Razor Sharp Knives

[Prev: Swimming Eagles | Next: Microwave Bearnaise ] Created 6/11/95 by darrell.web4 (at) telus.net (Darrell Greenwood)

Razor Sharp Knives

The best book I have run across on sharpening knives is The Razor Edge Book of Sharpening by John Juranitch. I don't know if it is still in print, but your local library may have a copy if you check. (I have been advised that it is available also from http://www.knives.com/bookshelf.html or http://razoredgesystems.com/)

As a consultant to butchering houses, and as a result of his independent research, Juranitch came up with a sharpening technique I find is reliable and repeatable.

It helps to keep in mind what you are doing; first, you are setting the edge, i.e., you are removing the inevitable rounding of the edge that a dull knife has. You use a relatively coarse stone so that you can remove, in a reasonable amount of time, the necessary amount of knife metal to get the edge into a 'v' shape rather than a 'u' shape.

Second, you are removing the roughening effects of the coarse stone by polishing the edge with a fine stone.

Third, you are putting the final mirror polish on the edge with a smooth steel so the knife edge is as smooth as possible. The sharpest edge is the smoothest edge you can achieve.

Juranitch sold me a kit for about $35 several years ago containing a fine stone, a coarse stone, a steel, a knife jig, and sharpness tester.

I confidently can now very quickly take all our knives to razor sharp edges... and I have to... my wife will not work with anything less. :-)

If he is still in business the book beside me, The Razor Edge Book of Sharpening by John Juranitch, Warner Books, ISBN 0-445-38002-4, gives the address of;

John Juranitch, c/o Razor Edge Systems, P.O. Box 150, Ely, MN 55731

(Mar 7, 1998 -- From a reader's tip I find Juranitch has a catalog available on a web site at http://www.razoredgesystems.com/)

Some quotes from the Jurnaitch's book follow. I typed these up for a posting dealing with a tiny controversy I stirred up on the question of no oil for sharpening knives on the newsgroup rec.food.cooking:

"Now this may come as a shock to you, and some of you may even want to make sure you're sitting down for this one. But if you use oil in sharpening, it will:

Number one -- cost you money. Number two -- make a mess. Number three -- give you an inferior edge."

"....We encountered a problem with using oil when we first started demonstrating at sports shows around the country. How do you sharpen all those knives with all that oil? Heck, we could drown in oil! So rather than use oil we just kept our hones clean as best we could, and thought we could always switch to a new hone when the dirty one quit working. But guess what. The hones just kept going ... and kept going ... and kept going. Both the coarse and fine. And then we noticed something else. Our edges seemed to be better than when we were using oil..."

"... The question is why did the edges deteriorate so quickly when we used oil? The answer is this. The grit that has been worn from the hone becomes suspended in the oil with the metal filings from the blade, and you get a grinding compound, similar to the stuff used to grind the valves on your car. Running your knife through this compound is like running it through a pile of sand..."

"... After our experience in that packing plant with oil (where oil sharpened blades did not last as long - dg) we went into further study on the subject. We used electron microscopes with magnification of up to 10,000 power, and you could easily see the difference between the wet and dry edges. The edges that had been sharpened in oil had small chips knocked out of the cutting edge; the dry-sharpened blades did not..."

My experience since I switched to dry honing parallels Juranitch's. My stones show no sign of wear, are not glazed or clogged, and my knives are sharper than before and retain their sharpness longer.

A Jan 18 1997 email note asks;

> I read the link you gave and it talks about stroking the knife at
> a 20deg angle but it doesn't say which direction. A prior post said
> toward you (pulling up away from the edge) but I was always taught
> to stroke down like you are slicing. Which is it?

Quoting Juranitch;

"For the coarse grinding you can use most any grinding motion. It can be back and forth, clockwise, or counterclockwise. Most people prefer a circular motion, but use whatever suits you best. That is on the coarse abrasive; when you go to the fine abrasive, it's another story. Here you have to be more fussy. The finishing stroke must always be _into_ the cutting edge... using alternate strokes to finish the edge. This means one stroke on one side and one on the other."

i.e., like you are slicing.

Another source of information on knife sharpening is the Sharpening FAQ.

And another article on Jurancitch, with illustrations...


March 10, 2003

Steve Bottorff was kind enough to send me a review copy of his book Sharpening Made Easy, $9.95 + s&h. It is a small (96 pages) well laid out book, with lots of illustrations, and covers a number of sharpening systems. With 10 chapters it covers the basics of sharpening, sharpening systems, how to sharpen, sharpening machines and makes a good book for someone new to sharpening.

February 8, 2006

Knife Maintenance and Sharpening By Chad Ward (Chad). This is an excellent well illustrated online overview and tutorial on sharpening your knives. Recommended.

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