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Thread: What constitutes a good sharpener?

  1. #1

    What constitutes a good sharpener?

    I think I am getting decent with my sharpening, although I am still improving on many things.

    I can get a knife to pass the 3-finger test, stick to the thumbnail, and push cut newspaper. It cuts food well.

    I'm still working on getting a perfectly even bevel down the whole edge. My weaknesses tend to be the tip and heel, although they aren't too bad. I'm also working on removing as little metal as possible, but that's a tough one for me. One of my big problems I think is consistency. Each time I sit down and sharpen, I can get consistent angles, but I think I'm going at a different angle for each sharpening session. Maybe I'll just use a simple reference for the time being. Don't even ask me about asymmetry, I haven't got a clue how to approach that for a given knife.

    My biggest problem though is getting a sense for what the knife needs, and seeing the big picture. I feel like I can get a knife sharp, but I am not a good sharpener (kind of like making decent bread through recipes, without understanding why the techniques work).

    Any other things to consider? Thanks!

  2. #2
    Senior Member chinacats's Avatar
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    Mar 2012
    I'm not great, but have learned a lot by taking pics that I can blow up and see the 'damage' or the success. I do think the tips are my biggest weakness, but unless I pay close attention, I tend to neglect the heel area; sad because that area is usually fairly easy to get right. I think you've already discovered the 'touch,' going light enough to not remove much metal is also a good way to make for cleaner edges.

    Pictures actually are the best way in my mind to 'see' the big picture.

    once in a while you get shown the light, in the strangest of places if you look at it right

  3. #3
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Alot depends on your aim wt sharpening.I would often put thin bevels on carbons for fruits & vegitables,Gyuto & cleaver.My dedicated Lobster cleaver was also thin & lite,but put a micro bevel to go thru the shell.Convex edge even on my heavy bone cleaver.So depends on the job.

    For alot of the show knives on this forum,a good looking even edge is the aim,& not to scratch the sides of the blade.When I started sharpening other's Damascus blades,had to slow down & be more careful thinning so the polished back bevel is even.

    Move fast on the stones wt. my carbons,cause low starting angles,even the mud can scuff higher on the blade,but the blades cut well but do not look as nice.All of blade road must be sharpened,nothing worse than a neglegted high heel.

    I think as you progress in sharpening,it is a flow of steel on stone.Not stopping,confidence of your angle set,continual movement fr. heel to tip.Flip the blade over same thing.

  4. #4
    Determining and executing the proper edge for the blade and it's jobs, burr removal, even bevels, proper thinning, consistency.
    "God sends meat and the devil sends cooks." - Thomas Deloney

  5. #5
    Senior Member Chefdog's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Outside the Beltway
    IMHO, like everything else that you do in the kitchen it comes down to 2 things:
    1- Understanding the principles and techniques you are using to accomplish the task at hand.
    2- Consistently and successfully executing those fundamental techniques.

    Whether its making an omelet, or cutting in a consistent bevel, you have to understand the theory behind what you're doing. Then you have to practice until you can deliberately execute the technique every time.

  6. #6
    Senior Member zitangy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2011

    we look and yet we dont see, we touch and yet we do not feel, we listen adn yet we do not hear. Generally either one is our main representational system or input visual ( see),audio (Hearing) or kinesthetic ( touch/feel). In the case of knife sharpening.. the primaryrepresentational system has to be the sense of touch which may not be heightened for some people. IT can be developed. I also assume that if we can use all our senses in what ever we do, the results wle be far superior. But alas, I found out only later in life that my main system was only visual and yet I do not see and was a mediocre performer. KNife sharpening made me realise that I have to engage my 5 senses when ever I can in any task.

    For sharpening, we need to develop to the stage that our sense of touch is heightened. IT calls for practice and practice. After feeling the edge for the burr and sharpness/ keeness regularly and if we do focus on it adn try to remember the feeling of it, eventually our fingers will remember it. Once you get the hang of it.. you know which shld be yr starting stone, roughly how many strokes or just a few laps on the finishing stone..

    to learn any skill, its like riding a bicycle..
    step one.. you know you cant do it
    step 2.. you try and fail and each time you get better
    Step 3.. Can do stage but must focus as if not yu will make mistakes and fall
    step 4.. persevere adn it till enter the subconscious adn you can ride while smoking or even talking on the phone and at teh same time looking at the birds!

    The same step applies in our quest in learning to sharpen. The big picture became clear for me was when i realized the following
    1_ when 2 acute angles has to be sharp. IF I want it sharper it has to be thinner adn lower angle
    2. Sharpening is just about steel removal. AS the knife is tapered.. it is thus not surprising that the heel area needs more work as it is thicker. FOr teh tip area.. because of the curve it does not come to contact with teh stone. Has to be worked separately. So remove steel where it is required. So do what it takes to remove the steel.
    3.The burr/ folded steel needs to be knocked off unless we magically can feel when to stop at the optimum point. we have to knock it off.
    4. FInally I like to use thumb and middle finger to feel the thickness to feel the thickness of the blade.

    So do what it takes to achieve yr objective adn of course know the purpose / what you are trying to accomplish specifically with each stroke adn , With a little concerted effort, it will enter the subconscious level..

    I hope this helps..

    rgds d

  7. #7
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Good points Zitangy.I use bicycle,babies learning to walk,& surfing as examples in my classes.

  8. #8

    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Salt Lake City, UT
    If it works for you....

  9. #9
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    washington dc
    you're a good sharpener if you can get your knives really freaking sharp! that's all that matters to me anyway. even bevels, non scratched up sides, whatever, if the blade performs well then it's a good sharpening session.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Chef Doom's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Los Angeles, Ca
    +1 what panda said.

    I basically look for the following.

    1. Does it cut through the tomato with ease? Check

    2. Does it cut with out causing the accordion effect? Check

    3. Does it do 1 and 2 successfully 30 tomatoes down the line? Check

    4. Repeat by replacing the underline with onion, bell pepper, meat of choice, etc.
    "Into a country where the jails are full, and the mad houses closed." - Charles Bukowski

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