If you use your knives, obviously you do need to sharpen them. My personal philosophy regarding the subject is, that one must do that [sharpen own knives] himself or herself. Even if you are ok with sending back and forth your expensive blades to the makers and factories, which implies the risk of loss, breaking, other damage, less likely that you'll keep your kitchen knives sharp using that approach, simply because you use them more and need to sharpen them more often. Besides, sending the knife away for sharpening may not be an option, depending on the situation.
On the other hand, Alton Brown, the host of Iron Chef Of America TV show, who owns a rather large collection of Shun knives, states that he sends in his knives once a year for sharpening. Frankly, that was really surprising to me, he's quite a knife guy, so I would expect that he'd be doing his sharpening himself, but as his said, that's not the case. Although, if you aren't good yet with sharpening, but your 3000$ Yanagi needs sharpening, you either wait until you get good with sharpening, or send it to the pro.
I can sincerely recommend Dave Martel's Japanese Knife Sharpening as one of the best. His prices are very reasonable; the edge he can put on your knife will be nothing short of astounding. It took me years, literally, to master that kind of the edge, and several screwed up edges and stones, too. Dave's doing sharpening works for many pro cooks in this country, he'll take care of you, too. On the other hand, sending him a 40$ Victorinox knife is hardly justifiable.
There are a few more reasons, as to why you should sharpen your knives, especially factory knives:
- Factory knives in 99% of cases are not sharpened well, sometimes simply dull;
- Even when they are shaving sharp, they are still far from their full potential, because the sharpening job is geared towards the average user, who (the statistical average user) is treating knives really badly. E.g. one of my all time favorite folders, Benchmade 710, as usual comes with an edge that measures 45°-50° included, sometimes even thicker. It still can shave, but what's the point... Now bring the edge down to 30°-35°, or even lower, and you will see the cutting performance increase 5-7 times, sounds good? Kitchen knives are the worst case, a majority of them requiring thin edges by definition, and still having 50° edges on them.
- The edge angle and type, most likely will not be optimal for the knife and/or your use.
Hence, it is well worth to:
- a) Read related materials, guides, etc. and watch instructional videos, before actually starting sharpening session.
- b) Spend hours learning proper sharpening techniques; though this is personal, some grasp it quickly, others need more time.
- c) Spend money on the right sharpening equipment; Amounts may vary depending on your needs, knives and their use.
- d) Potentially ruin a blade or two, during the process; Well, be careful and pay attention, no rush and hopefully you'll avoid that. Besides, common sense tells us to start practicing with an expendable piece ;)
Since I own a fairly large collection of various types and styles of knives, I use various sharpeners as well. On the other hand, it is absolutely possible to maintain very sharp knives with a much smaller selection of the sharpeners compared, to what I have acquired during the years of knife collecting. I can assure you, it can be done just as well, with a smaller assortment. In the beginning, I wasn't very proficient with free hand sharpening, and didn't know enough about sharpening either. Besides, sometimes specific equipment makes a particular sharpening job easier. Also, several sharpeners were bought as an experiment or worked well for me in the past, but later I've stopped using them, because I got better with free hand sharpening. Most of the sharpeners reviewed in further sections are currently in use. However, several were given away, as I got better replacements for or simply outgrown them.
Last updated - 06/04/14