I have just purchased the whole set of Katana knives plus a few extra to fill the block. My question is, how the heck do you use that steel properly to keep them as sharp as they were out of the box? Is that even possible? I have ran several of them on the steel at the recomended 22 degrees and it seems to change the edge. Don’t get me wrong, they are still very sharp, but they don’t pop hairs off my arm as they did right out of the box.
Great question Kirk, and I’ve got a rather complex answer for you. As far as sharpening the Katana knives – or any other knife for that matter – you need to know that, just like everything else on Earth, there are varying degrees of cost associated with higher levels of performance. So, I’m going to give you a ton of information here, and you can then make a decision as to which way to go based on your budget and willingness to put in some elbow grease.
First we’re going to start out with a quick video from Alton Brown. He kicks ass. This video is going to go over some of the basics, but then I’m going to point out a few things I’d disagree with slightly.
- Alton doesn’t recommend sharpening a knife at home, but I’d say that you can do that if you’re willing to pay the piper. Read on to get the details.
- Did you see Alton run his finger over the edge of the blade? DON’T EVER, EVER DO THAT! If you did that with one of my blades you might need stitches.
- “Price is not important.” Um, I highly disagree. A cheap knife simply won’t hold an edge. You need a decent piece of steel to make it even worth sharpening.
Now, we also saw the use of a belt grinder and a buffing machine in the video – but they are not at all necessary to achieve a razor sharp edge. In fact, those tools remove a lot of metal very quickly, so it’s better (especially for amateurs) to use a slower more precise process.
The cheapest process (generally speaking) involves the use of a sharpening stone. Here, Seth from Cosmo Knives demonstrates the technique. In order to do this at home you’ll need a bench stone and a strop.
This is something that everyone can easily learn to do at home and see fairly good results quite quickly. It’ll make cutting meats and veggies with that old knife a joy again.
Now, if you’d like to avoid all of that manual labor altogether, I highly recommend the Warthog V-Sharp sharpener for under $100. I have one of these in my kitchen and I use it constantly on my high end Calphalon Katana knives. Here is how it works, and boy does it work… (Here is a complete review on BladeForums.com.)
Finally, when absolutely only the finest piece of equipment will do, the best sharpening system in the world is the Edge Pro. You can pick up the Apex model for under $200, and it is a great kit (I started out with one of these), but for the finest sharpening system money can buy you’re gonna want the Professional model (my personal tool of choice). It’ll run you about $500 complete with all the options.
Now, when I sit down to really sharpen a blade with my Edge Pro it will take me about half an hour. I take my time and do it right, but by the time I’m done I can slice through leather like it was butter. The Edge Pro is manufactured by Ben Dale, one of the nicest guys you’ll ever care to know, and a man you can trust to deliver an unmatched quality instrument. He makes every Pro model by hand, and even personalized mine especially for me.
Here is the training video that demonstrates how to use this unique tool. It takes a little practice, but after about 30 minutes I was an old pro. I’ve used it a hundred times and my friends and family, for whom I’ve sharpened blades, brag about the results to everyone they know.
One last little detail. People in these various videos keep mentioning different angles to sharpen at. First of all, the only systems here that have precision with these settings are the Warthog and EdgePro; however, for the sake of getting the correct info out there, here is what Ben recommends – and I completely concur.
- 13 ° – Very thin flexible knives. Roast slicers, fish fillet blades, etc.
- 15 ° – Thin kitchen knives. Lowest you can use with a cutting board – extremely sharp.
- 17 ° – Most medium duty kitchen knives.
- 19 ° – Thin pocket knives and heavy duty kitchen knives.
- 21 ° – Pocket and thin hunting knives.
- 23 ° – Hunting, chopping and thick pocket knives.
- 25 ° – Very thick blades such as cleavers.
If all of that information still leaves you wanting more, hop on over and read this Sharpening FAQ and it will leave no stone unturned for you.
As always, if you have questions just let me know and I’ll handle them in the comments.