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Knife Maintenance and Sharpening 101
Investing in a quality, usable item– whether that item is a new car or a new knife– requires a certain amount of daily care and occasional maintenance. The common misconception that a quality knife doesn't dull is just that– a misconception. Sharp, durable knives still need simple maintenance and routine sharpening to keep them at their best, make food preparation safe and fun, and allow them to truly last a lifetime. After all, you wouldn't stop going for oil changes just because you bought a car with a superior motor - in fact, you might pay even more attention to its care.
Let's break down some basic knife care that will make your sharpest kitchen investments last. You can also check out our “How to Sharpen a Knife” video here.
Daily Maintenance Q&A
We have found that cutting boards made of ceramic, glass, resin, hard plastic will cause knives to dull VERY QUICKLY, so avoid them if you don’t want to sharpen your knife with every few slices.
Storage: Storing knives in their leather sheaths, on a wooden magnet, or in a wooden block is the best way to ensure the safety of everyone in the kitchen and keep blades protected from getting banged up or chipped. When removing or replacing a knife on a magnet or in a knife block, avoid scraping the sharp edge across the knife block material - doing any sliding or scraping with a knife “spine down” is another way to keep the blade sharp.
If you own a New West knife, lucky you: you can take advantage of free sharpening for life and send them back to New West KnifeWorks to be sharpened free of charge. Follow the instructions here to make sure your sharpened knives get back to you as quickly as possible.
However, knowing how to sharpen your own knives on a regular basis is an indispensable kitchen skill and quite simple once you get the hang of it. Remember, practice makes perfect– you won't damage a knife by trying to sharpen it, even if you cannot do it perfectly the first couple of times.
Knife enthusiasts and professional chefs sharpen their knives weekly, but bi-monthly or monthly should do the trick, depending on how often you use your knife. Keep in mind that it takes much less skill to maintain a knife's edge than it does to re-sharpen a totally dull knife. As soon as a knife will not cleanly slice a tomato it should be sharpened.
Follow the steps below, or watch the full how to video here!
1) If your knife is quite dull, begin with a medium/coarse grit ceramic sharpening rod. The coarse grit ceramic rods we recommend are around 100-200 grit.
2) Aim for an angle between 15 and 20 degrees. The edges of New West knives are sharpened to a 17 degree angle. This can be estimated by finding 90 degrees, halving that to 45 degrees, halving that to 22.5 degrees, and then going a few degrees narrower to get in the 15-20 degree range.
3) Hold sharpening rod straight up and down against your table or surface. This will make the angle of the blade easy to see when keeping a consistent angle against the ceramic rod. However, the exact angle is less important than maintaining consistency with each stroke and consistency on both sides of the blade.
4) Be sure to do an even amount of strokes on each side. For a dull knife, begin with 20 on one side, then 20 on the other, then 10/10, 5/5, 3/3, 2/2, 1/1.
5) If you want an even finer edge, repeat step 5 with a fine grit ceramic rod. Or, if you have been keeping up well with your knife sharpening, you may only need to use the fine grit. The fine grit ceramic sharpening rods available from New West are 1200-1500 grit.
6) When you finish, your knife should be sharp enough to slide right through a tomato with very little pressure.
You can do a good job of restoring a serrated knife's edge by sharpening it on a diamond or ceramic steel, if the serrations are wide enough. The ceramic sharpening rods we recommend can sharpen serrations as small as the width of a pencil.
The edge on serrated knives is almost always ground on only one side of the knife. Using a diamond or ceramic steel, sharpen/hone on the ground side, sweeping down the length of the steel and striking the entire length of the blade (just like a straight edge knife). The roundness of the steel will dip down into larger serrations and sharpen the tips. The tips of the serration or any spot where the knife blade touches a cutting board are the parts that get dull. After sharpening the ground side (20-40 strokes) sharpen/hone the other side just a few times with the knife almost flat (totally flat, will scratch the side of the blade).
And that’s it! Keeping knives super sharp makes food preparation safer, faster, and much more fun, so keep it up and let us know if you have any questions.