What angle to sharpen knives?

A good knife needs proper maintenance. Knives whether used in the kitchen or for your hobbies like wood carving to cutting or hunting, all are useful tools that aid to your daily lives or lifestyles. It’s a given that these tools need to be maintained to provide you with an easier cutting experience.

Maintenance of a knife involves sharpening and honing. Sharpening can be done once in a while using sharpening stones, steel, leather or electrical sharpeners. There are quite a few options available when it comes to sharpening. Honing on the other hand should be done with every usage in order to lower the demand for sharpening.

Sharpening refers to polishing the edge of a knife in order to reform it. This should only be done on knives that are dull or going dull. The process involves shaving away the dull metal which is why the sharpener needs to be a stronger metal than steel. Moreover you need to know what angle to sharpen knives at; otherwise your sharpening experience can also damage your blade.  This is also why sharpening should not be done frequently.

Honing on the other hand is straightening the existing edge of the blade. This involves moving the pointed surface back in position. It’s more of a gentle fix but it can prevent the knife from getting damaged any further. Honing can be done through honing steels which are inexpensive and easy to handle.

What angle to sharpen knives

There are many ways available to you for sharpening your knife. You should consider trying all of them to check out whatever works the best for you. A few are as follows;

Whetstones: Whetstones are an old school and affordable option. These can be easily found anywhere and are easy to use. All you’re going to need is rest the whetstone over a non slippery surface. It’s best to place a damp paper towel under it in order to keep it from sliding. Wet your knife with a little water as it lowers the friction and place it against the coarsest side of the stone. Keep your knife at 15 degree to 20 degree angle. For safety, keep the knife pointed in the opposite direction from you. Drag your knife across the whetstone in a circular motion. You need to keep the angle constant. After three to four times, flip the knife over and repeat it over.

Afterwards, change to the smoother side of the stone and repeat the same thing over. You’d have a sharpened edge once again. Again, it’s better to frequently hone your knife and sharpen it as less as possible.

Electric sharpeners: Electric sharpeners are quite easy to use and don’t need much effort either. These also come with multiple tasking involving both sharpening and honing. All you need to do is drag your knife through the required slots. You don’t need to worry about what angle to sharpen knives to with electric sharpeners as these correct the angle automatically. However they are also risky since incorrect usage can damage the blade edges.

What is best angle to sharpen knives?

All knives are different. The huge variety means that they come in various materials, designs and quality. Hence they require different angle depending upon these factors. The angle to sharpen kitchen knives is obviously going to be different from wood carving knives. Therefore you need to know the proper angle before you begin sharpening.

The correct way to determine the sharpening angle is by paying attention to the knife’s design, use, steel and quality. Though, as per common sense, the more acute an angle, the less durable will be the edge. Moreover, you also need to consider the type of the knives as the western style blades are sharpened in a different angle from the eastern style blades. Asian knives mostly have a single bevel and need to be sharpened at one side only while most European styled ones have double bevels that need sharpening at both ends. Putting a 15 degree angle on a double bevel blade means 15 on each side i.e. the edge of the knife with have a 30 degree angle.

Majority of the knives are sharpened at 17 to 20 degree angles and western ones especially fall into the category of 20 – 22 degrees angle. Asian knives on the other hand are usually sharpened at about 15 degrees angle which is more acute. Though, putting an acute angle on European knives; which are made from softer variety of stainless steel, is like making them prone to dulling faster. This is opposite in the case of Asian knives which are normally made from a higher carbon steel.

Though, the angle also differs on the use of the knife. The angle to sharpen pocket knives or hunting knives that need to cut tough materials needs to be sharpened at the at a 22 to 30 degrees angle. Do make sure to read manufacturing specification especially for such knives as some of them are not meant to be sharpened.

As for different angles, the angles also vary upon the type of blade being used and the intended result.

Under 10 degrees angle: meant to sharpen knives whose edges are used for cutting softer materials

10 to 17 degrees angles: still a very weak angle, so more suitable for edges meant to slice soft items in a smooth cutting action. It’s a good angle to sharpen Henckels knives which should be approximately 15 degrees angle while Santoku knives and all MIYABI and Kramer need to be sharpened at a 9 to 12 degrees angle. Another such example is the buck knives.  A 13 to 16 degree angle sits well to be used to sharpen your buck knives at.

17 to 22 degree angles: Mostly a good angle for kitchen knives. Though, these angles are more durable on kitchen knives but they might not be durable with harder materials. A 20 degrees angle is the required angle to sharpen Gerber pocket knives.

22 to 30 degree angles: This is a more durable angle meant for slicing as well as cutting. Mostly the is the preferred angle to sharpen carving knives as this makes the cutting edge stronger so it works well with hardwood. Moreover, it gives a scooping control as the cutting edge rises even at a slight lowering of the handle.

Over 30 degrees angles: edges tools that are sharpened at a higher angle are liable to be more durable. Though, these might not work well with kitchen knives or normal knives. This applies to many Spyderco knives that have broad, flat grounded blades with fine microstructures. The angle to sharpen Spyderco knives like these is more suited for a 40 degree angle.

A knife needs to be sharp in order to be safe for usage. Otherwise, it can hurt you even if you are careful with it. You should know when your knife needs to be sharpened. Do remember that sharpening and honing a knife are two different things. Honing your knives frequently can reduce the need of sharpening them. To sharpen your knives you need to figure out what angle to sharpen knives at. Different knives are sharpened at different angle depending upon their blade, use and design. It’s better to figure out the proper angle at which you should sharpen your knives before you begin sharpening. However, if you find it too risky then it’s better to consult a professional.

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