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Knife Maintenance and Sharpening

Knife Maintenance and Sharpening

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Published by lwp4lv
Description of metal alloys, knife sharpening and maintenance
Description of metal alloys, knife sharpening and maintenance

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Published by: lwp4lv on May 03, 2011
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12/18/2012

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Welcome to the eGullet Forums!
These forums are a service of the Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated toadvancement of the culinary arts. Anyone can read the forums, however if you want to participate in active discussions you must join the Society. If you'dlike to receive our news and update emails, pleasebecome a NewsGullet subscriber.
Welcome to the eGullet Culinary Institute (eGCI)
The member-supported Society for Culinary Arts & Letters is proud to present its online culinary academy,the eGullet Culinary Institute (eGCI). In recognition of the value of this special feature and to make otherslike it possible, please take a moment, if you have not already, to upgrade to aSociety Donor membership. If you are not yet a member, please first join the Society.
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Knife Maintenance and Sharpening
Instructor: Chad Ward (Chad)
 
eGCI Team 
Posted 13 August 2003 - 07:05 AM
#1
 
Group:
manager
Posts:239Joined:24-July 03
Knife Maintenance and Sharpening
 By Chad Ward (Chad)
Warning
: Remember that handling, using and sharpening knives is inherentlydangerous. Neither eGullet nor the author can be responsible for your safety. That
’ 
syour job. Knife safety, especially during sharpening, is a matter of common sense. Keepyour fingers, toes and everything else out of the path of the blade
 –
even if it were toslip. If you go slowly, pay attention and stay focused, you
’ 
ll be fine.
Table of Contents
 IntroductionSection One: The Sad Truth about Kitchen KnivesSection Two: SteelSection Three: Edge BasicsSection Four: Sharpening BasicsSection Five: Sharpening Step by StepSection Six: MaintenanceSection Seven: Overview of Sharpening SystemsSection Eight: Conclusions and Resources
Introduction
 
 “
Knife sharpening is hard.
” 
 
 “
Sharpening is too difficult and time consuming to do at home.
” 
 
 “
Send your knives to a professional sharpener once a year and you will be fine.
” 
 
 “
 You have to spend hours hunched over a heavy hone slathered with oil.
” 
 This well-intentioned advice is parroted in cooking schools, Food Network televisionprograms, professional manuals and cookbooks. And it is just plain wrong.Okay, maybe not so much wrong as misleading.
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http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?/topic/26036-knife-maintenance-and-sharpening/ Page 1 / 24
 
 Knife sharpening is not difficult. It is not shrouded in mystery. With a little knowledge, alittle geometry, a couple of tricks and some inexpensive tools, knife sharpening can befairly easy and extremely rewarding. At the very least it
’ 
s a great skill for the toolbox. You
’ 
ll come away from this clinic with a better understanding of edges, steel and how tomaintain your knives yourself. Or, if you decide to send them out, you
’ 
ll know how tomake sure you
’ 
re getting what you want
 –
and what you pay for.
Section One: The Sad Truth About Kitchen Knives
 To a chef, there is nothing more important than his knife. It is not only an extension of his hands, it is an extension of his very personality. The knife is a chef 
’ 
s paintbrush.So why are most kitchen knives so bad?The knives found in most commercial and home kitchens are designed for the lowestcommon denominator. The manufacturers of these knives make a series of compromises calculated to keep the largest number of people happily using their knivesfor the longest period of time. Like supermarket tomatoes bred for sturdiness anduniformity rather than flavor, these compromises seriously degrade the performance of your knives.The first compromise begins with the steel. Steel is the heart of the knife. Mostmanufacturers (Henckels, Wusthof, Forschner, et al.) have proprietary steel blends andare very close-mouthed about the actual formulation of their steels. According toindustry insiders, these steel blends are closely related to or equivalent to a steel knownas 440a. By and large 440a steel is formulated for stain and wear resistance rather thanholding a high performance edge.In the kitchen, that
’ 
s not a bad tradeoff.But this compromise in edge performance is compounded by a heat treatment thatleaves the steel much softer than it could be. In general, the harder the steel, the keenerthe edge it will take. However, a hard steel makes it more difficult to get that edge in thefirst place. So manufacturers leave the steel a little soft, theoretically making sharpeningat home easier. If you
’ 
ve ever spent an hour or two trying to get a super fine edge on acheap kitchen knife, you
’ 
ll know that there is a big gap between theory and practice.Upper-end kitchen knives like Henckels, Sabatier, Wusthof, et al., are a little better, butare still softer than they need to be at 52 to 56 on the Rockwell C scale (theRockwellscaleis a scale used to measure the relative hardness of different solids). By contrast,Japanese knives tend to be around 61-62 on the Rockwell scale. Custom knife makerPhil Wilson hardens his S90V (a stainless supersteel) chef 
’ 
s and filet knives to 62-63Rockwell.The next compromise is in the factory edge angles. Most kitchen knives come with anedge that is at least 25 degrees per side, frequently even greater. If you add the twosides together you get a 50 degree included angle. And that
’ 
s the best case scenario.Take a look at a protractor if you happen to have one lying around. Fifty degrees isextremely thick. An angle that obtuse is more appropriate for an axe than a chef 
’ 
s knife. Again, the theory is that the thick angles will allow the edge to resist damage fromimpaction, rolling and wear better than a thin edge. But, as the song says, it ain
’ 
tnecessarily so.
http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?/topic/26036-knife-maintenance-and-sharpening/ Page 2 / 24
 
 Finally, there is just plain cruelty and misuse. While I
’ 
m certain none of 
you
would everuse the sharpener on the back of an electric can opener, or use a glass cutting board, orstore your knives loose in a drawer or put them in the dishwasher, it does happen. Andwhen you add soft steel and thick angles to the general abuse that knives see in thekitchen, you end up with tools that are more adapted for bludgeoning oxen than finedicing a soft tomato.Take heart. The news isn
’ 
t all bad. We can fix these problems. Geometry is far moreimportant than steel. With some basic knowledge and the willingness to invest a littletime, you can realistically expect a dramatic increase in knife performance.
First, do no harm: General knife care
 - Use wooden or composite plastic cutting boards only. Glass, ceramic, marble and steelwill cause the edge to roll or chip. Bad. Don
’ 
t do it.- Don
’ 
t drop your knives in the sink. Not only is it a hazard to the person washing dishes,but you can also blunt the tip or edge.- Don
’ 
t put your knives in the dishwasher. The heat may damage wooden handles andthe edges may bang against other cutlery or plates.- Keep your knives clean and dry. Sanitize if necessary.- Do not store your knives loose in a drawer. Use a block, magnetic strip, slotted hangeror edge guards. The magnetic strip is not recommended if you have children orinquisitive pets.- Finally, your knife is not a can opener, a screwdriver, a pry bar, box cutter or hammer.There
’ 
s a special place in Hell reserved for people who abuse their knives this way.
If your knives won
t fit in a block, simple plastic blade guards are a good solution
 
Second: Modify for performance
 This is the easy part. Establishing and maintaining high performance edges is what thistutorial is all about. It can be as simple as steeling with the proper technique or ascomplex as creating specific edge bevel and edge aggression strategies for each knife inyour collection. It
’ 
s all up to you.While you can
’ 
t change the steel your knife is made from, you can certainly keep your
http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?/topic/26036-knife-maintenance-and-sharpening/ Page 3 / 24

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