Can knives stay sharp forever? You’ll often hear friends say that their knives are still sharp after five years. Understanding the nature of physics of how the steel in the knife works makes that hard to believe. This is most likely due to the fact that people have different definitions of what sharp is, but with every use, knives become dull, it’s just physics.
The goal of this writing is to make sure physics is on your side when keeping your knife sharp at all times. We will cover what sharpening is, and what is not. Then provide an overview of a 3-step “Sharp Routine” that you can follow to keep your knives sharp.
The primary concern is will constant sharpening damage your knives? We often meet with customers that come out right away and express their concerns and are very wary when it comes to sharpening their knives before each use.
Sharpening a knife with a good quality knife sharpening steel before each use, will keep your knives sharp. The key is knowing how you use the knife, and making sure to sharpen it correctly.
As mentioned in the video above, it is like peeling off a layer of bad metal and leaving the strong, fresh steel exposed. Keeping your knife at the correct angle. Applying the right pressure and understanding when the knife is sharp are skills that can be obtained over time.
Consider this. We sharpen inexpensive knives in some restaurants once a month, the knives undergo tremendous pressure, abuse and improper care and require significant resharpening. In some cases, we have been showing up to our clients location and sharpening the same knives for five+ years. These knives still look the same.
Problem #1: Too much metal is removed while sharpening
When sharpening it is important to realize that the goal is to remove the fatigued metal that is causing the knife to be dull, and that there is no need to go any further in terms of metal removal. Depending on the use and consequently the angle of the blade edge, it is important to correctly adjust the degree of angle and monitor your pressure.
NOTE: Grinders can damage the knife. We have seen knives come from kitchens where someone has used a grinder that are definitely worse off. Machines have the potential to rip off much more steel than necessary.
Problem #2: Improper and excessive steeling
Another issue we often see is OVER-STEEL the blade. Many people believe increasing pressure with the steel is the trick. They will often obsessively repeat the stealing process longer than required. When the knife has come to us, it requires a removal of all the metal necessary to re-profile that knife.
Do not let the fact that you have heard some people say sharpening is harmful to the knife sway your decision. You have your knife for a purpose, you should get the most from it. Understand that proper steeling and then a regular reprofiling schedule can keep your knives in working order for years to come.
So here are the three steps to keep your knife edge sharp:
- Keep your angle at about 10 degrees as you push the blade away from you along the steel. Make sure you start at the bottom of the blade and meet, “tip to tip” as you travel along the edge of the blade. Travel along the top and then the bottom of the blade.
- Keep your pressure even, like you are peeling the bark off a stick.
- Sharpen your knife before or after each use.