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Thread: Elements of Sharpening

  1. #1

    Elements of Sharpening

    So i have been thinking quite a bit about sharpening and what most people/chef don't realize is that one properly sharpened knife is a very useful tool and a poorly sharpened knife is utterly useless even if it costs an absurd amount.

    For instance, i have started a local sharpening business around here nothing major but for some chefs and a couple restaurants locally. Anyways i was mentioning it to my co-workes and telling them what i charge etc and asking if anyone was interested. My chef started to ask questions and was completely dumfounded that i said id want $5 per knife(240mm+). I said well u know its done all by hand on stones no grinders or anything, and he says id rather use my pull through sharpener. He has a knife that is worth $200 and has never properly sharpened it. The geometry is ruined do to using these pull through sharpeners its rather frustrating.

    Anyways i told him id take it and do it for free just to get his opinion. Took me a while to get the profile back to good condition and some thinning behind the edge before i could even start sharpening it. i went from 400-2k synthetic and then finished it on jnats. Next day i gave it back to him and later admitted he was quite surprised by how well it cut and how even the bevel was along the edge.

    I also had another guy i work with start giving me a hard time about that it isn't hard to sharpen knives and that he'd never pay for it as well. Which he actually does a decent job of sharpening his own. But we got to discussing the methods and techniques. He is they type who is always going to disagree with you.

    I said well if you sharpen the knife and don't fully remove the burr, then you can have a sharp edge to start but it'll quickly degrade as if a wire edge. He disagreed saying that it'll wear off by normal use and that it wouldn't affect the edge retention.

    We also discussed sharpness from angles vs grit. I told him i believe that both are equally important due to the type of steel involved and of course he disagreed saying that not matter what knife you use if you use a constant angle and grit medium it should provide the same edge.

    Basically whether I'm right or wrong isn't what I'm getting at but i started thinking about how much goes into sharpening a single knife...most people say its just removing metal with a stone. which I'm sure anyone can get decent results but i know that i have come an extremely long way with my sharpening since i started and since i learned and experimented. On my personal work knives i can easily go a full month without feeling like needing to resharpen my knives, last year i was doing it every three days or so. I can also get the edge much sharper as well as toothier so that it holds up better.

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  3. #3
    Yep. I can't tell you how many times I've heard "No, we sharpen our own knives. They're pretty sharp." And I glance over at the prep station and it takes everything in me to not say "Um, no they aren't."

    I always tell people that yeah you can use a rod or a pull through, but eventually you need a new edge put on it. Also, I fix them when they are broken. That's usually reasonable enough to satisfy the chef's/husband's testicular flexing and get me some knives to sharpen.

    It's best to just cast a wide net, cut your losses on people who are like that guy, and do what it takes to be likable and get a sharpened knife in someone's hand.

    As far as people scoffing at the price, those people only want handouts. I mean, seriously, $5 a knife?? How much LESS do they want to pay? There are not a lot of numbers under 5.

  4. #4
    Pabloz's Avatar
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    I'm at a $1/ edge inch and all are happy with the results and plenty of repeats. The line I always hear is "most people don't know sharp, let me show you".....ok.....then I have to politely ask to "see if I can improve on that edge" and hand it back praying they don't "cut their hand off"...(Julia)...It really scares me to watch someone use a really sharp knife when all they have ever known is their "sharp."

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by BurkeCutlery View Post
    I mean, seriously, $5 a knife?? How much LESS do they want to pay? There are not a lot of numbers under 5.
    Rofl. Serious. It's tough competing with the guy who rolls in with his Chef's Choice and offers to do the whole inventory for a biscuit and a song, though.

  6. #6
    When I went restaurant to restaurant in my sharpening van I just about grew to hate the business. I was competing with either house knife rental/lease services or "the other guy in the van". Both offered faster service for far less cost. The best I could do was 60 knives an hour on site for a few dollars per knife and even this wasn't good enough. The quality of the work being performed was irrelevant.

    Funny story, one time I ran into "the other guy in the van" at one of my stops, I was surprised and thrilled because I could meet another sharpener and see how he does things. I had a pretty big van but his was nearly twice the length of mine so I was dying to see what he had inside that thing. When I hopped up in to introduce myself I almost fell backwards at what I saw for equipment.....1 Tru-Hone (giant sized Chef's Choice)....that's it! I'm not making this up either, that's all this guy had in his truck, a pull through device and the rest was all bench space, this just blew my mind. Turns out the guy was a butt head and not as happy to see me as I was to see him.

  7. #7
    Pabloz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Martell View Post
    The best I could do was 60 knives an hour on site for a few dollars per knife and even this wasn't good enough. The quality of the work being performed was irrelevant.
    At 60/hr you're SMOKIN!!!! I think the most I have EVER done was 50 in a day.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Pabloz View Post
    At 60/hr you're SMOKIN!!!! I think the most I have EVER done was 50 in a day.

    In my van, where everything was set up to perfection, I could do that when I needed to but the reality is that only the real big places offered that many at once. It was real common to do 30 in a 1/2 hr though and it's funny to think that some people thought I was too slow at that pace.

  9. #9
    Yeah, know the feeling.

    Me also went from a restaurant to restaurant to look for funny exotic blades to sharpen. Even though I would say I just want one to show you guys what sharp is, they would refuse.

    Once I went to "the best sushi place in the city".... They sharpened their own knives. I noticed one of the chefs cuts sashimi with global chefs knife, and had no other knives around. I left.

    Now I basically dont care anymore. I dont have enough time to sharpen shite knives, I pick carefully the things I will sharpen and polish, and get to know the owner s of them, so I can find out what how they use their knives. For those wisemen price aint a problem.
    But I also know those folks who wants to earn in the industry but dont want to spend money on proper tools maintenance.

  10. #10
    In my first quarter of school (about to enter my second, first in the kitchen), and I told one of my classmate/buddies about how we got 15% by being students. Later he went in to pick some stuff up and sharpen his Mercer's, but told me that they wouldn't apply that 15% to their sharpening service.

    I asked how much they charged, and he said $3 per knife. I thought I heard him say $3, but it didn't make any sense. "Thirty dollars?," I said..."No, $3," he said, "I wouldn't want to pay more than that."

    I didn't really didn't know much about knives at this point. Didn't know about stone sharpening versus whatever it is they use at SLT (diamond something?). But I was shocked he would mention that the 15% discount didn't apply to that price.

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