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I've a Wusthof classic ikon knife which i've had for about 5 months, it seems to be losing it's edge. It's regularly honed with a grooved honing rod, but I'm unsure if I'm doing it correctly.

I've watched several videos on how to do this, keeping the blade at a constant angle of around 20 degrees. So, what is the norm for sharpening knives? Have I been doing it incorrectly which has resulted in the knife losing its edge, or is this normal?

Parts of the knife seem sharper than others, for instance the heel, whereas the tip seems pretty dull

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    Do you have a shop nearby that specializes in knives? If you do, it would be worth a visit. Have your knife professionally sharpened, and get a lesson while you are there. – Jolenealaska Sep 17 '14 at 23:09
  • I know of a couple of cooking shops, but none that I know offer knife sharpening. They sell many ranges of knives but suggest using a pull through sharpener, which I've heard isn't too great for the knife. Someone did suggest going to a butcher to have them sharpened – Graham Warrender Sep 17 '14 at 23:13
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    There ya go, a real butcher is going to be a knife expert too, or least he's going to know one. I use a pull through sharpener, but on knives I bought at Sam's club. I wouldn't want to use one on a Wusthof Classic. – Jolenealaska Sep 17 '14 at 23:56
  • If you need to get your knives sharpened, as a home cook, more than once once a year, something's wrong. Are you using a stone, glass or other hard-surfaced cutting board? – Joe Sep 18 '14 at 13:37
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For a home cook: Honing should be done before or after heavy use or once every couple of weeks, depending on how finicky you are about the blade itself. Proper honing can stave off the need for an actual grind/sharpen for years.

-Honing realigns the existing edge. Just a few strops on each side of the honing steel. It doesn't take much. -Sharpening grinds it down, takes away steel, and makes an entirely new edge. It's not something to be done often, or even routinely. I get mine professionally done at a kitchen shop.

If you're a pro, you want to hone any and all serious knives before each shift.

  • I'd actually recommend stropping in addition to steeling. Small chips can form along the edge, which are almost invisible to the eye. Also steeling can only do so much for rolling edges. Even then the edge wears slightly and deforms in ways that a steel simply can't fix. Stropping will remove a very very small amount of metal, which will fix any small chips and rolls and also bring your knife's edge back to what it used to be. This will preserve the knife for longer if you do light stropping every week or so, if you do it as needed you may not even need to grind the knife. – tsturzl Oct 20 '16 at 3:35
  • When I say stropping I mean using some rubbing or stropping compound on a piece of leather. – tsturzl Oct 20 '16 at 3:36
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If you lightly (and safely) draw your thumb from the side of the blade down towards and over the side of the knife edge, do you feel a burr? (Do this on each side, at the tip, edge and heel - do NOT drag your finger towards or parallel to the edge, drag down the side, across and away).

The "burr" is caused by the very fine edge of the blade bending. If you feel a burr, then a honing steel can usually be used to true it up.

Grab the honing steel and rest the tip on the counter. Start with the edge of the knife that has the burr. Rest the tip of the knife edge (burr side) on the steel at an angle and with a little pressure drag it up (spine of knife moving away from you) - the full knife edge should travel across the honing steel from tip to heel. Do this a couple times and then check for the burr on both sides.

If the burr still exists, repeat. If it has diminished or slightly moved to the other side, then use the honing steel as usual - alternating each side of the edge. There are various techniques, I use alternating up stroke on one side, down stroke on the other.

If there is no burr and the knife is just dull, get it professionally sharpened if you've never sharpened knives before. A butcher's referral is a great idea.

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Given that the question is "how often", I want to actually answer that question, even though some of the answers above supply more complete advice.

  • Stainless steel knives normally want honing with a steel every 2-4 uses. This will keep them sharp.
  • Carbon steel knives should be honed after each use.
  • If you have been honing, you should need to sharpen your knives no more than once per 1-2 years.

There are definite exceptions to this. For example, knives used for cutting joints and bone will need sharpening and honing more frequently. Knives used only for "soft duty" (e.g. on fruit) will need honing and sharpening much less frequently. And serrated knives are their own special case.

The above is based on my own experience caring for 18 knives from multiple manufacturers, including both stainless and carbon steel. Some of my knives are 25 years old and still sharp despite regular use.

So, the fact that your Wustof is getting dull despite regular honing after only 5 months indicates that something is wrong. Possibilities include:

  • improper honing technique (but you seem to have made an effort there, and it's not that difficult)
  • not honing frequently enough
  • bad honing rod (is it a Wustof too?)
  • bad cutting board (glass, stone and bamboo are all knife-eaters)
  • heavy usage, like lots of boning or hard chopping

Note that honing keeps knives sharp, it doesn't sharpen them. So if you waited 3 months to start honing, the dullness would have already set in. If that's the case, then you'll want to get the knife sharpened, and then get into a routine of honing it every 3 times you use it.

  • I'd like to add poor storage as a potential culprit on your list as well. If the poor knife is banging around in a drawer it will lose edge very quickly. – Preston Sep 22 '14 at 4:19
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Every 6-12 months is a usually quoted figure for mean-time-between professional sharpenings, this varies greatly depending on usage, and as others have pointed-out, what your cutting-board is made of. (Glass or stone is a No-No.) It sounds like you're a little ahead of the curve, but I wouldn't worry about too much.

To find a knife-shop, I'd recommend Angie's List, or just spend a little time googling in your area. Sharpening is a highly-technical skill, so it's worth finding a shop with a decent reputation. I usually pay 2-4 USD per knife.

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It depends, but here's how you can tell...

It's good practice to hone knives often (I recommend once a day or before you use the knife for a session).

Honing helps center the edge of the knife, prevent edge folding and nicking, and provides structural support for the edge.

Despite regular honing, a knife blade will eventually wear through a variety of dynamics: folding, nicking, crystal deterioration, and oxidation. At this point, the knife will need to be sharpened.

An easy way to tell if your knife needs sharpening is:

If, despite regular honing, your knife still doesn't feel sharp, then the blade is worn and should be sent for professional sharpening

Unless you are very skilled, I don't recommend sharpening at home. You are unlikely to be able to remove the right amount of material and restore a consistent edge bevel to the blade....as a result the knife edge will not be properly aligned and the knife will go dull quickly again.

The period between sharpening varies a lot depending on what kind of steel your knife uses, its blade geometry, your cutting technique, the food products cut, how often you use the blade, and of course how often it's honed.

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