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I'm a poor college student that doesn't know much about his knives, pots, and pans. Specifically is there anything that I can do to make my knives stay sharp longer and maintain them without spending too much money?

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That's a very broad question, too broad to answer in one response. Could you please split it into several questions, or make it more specific? Otherwise it will probably be closed. –  BobMcGee Aug 2 '12 at 3:55
    
Agree -- too general. –  FuzzyChef Aug 2 '12 at 4:11
    
I think he's asking about the most cost effective way to maintain reasonable sharpness on his knives. So I assume for example, buying better knives and paying someone to sharpen it regularly is out of the question. @And0r4k, if this is the case make an edit and take out your "etc". –  talon8 Aug 2 '12 at 13:31

2 Answers 2

up vote 9 down vote accepted

Here are a few rules I follow with my own knives.

  • Don't put your knives in the dishwasher. Hand wash and dry immediately after use.
  • Store knives where they won't be banging up against other hard things: my favorite is in a wooden knife block.
  • If you must store your knives in a drawer, protect the edge. You can use a commercial solution like this guy, or cardboard and tape if you're on a shoestring budget.
  • Don't cut on a glass cutting board. They look nice, but will dull your edge.
  • Get a steel and use it. A steel is not for sharpening, but for maintaining a sharp edge. Honing with a steel before each use will help keep the edge straight and sharp.
  • Don't use dull knives. Either learn to sharpen yourself, or have them professionally sharpened.

Slightly off topic, but if you're a starving college student who wants to have a high-quality knife or two at a very reasonable price, take a look at Forschner/Victorinox. Yes, the Swiss Army Knife people. I was turned on to them by professional chefs, and have found them every bit as high-quality as my much-more-expensive Henckels and Wustof-Trident knives.

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I'll also add that bamboo cutting boards seem to increase wear-and-tear on knife edges, so probably worth sticking to regular hardwood or soft plastic. +1 on the Victrinox knives. –  FuzzyChef Aug 3 '12 at 1:46
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I'll second the Forshner chef's knife -- I've had one for a few years and it's fantastic (only had to get it sharpened once). Don't buy those cheap knife sets they sell at warehouse stores -- they'll go horribly dull in months, if not weeks. –  jalbee Aug 3 '12 at 6:29
    
+1 for hitting all the good 'points' (hahaha). I can say from experience that Victorinox knives rock. I was given a Chef knife and a pairing knife in 1991 when I was just starting out in the kitchen. Still have them and still use them on a regular basis. Ya, they're not as thick as Trident/Henckels but once sharpened were like a razor. Also, buy yourself a sharpening stone and learn to use it. Saves you lots of money i the long run. PLus its very Zen. –  Chef Flambe Aug 3 '12 at 18:31
    
I hate wooden knife blocks because they are a microbe store. I don't like cardboard because it harbours mould spores. If you want to protect the edge on a knife, use the plastic edging they sell in DIY stores, or the "slide binders" sold in stationery places for holding papers together - both are a lot easier to sanitize than any alternatives. –  klypos Aug 3 '12 at 23:44
    
+1, glass cutting boards dull any edge in no time and so do ceramic boards –  sharptooth Jan 11 '13 at 13:04

Timber boards and learn to soak in boiling water and soap in the sink. Or get some "decent" plastic ones

Unless cutting meat. wash KNIVES with cold water. By hand. then dry and store in prev protections to suit.

Sharpening.

Buy a reasonable WETSTONE $20 will find a usable Basic Fine\Coarse one. Soak in a dish of water for 15min's b4 use. I sit it between the two sinks in kitchen at home and run cold tap on it while using.

When knife to your edge. dry it. Then start with a decent Diamond Steel. I just bought a reasonable quality one from Mitchel Manufacturing. (They make Butchers tools for the meatworks trade.) 600 grit. Works well after you rubbed the spare dust off. And they're CHEAP. Then I use either an old SMOOTH diamond steel or a smooth Steel Steel. Followed by a strop. Mine is a Mules saddle strap from army disposals. around 5 ft long. 3in wide. Thick with big brass buckle. It made two nice strops.

Depending on the knife. you'll need to stone every several months. Steel regularly but not too much. and I strop every time b4 use.

if you want good quality. fairly cheap that will last your lifetime. Get some Mundial
I bought missus a 15mm Cooks and a 15mm Utility. Both nice Well balanced and HOLD a good edge.

I have Wusthof (40 yrs) and recently bought a new Utility, after 40 odd yrs I'd worn\stoned the blade down to it's thickness. Sharp but you have to work at it. I splashed out on a Torijo DP3 Utility, Laminated. (spoiled myself a little) It's my favourite general knife and LOOKS "lovely.Plus" A pleasure to use. But you'll never NEED to go past the Mundial for general cooks work. They as good as most others, Apart from Japanese..

Those skinny pressed blades can be sharp. but for a nice feeling knife that you LIKE to use go a bit better. You only buy it once. and DOES become an extension Buy a 15\20cm Cooks. Mundial? that'll do 90%of your work. ANY Paring knife from supermarket. Then a Utility. Mundial?.

Unless cutting seriously I use those two blades for everything. Bread Knife. I have 2 in the drawer. I prefer a 13in meatworks butchers knife For Pumpkin Cabbage etc. Long enuff to control at both ends while using. (Safer) And a 6in Curved Boner from same place (Swibo. HARD steel) Pricks to sharpen but hold it when you get there.

Meatworks knives will cover all you want. Crude but good steel. Cheap as. and do a good job. They designed to do a ten hr shift, continuously. Just Another way to go when your pocket light. king of knives sell them and are closing down.

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Although I learned to use a whetstone decades ago, I'm surprised you're recommending it 'every several months' for someone who's a college student. Professionals might need to sharpen more often, but a home chef can probably get a year or two between sharpenings if they treat their knifes right. (and a bad sharpening will ruin your knives) –  Joe Oct 8 '13 at 20:16

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