Sharpening is something that is essential for any knife. Knowing how to do it and how often, is crucial for its lifespan. In case you have no idea how its done, here are some things you first need to know.
Shun has a life long sharpening service, so there is no need for you to sharpen it. In case you still want to sharpen it yourself, it is advised to do it with a whetstone on a 16-degrees sharpening angle.
I know that sharpening on a whetstone may sound a little intimidating but it’s actually not that hard at all. In fact, using a whetstone can ve very therapeutic. But in case you are wondering, are there any other methods out there? In this article, I will cover the most common methods to sharpen your chef knife.
So, you recently bought a Shun knife, and just like anyone else you probably fell in love with it. For me, once I started using it, it felt as if I relearned cutting with a chef knife.
But you are probably wondering, how can I sharpen this beauty? Or is there even a need to sharpen them in the first place? Maybe a company can take care of it? Do I even need to sharpen them?
Do Shun knives chip?
The leading cause of chipping is a user mistake. But with shun, there is also the fact that it is thinner and harder than their western counterparts compared. This means better cutting performance and better edge retention, but it also means the edge is more brittle (especially the shun knives as they picked steels that are more on the fragile side for some reason).
A sharp knife is safer.
With a sharp knife, you know what to expect, it won’t slip, and you do not have to put too much pressure. You can easily manage how it moves through the food, which gives you control over your chopping or slicing. But with a dull blade, you have much bigger chances it will slip, which gives you less control and increases the risk of cutting your finger. With a dull knife, it’s only a matter of time until you severely cut yourself.
Honing vs. Sharpening
First, we must understand the difference between honing and sharpening and why you should always try to hone your knife instead of sharpening it.
Honing is ideal for gentle fixes, and when done often enough, it helps prevent severe damage to your blade. Honing rods are very cheap and are commonly used in any household. They look like steel rods with handle, the surface is course, and by scraping your blade at the correct angle on both sides, you hone the edges back in place. You can easily find them between 10$ TO 30$ (link to Amazon).
Sharpening, on the other hand, is aggressively polishing a knife to reform its edge. This is usually only done with very dull knives. Sharpening is actually shaving away bits of metal from your blade. This is also why you should try to sharp the least possible but hone more. The more you sharpen, the more metal you lose and thus the shorter the lifespan of your knife. Also, the sharpening process is only possible with harder materials like ceramic, stone, and steel, while honing is mainly done with a honing steel.
Why should you hone more and sharpen less?
If you wish your knife to serve you for a long time or you do not want to buy a new one every 4 to 5 years, I recommend maintaining/honing your blade for as long and as often as possible, especially with an expensive chef knife. The more you hone the less you will need to sharpen. As previously mentioned honing is pushing the edge back to the center, this way it straightens it and no metal is lost during this process. Regularly honing and doing small maintenance, which takes little time and effort will save you a lot of frustration. Also, your knife will feel like brand new each time you use it. So, why would you not want to do it?
When should you hone?
You should try to hone your knife every 3-4 hours of use. This should be more or less about 1 to 2 times per week for a home cook.
But in case you have no choice, your knife is severely damaged, and it needs to be sharpened, but you have never done it, and it kind of makes you nervous. Or maybe you are scared that you might make it worse. Well, It seems it’s not that hard even if you are a beginner.
Whetstone sharpening, also known as the traditional sharpening method. This method does require some skill, but it is not a skill that is hard to learn. With the right angle and ideal amount of pressure, you can learn it reasonably quickly. This is the recommended method to sharpen your Shun knives but also any other chef knife for that matter.
Many chefs prefer to use this method not only because they get a better result but also because, to many, it gives satisfaction.
Sharpening stones have different grits.
If you chose to go with a whetstone, there are different levels of grits. Each serves a purpose.
Less than #1000 grit is mainly used to repair knives with chipped edges. The recommended grit for this is between #120 to #400.
#1000 to #3000 grit you use for sharpening dull knives. For regular sharpening, you should aim between #700 and #2000.
#4000 to #8000 are the ones you need to refine and finish. The #4000 to #5000 is like a bridge between sharpening and superfine finishing.
Now depending on what you will use your knife for, if it’s for cutting meat, stopping between #4000 and #6000 is enough. In case you are only using it for vegetables or fruit, you can go all the way up to #8000.
In case you are a beginner or have never used a whetstone before, or you are just an occasional user. It is suggested to use a whetstone between #1000 and #6000 like this King’s combination whetstone (link to Amazon).
In case you wish to see a video on how it’s done:
- You can attain very sharp results with fine stones.
- You have many types of stones and each of them for a specific phase of the sharpening process.
- It gives satisfaction to sharpen your knife. For some, this is even therapeutic.
- Helps you maintain a long life span of your knife.
- Useful for thinning knives.
- Learning curve. If you do not have the patience, it might be not be something for you.
- It takes a little longer to achieve the desired sharpness.
Electrical Sharpener is manually less intensive, but just a little faster. It requires less skill and, therefore, fewer chances to make mistakes. These machines usually have a very well written guide and are easy to use. Most of the electrical sharpeners have different types of slots, each one of them used for different phases of the sharpening process. Because of the slots being fixed, it provides a stable edge. You go through each slot one by one, as explained in the guide, and that’s it. These machines are effortless to use; however, sharpening sessions with them removes much more material compared to a sharpening stone. This translated to a much shorter life span for your knife. The same reason why it is not recommended to use a sharpening machine for a pocket knife. Pocket knives generally have to begin with skinny blades, so using it would result in a very short life span. One more thing that is crucial is that if you wish to use a European knife, the angle for these knives is different compared to the Japanese.
- Easy and fast to use, and it does not require any skill.
- The sharpness does not last that long
- Not made for thinning.
Pull through sharpeners
Pull through sharpeners (AKA knife sharpeners) are ideal if you don’t feel comfortable learning the skill of sharpening on a stone and are on a budget. You pull your knife through the slots, and with each pull, your blade gets sharpened. The results are, however, much less impressive. You get a relatively jagged edge, and the sharpness is even less long-lasting than any other method. In all honesty, no shun knife should ever be sharpened with this. A high-quality knife like this deserves a more sophisticated method.
- Puts a rough edge on a knife
- Extremely fast
- Not very expensive
- The edge can be harsh
- You could lose too much of your blade in one pull
Sharpening steel is probably the one you have seen most. You can buy them in any store, and it is now considered a must within any household kitchen. Do not confuse this with honing steel as the name suggest, that one is for honing. You might have seen tv chef’s whipping their knife like crazy. This is completely unnecessary; they are only showing off. Do not try to do the same; you can cut yourself easily, especially if you are a beginner. Doing it slowly and steadily is enough and is in fact the correct way of doing it. The angle must be accurate, and when doing it that fast chances are, you will not hold it properly. Do not confuse it with a honing steel. They are very similar but often confused. There is an essential difference between them. One will bend your blade while the other will scrape of metal. Honing is bending your edge back to its place while sharpening is removing the metal to get the edge sharp enough.
- Very common
- Slightly improves Cutting Ability
- Looks good in your kitchen block
- Does almost not remove any steel
- You cannot fix a dull blade
- Can’t remove nicks
Do manual knife sharpeners wear out?
There are several types of sharpeners out there, and some of them never wear out, and others do.
In the case of ceramic sharpening steel, these will never wear out, but the surface can get clogged with removed metal particles. You can clean them out with a scouring pad and they will be as good as new.
Smooth (ungrooved) metal steels cannot ever wear out since they’re just a smooth piece of metal.
But a diamond sharpener, on the other hand, will absolutely wear out.
The abrasive is made of tiny diamonds embedded in the surface, which will be dislodged by regular use. Eventually, enough diamonds will be scraped off that the tool ceases to sharpen.
What angle do you sharpen shun knives?
Now that we have gone through all of the sharpening options let’s talk about the sharpening angle. As I have previously mentioned, it is recommended to use a sharpening stone to sharpen your shun knives. All shun knives are sharpened on a 16-degree angle. This is Due to their harder steel, the blade stock can be thinner and the edge more acute—that is, sharper—than a comparable German knife
Do you need to wash a knife after sharpening?
Yes, after each sharpening session, you should always clean your knife.
Small metal parts may end up in your food. Eating a tiny amount would most of the time, not be dangerous. But if you sharpen a lot (which you shouldn’t) and you don’t clean, consuming a lot of metal will poison you.
Can you ruin a knife by sharpening it?
It’s very hard to really ruin a knife. Occasional sharpening won’t make the metal more fragile. You may, however, remove too much metal with each sharpening session, and this will translate to your knife having a much shorter lifespan.
How many times can a knife be sharpened?
There is no number for this, but the one thing you should know is that there is a limit just like with anything, but to get to that point is very difficult. So it is almost impossible to over sharpen your knife. It would take a massive amount of grinding to get your blade to a nub. You can get to this point if you sharpen too many times and over sharpen each time and use a sharpening machine and do something you are not supposed to do.
How often you should sharpen your Shun knives?
Shun knife should not need sharpening more than once a year.
This is, of course, if you have maintained it appropriately. It also depends on how much you have used your knife. A simple trick to know if your knife is still sharp is to try to cut through a tomato, if it does not slice through it smoothly, this may mean you need to sharpen your knife.
You can easily find a company that will sharpen the knife for you. Their price range can differ. Some may charge you per inch of the blade, while others have a fixed price. Also, based on the type of damage on your knife, you may be charged extra. But this is something you should discuss before ordering the service.
Does shun offer free sharpening?
Shun offers a lifetime free sharpening. You can send your knife, or if in case you live near, they might sharpen it while you wait which I find very convenient.
As I mentioned many times, maintenance is the key if you wish to use your knife for as long as possible.
Store it correctly by not letting it rest on its edge, use a blade protector in case you keep it in your drawer. Wash it by hand immediately after each use. Finally, only store it when it’s dry.