How Do I Sharpen Kitchen Knives at Home?

Prep-knife sharpening by hand
Prep-knife sharpening by hand
Carol Blonder

After visits to several knife shops you find the beauty that fits like it was made for your hand. You purchase the workhorse of the kitchen, a quality Chef's knife. Merrily, you chop away at onions and garlic, gleeful with the ease your blade makes of the work. The question begins to nag at your mind: Will this last forever? Can I keep the blade sharp and functioning like new? Here are a few tips for maintaining and sharpening your blade.

Basic Knife Care Tips:
Choose knife friendly cutting board.
Do: Cut on a thick plastic or wood cutting board.
Don't: Avoid cutting on stone, tile, granite, glass or hard surfaces.

Protect your blade, proper storage.
Do: Store knife in a knife block, divided drawer insert, on magnetic bar or with edge guard.
Don't: Toss loose knife in kitchen drawer or store in counter utensil holder.

More tips and how to sharpen after the jump.

Keep it clean (and dry):

Soaking whetstone
Soaking whetstone
Carol Blonder

How to sharpen with whetstone: Place your whetstone in a rectangular pan larger and deeper than the stone. Pour water in the pan to submerge the stone. Soak your whetstone for a minimum of 10 minutes.

Remove the stone from the water.
Place the stone, coarse side up, on a clean towel to prevent sliding

Hold the knife to the stone, blade side down and find the

Knife sharpening on prepared whetstone
Knife sharpening on prepared whetstone
Carol Blonder

Beginner tip: Use an angle guide or a binder clip to gauge perfect angle.
Expert tip: Mark the edge on each side with a permanent marker, test the angle (follow directions below) with one or two strokes on each side. If the mark is gone you have the correct angle, if the mark is left on lower edge adjust by lifting angle, if the mark is left on upper edge, lower the angle.
Parent tip: Grab your young one's protractor.

Hold the knife by its handle in one hand.
Place your fingertips on top of the blade, close to the edge, with the other hand.
Apply gentle, even pressure with your fingertips.
At the prescribed angle, move the blade in an arc across the stone, work from the heel to the tip of the blade, maintain the angle as you work.
Stroke each side 10 times.
As you grind the blade on one side, an invisible burr (a raised "lip" or fold over) forms on the edge of the opposite side.
Turn whetstone over to fine grit and repeat process using less pressure.

Test: Hold a piece of paper with one hand, the knife should easily stroke through the paper.
Tip: Maintain the edge of your blade between sharpening with the honing steel; knife to steel angle is the same angle as used for sharpening. Honing does not sharpen the knife!

How often you need to sharpen your knife depends on use. If your knife will not cut through the skin of a tomato or drags through a piece of citrus, time to sharpen!


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