View Full Version : Needed: Sharpening tips for Mercers

Gravy Power
03-26-2013, 02:14 PM
Being the all-our awesome dude I am :angel2: I have volunteered to clean up a few of the students school issue Mercer's. A few have them have been recently scratched to all heck on the school's tri stone. I'm going to use the polishing tips (sandpaper, microfiber, polish) to restore their luster.

As far as cleaning up the edge, would you treat these like you would a 50/50 grind J-knife? I have Dave's core sharpeing kit (500, 1200, 5000) in addition to a small Shun combo stone (1000-6000). Not a fan of the tri stone at all, so I'm okay grinding away at my stones, though will probably reach for the Shun first. I do have a diamond flattening plate.

Any tips with this steel? Due to it's shape and large weird plastic handle I have particular trouble with the boning knife. Here are the knives:

Chef's (model M23520):




03-26-2013, 04:56 PM
A few weeks ago, I sharpened a number of similar knives - a short Henckels chef's knife, slicer and boning knife (forged knives) and a number of smaller Henckels paring and other knives (stamped) - about ten total. My set up consisted of a Gesshin 400, 2k, King 1000, 1200, and 6000. This was my experience sharpening those knives, which I would imagine are quite similar to what you're going to sharpen.

I was able to create the initial bevel using a Gesshin 400 relatively easy using moderate pressure. However, when I went up to a higher grit stone, the King 1200 and Gesshin 2k, using the same amount of pressure, I felt like the edge was literally crumbling on the stone. I could hear it. I tried to deburr after every stone as well; oftentimes, there wasn't really anything to deburr. (My friend told me that the knives had never been sharpened, so a lot of the steel that sounded like it was breaking off could have been fatigued metal.)

I went up to a steeper angle - I would estimate about 20 to 25 degree angle to make a stronger edge - and, although I didn't notice it as much, I still felt as if the same thing was happening and that I couldn't get a good, sharp, toothy edge using either the 1200 or 2k. I never bothered to go to the King 6k. I tried combinations of the stones that I had and I still couldn't get an edge I was happy with. I went over each knife at least two, if not three times. They were passably sharp, but I was not happy with any of them. They could slice paper, but not as smoothly as I had hoped.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks. I had a Sabatier Nogent carbon steel knife that I needed to sharpen and send out. I noticed a similar problem. I didn't feel like the edge was "breaking" off, but I still felt like the edge was just not staying sharp, even as I went up to a higher grit.

Remembering what Jon (of JKI) always recommends, "use light pressure," I did that with my higher grit stones. I used moderate pressure to create an initial bevel with my Gesshin 400, and then, as I moved to a King 1200 and the Gesshin 2000 (I tried both for the sake of feeling how the steel responded), but using significantly less pressure, I was able to get a very nice, toothy, edge. (I checked for burrs and didn't feel any.) A quick few passes on a leather strop with diamond spray, added a little more bite to the edge. (I went over the same knife using the the 400/2000, strop progression again to make sure and I was able to duplicate my results.) I was able to slice through paper extremely easily and smoothly.

I bring up my experience with the Nogent to the Henckels (and your situation) because the steels of the knives you're going to sharpen are likely soft. And you may feel like you're simply grinding and grinding away, but not getting an edge that you're happy with. I would absolutely recommend setting the bevel quickly using a lower grit and, at most, moderate pressure because that steel can just waste away on a coarse stone.

As you go up to a higher grit, use less pressure - a lot less pressure. I'm also not one to generally count strokes, and I will say that I'm by no means a great sharpener, but I found that counting strokes on the softer Nogent steel (soft compared to my other knives) also seemed to help.

But, for me, the most important thing that I learned was that had I used lighter pressure at higher grits on the Henckels knives, I would have probably been able to get an edge I was happier with, like I was with the Nogent.

As for the 50/50 grind, that's probably a safe thing to do, especially because you may be sharpening a knife that a left handed person uses. And for the boning knife, don't bother trying to sharpen the curve where the knife goes into the handle. You don't use that little part of the edge anyways and it's a pain to sharpen that area.

03-26-2013, 05:11 PM
I start with 400 then go to King 1000. I strop a few times on the 6000 side and call it done. Id estimate I use a 20 angle on each side. I've found Mercers to be decent entry kevel knife and have not had a problem getting them sharp.


03-26-2013, 06:25 PM
With soft French and German stainless I use essentially a Chosera 400, followed by very light stropping - a few strokes - on a Chosera 8OO, more or less equivalent to a J1200. Finer grits have really no sense, and are even counterproductive: the finer edge won't last. You may consider split leather for cleaning up, though.
If the blade has been steeled a lot you've probably to abrade a fair amount of steel before the buttery feeling disappears and you reach fresh steel that's capable of holding a decent edge.
By the way, with soft carbons, the use of the finest stones is just as useful as with harder carbons.

Gravy Power
03-26-2013, 09:53 PM
So sorry for the crude iphone photography, but here was my first project:



What's kind of ironic, is that the sharpening attempt on the school's tri-stone that produced this came from a member of our culinary competition team, who happens to have the best knife skills of the group. And not that we all suck. She can rock out perfect tourne's like it's no ones business. And here is another killer: She grew up in Okinawa, moving to the U.S. around the age of 18.

She recognizes the different geometry and edges of J-knives, she even works in a kitchen where the chef has incredibly impressive blades and stones, however she's never bothered to migrate them since she learned on Mercer's. She didn't really start cooking until after she moved to the U.S. so she had little motivation to follow the craft growing up. It's pretty funny though, as this girl is absolutely hilarious and has loads of talent. This wasn't even her knife, she was sharpening it for a teamate (a pastry student who runs desserts and has no interest in knives whatsoever). Aftwerwards she came up to me says: "Sh*t dude! I wasn't paying attention when I was sharpening Becca's knife and look what I did!"

El Pescador
03-26-2013, 11:45 PM
I think anything over a 1K stone is a waste on soft steel. If you want to give some performance, you could thin them on a belt prior to the stone work.

03-27-2013, 12:22 AM
Sometimes it seems to me that the dull as s##t edge on those will fold over kinda feeling like a burr.(maybe im wrong about what that is.) i sharpen till i feel that, then bend it witha dowel, deburr. and repeat with a bit more on the stone, waiting till the initial burr feels normal. If the knife isnt stupid dull i never have this issue.

Gravy Power
03-27-2013, 12:33 AM
When looking at the edge before I sharpened these, it appeared as it had been pretty much ground away on the bottom 70% of the knife. It was kinda sharp, but no edge that would last.The tip had largely been untouched accept for the scratches, which I'm guessing was due to the belly. I completyely redid the edge on the 500. Then finished on the Shun 1000/6000. I was able to put a pretty solid edge and new bevel on it. Though I agree with benuser, it almost felt like I went backwards with the 6000 stone. my sandpaper/microfiber/polishing cream combo did clean up the scratches, though nowhere near 100%, The knife is much sharper know, and has as actual bevel as compared to before.