharpener/jig thing designed specifically to maintain the factory edge.

Chad


Chad Ward

An Edge in the Kitchen

William Morrow Cookbooks

www.chadwrites.com

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Hi Chad, awesome report! I really learned a TON!

Based on your praises of the Edgepro system I went and bought one. Admittedly, my first knife sharpening experience with it wasn't that great but the second was fantastic. MY question really revolves around bevels and stones.

First I sharpened my Henckels at 15 degrees and then at 18 degrees to achieve a beveled edge. I thought it was 20 degrees but I wasn't on the correct setting. Is this OK. Also, is the beveled edge always superior to a straight angle edge?

Lastly, Edgepro says that for kitchen knives the 180 and 220 stones supplied are all I need. What are your thoughts? I was thinking it's OK for a chef's knife but I may want finer for a paring knife since it's going to be pushing more.

Thanks for the reply. You really opened my eyes to knife sharpening. Now I know how to use and maintain my tools. Simply awesome!

Joe

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Thanks, Chad. I have a finely grooved steel I've always used on my Chicago Cutlery knives (20+ years old) and it's one of those that is dented. I am being quite careful with the Lee Valley knife with respect to rinsing and drying it -- in fact, after reading your article, I've started doing that with all of my knives, just to develop the habit. I bought knife guards from Lee Valley for everything that isn't in a block. So, in terms of behaviour modification, you've been quite successful. --PR

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Hi Chad, awesome report! I really learned a TON!

Based on your praises of the Edgepro system I went and bought one. Admittedly, my first knife sharpening experience with it wasn't that great but the second was fantastic. MY question really revolves around bevels and stones.

First I sharpened my Henckels at 15 degrees and then at 18 degrees to achieve a beveled edge. I thought it was 20 degrees but I wasn't on the correct setting. Is this OK. Also, is the beveled edge always superior to a straight angle edge?

Lastly, Edgepro says that for kitchen knives the 180 and 220 stones supplied are all I need. What are your thoughts? I was thinking it's OK for a chef's knife but I may want  finer for a paring knife since it's going to be pushing more.

Thanks for the reply. You really opened my eyes to knife sharpening. Now I know how to use and maintain my tools. Simply awesome!

Joe

Thank you! I'm glad you got something out of it.

The EdgePro, like everything else, does take some practice. That's why I recommend starting off with a cheap knife or two before attacking your pricey cutlery. It does take two or three knives before you get really proficient with it.

If you did a 15/18 double bevel, that's fine. There's no magic or mystery to the 15/20 I recommended. The 15/20 is simply easier to maintain on a Spyderco system. The Spyderco Sharpmaker has angle settings at 30 and 40 degrees (or 15 and 20 per side). In writing the article I wanted to show how the double bevel worked and picked settings common to every system. That and the fact that the 20 degree burr pops up pretty quickly after you've set a 15 degree edge. Quick results are always a good thing.

As for the stones, you're absolutely fine with what you have. The 180 and 220 grit stones will work for anything in your kitchen. The 220 will leave a medium fine edge. I don't generally go any more polished than that unless I'm playing around to see how sharp I can get something. You can get up to 3000 grit with the EdgePro. But you've got to remember, the EdgePro grit labeling system is a little weird. The 220 is going to be pretty close to a 1000X Japanese water stone in the level of finish it leaves on the edge. If you want to add to your stones, get the coarse stone -- that's the one I use most often. It'll cut metal like crazy! Perfect for quickly resetting an edge. I have to admit, I sprang for the whole stone upgrade kit, but I'm nuts. I rarely use anything higher than the 220 or 600 (extra fine).

Take care,

Chad


Chad Ward

An Edge in the Kitchen

William Morrow Cookbooks

www.chadwrites.com

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