Do Your Knife A Favor

This may be a strange place to begin, but the best thing you can do for your knives is to visit Sharpen While You Shop as infrequently as possible.  You made a substantial investment in your knives and that investment should pay off for decades.  With this in mind it is important to understand the distinction between sharpening a knife and steeling a knife.

When a knife is sharpened some of the metal is removed and, although barely perceivable, the knife shrinks a little.  Even though the machines and techniques we use are designed to remove just enough material to sharpen a knife and no more, the more frequently you sharpen your knives the faster they will disappear.

A sharpening steel, on the other hand, does not remove material.  Think of it as more of a realignment of the edge.  There are those who claim to put a perfect edge on your knife but remember that it only lasts until you use the knife once.  When you use your knife the edge "feathers" out a little bit.  When used correctly the steel will coax those "feathers" back into a straight edge.

I have had great results with this very safe technique and I teach it to anyone who will listen.

First, I have my student hold out their hand out palm up and with my hand I push down very gently with 2 or 3 ounces of pressure.  Press down on your kitchen scale to feel what a light touch this is.  Many people are amazed that this is as hard as you have to hold the knife to the steel but if you think about it these "feathers" are microscopic so it doesn't take a lot of force.  When too much force is applied by the knife to the steel the edge of the knife will roll or fold over.  As you do this back and forth over and over eventually the feathers will fatigue and break off leaving you with more of a saw and less of a knife.  It is possible to do more harm than good with a steel used incorrectly.

Hold the steel like a dagger vertically with the tip on a wooden cutting board.  With the edge facing down and the spine of the knife at a 15 to 20 degree angle from the steel draw the edge of the knife back toward yourself from the heel of the blade to the tip with a downward motion using almost the entire length of the steel.  Then twist your wrist and repeat the procedure at the angle on the other side of the knife.  Alternate back and forth one side of the steel and  then the other 5 or 6 times and that's all it takes.  The exact angle is not as critical as the fact that you need to steel your knife every time you use it!

If this is all too much for you just come visit us at one of the stores and we will be happy to give you a lesson.  Steeling a knife is hard to describe but easy to demonstrate and you will be an expert after a few meals!

Have Questions for Sharpen While You Shop?

Call 408.891.0225 or email

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