The 5 Biggest Myths of Knife Sharpening

I wanted to take a few minutes and talk about the 5 biggest myths I have come by since starting Burrfection.

Myth #1 – You have to use fancy equipment to sharpen a knife properly.

This one drives me crazy. I own some fancy equipment because I’ve invested a lot in equipment to use for my business. In many of my videos, you can see that I use a brick quite often to actually elevate my whetstones and that’s really all you need. To catch water, you don’t need that much. You can buy a food tray (like a plastic food tray) for $3-4. I use a silicon mat because the silicon mat is nice and portable. All you need is some rubber lining or a towel between your brick and your whetstone.

 

That is it! That’s all you need as a sharpening base.

Certainly, there’s nothing wrong with going out and buying a $25 bin + $100 bridge or even a $200 sharpening pond from Shapton + another $20 rubber base. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that if you have the finances to go that route. However, having fancy/expensive equipment to sharpen your knives is NOT a must.

 

Myth #2 – Pros sharpen on whetstones and amateurs sharpen on electric sharpeners.

It’s almost like saying unless you are a chef you shouldn’t cook. You should just have TV dinners or frozen dinners, it just doesn’t make any sense to me. There are many comments I receive saying that knife sharpening is 90% technique and 10% accessories/goods. I want to take that a little bit deeper and say that knife sharpening is all about willingness to try. If you are willing to try and to experiment, you will be able to sharpen your knife.

 

Please do keep in mind that I’m not downplaying technique at all. The point I’m trying to make is that in my personal opinion, it’s more important and even deeper than technique is your willingness.

 

Myth #3 – You have to thin a knife at every sharpening.

This one drives me insane! I think the whole topic of thinning a knife is one of the most over-debated arguments from knife enthusiasts. There are circumstances that you need to thin your knife, but for 99% of people who are sharpening knives, who are watching my videos, who are cooks in the kitchen, knife thinning is NOT something you have to worry about for a very long time. For those who follow my channel, you’ve seen me restore a number of knives. In two occasions, I’ve restored two Shun’s that had 3-3.5 millimeter gauges on them.

 

Even shaving down 3mm of edge, I still didn’t’ feel like those edges needed to be thinned so think about this for a second: How many years do you think it would take for an average knife user to actually grind down 3-4mm of their knife’s edge? It would probably take a decade if not longer. I’ve spoken to many chefs who’ve been using the same Wustof for 20+ years and they’ve never thinned their knives. As a matter of fact, they’ve never sharpen their knives. Listen to the chef who actually makes a living using knives. Thinning your knife out adds a whole layer of complication that isn’t necessary. A number of chefs tell me that all they do is hone their knives every 3-4 meals and that’s all they’ve been doing for decades. When I ask ‘em how they thin their knives, they just look at me and laugh.

 

Myth #4 – You have to flatten your stones before or after every sharpening.

I want to make it very clear that I’m NOT trying to say that this is not important. If you’re a sushi chef and you’re sharpening Yanagibas for a living – this doesn’t apply to you. With that being said, you do not need to flatten your stone every single time. There are certain cases that you need to do that (such as sharpening a Yanagibas or a Deba or a single bevel knife), but for those of us who just sharpen knives in the kitchen, chef knives, or even Japanese chef knives, you don’t have to worry about flattening your stone. Previously, I sharpened a Masamoto KS that has been dulled on the brick, on the Chosera 3000 and I stropped it. I was able to get a score on the Edge On Up PT50A.

 

According to Edge On Up’s sharpness level sheet, anything under 200 is considered razor sharp. I was able to get a knife razor sharp using one stone that has not been flattened in over 60 sharpenings and a strop. If you're just a hobbyist or a home cook, you seriously do not have to worry about getting a stone super flat because it doesn’t make a difference.

 

Myth #5 – You have to sharpen a knife a certain way or it won’t get sharpened properly.

This is a REALLY big one! The point of my videos and the point of what I do here is experimenting with different techniques with difference processes and I simply report what works for me. This is how my channel started 3-4 years ago. I was researching knives and sharpening techniques and so I went to the forums like most people did. I Googled “knife sharpening techniques”, watched a number of videos on YouTube, read a bunch of forum threads and I noticed there were 3-4 “authorities” that were relatively saying the same thing. They were preaching processes that you had to follow. Things like you must flatten your stone, you have to sharpen at 12 degrees, and you have to thin your knife. When I went to buy certain stones and knives, none of what I was finding out on my own time was matching up with what people were saying.

So what is the take home from all of this? The point I’m trying to make is that knife sharpening is not that difficult. I’m being completely honest; if you can get over the fear of cutting yourself and scratching your knife then you’re well on your way. I know the emotion of fear is very strong and I don’t want to downplay that. My only suggestion to you is that you start very slow and take your time. Don’t rush it; don’t try to do anything crazy and over time you will get over that fear of cutting yourself. Physically it is different for most of us. We don’t have anything we normally do where we hold a knife in a certain manner and push-and-pull so this movement may not be very natural for a lot of people. If you are able to text on your phone, if you’re able to do a word search on YouTube, then you can sharpen a knife – it’s that easy! If there’s one thing I want you to take from this video, it’s that it doesn’t take a special person to learn how to sharpen a knife. Anyone can learn to sharpen a knife if you are willing to try.

Here is a question for you. Do you feel strongly for or against any of the arguments I have brought up in this article? If you do, please leave a comment. I have a feeling this topic is going to get a lot of heat, but that’s the truth of it all. Thank you for your continued support!

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