A sharp knife is a chef’s soul. Have you ever noticed the spark in his eyes when he makes those artistic julienne cut or thin slices of veggies? But, it doesn’t matter if it’s a everyday-carry (EDC) knife, machete, or even a skinning knife as all knives do get worn out with time. With a blunt knife, you need to put more pressure on the object, as a result of which, soft vegetables get squashed and lose their shape. It also increases the risk of physical injury. Apart from kitchen knives, there are several other types of knives as well. Among those, best survival knives have been a popular hunting cum safety tool of mankind since time immemorial.
If you’re an ardent admirer of gastronomy like me, you’ll know how different culinary cuttings impact the taste, texture and appearance of food. Unfortunately, this multipurpose equipment (see Swiss Army Knife) isn’t immune to the wear and tear of time. Fortunately, there’s a way out. In old days, some tradesmen used to roam around from place to place on their bicycles which had a grinding stone attached to it. Scrubbing the dull blade against that stone at a particular angle in a controlled path made the knife razor-sharp.
Even in this technologically advanced 21st century, this technique hasn’t become obsolete. However, the sharpening tools have gone through immense changes to become hi-tech, easy-to-operate and highly efficient. This comprehensive, yet noob-friendly guide aims to assist you in choosing the best knife sharpener for you.
Factors that Lead to Dullness
Edges lose their sharpness for the very purpose they cater to. Cutting acidic fruits and vegetables like lemon, tomato causes corrosion in the blades. Knives are often used to accomplish tasks they’re not meant to perform, like scraping or opening tin cans. Blade buckling is also a very common kind of damage your knife faces every now and then. It happens due to slicing items heavier than the knife itself or crushing ice. Keeping the knife in high temperature or washing it with harsh chemical based detergents also has havocking effects on the sharpness. Taking proper care of your cooking cum combat cum hunting knife is the only way to prevent it from fraying. Always select a suitable knife for the task, avoid heavy wooden cut boards and wash it immediately with cold water right after using.
Ways to Sharpen Your Knife
Mastering the art of knife sharpening isn’t a cake walk. Manual knife sharpeners do provide great results but only when they’re operated correctly. There are three basic stages of the process of knife sharpening. Sharpening is the first of them. For this technique, you need a heavier sharpener stone than the knife material. The main target in this stage is to eliminate the metal from the blade to give it a terrific sharpness. Scrubbing the blade across the abrasive stone causes the metal particles to unravel. Placing the tool at a right angle is the most critical part of this process. Different angles have different effects on the edge. For sharpening, a shallow angle of 20o is considered perfect for most of the knives. A steep angle produces durable sharpness.
Straightening or honing is the second stage of it. It involves the process of drawing the edge through the honing steel. This equipment helps in realigning the edges of the blade. You need to put the heel of the knife against the upper side of the steel at a 20o angle and rub it back and forth with light pressure. Do this plenty of times on one side then repeat the same on the flip side as well. No metal is likely to be removed from the knife in this stage.
The last stage of the manual knife sharpening is called polishing or stropping. This is the final touch to the edge intended for devising a precision sharpness and mirror-like finish to the blade. It is done by polishing the knife on a rotating cloth wheel. It helps the knife to retain the sharpness for a long period.
Types of Knife Sharpeners
There are two broad classifications of knife sharpeners — manual and electrical knife sharpener. The former is mostly used by the most seasoned professionals since it requires a lot of patience and skill. An electric sharpener is a worthy substitute of the manual ones for professional chefs and busy housewives who don’t have the privilege to spend hours on sharpening their knives. After reading about the pros and cons of both of these, you’ll hopefully be able to pick the best knife sharpener for your specific requirements.
- Electric Knife Sharpeners
Automatic or electronic knife sharpeners are fast, convenient to use and offer the precision of manual sharpeners. It doesn’t matter whether you’re confident about your skills or not, you just have to hold the knife across the tool and the rest will be taken care of. Moreover, the compact size of these systems makes it fit on your kitchen counter easily. The machine resembles a box which has a slot for a motorized grinding wheel. Electric sharpeners, for obvious reasons, come at a higher price than manual sharpeners. But the time and energy you save is worth the investment. Hence, these are considered as the best knife sharpeners, overall.
- Manual Knife Sharpeners
Manual sharpeners are ideal for achieving extremely sharp, beveled edges. One needs to practice for years to get at home in the technique. These sharpeners are inexpensive and portable. Campers, hunters and traditional cooks who are very particular about their instruments and don’t settle for anything but perfection always go for manual sharpeners.
There are three fundamental kinds of manual sharpeners available in the market – sharpener stones, rods and sharpener steel stones. Sharpening stones have been extensively used in honing blades and knives from the ancient times. These rectangular shaped stone blocks are made from diamond, ceramic or other natural sharpening stones. Drawing a dull knife on a gritty stone erases a lot of materials that causes fraying. Remember, it’s mandatory to use a heavier stone than the knife material. Natural sharpening stones come in fine, moderate and rough coarse.
Summing up this Guide on Choosing the Best Knife Sharpener
The invention of the knife is one of the greatest discoveries mankind. It was used for by our ancestors to hunt down animals for meat. With the passage of time, the technology of knife sharpening has gone through a tremendous evolution. Time is a precious commodity in today’s hectic life. A good knife sharpener helps you maintain a fine edge and save much of your valuable energy for other tasks. That’s why you need the best knife sharpener that fits your use cases perfectly.
I hope this knife sharpening guide has somewhat cleared your idea about the basic functions of different knife sharpening systems and best products currently doing rounds of the market. The rest is up to you for judging.