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cowboyardee
07-21-2011, 11:03 PM
Hi guys.

At another forum, I'm posting a comparison of different kinds of sharpening. It is a food forum, not a dedicated knife forum, so a lot of the people I'm writing for don't have very nice knives and aren't willing to spend a lot of time or money in maintaining em - few have the interest to learn to use a waterstone.

I post this here not because I think it will be helpful to you guys (most of you already know perfectly well how to sharpen), but to ask for any advice or tweaks. Does anything stand out to you as wrong or badly rated? Also, I figured some of you might at least find it interesting.

Here is the post from the other forum:

"One of the questions that gets asked often around here: "which sharpener is the best?" It's a very reasonable question, because reading about sharpeners is confusing. Most manufacturers talk up their sharpener as the ideal solution for everybody, admitting to no downsides. People who have picked one method or another tend to do the same. The knife nuts (myself included) tend to push high end methods that not everyone is willing to consider due to difficulty or expense - that stuff is all well and good for a dedicated forum about knives, but not for a more general food forum like this one. The reviews online are almost always glowing for any sharpener that works at all, since people are actually reflecting on how nice it is to have usably sharp knives.

What people don't realize is that all of the popular methods of sharpening involve a trade-off. There is no one best way to sharpen, nothing that is simultaneously easy, cheap, fast, and produces top-notch results. If there was, everybody would be using it.

I've decided that what people need is a way to quickly compare the most popular methods of sharpening (we'll leave maintenance in between sharpenings for another day). So I've listed here the most common types of sharpening, and scored them ('very low' to 'very high') on several categories. These categories are:
Fast - how fast these methods are as they are actually used by most people. In other words, this is not just a measurement of grinding power
Easy - considers not just ease of use, but also learning curve
Effective - how sharp an edge it produces, how it affects edge retention, whether it allows you to thin behind the edge for improved cutting and continued performance
Cheap - low = expensive, high = cheap. Sorry for any confusion
Versatile - a combination of two things. One is whether a sharpener works well on different types of knives, and different edge angles, and different types of steel. The other is whether the sharpener quickly changes the geometry of the edge, usually by removing metal very aggressively, thus damaging performance or shortening the lifespan of the knife.

Without further ado:

Carbide shearing sharpener (Accusharp type)
Tungsten carbide blades set in a V which shave bits of metal off the edge
Example: http://www.amazon.com/Chefs-Choice-Professional-Knife-Sharpening-Platinum/dp/B000CSK0DM
Fast.......... Very High
Easy......... Very high
Effective.. Low-Medium*
Cheap...... Very high
Versatile.. Very low**
*Depends greatly on the knife being sharpened
**Not only do carbide shearing sharpeners remove metal quickly and typically not adjust their angle to the knife - they seem not to work on harder, more brittle steels, causing chips and splinters rather than sharpening smoothly. I tried one recently on a hitachi white steel 'fruit' knife (hrc 63) - the result wasn't pretty.

Whetstones
Self-explanatory
Fast.......... Very Low-Medium*
Easy......... Very low
Effective.. Very high
Cheap...... Very Low-High**
Versatile.. Very high
*Early on, sharpening takes a looong time. With practice, most people get much faster
**You can get the stones to do good work for under $10 (a hardware store oilstone) and great work for under $70 (a combo medium and fine grit waterstone, a cheap coarse stone, and a homemade strop). BUT many people who use whetstones wind up spending more than that, either because they view it as a hobby they want to enjoy or because they are chasing the 'perfect edge' or because they become convinced early on that their mediocre results are the fault of their equipment rather than their still-underdeveloped skill.

Electric sharpener (Chef's Choice powered sharpeners)
Example: http://www.amazon.com/Chefs-Choice-Professional-Knife-Sharpening-Platinum/dp/B000CSK0DM
Fast.......... Very high
Easy......... High
Effective.. Medium
Cheap...... Low
Versatile.. Low

Abrasive rods in an X shape (handheld Wusthof sharpener)
Rods are at a fixed angle, and sharpen both sides at the same time. Often found as one part of a two part sharpening system - usually along with a carbide sharpener.
Example: Whustof's 2 stage sharpener http://www.amazon.com/W%C3%BCsthof-2904-7-W%25fcsthof-2-Stage-Sharpener/dp/B0009NMVRI/ref=sr_1_10?s=home-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1311257145&sr=1-10
Fast.......... Low*
Easy......... High*
Effective.. Very Low*
Cheap...... Very High*
Versatile.. Low*
*These ratings are just for the abrasive rods part of the sharpener, not for the combined 2 stage system using a carbide sharpener. Many people buying the 2 stage system seldom use the rods or else find that the rods are mainly useful in maintaining a mostly-sharp edge, but not in sharpening a dull one.

Variable-Angle rods (Spyderco Sharpmaker)
Rods set at an angle, but only one side is sharpened at a time. Rods can sometimes be laid flat and used without an angle guide like very narrow whetstones.
Example: http://www.amazon.com/Spyderco-Tri-Angle-Sharpmaker-Sharpener-204MF/dp/B000Q9C4AE/ref=sr_1_1?s=home-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1311257502&sr=1-1
Fast.......... Low*
Easy......... Medium
Effective.. High
Cheap...... Medium
Versatile.. Medium
*Sharpening a fully dull knife with one of these takes a LOOONG time. But maintaining a sharp edge is reasonably quick.

Wheel sharpeners (cheap, handheld Chefs Choice sharpeners)
Wheels hold the knife against stationary v-shaped abrasives (sometimes, just springed walls are used instead of wheels). Both sides are typically sharpened at once.
Example: http://www.amazon.com/Choice-Diamond-Manual-Straight-Sharpener/dp/B00009R5OY/ref=sr_1_44?s=home-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1311257742&sr=1-44
Fast.......... Medium
Easy......... High
Effective.. Very low
Cheap...... High
Versatile.. Low

Angle controlled system (EdgePro, Wicked Edge System)
Un-powered mechanical device boasting varied abrasives, very controlled customizable sharpening angles
Example: http://edgeproinc204.corecommerce.com/Apex-Model-Edge-Pro-System-c3/
Fast.......... Low
Easy......... Medium
Effective.. Very High
Cheap...... Very Low
Versatile.. High

Professional sharpening.
Speaks for itself.
Fast.......... Very Low**
Easy......... Very High
Effective.. High*
Cheap...... Low*
Versatile.. High**
*These factors are heavily dependent upon the pro sharpener in question. Figures provided are guesses/averages, assuming that your professional sharpener at least is minimally competent.
**These factors especially

Honing steel
A grooved honing steel used as the knife's only form of sharpening.
Example: http://www.amazon.com/Wusthof-4461-23-9-Inch-Sharpening-Steel/dp/B00074PDE2/ref=sr_1_1?s=home-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1311260114&sr=1-1
Fast.......... Low-High*
Easy......... Medium
Effective.. Very Low-Low**
Cheap...... High
Versatile..Very Low
*A honing steel is fast assuming you use it every time you use the knife.
** Many say that a steel only trues an edge, and for most people that is true. However, I've come across people who use their grooved steel like a file (applying more pressure), and actually scrape off enough metal that the steel is effectively sharpening the knife, albeit not especially well. This type of use is dependent on technique and also what knives you're using.

Ceramic/diamond honing steel
A ceramic or diamond abrasive honing steel used as a knife's only form of sharpening
Example: http://www.amazon.com/Henckels-10-Inc...
Fast.......... Very Low-High*
Easy......... Medium
Effective.. Medium
Cheap...... Medium
Versatile.. Medium
*A ceramic steel is fast assuming you use it every time you use the knife. It is very slow to sharpen a fully dull knife with one.

These figures are the best I could come up with. I have first hand experience with all of the above types of sharpener except for the Variable Angle rods/Sharpmaker style - for that, I've extrapolated from reviews and what I know of sharpening."

That was it. Any suggestions from this forum?

cowboyardee
07-21-2011, 11:04 PM
Once this is finalized, I'll probably make a color coded graph for easier quick reference.

JohnnyChance
07-21-2011, 11:11 PM
I would change "fast" to "speed" and then change the ratings to slow, average, fast, etc.

cowboyardee
07-21-2011, 11:21 PM
I would change "fast" to "speed" and then change the ratings to slow, average, fast, etc.

Yeah, the wording is still pretty clunky. Basically, I was just trying to keep 'low'=bad and 'high'=good. Hence low=expensive. I had already decided to change 'cheap' to 'affordability' or something like that, so changing 'fast' to 'speed' would also seem like a good idea.

AUSSIE BURLS
07-21-2011, 11:27 PM
THANKS-I must say- its very informative--coOl--MARK

JohnnyChance
07-21-2011, 11:32 PM
Yeah, the wording is still pretty clunky. Basically, I was just trying to keep 'low'=bad and 'high'=good. Hence low=expensive. I had already decided to change 'cheap' to 'affordability' or something like that, so changing 'fast' to 'speed' would also seem like a good idea.

"Cost" maybe. "Easy" to "Difficulty".

cowboyardee
07-21-2011, 11:45 PM
"Cost" maybe. "Easy" to "Difficulty".

Right now I'm thinking
Fast -> Speed
Easy -> Ease
Effective -> Performance
Cheap -> Affordability
Versatile -> Versatility

Some of these are still clunky words, but they're less grammatically wonky. And it's still important to me that I stick with one scale (V. low - V. high) where 'low' is undesirable and 'high' is a good thing across all the categories.

Thanks for the suggestions. It definitely needs a little work.

Eamon Burke
07-22-2011, 01:16 AM
This is a bit TMI for casual, uncaring users. I'd pair this with a much simpler rundown of what is going on for those that are really clueless or careless, and then it will free you up to focus on accuracy with this one, instead of simplifying.

This needs to be in graph form. It's too hard to visualize all of this information after translating it. The words used for ranking the qualities would either be inaccurate independently(by standardizing them), or confusing collectively(by diversifying them). I would think the bar graphs would end up kind of like the rundown you get in racing video games of each car "top speed, acceleration, etc"...they can be very informative, but must be done very uniformly or else they get confusing.

You have LOTS of info on many different kinds of pull-through sharpeners. That's really great that you've done that, I might reference this in the future for something. I HATE pull-through sharpeners, so if I'd done this list it'd be more like "Whetstones, services, jigs, honing rods, and crap, crap, megacrap".

The "angle controlled systems" are precisely called "jigs", it's not just lingo. The problem calling them "angle controlled systems" is that other systems(like the Chef's Choice) are angle-controlled, but not jigs.

I would also ask the moderators in advance if they are cool with you posting Amazon links in something that(I am assuming) you want to be stickied. It's kind of a running endorsement, Google-wise.

I also think this should be moved to the Kitchen Knife Knowledge Center! :2cents:

cowboyardee
07-23-2011, 03:54 AM
Thanks for the feedback. I will make a graph eventually, but only once I'm pretty sure I'm not gonna tweak my numbers. I agree that the information might be too much and too buried for a casual reader. To combat this, I've reformatted and put the important information all at the top of the post. The reformatted list follows.

Linking to amazon is no problem on the other forum, but if it's a problem here, the Mods are welcome to PM me and I'll take the links down. I just have them up as a reference, not as a suggestion.

Here is the reformatted post:

Below is a comparison of different methods of sharpening. All numerical scores are relative. Scores are on a 1-5 scale. 1 is the lowest or least desirable score and 5 is the highest.

Carbide shearing sharpener (Accusharp type)
Speed............ 5
Ease............... 5
Performance.. 2-3 [a]
Affordability.. 5
Versatility...... 1 [b]

Whetstones
Speed............ 1-3 [c]
Ease............... 1
Performance.. 5
Affordability.. 1-4 [d]
Versatility...... 5

Electric sharpener (Chef's Choice powered sharpeners)
Speed............ 5
Ease............... 4
Performance.. 3
Affordability.. 2
Versatility...... 2

Abrasive rods in an X shape (handheld Wusthof sharpener)
Speed............ 2 [e]
Ease............... 4 [e]
Performance.. 1 [e]
Affordability.. 5 [e]
Versatility...... 2 [e]

Variable-Angle rods (Spyderco Sharpmaker)
Speed............ 2 [f]
Ease............... 3
Performance.. 4
Affordability.. 3
Versatility...... 3

Wheel sharpeners (cheap, handheld Chefs Choice sharpeners)
Speed............ 3
Ease............... 4
Performance.. 1
Affordability.. 5
Versatility...... 2

Jigs (EdgePro, Wicked Edge System)
Speed............ 2
Ease............... 3
Performance.. 5
Affordability.. 1
Versatility...... 4

Professional sharpening
Speed............ 1 [g, h]
Ease............... 5
Performance.. 4 [g]
Affordability.. 2 [g]
Versatility...... 4 [g, h]

Honing steel
Speed............ 3-4 [i]
Ease............... 3
Performance.. 1-2 [j]
Affordability.. 4
Versatility......1

Ceramic/diamond honing steel
Speed............ 1-4 [k]
Ease............... 3
Performance.. 3
Affordability.. 3
Versatility...... 3

EXPLANATIONS OF TYPES OF SHARPENERS

Carbide shearing sharpener (Accusharp type):
Tungsten carbide blades set in a V which shave bits of metal off the edge
Example: http://www.amazon.com/Chefs-Choice-Professional-Knife-Sharpening-Platinum/dp/B000CSK0DM

Abrasive rods in an X shape (handheld Wusthof sharpener):
Rods are at a fixed angle, and sharpen both sides at the same time. Often found as one part of a two part sharpening system - usually along with a carbide sharpener.
Example: Whustof's 2 stage sharpener http://www.amazon.com/W%C3%BCsthof-2904-7-W%25fcsthof-2-Stage-Sharpener/dp/B0009NMVRI/ref=sr_1_10?s=home-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1311257145&sr=1-10

Variable-Angle rods (Spyderco Sharpmaker):
Rods set at an angle, but only one side is sharpened at a time. Rods can sometimes be laid flat and used without an angle guide like very narrow whetstones.
Example: http://www.amazon.com/Spyderco-Tri-Angle-Sharpmaker-Sharpener-204MF/dp/B000Q9C4AE/ref=sr_1_1?s=home-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1311257502&sr=1-1

Wheel sharpeners (cheap, handheld Chefs Choice sharpeners):
Wheels hold the knife against stationary v-shaped abrasives (sometimes, just springed walls are used instead of wheels). Both sides are typically sharpened at once.
Example: http://www.amazon.com/Choice-Diamond-Manual-Straight-Sharpener/dp/B00009R5OY/ref=sr_1_44?s=home-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1311257742&sr=1-44

Jigs (EdgePro, Wicked Edge System)
Un-powered mechanical device boasting varied abrasives, very controlled customizable sharpening angles
Example: http://edgeproinc204.corecommerce.com/Apex-Model-Edge-Pro-System-c3/

Honing steel
A handheld grooved steel rod used as the knife's only form of sharpening.
Example: http://www.amazon.com/Wusthof-4461-23-9-Inch-Sharpening-Steel/dp/B00074PDE2/ref=sr_1_1?s=home-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1311260114&sr=1-1

Ceramic/diamond honing steel
A handheld ceramic or diamond abrasive-coated rod used as a knife's only form of sharpening
Example: http://www.amazon.com/Henckels-10-Inc...

EXPLANATION OF SCORING

Speed - how fast these methods are as they are actually used by most people. In other words, this is not just a measurement of grinding power
Ease - considers not just ease of use, but also learning curve
Performance - how sharp an edge it produces, how it affects edge retention, whether it allows you to thin behind the edge for improved cutting and continued performance
Affordability - 1=expensive and 5=cheap. Sorry for any confusion
Versatility - a combination of two things. One is whether a sharpener works well on different types of knives, and different edge angles, and different types of steel. The other is whether the sharpener quickly changes the geometry of the edge, usually by removing metal very aggressively, thus damaging performance or shortening the lifespan of the knife.

Notes:
[a] Depends greatly on the knife being sharpened
[b] Not only do carbide shearing sharpeners remove metal quickly and typically not adjust their angle to the knife - they seem not to work on harder, more brittle steels, causing chips and splinters rather than sharpening smoothly. I tried one recently on a hitachi white steel 'fruit' knife (hrc 63) - the result wasn't pretty.
[c] Early on, sharpening takes a looong time. With practice, most people get much faster
[d] You can get the stones to do good work for under $10 (a hardware store oilstone) and great work for under $70 (a combo medium and fine grit waterstone, a cheap coarse stone, and a homemade strop). BUT many people who use whetstones wind up spending more than that, either because they view it as a hobby they want to enjoy or because they are chasing the 'perfect edge' or because they become convinced early on that their mediocre results are the fault of their equipment rather than their still-underdeveloped skill.
[e] These ratings are just for the abrasive rods part of the sharpener, not for the combined 2 stage system using a carbide sharpener. Many people buying the 2 stage system seldom use the rods or else find that the rods are mainly useful in maintaining a mostly-sharp edge, but not in sharpening a dull one.
[f]Sharpening a fully dull knife with one of these takes a LOOONG time. But maintaining a sharp edge is reasonably quick.
[g] These factors are heavily dependent upon the pro sharpener in question. Figures provided are guesses/averages, assuming that your professional sharpener at least is minimally competent.
[h] These factors especially
[i] A honing steel is fast assuming you use it every time you use the knife.
[j] Many say that a steel only trues an edge, and for most people that is true. However, I've come across people who use their grooved steel like a file (applying more pressure), and actually scrape off enough metal that the steel is effectively sharpening the knife, albeit not especially well. This type of use is dependent on technique and also what knives you're using.
[k] A ceramic steel is fast assuming you use it every time you use the knife. It is very slow to sharpen a fully dull knife with one."

That was it.
An improvement?

mr drinky
07-23-2011, 09:55 AM
I think it is an improvement, but after waking up and reading the whole first post I need to digest it some more. With that said, I think a general guide like this would be good for chowhound, which is the form I think you are talking about. Here we love the people who ask for knife buying advice over and over as it is a proxy for our own excessive habits, but on Chow, multiple similar threads is a bit of a problem IMO. A post like this would be good to reference back to and have a more standard info package and not get a bunch of people chiming in about their favorite electric sharpener or get a bunch of knife nuts dragging the post into different stone grits (even though that is what they should do);)

Btw, you left out the sharpener that is mounted on the back of a can opener.

k.

mhlee
07-23-2011, 11:20 AM
Btw, you left out the sharpener that is mounted on the back of a can opener.

k.

Yes, you forgot that one.

And the "Performance" rating for that should be "CRAP."

Eamon Burke
07-23-2011, 11:28 AM
Yes, I do think it's an improvement! Good idea separating it out, the way it will(I assume) be done when the graph is integrated.

cowboyardee
07-23-2011, 01:35 PM
Thanks for the feedback guys.


I think a general guide like this would be good for chowhound, which is the form I think you are talking about.


Very perceptive



Btw, you left out the sharpener that is mounted on the back of a can opener.

k.

I also left out a couple perennial favorites over on CH:
1) swear up and down that your knives which haven't been sharpened in a decade are 'razor sharp' and get offended if someone implies otherwise
Speed.........5
Ease...........5
Performance.-1
Affordability..5
Versatility....1
2) buy all new knives, throw away old ones
Speed.........4
Ease...........4
Performance.2-4
Affordability..1
Versatility....5

mr drinky
07-23-2011, 06:17 PM
Just a couple more points cowboyardee.

(1) I thought I heard shun was discontinuing sharpening service, but maybe I am wrong. Regardless, some places such as Japanwoodworker provide free sharpening. You only pay postage, so some of the professional services can be quite cheap.
(2) I wouldn't recommend adding this necessarily, but sandpaper is always an option. I think Chad Ward went into some detail about this in his book and offered it as a cheap option if a person doesn't want to invest in stones.

Just thought I would mention it.

k.

ecchef
07-23-2011, 11:07 PM
I think you should add another line: potential disaster factor.
Some of these methods are very unforgiving. And some will ruin you blade even if used as recommended.

mr drinky
07-24-2011, 12:12 AM
I think you should add another line: potential disaster factor.
Some of these methods are very unforgiving. And some will ruin you blade even if used as recommended.

That's so true. Some sharpening tools are very unforgiving and completely inappropriate for certain types of knives. There needs to be a "Danger Will Robinson" category.

k.

cowboyardee
07-26-2011, 01:47 AM
I think you should add another line: potential disaster factor.
Some of these methods are very unforgiving. And some will ruin you blade even if used as recommended.

It came up on the other forum - I had already excluded a belt sander from the list because the learning curve usually entails ruining some knives unless you're already quite good on stones (in which case you don't need a guide like this one), and that's usually a problem for home cooks.

How would you score these devices in terms of disaster factor? That's not really a rhetorical question.

My thinking has been that such a category is really difficult to score on its own. Look at other sharpeners. What's easier to destroy a knife with - stones or an Accusharp? The answer is gonna depend on the knife in question. Or consider a hone - it's very slow and occurs over period of years, but lots of people ignore their knife's heel and wind up leaving a lot of accordion cuts.

My hope was that the 'versatility' category would give most of this information. But maybe we need another category to point out that being sloppy with a Chefs Choice electric sharpener can result in serious damage?

Eamon Burke
07-26-2011, 01:04 PM
I think the potential for destruction is part of "ease of use". None of these are difficult to get to work(you don't have to crank them), its difficult to get them to work properly.