If mastering sharpening the old-fashioned way doesn’t cut it for you, Chef’s Choice offers a broad selection of electric and manual sharpeners for every budget and cutting need. Chef’s Choice carries sharpeners that apply a 15-degree edge, a 20-degree edge (and ones that do both); sharpeners for ceramic knives; sharpeners for scissors; and ones that sharpen both fine and serrated edges. To follow are some pointers to consider before diving into the blade-sharpening game.
BLADE SENSE: Knives made of the finest steel will hold an edge longer, but even the best knives dull with use—and the initial factory edge only lasts for the first few days or weeks of use.
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For more than 99 percent of the knife’s useful life, its edge performance depends entirely on how it’s re-sharpened. The replication of the initial factory edge is not particularly relevant, especially since modern-day sharpeners can put a better than factory edge on every knife.
Keeping your knife sharp is important. Besides being easier and more enjoyable to use, sharp knives are safer. Dull cutlery requires excessive force to cut, increasing the risk of knife slippage and injury.
Cutlery becomes dull when the edge begins to fold or break off.
SHARPENER SENSE: There are two basic types of sharpeners, those that straighten and condition the edge (traditional sharpening steels) and those that use abrasives to create a new and sharper edge.
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The conventional sharpening steel (a metal rod) can straighten and recondition the edge but requires skill and practice to avoid doing more damage to the blade than good. The straightened edge is still weak after “steeling” and can quickly fold again. Eventually, steeling breaks off too much of the edge and a steel can’t sharpen it again. The average person doesn’t have the skill or know-how to use a conventional sharpening steel correctly. The margins for error are slim—there are no angle guides and using the steel effectively requires effort, skill, patience and lots of practice. There are new precision-guided sharpening steels on the market which allow consumers to steel like a pro.
CREATE A NEW EDGE: Chef’s Choice recommends using a multi-stage sharpener—whether electric or manual—with guides (to ensure angle control) and diamond abrasives (which will sharpen any metal alloy and never overheat/detemper the blade).
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The secret to keeping knives sharper longer is to make certain your knives are made of a high-strength steel and then to create an edge shape that resists folding. The strongest edges are arch-shaped, not small angle, “V” or hollow-ground. The arch-shaped edge is multiple-angled on both sides, in order to provide more metal to support the sharp cutting edge.
Avoid detempering the blade. Conventional, old-fashioned, single-stage sharpening wheels or grinders remove excess metal and can overheat the edge so that the steel is weakened and folds over quickly again. Never use overly aggressive single-stage sharpeners (like those built into many can openers), which grind away excessive metal and detemper the blade. Select sharpeners that use diamond abrasives. Because of their extreme hardness, diamonds remove metal efficiently without heating or damaging the blade edge.
To obtain the ultimate edge, Chef’s Choice suggests using a sharpener that has multiple stages. Proper sharpening requires both shaping the edge with coarser abrasives in the initial stage and polishing closer to the edge with finer abrasives in the final stage. The sharpener angle must be slightly larger in each successive stage. The use of finer abrasives, which remove only microscopic amounts of metal, is very important for re-sharpening the knife, thereby extending its life. It is only through multiple stages that a stronger, more durable, arch-shaped edge can be built. For more information and to see Chef’s Choice’s full product line, visit edgecraft.com or call 800-342-3255.
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This article was originally published in The NEW PIONEER™ Fall 2015 issue. Subscription is available in print and digital editions here.