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sharpening and caring for your kitchen knives

Why Use a Professional Knife Sharpening Service?

Professional Quality

For some reason a lot us who are used to trusting professionals to help us with all sorts of other household duties—i.e. mowing our lawns, cleaning our carpets, troubleshooting our PCs—don’t consider using a professional knife sharpening service for our kitchen knives. Why is that?

sharpening wheel_lrg

(Possible reasons—garnered from my own personal experience.)

1) We don’t know they exist.
2) We don’t know how to locate one.
3) We worry that even if we do locate one, they’ll cost too much.
4) We’re afraid a sub-standard outfit might ruin our beloved knives.
5) We can’t afford the time to deal with any of the above, OR, even if we could manage to spare the time, we deeply doubt it’ll be worth it.

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John Boos & Co. Cherry Edge-Grain Fusion Board, 20″ x 15″ x 1″
Here’s a really cool-looking board I’ve never seen anything quite like. Edge-grain cherry with wooden feet and an Asian feel—it also comes in maple. As I mention elsewhere, Boos is known for their quality. Beauty and brains . . . what’s not to like?

John Boos Fusion Cutting Board

 
Answers to the five reasons above:

Number One—they’re he-re. Some home gourmets may not even realize these professional sharpening services exist for consumers, and that, along with professional chefs, they service consumer cooks as well. It’s a big knife-sharpening world out there. Don’t shirk an invaluable resource.

Number Two—where? Thanks to the internet, assembling a short list of possible candidates for any given service is not the big hairy deal it used to be. Just google that puppy. Try “knife sharpening services” and you’ll see an endless scroll fill your screen. And if you’re willing to mail your knives somewhere—and there’s no reason you shouldn’t—you’ll have a long list to choose from, a variety of approaches, and some high-end candidates. Which brings us to. . .

Number Three—how much? As much as it might sound like a luxury, sending your knives to be sharpened somewhere, depending on the service, could cost less than 6 dollars per knife. For example: a 4-inch paring knife could run $5–7, while a standard 8-inch chef knife $6–10. Most services charge by size range, such as $6 for blades 7 to 10 inches long, but some figure their rates more exactly by the inch. Either way, considering you’re getting professional treatment, they’re pretty darn affordable.

A package of two 8-inch chef knives and two 4-inch paring knives, including shipping, could run as little a $33.
Of course, if you’re not dropping them off yourself or using a highly-trained team of super-charged carrier pigeons—you’ll have to pay for shipping. But if you deploy the good old USPS and not something pricey like FedEx overnight, it won’t add up to as much as you might think. Plus, the more knives you send in one package, the more you can spread out the shipping costs—thus, you’d be smart to do at least three or four blades at a time.

So, for example, a package of two 8-inch chef knives and two 4-inch paring knives, including shipping, could run as little a $33. Total. (Barely the price of a movie date and a drink and some popcorn.) Does that sound like too much? Think of what you’re getting—the kind of scintillating sharpitude a professional chef has in their hands every single day. Which could last to a year or more before needing to be resharpened. (That is if you hone regularly.)

When you factor in the lifespan of your knives, the cost of having to buy new ones, and the hassle of perpetually putting up with dull-cutting blades, it’s really not very much.

Nonetheless—if that still sounds like too much to pay, then maybe you should consider buying your own sharpening system and learning how to do it yourself. But, along with the startup cost of investing in a quality DIY system ($120 and up), it will cost you time (depending on the system—a serious chunk of it) to master and maintain the skill of sharpening. Especially at the beginning.

DIY SHARPENING SYSTEMS  Here are two sharpeners I recommend looking into—one powered and the other manual. I have thoroughly researched both though I have not used them personally.

Master Grade Electric SharpenerPowered: The Master Grade® Electric Knife Sharpener is compact, nice-looking, and does an excellent job. It’s small enough to fit on a counter, but can also be stowed. What I like most about it is that, unlike many other brands of electric sharpener, the two wheels it uses to sharpen with are not hard and rigid, but pliable and soft. This means: 1) they can conform to the blade better than hard wheels, thus creating a smoother bevel and 2) they will not whisk away as much metal. NOTE: You need to be very very careful with powered systems because they can, in short order, eat up your knives. Always practice on a knife you don’t care about first. Also—like most countertop electric sharpeners, this machine will not handle a knife with a bolster well. It’s ideal for knives like Japanese hybrids.

Manual: The Edge Pro Sharpening System is precise, well-designed, and extremely versatile. The best thing about this system is: 1) it guarantees you’ll consistently sharpen on the correct angle, and 2) it employs waterstones which are gentler on your knives than whetstones (or diamond) and will insure you take as little metal off as necessary. (Yes, it’s expensive, and believe it or not, I don’t get a penny for this recommendation.)

Number Four—avoiding ruination. How do you know any of the services you’ve looked up on the web are any good? How do you know they won’t chew up your kitchen knives instead of bringing them back to their original factory sharpitude? This is a really good question and a really important one—so much so that I cover it more in depth elsewhere on this site: a) See my article Finding a Professional Sharpening Service which offers tips on how to find a quality service. b) Or, better yet, read my article Reviews of Professional Knife Sharpening Services which covers services I have used and can recommend.

Suffice it to say, I am certain that through the web (or other avenues) and my guidance anyone can find a service that will satisfy even the most finicky customer (of which I am one).

Number Five—time, time, time. Properly caring for your knives, no matter which way you go, will take more time. No doubt about it. Just as it does for your car, your lawnmower, and, the-mother-of-all-time-sucks your house. But if you choose to send them to a professional, and in between sharpenings hone them yourself, it will be a matter of minutes, not hours. Sixty-second snippets, every couple days. Not quantity, but consistency, will make all the difference. If you pine for your knives to be sharp, all it takes is a little diligence.

Mailing off my kitchen knives to a quality knife sharpening service has reenergized my culinary life.
The good news is that mail-in sharpening services are designed to save time and make things easy. Most have simple, clear instructions (which often includes a downloadable form to print out) as well as standard means of payment (credit card or PayPal). The steps required to properly package up and mail out a box of knives can be mastered in 20 minutes. Yes, you’ll have to learn how to roll them up in newspaper without nicking yourself. (Or—you can just buy a set of knife guards.) But after you’ve done it once, and gotten the hang of the whole process, the next time will be a cinch. Plus, KitchenKnifeGuru is always here to help and guide!

Knife Renewal

True confession: Mailing off my kitchen knives to a quality knife sharpening service has reenergized my culinary life. I’m not exaggerating. It’s evaporated the nagging complaint I had carried around for years in the back of my cranium that moaned, “Our kitchen knives are not sharp enough, but what can I do about it?” It’s given me back my cutting edge beauties for a price that’s more than worth it. Simple tasks like slicing up a melon for breakfast, instead of being a herky-jerky trauma, go smooth and quick. I now enjoy pro-quality blades every single day without having to add “sharpening the knives” to my already long list of duties and errands.

Do yourself a favor and seriously consider a pro knife sharpening service. And if you need any convincing not to do your own knife sharpening, please read Kitchen Knife Sharpening: Five Good Reasons NOT to Sharpen Your Own.

(Photo credit: Thanks to Chi-Chatty on Flickr.com for her photo of the sharpening wheel.)

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An Edge in the Kitchen
by Chad Ward

Mastering Knife Skills
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