18 February 2015
To ensure that knives also stay sharp:
Expert tips for honing and sharpening
Amateur and professional chefs alike will at some point be faced with the same question: How can I keep my knives sharp forever? It is natural that knives should lose their original sharpness over time and with normal use, and need to be sharpened again. With high-quality knives in particular, it is well worth looking after them, so that they keep their sharpness for a lifetime.
WÜSTHOF offers a wide range of honing and sharpening products. But what are the differences between honing and sharpening? And when is the right time to use a honing steel, a sharpening steel or a whetstone? The answers can be found in the following information from the knife specialists, which will also ensure that sharpening and grinding products are used more safely.
To ensure that a knife does not loose its sharpness even when used frequently, high-quality knives should be regularly sharpened using a honing steel. Using this technique, you can restore the cutting edge, which will have deteriorated over time and the knife stays sharp.
The honing steel is made from hard chromium-plated steel with a hardness of approx. 65° Rockwell. An alloy tool steel (material no. 2210), with 1.15% C (carbon) content, 0.6% chromium and 0.03% vanadium, is used for all steels. This gives the surface of the steel the particularly high wear resistance necessary for dealing with the hardening material quality of the knife blades.
Various types with different kinds of surfaces are available from the traditional company based in Solingen:
The most frequently used surface for domestic and kitchen steels. This steel quickly produces a new edge on the blade, enabling a smooth cut.
For butchers who sharpen their knives themselves on a grinding machine but use the honing steel to fine-tune the edge of the blade in order to produce a smooth cut.
If the knives get blunt, they can be sharpened using a diamond or ceramic sharpener or a whetstone. The difference between these devices and the honing steel is that they are used to actually grind away material from the blade, making knives sharp again.
Diamond sharpening steel
The special shape of the diamond abrasive surface produces an optimum edge on the knives. The rod is made of a core of solid stainless steel. Depending on the size of the sharpening steel, up to two million diamond grains are applied to the surface using a special process. The extremely fine grit guarantees a smooth, sharp cutting edge and therefore ensures knives stay sharper for longer. An additional layer of hard chrome gives the sharpening steel an even higher wear resistance. The diamond sharpener is available in a fine or normal grit.
The ceramic sharpener has the same function as the diamond sharpener. It also has two different grits (300 and 1000). The material is, however, very brittle and therefore sensitive to shocks. The absolute hardness is very slightly below that of the diamond sharpener. The sharpening result is somewhat finer than with the diamond sharpener.
Whetstones are made from various materials. The block is usually made from Silicon Carbide and Aluminium Oxide or Belgian Coticule is widespread as a natural stone. There is also a wide range of different grits - starting from 300 (aggressive and coarse sharpening) and going up to 8000 (almost polishing the cutting edge). WÜSTHOF uses Japanese standards. There is also a European standard for grit values but this is not used as often as the Japanese standard. The Japanese grit value 3000 corresponds to the European grit value of 1000.
Sharpening knives using a whetstone has only become fashionable in recent years thanks to the trend for Japanese knives. Working with a stone is much more time-intensive and is also harder to get to grips with. The knives should always be pulled across the stone by the same person and at a consistent angle. WÜSTHOF has the perfect sharpening aid to ensure this is the case (item no. 4349). Makes sharpening easy and effortless even for the layman!
Sharpening on a whetstone offers the advantage of being able to produce a super fine edge, depending on the grit. However, to achieve this, at least two different grits need to be used one after the other. First use the coarser grit to sharpen the knife and then a very fine grit to polish it. We recommend the combination whetstone with non-slip holder, item no. 4453 (1000 and 4000 grit).
The idea that some types of blade should only be sharpened on a stone (Japanese V-edge) and others (curved or U-shaped edge) only using a steel is in actual fact incorrect.
Besides, since the introduction of WÜSTHOF's innovative PEtec sharpening technology, all forged knives made by the traditional company have a V-edge.
This technology can be described in detail as follows:
The blades are measured by laser before sharpening. Computer programs then calculate the precise sharpening angle for each blade. The knives are then sharpened on a whetstone using precision robots and are then given a final polish using a special disc.
The advantages of PEtec:
- Extremely high initial cutting performance.
- Exceptionally long edge retention / long service life of blade.
- Optimum cutting edge along the entire length of the blade.
- Unique, consistently high and reproducible quality.
WÜSTHOF´s expert advice
WÜSTHOF primarily recommends the honing steel for looking after knives. This will keep the knives sharp for longer.
For knives with a polished edge, a honing steel with a fine surface is advisable (item no. 4475 or 4476).
Honing steels in the IKON range all have this fine surface.
For sharpening, the knife specialist recommends a diamond or ceramic sharpening steel. The choice of the type or material is ultimately down to personal preference.
After sharpening, a honing steel should then also be used to deburr the cutting edge. This will quickly produce a super fine, extremely sharp edge.
Once they have had a certain amount of wear, the knives should be taken for professional sharpening. This will realign the entire geometry of the blade.
You will know that this time has come when you can no longer achieve optimum cutting performance despite honing and sharpening your knives or if they lose their cutting performance quickly.
On the WÜSTHOF home page, you can find a list of sharpening experts, most of which also offer sharpening seminars.
Knives with a one-sided edge - such as the Yanagiba from the CLASSIC range - can only be sharpened on a whetstone because of they way they are processed.
The use of other sharpening products should be avoided.
For other knives, it is however inadvisable to change arbitrarily from one sharpening procedure to another!