Tell me how to sharpen kitchen knives and what I need

I have a Henckles kitchen knife set. At this point, all of the knives are getting harder and harder to sharpen just with the steel.

I’d like to learn how to sharpen them myself. I know a bunch of Qt3ers are also kitchen guys, so I thought I would ask here.

What do I need to buy to self sharpen my knives? Cheaper is better, but only in the sense that if I can get away with just a sharpening stone, I’d obviously rather buy that than some type of automated grinding wheel.

Once I get the things needed to sharpen my knives, how to I actually use them and sharpen them?

For both questions, I’d love some specific examples (e.g. Amazon links to particular products you know are good, links to videos showing how to sharpen, etc.) if you have them (would just be helpful, I’m grateful for any advice, including just textual descriptions of how to do it and what is needed).

I’m willing to bet someone was going to LMGTFY you, so…

The top rated comment is nitpicking, he’s more in line with what I’ve been taught, but the video is good.

From all recommendations - you don’t. It’s better and cheaper to take them to a professional to get sharpened every three years or so (depending on frequency of use) and use the steel to hone them regularly.

Honing (with the steel) is bending the edge back straight, it doesn’t actually “sharpen” the blade. That’s done by grinding away metal from the blade and effectively making a new edge, which is why it should be done professionally.

This, unless you’ve got lots of knives and time to practice, doing this yourself is just going to result in a ruined knife.

Everything I’ve read (and I spent about 8-10 hours reading up on the subject a while ago) says the exact opposite of Mightynute. Professional knife-sharpening services used to be one of those “skilled craftsman” things, but now is one of those “bored teenager operating a machine that sits in the back room” things, so you’re not going to really get great results out of most knife sharpening services.

And pretty much everyone agrees that one of those Chef’s Choice electric knife sharpeners is going to give you very good results – that is, skilled people can do better with a whetstone, but meh. I have one of those machines and use it regularly, and it works well.

I used to think so, but after taking a cooking class with the wife, it’s simple. You’re never going to permanently ruin your knife, but if you slip or hold it at too sharp an angle when sharpening, you’re creating more work for yourself. It takes practice but provides me with a certain simple satisfaction.

Except the steel isn’t sharpening the blade, it’s honing it. There’s a big difference. It’s meant to be done before use, to ensure that the edge is straight and remove the curl that results from using the knife.

Normally the fine edge of a blade should be close to vertical | (in reality a very narrow V). The more repeated pressure you put on that |, the more it will resemble a J. Honing the blade with the steel bends that J back into the | shape. Eventually the edge will get flattened to more of a I, and that’s when you need sharpening to actually grind it back to the proper taper.

If you’ve got expensive knives that you’d rather not replace if/when you sharpen them improperly, I again advocate using a professional knife sharpener. Ask the chef at your local steakhouse where he gets his chef’s knives sharpened, they’ll probably be able to give you a good referral.

I’m a knife guy from birth and a kitchen guy for twenty years, and everyone is correct so far. However . . .

If you do want to sharpen your own knives, then there’s a great route you can go. One of these: used judiciously can keep you away from the pro sharpener forever. Except for the trip you now have to make to restore your dull edge. But once you do that, keep using the honing steel and give it a pass on the ceramic once a month or so, and you can keep a knife shaving sharp.

That said, there are a lot of minor details in how to sharpen a knife, as well as a bunch of muscle memory required to keep from rounding the edge. Remember, put the knife on the ceramic, set your angle, then lock your arms and wrists. Make the motion with your upper arms and shoulders to prevent changing the angle.

When I notice my knives aren’t cutting as well as they should, I give them 5-4-3-2-2 (five passes on one side, then five on the other, switch back for 4 passes both sides, etc.) and they’re back to shaving. You’ll eventually mess up the edge to where it needs to be reset, but that takes years. I can reset the edge myself using stones, which is an advanced topic.


I mean actual knife sharpening. With a wet stone and everything. They taught us how to do everything from organize our kitchen and how to wash our hands/ingredients to how to make food. Not that I succeeded at the latter, but it was a good way to spend a few weekends.


I should add that I have looked into this stuff a little bit, but there is a ton of contradictory advice out there (as seen in this thread already, the difference between MightyNute and mkozlows, for example).

By way of example, I have looked up several times how to hone a knife with a steel. A bunch of the examples involve dragging the sharp edge of the blade behind the blunt part of the blade down the surface of the steel. A bunch have in involved pushing the sharp edge of the blade forward in front of the blunt edge (with the blunt edge trailing the sharp edge) down the steel. Still other examples involve putting the sharp edge in the middle of the steel and pulling it away from the steel (not really going up or down the steel, but being pulled away in a perpendicular direction from the steel).

This topic, which should seemingly be dirt simple (haven’t we been sharpening and honing knives for about 6,000 years now?) seems to be incredibly confusing with people offer directly contradictory advice.

I don’t mind if opinions differ in this thread (as said, I’m grateful for the advice from anyone), I’ve just tried to figure this stuff out on my own through Google and Youtube and it just seems like a big bundle of confusion out there.

That’s why I came here.

Just put a pyramid over your knife when you’re done using it — it will clean all the food off and sharpen it too.

In Japan, the hand can be used like a knife.

All the professional chefs I know or know of uses a pro sharpening service - but of course they don’t just use any random kitchen supply shop with a sharpening service. They all more less just use the same guy at one of Copenhagens oldest knife importers - he’s a craftsman and he’s more expensive than other solutions, but there’s a reason these guys uses him.

So if it’s a knife important to you and you’re serious about this, find the equivalent where you live. Or try and train to do iy yourself - it’s a skill that can be learned and the worst that can happen is that you’ll have to buy new knives.

No, the worst that can happen is you cut your hand off. You’re very unlikely to permanently damage a knife by sharpening it incorrectly.

I get all my knives professionally sharpened every couple of years. It’s really cheap and they do a great job.

Another vote for getting it done by a professional. Yearly-ish.


Depends how much you use them, really. I only use my global chef’s knife two or three times per week and it stays sharp enough to cut a ripe tomato for a bit over 2 years.

My knives aren’t really that high quality, so I should probably get them sharpened more often than I do.


But that doesn’t work with a tomato.

Well that’s one advantage of cheap stamped knives over fancy-dancy forged ones. They come wicked sharp out of the box, and when they get dull in a couple of years it’s easy enough to just buy a new one. Cooks Illustrated likes the Victorinox chef’s knife.

Honestly, if I had it to do over I’d probably get that Victorinox myself. It’s a real working knife and less of a showpiece.