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How to sharpen your knife at home

Yes, you really can sharpen your knife on the bottom of a coffee cup. But before you rush off to the cupboard, let's consider what it is you're hoping to accomplish.

Essentially, we're trying to make the edge disappear while maintaining as flat a bevel as possible.

It seems everyone has a different idea exactly what "the edge" is. We consider it to be the point where the cutting surface meets the air; the point where the two bevels meet.

The second picture shows a view of a blade looking down at the edge. Toward the right you can see the edge is not visible. That part of the blade is sharp.

At the left you can see the damage to the edge. To maintain a proper edge the bevels on both sides will have to be ground down evenly until the entire edge is clean.

Technically speaking, we have gone from sharpening to honing at this point. Sharpening refers to maintaining the edge. Honing is removing metal from the bevel to restore the edge.

When the edge is this bad we recommend professional sharpening. If you look at the third picture it will help illustrate why.

When you sharpen a knife by hand you invariably change the angle, even if only slightly. When that happens the edge (which is thin and delicate) gets worn down very quickly.

As the bevel becomes rounder the angle of the edge becomes wider and less able to be sharp. A professional sharpening flattens that bevel back out to recover the angle of the edge.

So ... back to our home sharpening recommendation. We advise sharpening with a steel and very fine honing only.

The fourth picture shows the proper way to sharpen with a steel. If you prefer to wave the knife and steel around like a TV chef that's okay ... we do :)

The important thing is to be gentle. You're not trying to remove any metal. You're just trying to straighten the edge as shown in the fifth picture.

So work gently and alternate sides of the blade. The angle isn't particularly critical as long as the edge is in contact with the steel.

Work the length of the edge along the length of the steel. Four or five swipes down either side should be enough. Be gentle.

Look at the edge straight on with light from behind. Does the edge disappear? If not, there has been some damage that will require honing.

For home honing we recommend a fine (600+) grit water stone like the one in the last picture. Our best rule of thumb for finding the correct angle is to imagine you are taking the thinnest possible slice off the stone.

In other words, the edge just barely contacts the honing surface. In theory, the bevel will be flat against the stone. In reality, almost all bevels have some rounding.

If the bevel is rounded so that you have to increase the angle significantly to make the edge contact the stone it's time to bring it to us.

Disclaimer: It is possible to hone knives carefully by hand. We did it for years ... but never as well as we can now.

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Match words.

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Yikes. You can find some brilliant ideas for how to sharpen a knife online. This is NOT one of them. If you look at the shape that poor knife is in it makes sense.

There is a better way! Our article on how to sharpen your knife at home will get you started. Or do it the easy way and bring it to us.

How much does sharpening cost?  Apr 12, 2016 6:18 pm

The price of sharpening varies pretty widely based on size, shape and condition of your edge. Also, the level of sharpness expected for the finished edge.

An average straightforward knife sharpening runs $10-15. If the knife is particularly large or dinged up on the edge it will pasrobably cost $15 or more, especially if it is badly damaged.

Sharpening more knives than one at a time saves money, and sharpening full sets can save even more. Small knives in good condition as part of a set can be sharpened for as low as $5.

Of course we always give you an accurate estimate of what your sharpening is going to cost before we start.

So let's get started.

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