Writers Monthly

Writers Monthly

Home & Garden

Keeping Your Kitchen Knives Sharp

Now that the holidays are past, many people are in the midst of learning how to use the gifts they received.  For those that enjoy spending time in the kitchen, you know that keeping your knives sharp is essential to maintaining their life as well as keeping them safe to use.

And if you received a knife sharpener for Christmas, there are a few things you should know before attempting to use it.

Your Knives

First and foremost you need to verify that your knives are compatible with the sharpener you received.  Western style knives and Japanese style knives are not only very different in their design, they are also very expensive.  And not knowing which type you have can cause considerable damage to the blade.

Let’s start by taking a look at Japanese style knives.  These kitchen knives are designed with an edge on only one side.  Additionally the blade angle is much steeper.  Usually a Japanese-style blade will be somewhere around 11-15 degrees.

Because of the steeper angle, most blades are made of considerably harder steel than their Western counterparts.  And when it comes to sharpening these blades, there are some definite differences.

Most importantly, a Japanese knife is ONLY sharpened on one side of the blade.  If you run it through a sharpener on both sides, it will severely damage the blade.  At this point you’ll most likely need to have it repaired by a professional.

Secondly, you need to ensure the sharpener that you choose is capable of working on Japanese knives with their steep blade angles.  Electric knife sharpener reviews are available on a multitude of websites.  You want to match as closely as possible the blade angle from the factory.

Western Style Knives

Western style kitchen knives are designed with a bevel on both sides of the blade.  The angle on each side is steeper than that of a Japanese style knife, but in combination they are higher overall by about 10 degrees.  This means that Western style knives are generally not quite as sharp.

While they may not be as sharp, they do tend to be more durable.  This is especially the case in the hands of amateur chef’s who may not be properly educated on knife use and care.

Western style knives use a softer steel, so the blade is more prone to nicks and damage when used improperly.  But these sorts of imperfections are easy to repair because of the softer nature of the steel.

When sharpening a Western-style knife, you need to sharpen both sides of the blade.  In most cases, this means turning the sharpener around, although some modes do have notches for both sides of the blade.

If you’re interested in learning more about the differences between Western and Japanese style knives, here is a great article that explains everything you need to know.

Follow Instructions

While many knife sharpening professionals maintain that sharpening stones are the best way to sharpen any knife, for the amateur cook the process of learning to use a sharpening stone can be very tedious and time consuming.  You can also cause damage to your blades if the stones are used improperly.

Most damage to knives caused by sharpening systems is due to user error.  The instructions included with any sharpener are very clear, and should be followed closely.  This will insure that you can quickly and easily keep your knives in top condition.

If you don’t actually have a knife sharpener yet, Make It Sharp has a great guide for selecting the perfect model for your needs.


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