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Thread: Newb to Sharpening - Restoring Knives (Western/German)

  1. #1

    Question Newb to Sharpening - Restoring Knives (Western/German)

    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?
    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.

    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.



  2. #2
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    San Diego, CA
    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!

  3. #3
    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!
    - Erik

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by tk59 View Post
    ... 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!


    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!

  5. #5
    Senior Member Benuser's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Amstelveen, The Netherlands
    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.

  6. #6
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    San Diego, CA
    Quote Originally Posted by johndoughy View Post
    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).

  7. #7
    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?

  8. #8
    Senior Member/ Internet Hooligan
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Quote Originally Posted by johndoughy View Post
    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.

  9. #9
    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...

  10. #10
    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.

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