Advice on knife sharpening

Discussion in 'Cooking Knife Reviews' started by sprat, Feb 26, 2015.

  1. sprat

    sprat

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    Hi all,

    I'm looking for some advice on maintaining my chef's knife (Henckles Four Star 2), namely what stones to purchase. I've done what feels like extensive reading and video watching but i'm a bit stuck. I'm an enthusiastic home cook and spend a few hours in the kitchen each night. I have a budget of £70 and i'm willing to spend the time learning to sharpen on stones.

    I'm planning to buy a ceramic hone-rod, possibly this one: 
    http://www.knivesandtools.co.uk/en/pt/-eden-quality-ceramic-sharpening-rod.htm 

    I know the Idahone is generally recommended but since i like in the UK, its not a feasible option. 

    Regarding the stones, i'm unsure what grades i'd need. I thought maybe a 1000K and a 6000K would be a good setup with some available here:

    http://www.knivesandtools.co.uk/en/ct/knife-sharpening-equipment.htm

    and

    http://www.axminster.co.uk/hand-tools/sharpening 

    I've been reading also about stropping and wondered if that would be something to incorporate into my routine.

    Thanks
    Mel
     
  2. galley swiller

    galley swiller

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    Welcome to ChefTalk!

    I'm going to have to give a disclaimer.  Since you are in Manchester, England and I am in the USA, I can only guess as to what stones are available.  I have been looking at the sites you list above, as well as Amazon.uk.

    One disturbing feature I am seeing is that many of the stones are 175 mm in length.  You need the stones to be at least 200 mm long by 50 mm wide.

    Your budget is 70 pounds.  Does that include VAT?

    If you haven't done so already, I would suggest you read Chad Ward's sharpening tutorial which is on egullet:  http://forums.egullet.org/topic/26036-knife-maintenance-and-sharpening/

    It gives a lot of information about sharpening in general.  Mr. Ward also wrote an excellent primer on kitchen knives and sharpening, An Edge In The Kitchen, published in 2006.  I don't know if it's available in the UK (generally, for American readers, I suggest they find it at a local public library or through a library interloan program, but whether that will also work in the UK is something I don't know).

    My condolences on your having a Henckels 4-Star chef's knife.  The steel in those knives is either identical to or akin to X50CrMoV15 steel (also known as 4116 steel) and is usually heat treated to be tough.  Unfortunately, that makes the steel quite a bit more difficult to bring to a sharp edge.  

    The Eden Ceramic Sharpening Rod is in general a good idea.  Knives such as the Henckels 4-Star can use a honing rod (the proper term for the rod - it really shouldn't be the primary sharpener) in between sharpening sessions.  However, the web description leaves out many of the details which are needed.  First, what is the length of the rod (excluding the handle)?  The length should be at least as long as the blade it is honing.  Second, what grit is the rod?  Ideally, it should be as fine as possible.

    Going the water stone route may be your best process.  As I mentioned above, you need a stone at least 200 mm by 50 mm.  With your Henckels, you probably will need a 1000 (1K) grit stone to bring it to general sharpness.  However, you are probably limited in the degree of polish that the edge will hold  to about 5K maximum.  You can get and use stones with grit higher than that, but 4116 steel generally won't hold polish above that level for long.

    As for stropping, I'm going to get a little bit lazy here - if only because the amount of detail I wrote this last November covers the subject.  The thread is http://www.cheftalk.com/t/82913/stropping and my posts begin at No. 10.  As for stropping compounds, you might need to check to see what's available in lapidary supply firms.

    Hope that helps

    Galley Swiller
     
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2015
  3. sprat

    sprat

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    @Galley.

    Thanks for replying. Yes the £70 includes VAT. Thanks noticing that the stones were too short, I’ve looked into Waterstones and there seems to be a wider variety that meet the dimensions and grit you mentioned. A large number of the ones I came across seem to be combination stones (1000/6000) but so far these few seem to fit the bill:

    http://www.knivesandtools.co.uk/en/pt/-naniwa-super-stone-1000-sharpening-stone.htm

    http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/King-Japa...102?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_3&hash=item5d3effa21e

    I have read Chad Ward’s tutorial in the past and read it again a few times this week too. I also have recently purchased the ebook version of An Edge in the Kitchen and although I haven’t read it in its entirety, it’s proving to already be somewhat of an eye opener!

    It’s a shame I thought I had found the ideal knife after many months of researching and trying out various knives. Hopefully the toughness of the steel will be something I can learn to adapt to maintain well.  

    Here is an alternative rod I’ve found on Amazon. It states 1000 grit and a sharpening length of 12”.



    It seems to be one of the only ones I can find online (that aren’t Global) that state the grit.

    Thanks for referring me back to your post. I actually read your post regarding stropping previously and I’m interested in making my own strop once I locate some of the items needed.

     

    @Benuser.

    Thanks for the information. I’ve had a look around and have found the Chosera 800 but the store seems to be out of stock.

    http://www.knivesandtools.co.uk/en/pt/-naniwa-chosera-800-sharpening-stone.htm

    and the only Shapton stone I can find is via Amazon but I can’t seem to see which country the seller is located as I don’t want to have to pay duties if it’s coming from Japan.



    Mel
     
  4. rick alan

    rick alan

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    I have to disagree with GS and Benuser on the polish, it is my experience that a polished edge of 10K+ cuts better longer than one at 6K, even on German stainless.  I don't know if it makes a difference that I use a Fine Arkansas as a finisher, our absent knife guru BDL felt the finish left by Arks held up better, at least where the softer steels (<60RC) are concerended.

    But a 1K6K combi is fine.  There are cheap Chinese slate stones (rather slow cutting) you can find in the 10K+ range if you wanted to fool around there, or maybe even eventually pick up a piece of balsa or smooth clear pine for a strop and some diamond spray.

    The King combi is about the cheapest I think in something close to a full-sized stone, but something like an Iminishi is probably worth the extra dough.

    If you are using a ceramic hone then as I understand the finish left by a fine ceramic is somewhere around a 3K, but I have no definitive answer on that.  I do know the sintering process does leave a considerably finer finish than what the powders used in making it might indicate.

    Rick
     
  5. sprat

    sprat

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    Thanks for the reply Rick. 

    It's interesting you mentioned using the 10K. I'd love to experiment with that a few months down the line. I'm still researching and reading into stropping as although i know its not necessary it's something i'd like to incorporate at some point. 

    I've had a look for the Iminishi and saved a couple of sellers to compare. 

    I'll search some more into what the finish is left by the ceramic. 
     
  6. sprat

    sprat

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    Thanks for the reply Benuser. Galley stated that the Four Star II was hard stainless not soft. In that case, would a rod still be necessary?
     
  7. brianshaw

    brianshaw

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    Soft or hard, I've used a steel on 4-star blades since about 1980. Mostly with a ridged steel but now with ceramic and a smooth packing steel. Both of the latter are better than ridged steel. Don't know what "necessary" is intended to mean but a steel is one way used for generations to touch up a blade. They all can't have been wrong for so long can they?
     
  8. brianshaw

    brianshaw

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    In a nonprofessional environment with no need for prep over a sustained period of time that has been a nonissue
     
  9. brianshaw

    brianshaw

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    Well I suppose we have had very different experiences
     
  10. sprat

    sprat

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  11. brianshaw

    brianshaw

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    That is best idea; try yourself. I was very happy satisfied with ceramic rod and wished I got one a long time ago
     
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2015
  12. rick alan

    rick alan

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    I'm not disagreeing with Benuser, but like Brian I have a different perspective here.  The rod is a matter of convenience to me, and anyway the mud-binder stones I have don't take well to dry working.  I can go 2-3 months between sharpenings with my goto knife ([relatively] soft stainless like the Henkles) using what is essentially for all practical purposes an extremely fine ceramic rod.  Usually takes 3 weeks to the first time I hit the "rod," and when I have to align 2 times in a week then it's time to sharpen again.  I've been lazy about sharpening and at this point I am aligning about 3 times a week, and I'm not getting the quality of cut I enjoy.  By this weekend I will hit the stones.

    I do have some balsa that will make very nice strops and I will be getting some diamond spray, eventually.  I'm just really slow to trying new things sometimes, and besides I still enjoy what I'm using, but when I do I will be retiring the rod, and the soft stainless eventually too, along with the mudders.

    Rick
     
  13. spoiledbroth

    spoiledbroth

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    henckels will respond to grits above 1k... I regularly take mine to 4 and strop with chromium oxide at work. Yeah the edge isn't going to perform or respond like jknives at higher grits but as I understand it the more refined an edge the longer it will hold in general, less pressure overall on the edge, the more refined it is. Though a 4 star is almost by definition a bone splitter (my 9" has a 5 or 6 mm spine). I used to think like ben and only use my 1200 on the 4 star but I've seen some better edge retention since I started refining that edge further when sharpening. I'll agree with him on steeling though, I rarely steel and prefer to just strop the edge nude until it looks nice. Plus I find it easier to work the burrs away on higher grits.
     
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2015
  14. millionsknives

    millionsknives

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    When I sharpen stainless victorinox to 5k, I don't see much difference from that and stopping with the 2k shapton pro.  It's shinier, but the performance is about the same.
     
  15. galley swiller

    galley swiller

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    Sprat, I agree with Benuser that any Zwilling Henckels is soft stainless.  What I said was the following:

    "The steel in those knives is either identical to or akin to X50CrMoV15 steel (also known as 4116 steel) and is usually heat treated to be tough.  Unfortunately, that makes the steel quite a bit more difficult to bring to a sharp edge."  

    Yes, that softness makes the steel blade harder to sharpen.  

    Henckels, Victorinox and many (if not most) mass-market European made knives deliberately do not want their knives to chip.  So they choose steels which are less prone to chipping and then heat treat them so as to emphasize the toughness and tenacity of the steel - it will often give or deform before breaking.  Unfortunately, that makes the steel used much more difficult to remove at the edge (which needs to be done for sharpening).

    Hope that clarifies the issue.

    GS
     
  16. sprat

    sprat

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    Sorry about the misunderstanding. Thanks for clarifying your original post Galley. 

    Its good to hear the opinions and experiences of everyone! i think its going to be a matter of trying out various methods and seeing what works the best.Once i've finished reading Chad Ward's book I plan to purchase the Bester stone (just in case my opinions change drastically, i think its best to hold on until i've finished reading it!).
     
  17. pcrcrepaira

    pcrcrepaira

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    Sharpening knives is not something you can pick up quickly on your own. Look in the phone book for a pro or you could ask the butcher in your local grocery store or butcher shop. They will know a good knife sharpener. Some one who makes a living using knives will know who the best is. A pro will tell you how to make your knives last longer between sharpenings.
     
  18. foody518

    foody518

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    I strongly disagree. It is now not difficult for most people who are interested to pick up a decent quality stone and search the Web for articles and videos on how to sharpen. There are enough people who sharpen and sharpen well, who want to share their results and experiences, to learn off of. I started making positive progress on my practice knives after about 2 hours of not understanding what I was doing, and have been improving since. And I'm just a geeky kid who cooks at home. I don't believe it's the right approach to make maintaining one's tools properly seem like an inaccessible skill.
     
    benuser likes this.
  19. millionsknives

    millionsknives

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    There are all levels of "professional sharpeners". The vast majority are going nowhere near my knives!
     
  20. galley swiller

    galley swiller

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    I strongly disagree with pcrcrepaira and agree with both foody518 and MillionsKnives.

    Do-it-yourself sharpening is not all that expensive or difficult to do.

    My favorite web sites to refer people for sharpening tutorials are egullet's written article on sharpening by Chad Ward (https://forums.egullet.org/topic/26036-knife-maintenance-and-sharpening/) and Jon Broida's videos (https://www.youtube.com/user/JKnifeImports)

    It's not rocket science.

    And the risk of incompetent sharpeners is enough for me to strongly urge someone to do-it-themselves.  Just because someone can spell the words "professional" or "expert" doesn't make them either.

    GS
     
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2016