If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, then you know me: there’s nothing I hate more than a dull knife. Every blade needs sharpening every once in a while, no matter what the type of steel you’re using. But there is still the need to sharpen your knife, even if you don’t use it that often. How often should knives be sharpened?
A knife can be sharpened every 3-6 months. That is only a rough estimate, though, and the sharpening times will depend on several things. The type of steel is a very important thing to consider, as is the frequency you use the blade with.
In this article, I’ll provide you with some guidelines as to how often you should sharpen your blade.
Factors That Determine How Often a Blade Needs Sharpening
Every time you use a knife it gets duller and duller. The differences might be tiny; the more demanding the job you’re doing is, the duller it will get. And prolonged use with a dull knife is never good; not only that it’s ineffective, but you can even hurt yourself as you exert more force.
To help you estimate how often you should sharpen your blade, you’ll have to consider some of these factors first.
- The type of steel you have. This is possibly the most important factor to consider here. Carbon blades should be honed after every use. Sharpening most stainless steel too often can significantly decrease the blade quality. Kitchen knives from M390 steel will usually need sharpening more often. Ceramic knives, for example, are fairly durable and will stay sharp for longer. The best steel for knives will allow them to stay sharp and not get dull.
- What you use the knife for. If you’re using your knife for cooking, then you want it sharp, especially when you’re cutting tougher meats or bones. For bushcrafting, a sharp blade can make a world of difference, but they’ll also get used faster if you’re doing something that makes the blade dull fast.
- The way you sharpen them. My preferred way to sharpen a knife is with a whetstone, although there are many other great ways to do it. A knife sharpener is also an obvious solution. However, these sharpening techniques will only sharpen your knife for some time. That’s why honing is the best way to keep your knife sharp for longer.
- How well you maintain it. An important thing to ask yourself is whether you’re caring for your knife as well as you should. First, I think that regular honing (once a week or once every two weeks) is the best way to keep your knife sharp for longer and maintain its quality. If you hone your knife regularly, it can stay sharp for several months.
Can You Over Sharpen a Knife?
Yes, you can over sharpen a knife. This means that you sharpen the knife so much that you start wasting the steel on the blade. So the more often you sharpen your knife, the more likely it is to degrade faster, and the more steel you’ll be consuming.
Using just sharpeners and whetstones all the time is never a good thing. And that’s especially the case if you’re sharpening your knife too often with a whetstone. This will eat into your knife’s blade and remove the steel from the knife.
The best way to sharpen a knife is to do it moderately, and just enough. When you notice that the knife is sharp enough, stop sharpening. I always love to do sharpening myself, but if you don’t know how to sharpen your blade correctly, then the best way to do it is to trust a professional. Or, at least practice sharpening on a cheaper blade to see how sharpening works.
Why Honing is the Best Long-Term Technique
Sharpening your knife constantly can eat away your knife’s steel, which is why it’s not recommended to sharpen your knife too often. The best guideline about sharpening is to sharpen the knife until it’s sharp, and then stop.
But how about maintenance? As your knife gets dull, you’ll have to think about sharpening again. But is it really the best option in that case?
You should certainly consider honing. Using the honing steel on a weekly basis can keep your knife sharp and the edge straight for much longer. And while honing does not necessarily sharpen your knife, it will keep the blade straight and hone out the imperfections. That’s why regular honing will keep your knife sharp for longer.
If you feel that your blade isn’t sharp despite regular honing, then it might be time to have your knife sharpened by a professional.
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Usually, you’ll notice immediately when your knife will become dull – you will be able to cut much less and the knife will seem like it lost its power.
But there are a couple of things that you can do to test whether your knife needs sharpening ( How To Tell If a Knife Is Sharp: 7 Ways to Test Your Knife’s Sharpness ). A very quick, simple test is to try your knife against paper and see how well it cuts it. If it cuts the paper straight away, then your blade is sharp enough. If you notice that it’s struggling, then you should sharpen it.
On the other hand, you will also want to test when to stop sharpening, and when your blade is too sharp. When I started out with knives, one of the biggest mistakes I made was that I made my blades too sharp, which wore them out quickly. A good technique to figure this out is the burr test.
Knowing when to sharpen your knife is one of the most important aspects of owning a knife. Of course, you’ll also want to know how to sharpen your knife. Knowing the specifications about your knife is helpful, especially what type of steel it’s made of. To conclude, you should aim to sharpen your knife every 3-6 months, provided that you hone your knife constantly.