This is a sticky-wicket. I myself struggle with this advice. I have a whetstone and I use it. My results? I have sharp knives. Are the edges all that perfect? No. I have some dings in the blade of my heavy chef knife and I have not yet purchased a whetstone with a coarse enough grit to really remove enough material to take care of these nicks. I also need more practice. Are my knives razor-sharp? No, and a razor-sharp kitchen knife is not usually necessary and may be a problem, depending on how you are using the knife. I’m not going to sit around sharpening knives for hours. So…I may never be a master sharpener. On the other hand, I have sharp knives.
I have learned a few things about knife sharpening. But I am no expert. It may be that knowing a lot about knife-sharpening and being able to sharpen your kitchen knives are two different things. One thing I’ve learned is that it is not as mysterious and difficult as some aficionados would have you believe. The question to ask yourself is whether you want perfectly sharp knives or simply sharp knives. If your answer is the latter, then you can save money and always have sharp knives.
Should you maintain the edge of your knife with a honing (sharpening) steel? Maybe, but to be honest I don’t think these do much of anything. Given the zeal with which most experts promote the frequent use of a honing steel, this may seem to fly in the face of the accepted wisdom, but I have to call them as I see them. According to Ben from Traditional Tools, a knife steel that is hard enough to hold a good edge will probably not be rolling with regular use unless you are cutting on improper surfaces, such as glass, or hacking into bones. And if you do need to hone your knife, I’d advise running it over the 6000 grit side of your whetstone. Then, you will not need to sharpen it very often.
But all knives eventually become dull and need to be sharpened. In this case, sharpening means that actual material needs to be removed from the cutting edge in order to make it have a sharp edge again. There has long been a debate around whether those quick electric or v-shaped knife sharpeners work, whether you can sharpen on your own with basic equipment, or whether you need a professional.
As for the quick sharpeners, yes, they can work. However, I’m consistently told by people with more expertise that these will eventually ruin your knife and end up needing a professional to bring it back, or a whole lot of work on your own. How do they ruin your knife? Well, I don’t know. Nobody has been able to explain it to me without a lot of jargon. If you have a cheap knife, this may not matter much, but if you have a very nice expensive knife, you will probably think twice before running it through any such device.
However, pay no attention to those who say you can’t sharpen it yourself. Of course, you can. It’s not that difficult but it does take some practice. The problem with bringing your knife to a professional is, how do you identify a true professional? Any hardware store with a belt grinder can advertise knife-sharpening services and although that powerful whirring equipment may look impressive, that doesn’t mean the person using it knows what they are doing. So, you’ll have to do your homework. Or, you can do homework on how to sharpen a knife yourself and have some fun (be safe!)
Since I am not a knife sharpening expert, I am not going to attempt to guide you through the sharpening process. The purpose of this article was to share my opinion on whether you need a professional knife sharpener. There are many good videos for beginners on YouTube to help you learn how to sharpen your kitchen knives. You will find it easiest to sharpen your larger knives because you can use a guide (hey, use it, it helps). Smaller knives can be more difficult because the guide is too large. The same thing goes for cleavers with very wide blades.