Sharpening Your Knives For Safer Cutting: Sharpening Guides 101

Knives are a vital tool for any cook, and their use is to chop, dice, slice and mince ingredients into the right size and shape for your recipes.

But, it’s not only in the kitchen where knives are so very important, they are important in hunting, gardening among other things.

However, without a sharp knife, you will find it difficult and dangerous to use one.

Unfortunately, over time a knife’s edge will wear down and become less sharp; in fact, most of us have experienced cutting our fingers on an overly dull knife. To keep this from happening, you should always have a sharp blade on hand so that you can take full advantage of the pinch grip, enjoy safe cutting and avoid accidents.

Fortunately, there are several ways to sharpen your knives at home, and today we will talk about the different methods of sharpening your knife and the tools to use.


When Should I Sharpen My Knife?

Ideally, before you ever use your knife, you can have a professional sharpen it for you.

But, if you are excited to use your shining bright new knife and started using it anyway, there will come a time that it will dull and won’t perform as expected.

There are different ways to test the sharpness of your knife:


Holding your blade flat on one side and lightly wiggling it at a light source is the first test for sharpness.- you can check the “dullness” of the blades with your eyes.

If you can see the light reflecting off both sides of the blade evenly, that indicates no chips in your knife edge. If you see any part that reflects the light, that means it’s a dull end or the edge has been misaligned.

Tomato test

Being a tricky fruit to cut due to its tough skin and soft inside, using it to test for the knife’s sharpness makes sense. Do this by running your blade without too much pressure, and if it gives a clean-cut, the knife is sharp.

Nail test

The nail test is used for centuries by Japanese chefs. Run your knife through your nail, and if it goes on smoothly without catching, it is sharp.

Shaving test

One of the most popular. Run your knife through your arm, hair or your head, watching for tiny hairs to get cut. If there’s folding of the hair, it means it’s not sharp enough.

Paper test

You’ll need some paper for this.-the simplest way to test the sharpness of a knife is often one of the first things a chef learns. You can use any paper, but you’ll be able to see more details in thinner sheets such as printer paper.

Here are the steps for the paper test

1) Hold the knife blade vertically against a single sheet of paper, and make a small slice in the air (putting no pressure on the blade at all).

2) If you can see that your cut has removed some ink from your page, it means that your knife is sharp enough to cut through paper.

The sharpest knives will have a barely visible and very thin scratch. You can use a loupe, magnifying glass, or microscope to check if the scratch on your paper is as fine and small as it could be. If you cannot see a scratch at all, then your knife must be sharper than what I’m used to seeing!

What Is The Difference Between Knife Sharpening and Knife Honing?

Sharpening and honing are different. Knife Sharpening and knife honing are two ways of saying that you are setting the edge of your knife.

Honing aligns and straightens out a few molecules on the edge of a knife.

Sharpening is more like grinding off any rough edges or chips in the blade.

A good rule of thumb to distinguish between sharpening and honing is to think of sharpening as a way to put the original factory edge back on your knife and honing as a way to realign the edge.

How Often Should You Hone or Sharpen Your Knives?

Ideally, honing should be done once a week or maybe even after every time you use them. But it is best to do sharpening once every few months or even once a year, depending on how often you use the knives.

In addition to storing them correctly, you must protect them from damage, so they last for a long time.

How Do I Sharpen A Knife?

It’s important to know the basics of sharpening knives as it allow you to perform precision cuts on different food. There are several different methods to sharpen your knife. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, as well as some technological innovations that make sharpening easier.

Following are different types of knife sharpening systems

Electric Knife Sharpeners

Electric sharpeners provide easier and more convenient sharpening than manual sharpeners. Instead of a manual sharpener, the abrasive is used on motorized wheels to make the process more automated.

Using the electric sharpeners is so easy. Just turn it on, insert and pull the knife on the slot, pull it through the wheels, and repeat the process until desired sharpness is attained.

Bench mounted sharpeners

These use a grinding wheel and are very fast, but can also be messy because you’ll need to hold your knife so it is in contact with the grinding wheel, which will require you to wear gloves.

Manual sharpeners

These are great for a lot of edges, especially serrated knives. Because they don’t use electricity or battery power, you are less likely to make mistakes that ruin the finish and edge of your knife. The downside is that it’s not always easy to get an even grind on a blade with manual sharpening systems.

It’s not always easy to get an even grind on a blade with manual sharpening systems.

Sharpening stones

A sharpening stone is an inexpensive option but not the fastest, so some people choose to use other tools. Commonly, people will sharpen their knives using a whetstone and water.

Sharpening stones come in three varieties: Oil Stone, Water Stone, and Diamond stone, and this is usually partnered with a leather strop to help sharpen knives with a finishing touch.

Oil stone – Similar to a whetstone, but it uses mineral oil as a lubricant instead of water. The minerals in the oil act as an abrasive when you sharpen your knife and there are several different grits that can be used on these stones.

Water stone – Works similarly to an oil stone but does not use any mineral oil or lubricant. Instead, the water acts as an abrasive and helps to keep your knife flat and on a straight grind.

This is an important aspect when sharpening knives because it will help keep you from making mistakes that ruin the blade.

Diamond stone – Is also known as whetstones but has added diamonds to make the grinding and sharpening process more straightforward. The diamond particles are paired with the stone’s natural grit to provide a fast-cutting blade.

Sharpening steels

Using honing steel is different from sharpening a knife because it does not alter the blade’s curve. Instead, it helps to keep the edge appropriately aligned to make mistakes when cutting or slicing food.

Types of honing steel: ceramic, and diamond and steel

Ceramic – this steel has added particles of alumina into its composition. The alumina particles help you get a sharper and longer-lasting edge with your knives, but it can be challenging to maintain the steel’s coating, and it also quickly wears down when used often.

Diamond – this is made by pairing diamonds with metal alloys, making it more effective in sharpening knives than other steels. One benefit of diamond steel is that it can be used to sharpen other tools around your home or workplace.

Steel rod – the most common and have comprised of three kinds of grits. The standard grit used for hard cut sharpening, fine grit to maintain the edge of knives, and the ultra-fine grit is used to hone the knife’s edge like glass.

How Do I Sharpen My Knife At Home?

Most of the time, you don’t have to “sharpen” your knife; instead, you need to Hone it before and after use.

This method is done to maintain the sharpness of your knives and keep the edge of your knife aligned.

When To Use The Sharpening Steel/ Rods (Honing)?


Sharpening Steel Steel or Rods doesn’t really “sharpen” your knife, but rather realign the edges as honing it. Sharpening rods are a great tool to use to keep your knives sharp and in prime condition.

To use, run the knife down the rod while applying light pressure to it. You want a smooth stroking motion without bearing down on the blade.

Avoid sawing back and forth or using too much force; you’ll end up with an uneven edge.

Steps to use the Sharpening Steel/Rods

1. Hold the steel vertically and place the blade against its tip. Keep the knife at a 15-degree angle while drawing it downwards.

2. Keeping the back of the knife flat against one end of the steel and using light pressure, just a little more than the weight of the knife itself, slide it down the length of the steel in a sweeping motion.

3. Complete the motion by passing the knife’s blade over the bottom of the steel. Repeat this motion on the other side of a blade. Three to Four strokes from each side (a total of six-eight alternating passes) should realign a blade’s edge.

Remember—sharpening a knife is not the same as honing it. Sharpening typically involves grinding away metal to form a new edge, while honing (or sharpening) is just realigning.

You can also use leather to hone your blades; all you have to do is apply some pressure and glide your blade over it.

Honing angle

Different knives require different angles in both honing and sharpening. In terms of honing, these are some reminders:

The angle should be maintained between 14-16 degrees when honing a Japanese steel knife. In order to achieve a more precise angle, place the blade against your sharpening stone and adjust it until it matches up with the grain of your whetstone.

  • Honing angle for German knives is usually around 23-25 degrees.
  • For Scandi knives, you will be honing at an angle of 30 degrees.
  • Honing angle for hunting and pocket blades is generally at 22-25 degrees.

You can also hone these knives by pulling the blade through a few times instead of pushing it through with each stroke. Doing so will make the edge be exposed for a more extended period.

Even though you consistently hone your knife, there will come a time it will not be enough, and it will be a great time to Sharpen your knife.

How Should I Sharpen A Knife?

The best way to sharpen a knife at home is to use a whetstone or electric sharpener.

When choosing how to sharpen knives, keep in mind that different kinds of knives need to be sharpened differently.

Before you start, preparing your knife is essential. You can use an angle guide clip to make sure you maintain the proper angle at all times- this is vital to the whole process.

Pro tip: Use scotch tape on both sides of your knife to protect it from being marked by the angle guide clip, and make sure to push the clip to the center of the knife.

Sharpening With A Whetstone

When using a whetstone, you will need a good combination of 1000 grit and 3000 grit whetstone to start- this is the universally accepted grit on the stone for most kitchen knives.

Before starting, make sure to submerge the stone under clean tap water for at least 30 minutes until it stops bubbling. Next, place the stone on a flat surface that is stable and not slippery.

To keep your work area clean, use newspapers or even special mats designed for sharpening knives.

Hold the knife so that its handle is facing away from you and place it on a whetstone at a 15-degree angle for Asian knives or 20-degree angle for Western knives. Put your other hand in the middle of the flat side of the blade, keeping your fingers out of contact with the edge.

Draw it down this stone in a wide circle until you’ve reached the tip of the blade. Always keep your knife sharpening angle at 15 degrees for Asian knives or 20 degrees for Western knives.

Please repeat this step until you’ve got a clean-cut and finish with either a fine grit stone or even a leather strop to make sure your knife is sharp, making it shiny on each side. By doing this, you’ll help maintain the integrity of your knife’s edge.

To check if your knife is as sharp as it can be, you can do the different tests mentioned at the top.

The process described here works well with kitchen knives, fruit knives, pocket knives, etc. For other kinds of blades, there are specific ways to sharpen them.

How To Choose The Right Whetstone Or Sharpening Stone?

Choosing the suitable sharpening stone to use for your knife is crucial to achieving the desired sharpness.

The first thing to know about whetstones is that they are labeled according to grit size.

The higher the number, the more abrasive particles and thus finer or sharper your blade will be.

Low numbers indicate coarser grit. The smaller numbers denote a rougher surface that is favored for dull or damaged blades.

Brackets of Grit

Coarse Whetstones: #1000 or less

The coarse grit will help your knife if it’s really damaged with knicks and kinks and incredibly dull but can still be salvaged. Be very careful in using this because it’s very abrasive and can very well injure your knife if lots of pressure is applied.

Medium Whetstones: #1000-3000 or less

A medium stone is often used to sharpen and restore very dull blades, damaged, chipped, or have two different angles on the edge. This grit level is the go-to for sharpening most types of knives.

Finishing Whetstones: #4000-8000

A fine whetstone is typically just a finishing stone for your blade and is used to give it that extra edge.
For knives that are used for cutting meat, you can use #4000-#6000 grits. But if you are going to use the knife for vegetables and fruits, you can go up to #8000 grits.

How To Properly Care For Your Whetstone?

Before use: Finishing stone rated #3000 and above should not be soaked in water. If necessary, only splash with water.

After use: Be sure to let your whetstone dry before storing it. The reason being is that returning the stone into its box while still damp will result in mold and affect quality over time.

Sharpening knives is a necessary process for keeping your blade in good condition and ready to use. The steps outlined here should help you get started with sharpening your knife, but if you need more assistance or have any questions about the best way to sharpen a knife, please feel free to contact our team of experts.

If you need a sharpener service in NYC, book our professional knife sharpeners here.

Which type of knives do you want us to cover next? Let us know!