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View Full Version : Newb to Sharpening - Restoring Knives (Western/German)



WRXpilot
10-26-2011, 05:20 PM
Hi all,

I have a ~5 year-old set of Wusthof Classics that are in need of some TLC. They haven't seen any maintenance other than grooved and ceramic steels, and they're now quite dull as you'd imagine after 5 years of (home) use on the factory edge.

I'd like to bring them back up to respectable cutting performance, and was hoping to get some advice here, to either confirm or correct the impressions I've gotten after doing some research on my own.

I'm guessing a simple ~20* bevel (or a 15/20 double bevel as illustrated in Chad Ward's eGullet article) would wind up being sharper than "new" on these blades, and would be achievable with a combo 1k/6k waterstone? Am I barking up the wrong tree here?

I've filled out the "What knife should I buy" questionnaire, in case any of the answers to those question might influence how I should deal with these knives (I'm mainly concerned w/ the 8" chef's knife here):

What type of knife(s) do you think you want?

Big old thick, soft Soligen steel - already own 'em

What do you like and dislike about these qualities of your knives already?
Aesthetics- Fine; conservative & plain
Edge Quality/Retention- Can't complain; seemed "Stupid sharp" when new, stayed "sharp enough" for years w/ minimal maintenance (probably not by this forum's standards though)
Ease of Use-I don't really have anything profound to say here? I like the shape of the blade and the way it works on the board as-is.
Comfort- Like the heavier Euro-style blade/balance; picked Wusthofs over other makes tried at purchase (Henkels, Shun) because they "felt better" in the hand.

What grip do you use? Switch between pinch grip & finger point grips, depending on what I'm doing.

What kind of cutting motion do you use? Rocking, push cut, walk (in order of frequency)

Where do you store them? Block, edge up or to the side

Have you ever oiled a handle? Composite, so no.

What kind of cutting board(s) do you use? Plastic (meat), wood (veggies)

For edge maintenance, do you use a strop, honing rod, pull through/other, or nothing? Grooved steel included w/ set, and Ikea ceramic rod "steel"

Have they ever been sharpened? No. :O

What is your budget? <$100 to start (materials)

What do you cook and how often? Typical American dinner fare, 4-5 nights/week

I realize I could send these out to be sharpened, but where's the fun in that? Any advice that will help me improve these blades, rather than destroy them, is greatly appreciated.

Thanks!

-pilot

tk59
10-26-2011, 05:44 PM
I'd get a fine diamond stone and go from there. If you don't want to jack-up your knives aesthetically, make sure the spine of the knife is high off of your plate to begin with and mark the edge with a black sharpie to see where you are scratching the metal. Make sure you are hitting the tip and the heel and take some time to grind off some of the bolster. Good luck!

Amon-Rukh
10-26-2011, 05:45 PM
I'm aure that others with more sharpening experience than me will be alomg to give you more help, but to answer the most basic question of yours, yes a simple 1k/6k stone should be fine for what you have. That's been good enough for my henckles 4-stars, which should be similar to the Wusthof. If your knives are very worn down or you want to start thining them you'll probably want a coarser stone to start with or go with tk59s suggestion!

Eamon Burke
10-26-2011, 06:11 PM
... and take some time to grind off some of the bolster. Good luck!
I'm pretty sure he meant "shoulder". Don't need to grind off the bolster!

:ntmy:
Welcome!


Don't take them up to a 6k stone. Not that it's just a waste of time, but they will really perform WORSE with a highly polished edge. These knives are designed to be sharpened by aggressive mechanical means, and should be.

You'll really get the best edge out of them having someone with experience and skill sharpen them on a belt. You can sharpen them on stones for fun, even get them shaving-sharp...but they will be stronger, longer lasting, more well-rounded edges if they are put on there with a belt. Sorry to say, but that's how it is.

If you are less interested in function and more looking to have some fun, you can get a stone to sharpen on. It doesn't really matter which one--seriously. Black Arkansas Stone, Belgian Coticule, Shapton 2k, Chosera 400, King 1k, whatever. They need new edges, and any new edge is better than no edge, and once you put it to the ceramic steel a few times, the initial grit level will not matter anymore.

Hope that helps!

Benuser
10-26-2011, 06:59 PM
First thing to do is thinning. I think I would try to get a burr at 10 degree, just to make sure you removed all old steel. That will be your relief bevel. You may set your actual cutting edge at 13-15 degree, with a J1000 stone.

tk59
10-26-2011, 08:52 PM
I'm pretty sure he meant "shoulder". Don't need to grind off the bolster!No. I meant bolster, as in the place where the edge on the heel of the knife meets the thick POS metal thing. And yes, if you have a "full" bolster, you need to grind the bottom so that you maintain board contact with the heel portion of your edge (avoid recurve).

Eamon Burke
10-26-2011, 08:57 PM
Oh yeah that thing. My absolute least favorite thing to see on a knife Im working on...such an excessive solution! But yes, that needs to be r reshaped.


Thinning, bolster shaping...seriously, people do this for wusthofs? On stones?

Vertigo
10-26-2011, 10:22 PM
Thinning, bolster shaping...seriously, people do this for wusthofs? On stones?
I've done it with stones on a few our shop Whusties, as a "course study." Nasty snaggletooth bolsters keeping the edges from making full board contact, caused by years of abusive sharpening practices.

It was miserable experience I do not intend to repeat. :bashhead:

WRXpilot
10-27-2011, 12:22 AM
Thanks for the advice so far guys; sounds like the full waterstone approach just isn't worth it on blades this thick and "soft"?

I do have some diamond stones (plates, really) intended for sharpening tools. They seem as though they'd be too course for kitchen knives though. It's a set of 3, labeled as grits 180 (coarse), 260 (med) and 360 (fine), but I don't know the actual particle size on any of them, or how/if the labeled grit values correspond to any other particular grading standard. Even the "fine" stone at 360 grit seems as though it would be a very aggressive cutter for this type of work.

I was actually thinking they'd be perfect for keeping a waterstone flat, not for use on the knives themselves.

I've also read about the so-called "mouse pad method", w/ sanding paper to create a convex edge. Maybe this would be closer to a belt sharpening, which I don't have the facilities/skill to do?

I (now) know all about the bolster problem, and was kinda hoping to not deal with it just yet, and concentrate on learning to put a good edge on the blades before dealing with major re-shaping issues down the line.

At the time we picked these knives out, I wasn't exactly a well-informed consumer, and these seemed a quantum leap forward over the stamped-blade stuck in a molded plastic handle el-cheapos we were used to. All that heft, thickness, and heavy full bolster seemed like marks of "forged blade" quality, to be sought out. I guess in reality, they're mediocre at best by modern standards, riding on the famous name behind them.

Just a historical curiosity: did Henckels/Zwilling/Wusthof/etc previously produce higher-quality stuff? Or has the definition of what's "good" simply move around them while they've failed to adapt? I know they have some super-premium stuff (ie Zwilling Kramer blades), and I'm not talking about that - I'm talking about the mainstream products that you see in any "upscale" kitchen store. I mean, they're not exactly cheap for blades that aren't very good...

heirkb
10-27-2011, 12:34 AM
Would it be possible to just take a Dremel to the bolster on one of these things? Just get rid of it all in one go instead of wearing it down on stones, which would take forever.

James
10-27-2011, 12:55 AM
I think someone at kkf did it a few years back on an old henckels. I expect it would need a bit of sand papering to round it out after

sachem allison
10-27-2011, 01:32 AM
Just a historical curiosity: did Henckels/Zwilling/Wusthof/etc previously produce higher-quality stuff? Or has the definition of what's "good" simply move around them while they've failed to adapt? I know they have some super-premium stuff (ie Zwilling Kramer blades), and I'm not talking about that - I'm talking about the mainstream products that you see in any "upscale" kitchen store. I mean, they're not exactly cheap for blades that aren't very good...


THey used to make damn good stuff. I have some Henckels that are a hundred years old that would give any Japanese knife I have used a run for it's money. Those were the days when knives were made by individual blacksmiths and cutlers, masters of their craft not machines. There was one steel really, Virgin carbon steel. They didn't have the impurity issues that manufacturers started to get in the 80's when everyone switched over to recycled steels. Microscopic impurities from plastics and misc. residue from car parts and other metals.
Industrialization killed the small time German knife maker, who lived on the quality and reputation of his products. mass production and maximized profits equals sh$t product for the masses.

MadMel
10-27-2011, 03:30 AM
And now they do 'outsource'. I've been told by a henckels salesperson that some of their knives are made in China. This was when I asked about the price differences

Lefty
10-27-2011, 05:40 AM
If it were me, I'd get a fine India stone and some soapy water. Use a sharpee to make sure you're hitting your proper bevel angle (I'd go 15 degrees, up to 20 max). Follow that up with an angled heel/finger guard material removal. For this, go spine up, jack your tip up to the ceiling at about a 30-45 degree angle depending on what feels good to you. For this step, I use the side of my stone because it's a lot harder on your stone than regular sharpening (you'll groove the stone).
For maintenance, strop on your India stone and/or get a fine ceramic hone.
I'm not a Wusthof fan, but I'm not a hater either. They are a good knife, and worth taking care of, if that's what you have and like. They aren't old Henckels, or Sabs, but they're still better than most people know what to do with.
We're knife snobs here....

Salty dog
10-27-2011, 08:05 AM
WIP. Vintage Dexter-Russel, the bottom knife was much worse than the top one. It had a huge bow and 1/3 of the blade was sharpened away. I removed the bolster completely from the blade.

http://i1036.photobucket.com/albums/a442/Saltys_knives/dex5.jpg

bprescot
10-27-2011, 11:12 AM
Ughh. I think a few people have done similar jobs. I took one on for my boss about a year ago. Apparently the blades were only two years old, but they looked like hell. To whomever was asking about the dremel to grind off the bolster, that's what I ended up doing and it still took forever. Dang. Those poor blades. They just didn't deserve that kind of abuse. I actually felt guilty sending them back to her once I got them all sorted.

WRXpilot
10-27-2011, 10:27 PM
After reading around some more on the 'net, I saw the suggestion that my Wusthof knives, and other german stainless blades like them, take a better edge on natural Arkansas stones than using synthetic Japanese waterstones.

Any thoughts on this idea?

Noodle Soup
10-28-2011, 08:47 AM
I have always found Arkansas stones good for finishing an edge but way too slow for sharpening a really dull one. I would suggest finding a Norton double sided India, medium and fine, lube it up with Simple Green cleaner, and establish your basic edge on the knives. Then, if you want, give them a few light passed over an Arkansas to finish it.

SpikeC
10-28-2011, 01:33 PM
There is such a broad range of grits in Arkansas stones that it difficult to just say "Arkansas" and have it mean anything.

Pensacola Tiger
10-28-2011, 01:36 PM
Ordo, over on FoodieForums, has a great thread on bolster removal:

http://www.foodieforums.com/vbulletin/showthread.php?6665-Good-bye-bolster!

Noodle Soup
10-28-2011, 03:44 PM
There is such a broad range of grits in Arkansas stones that it difficult to just say "Arkansas" and have it mean anything.

But they seem to run from fine to super fine in grit. I've never seen one I would really call a 400 grit.

SpikeC
10-28-2011, 04:35 PM
Washita is an Arkansas stone and quite coarse.

WRXpilot
10-28-2011, 06:58 PM
There is such a broad range of grits in Arkansas stones that it difficult to just say "Arkansas" and have it mean anything.
Sorry for not being specific to start with; the advice I saw recommended that german/euro knives taken up through fine India -> soft Ark -> black Ark come out just about as good as is possible for this knife/steel type. On synthetic waterstones, I gather this would be (somewhat) equivalent to JIS 600 -> 1000 -> 5000, but the implication was that the results w/ the Arks was superior to the "equivalent" synthetic waterstones (specifically for this kind of knife, not generally).

I was just curious if anyone here had any experience w/ them, and what they thought.

tk59
10-28-2011, 07:04 PM
Sorry for not being specific to start with; the advice I saw recommended that german/euro knives taken up through fine India -> soft Ark -> black Ark come out just about as good as is possible for this knife/steel type. On synthetic waterstones, I gather this would be (somewhat) equivalent to JIS 600 -> 1000 -> 5000, but the implication was that the results w/ the Arks was superior to the "equivalent" synthetic waterstones (specifically for this kind of knife, not generally).

I was just curious if anyone here had any experience w/ them, and what they thought.
I know a few people that have switched from Ark's to waterstones and none that have switched away. I sharpen all knives on waterstones or diamond plates and get good results although burr removal is a PITA sometimes. Maybe they help with that part?

Seb
10-28-2011, 09:21 PM
Just as a general comment, I occasionally fix friends' and colleagues' Mundials, Wusties and assorted trash knives with edges that looks like hacksaws and my weapon of choice is a Sigma Power Ceramic Series #120-grit. Thing cuts like a ravenous monster and looks exactly like a piece of highway.

Goes without saying that I would never use this ugly bastid on any of my own knives. lol