what angle to use for sharpening a cleaver

Joined Jan 8, 2010
I found an old cleaver (European steel).

It's as blunt as blunt can be, so I want to try and sharpen it.

I suspect that if I sharpen it the same as "normal" knives, it will get blunt very quickly again.

What angle do you suggest I should sharpen at? I was thinking of something like 30-40 degrees either side?
Joined Feb 13, 2008
I sharpen a double bevel on mine.

Because yours is so old and blunt, you'll have to profile it on a coarse stone before sharpening.  Unless the cleaver is very thick indeed, sharpen it to around 22.5* by estimating a 45* angle then halving it.  This is the same angle at which you already probably sharpen most of your European knives.

Sharpen the knife symmetrically so that the bevel width is the same on both sides.  This will aid durability and make the knife easy to steel.  

Finally, after you are satisfied that your bevels are flat and even, and that the edge is reasonably good -- resharpen at around 30* just until you draw a burr on both sides and deburr.  A 30* cutting bevel (also called the "primary bevel" by most sharpeners) is sufficiently obtuse to hold up to a lot of abuse.  Meanwhile you don't want the edge too wide or it will wedge -- even being used as a cleaver.

You probably already know this, but it's worth syaing for the benefit of others who may be lurking.  A "meat cleaver" is not a "Chinese chopper."  They are used for different things, and one cannot perform very well as the other.

Joined Apr 3, 2010
I edge and hone my heavy meat cleaver with an electric grinding stone then finish on regular stone.. My Chinese cleaver is done on wet stone.It really does not have to be razor sharp as a lot of its work is done by weight. Chinese cleaver on other hand should be razor sharp and is not for cutting through heavy bone.
Joined Jan 8, 2010

I want to get better at freehand sharpening, so I'm taking every opportunity and every dull knife I can find to work on.

Otherwise I would probably go for an electric grinder.

This grinder is a heavy one and is dull, even for a cleaver. I actually have another one (same brand etc) that's a lot sharper (but also blunt compared to a chef's knife), so I want to get the blunt one up to at least that level.

I realise it's not going to be razor sharp.

Look at is as me just getting more practise /img/vbsmilies/smilies/thumb.gif
Joined Oct 9, 2008
Slight confusion here:
This grinder is a heavy one and is dull, even for a cleaver. I actually have another one (same brand etc) that's a lot sharper (but also blunt compared to a chef's knife), so I want to get the blunt one up to at least that level.
I realise it's not going to be razor sharp.
The cleaver can be razor sharp if you wish -- that has nothing to do with the angle. Sharpness is simply a matter of how cleanly and consistently the two planes of the bevel meet. If the cleaver is sharpened to a 60-degree included angle (i.e. 30 degrees per side, as BDL suggests), and you do it perfectly cleanly, you have a razor-sharp edge. And ideally, that's exactly what you want, with every knife, no matter how it's profiled and no matter what the bevels are.

The thing is, the larger the included angle, the more durable the edge will be, and conversely the more the knife will act as a wedge to split rather than cutting the food. That wedging happens above the edge itself: it's a matter of where the shoulders are. A cleaver is used very brutally, and wedging is a pretty trivial concern, so you want a large included angle.
Joined Jan 8, 2010
Thanks all,

Chris, you actually clarified BDL's post by stating the 30 degrees per side (which I though he meant, but wasn't 100% sure).

Sad to say though that I didn't manage very well on the cleaver. It might be that my stones are not coarse enough (I don't know the grit) or that my technique is not yet up to scratch.

I assume a combination of the two.

I ended up giving it a bit of an edge by sharpening at an angle of about 30-35 degrees (either side), but know that it will be blunt again in no time.

Think the grinder will have to come to the rescue for this one.....

Or could it just be that I'm too impatient? Should I continue on whatever grit my coarsest stone is at the 20-25 degrees per side and just take half an hour to an hour every day till it's getting sharp(ish)?
Joined Apr 14, 2017
Never was a Pro Chef myself; just admire proper cutting kitchen and butchering tools when used right.  Been using cutting tools in a kitchen for 60 years+ now. My Cleavers for meat whacking / butchering are still mighty sharp as a dull cutter skids then cuts You instead.

  My fine edges are at 15 deg-20 Deg and Cleavers are at 30 Deg. As a Cleaver gets dulled too much after about 5 years; I reshape the bevels and set the primary at 30 Deg and the cutting edge at 35-40 Deg. My largest cleaver is about 6-7 pounds weight; a bit much now at 71 years.

   I can literally shave with my better kitchen and butchering knives.

A Chinese / Japanese styles of Cleaver/chef knife is deemed sharp enough when it is gently placed on a steep angled thumb nail and it does Not skid at all--(do not push down on mine if a hospital visit is not in the offing.); anywhere on the blade edge. The Chinese and Japanese styles are Different and made a bit different as well; sharpen as per country of origin and use for best results.
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