How do you “properly” sharpen a knife? Ultimately, the endgame is just to make sure it cuts right? Well yes, but there are good ways and bad ways to do everything aren’t there? There are better ways and best ways and there are techniques that will make things easier for you. So let’s talk about some of the details of how to properly sharpen a knife.
First, keep in mind the different parts of the blade. No, this will not make it sharper but it will help when explaining things and understanding sharpening. With that in mind, I’ll outline just a bit of blade terminology. These terms are relevant to understand when learning how to properly sharpen a knife.
Knife Blade Terminology
The spine of the blade is the back of your blade. In most cases, this is the side opposite the sharp edge. This is often the thickest part of the blade other than the tang (Do we call it that on a pocket knife?) that enters the handle. This end of the blade will go toward the back of the clamp in the sharpening system.
The face of the blade is the flat part of your blade.
The tip is the pointy end. This might be obvious but, I’ll state it any way.
Not all knives have a belly but for any that have a “rounded” section of the edge, this is referred to as the belly. This part of the blade can sometimes make sharpening tricky.
The back of the edge is the heel of the blade. This is the part of the blade edge that is closest to the handle.
The edge runs along the length of the blade generally from the tip to the heel. The blade edge itself has multiple parts. I’m not sure these are all defined but the beginning of the edge is the shoulder. The finest part of the edge is the apex.
Basic Sharpening Steps to Follow
Now that we understand the parts fo the blade, let’s discuss the steps to properly sharpening the blade. There are different aspects that will help you achieve a good edge but I don’t think we need to all do everything exactly the same. Everyone will have slight variations to how they do their sharpening and each blade shape will have variations that will effect the outcome as well.
- Match edge
- Mark your edge
- Verify the angle
- Let the stones do the work -No downward pressure!
- Use oil with diamond stones
- Use oil or water with ceramic or natural stones
- Back and forth passes should be used first to create a burr
- Create the burr from tip to heel on each side
- Remove burr
- Strop to remove micro burrs
- Test the blade from heel to tip on paper to verify sharpness
One of the things I like to do is make sure I’m testing the entire length of the blade for sharpness. It’s fun to do a push cut with a sharp knife and see what it can do but that does not guarantee consistent sharpness along the entire blade. To do this, you must test the entire length of the blade. If it catches anywhere along the blade that generally indicates a nick in the edge that needs to be worked out. Testing the full length of the blade allows you to find any further spots needing attention as you work.
Once you complete sharpening to your satisfaction, it is a good idea to remove the micro-burrs with a strop. this is not absolutely necessary and your knife is sharp without it but it does further refine the edge. Ultimately, sharpening is a matter of preference. Some desire a very fine, mirror edge that will slice a hair in half lengthwise while others just want that ripe tomato cut easily and straight.
These tips should help you know how to properly sharpen a knife, regardless of the sharpness you desire for your end result. Of course a big part of proper knife sharpening is to use a professional tool such as the ViperSharp knife sharpener. It takes all the guess work out of sharpening and allows you to get the edge you want quickly and easily.