Why You Should Be Using a Manual Knife Sharpener

custom knife with mirror finish

In today’s world speed often trumps quality in terms of importance.  The world of knife sharpening is certainly no exception.  The market contains hundreds of electric models that are designed to sharpen a knife in just a matter of seconds.

To many this might seem like very convenient.  They can pull out their sharpener and in a matter of minutes be back to cutting and slicing their food.  But they could unknowingly also be doing irreparable damage to their knives.

Understanding Tempering

When knives are manufactured the steel is put through a sequence of heating and cooling.  This process determines the final hardness of the steel.  If a steel is extremely hard it can be sharpened to a razors edge.  But it will also be very brittle.  This means slicing through harder objects such as bone or even hard vegetables like carrots can cause the steel to chip.

This happens because as you slice the blade can turn or torque causing pressure on the steel in multiple directions.  This causes the hard steel to crack.

Other things like dropping the knife in the sink can also cause damage.

In the opposite direction softer steel is more likely to become dull more quickly.  As a result knife makers try to establish a balance of durability and sharpness.  This is done by bringing the temperature up to a specific point during the final heating process.  Once this process is finished the knife is ready to be sharpened.

Sharpening a Knife

Electric knife sharpeners use discs that spin at high RPM to quickly remove material from the edge of the blade.  Unfortunately the speed at which these discs spin also create heat along the edge of the blade.  If the temperature of the blade rises above the temperature at which the knife was tempered you have then created a more brittle edge.  Not only that, but you’ve weakened the knife at the very point at which it should be the strongest.

To make things worse because it’s difficult to apply consistent speed and pressure while using an electric sharpener it’s not uncommon to end up with a wide range of hardness along the entire length of the blade.

This can severely damage the edge and shorten the usable life of the knife.  But you can alleviate all of this by using a manual knife sharpener.

Manual Knife Sharpening Systems

Manual knife sharpening systems like the Apex System from Edge Pro Inc allow you to properly sharpen your knife without damaging the temper of the blade.

Instead of relying upon spinning discs to sharpen the knife they utilize a sharpening stone attached to a rod.  The rod is pushed along the edge of the blade at a slower speed that won’t damage the blade.

These types of systems also allow you to match the angle of just about any knife.  The Apex system allows you to set the sharpener to anything between 10 and 24 degrees.

In addition to the temper, the blade angle is one of the most important factors in properly sharpening your blades.  The ability to match the angle of the blade allows you to insure that the blade is consistent with what the manufacturer intended.

All of this combines to insure your knife is sharp, durable, and will last you a lifetime.


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Choosing the Best Knife Sharpener for Custom Made Knives

For those that are new to the world of custom knives, here is a short introduction to knife sharpening.  Unfortunately, it is quite common to see someone that has found a new passion for knives knows very little about how to take care of and maintain them.  So what is the best way to sharpen a knife?

Maintaining The Blade

While a blade may seem like a very strong and solid piece of metal, in reality it is very delicate in nature.  For Western style knives, the blade maker bevels each side of the edge down until a burr is created.  Then the burr is smoothed out to create a very sharp edge.  But because the metal is so thin at this edge, it can easily become damaged if used for things other than what it was intended.

Maintaining sharpness doesn’t only depend upon actually sharpening the blade.  Taking care to keep the blade protected and dry is a great way to lengthen the life of your blade even when it isn’t in use.  Keeping a blade properly oiled is a great way to do this.  While a blade will be somewhat protected in a sheath, it is still subject to moisture due to humidity.  Oiling the blade will ensure that humidity is unable to reach the fine edge.

Sharpening Tools

Obviously, regular use of a blade, whether it be a hunting blade, utility knife, or a kitchen knife will require that it be sharpened on a regular basis as well.  In this age of modern convenience, it can be tempting to go the route of the electric knife sharpener.  Let’s take a look at why you should NOT do this with your custom blades.

Most knife sharpeners will only sharpen to two angles.  The manufacturer of your knife sharpens the blade to a specific angle based on the steel they used in making the blade.  Wusthof electric knife sharpeners are designed in this way.

No matter how expensive a knife sharpener you buy, you’ll only get at most 2 options for sharpening angles.  What this means is that the first time you use it to sharpen a knife, it essentially grinds off part of the blade in order sharpen it to the specified angle of the sharpener.  In some cases, this can be A LOT of material.

On top of that, because these sharpeners move so quickly, it is very easy to damage sensitive metals.  Before you know it you can remove more material than you ever intended, and you might possibly irreversibly damage the blade.

For that reason, the sharpening stones are recommended for sharpening and maintaining custom knives.  Or any knife that you care about for that matter.  The best sharpening stones allow YOU set the angle.  You work at your own pace allowing you to control how much material to remove from the blade in order to maintain it’s sharpness.

If you’re intimidated by the idea of using sharpening stones, this is OK.  It takes a good bit of practice to get it just right. But there are tons of videos out there to help you learn.  And it’s worth spending the time on it as it will extend the life of your knives immeasurably.  Here’s another good resource to find the best kitchen knife sharpener reviews for your particular type of blade.

A good knife should last as long as it’s owner.  With proper maintenance and care, you can insure that your custom knives are around as long as you are.  You can find more information at make it sharp.


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