Tiny kitchen-knife sharpener does the trick

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2020/05/13/tiny-kitchen-knife-sharper-doe.html

i’m seeing less “spit and a whetstone” comments than “this is garbage and destroyed my knife blade” comments. i was the disappoint.

in other news, these sharpeners are garbage and will destroy your knife blade. i hope you’re using dexters, mark.


Yeah v sharpeners have their problems. Mostly the potential for blade damage, the fixed sharpening angle, and the fact that they can’t really deal with anything that’s not sharpened to the standard (for cheaper knives anyway) double bevel. But they can and do work (sometimes quite well). I know plenty of hunters, fishermen (commercial and recreational), and butchers who keep one on hand for touch ups as they work. Though their mostly using them in place of a steel, and seem to sharpen the blades in more respectable ways when needed. Which is another short coming of these things, they aren’t very good at making a truly dull blade (or a damaged blade) functional again. But like I said they do work under the right circumstance. And the way Mark’s using it sounds about right. I’ve heard OK stuff about the Kitchen IQ one. But most people who use such devices and know a thing or two sharpening will tend to point you Here or Here. Or recommend one of the $2.00 nameless red square ones they have on the counter in most hardware stores.

I how ever will stick to spit and rocks (actually a bucket of water and cheap Japanese water stones). I’ve got a bunch of knives that aren’t double bevel, or sharpened to angles that gadgets can’t deal with.

And there’s nothing wrong with Dexters. They’re decent quality, get pretty sharp, and ultimately work. Though they can be a bit of a bitch to sharpen. And their fillet knives are the standard fillet knife. I genuinely like the few V-Los I’ve picked up. Both much sharper and lighter than the regular Sani-safe Dexters. The V-Lo fillet knife is just about the best fillet knife I’ve had the pleasure of using.

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Can I be third? I really hope you have a steel, Mark. Use that instead; I don’t find I need to use it every, every time.

Note: don’t do like in the movies - use the knife to carve the steel, which is held vertically, so as to have a good control of the angle and so as to not ding the blade. I was watching a smoked meat cutter at the regreté Ben’s Delicatessen in Montreal work and this is how he used his steel.

My Sabatiers are forty years old, I’ve never had to sharpen them. Seriously. At this rate, they’ll still be good in few hundred years. Those v-sharpeners scare me.


+1 on the water stones. i wouldn’t recommend them to someone looking for a cheap sharpener, but they’re all i use.

my experience with dexters were the hundreds of jank-ass, dull, bent-chipped-destroyed ones in many professional kitchens. i learned early on that a decent knife will save hours and hours of heartbreak and blood. i bought a set of j.a. henckels early on in my cooking career and still have them, they’re the only knives i use at home. the blades still exist because i kept them honed, and didn’t oversharpen them with the stones. i also own a few higher-end euro knives, and some really nice japanese knives… the type people don’t get to touch, and used to use them at work every day.

i’m admittedly a knife nerd, though, and i guarantee that few people that read this will ever bother to put a seriously scary edge on a knife, because they have no reason to. it’s cook OCD. however, it is actually worth it to learn to use a stone and a hone. it’s really, really easy, it’s the way people have done it for thousands of years, and if you like being “in touch” with your tools, it’s a no-brainer.

the key to keeping a decent blade sharp is upkeep, not ever letting the blade get dull. period. there should really never be any reason to cut an entire new edge out of the blade. not only is that what the carbide side is for, it’s particularly brutal about it, and will chip the hell out of any kind of hard steel.

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OH god no. These things destroy knives use them for a year or two and you will notice how much small your knife is. These things are like trying to shave with a weed whacker.


What’s a seriously scary edge? A chipped, dull one that requires so much force to prevent good control of the blade?


why you would intentionally put “a chipped, dull one that requires so much force to prevent good control of the blade” on a knife is a head scratcher.

My bet would be a combination of good intentions and bad skills. :stuck_out_tongue:


aha, indeed!

can’t make an omelette…

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I like whetstone sharpening once in a while, and using a hone for more casual sharpening. The trick to an ideal edge is sharpening at a 15 degree angle. A book of matches can be a useful guide if you’re just getting started.

a friend of mine, chef at a local supper club, found a 68 year old sabatier “Chef au Ritz” 12" french knife under a bunch of boxes, outside in a shed, with the handle rotted off. i got to clean it up for him… tossed a new handle on it, worked a couple of chips out of the edge, took the rust off, cleaned up the hammer marks on the spine (seriously, wtf?) sharpened it and it was good to go. some of the best european steel i’ve ever worked on.

sabatier is a strange brand, they were made all over europe. the Chef au Ritz sabatiers were made in germany but marketed as french, german stuff not being in the highest demand right after ww2…

anyway, it’s his main “user” right now and it’s a monster, i’d take a good french-style sabatier over any other modern western chef’s knife any day.

Most of the Dexters I’ve encountered in kitchens have been likewise pretty hurt. Between bad maintenance and the cheapest line (big white handles) being kind of weird steel wise (heavy, hard to sharpen etc) but still ubiquitous they can get pretty bad. But if you maintain them well they’re decent knives, damn near indestructible, and cheap enough that you don’t really care when you do find a way to break them. They often need to be totally reground though, the out of the box edge on the cheapest ones is pretty janky, and a shallower angle does a lot to improve their performance.

I like things that are good quality for the price, Dexter Russell’s knives fit that well. Though in terms of the standard white handled ones there are better “restaurant store” brands at the same price (Mundials are surprisingly nice). It wouldn’t be my preferred brand of knives (aside from fillet knives) but keeping some on hand to lazily mistreat and or provide extra tools for when many people are cooking at once (we do big holidays, BBQs and the like) isn’t a bad idea. I got a basic set of affordable decent quality knives when I was in college, about the same price as the Dexters, but better looking and better steel (heavy as balls though). And I’ve augmented that by “replacing” certain knives with nicer makes over the years. The old ones stick around as backup, or for when I don’t want to risk doing something with a fancy knife. But a couple of times those older, lower quality, knives were the much better buy. I picked up a really nice Shun at a surprisingly low price about 3 years ago. It was great for the first 2 years, loved that knife. Incredibly sharp, easy to keep that way. But starting around this time last year its been a disaster. I have not clue what might have happened but edge just started basically flaking off. I baby that knife (even more so now), keep it sharp, very careful when it does need sharpening, hand wash and dry. I store the damn thing on my bookshelf for shits sake, in a blade protector, where nothing can inadvertently knock into it. And every time I pick it up there’s all these tiny little chips in the blade, and I have to grind it out. I put it away in perfect shape, and the blade gets all fucked up just sitting there. As it turns out that blade was a huge waste of money, there seems to be nothing I can do to not have it damage itself.

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Tiny kitchen-knife sharpener does the trick.

In other news: Instant coffee is actually OK…


I own a steel, I know how to use it, and I like using it because it makes me feel skilful, but one of these sharpeners is going to be much easier to use for most people.
Also, I never seen a chef with expensive knives, only with a box of cheap crappy ones they replace every few months (business expense init?).

I should have said that my knives were Sabatier lion. They have a beautiful heft, balance, and they make slicing and chopping a pleasure.

The original Sabatiers came from Theirs, France, where cultery has been a craft since the Middle Ages. Since ‘Sabatier’ as a brand was never properly trademarked by the two Sabatier families, it’s become another word for ‘knife set’ these days…unless you can verify the origins of your knives. Yours/your friend’s is likely authentic.

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A steel doesn’t sharpen, it hones. That is, it doesn’t take any metal off the blade, it just straightens out whatever microdings have accrued along the edge.


that’s really weird, i’ve got a shun parer and a shun yanagiba, and they’ve been a couple of the most reliable knives in my kit, 7 years in the case of the yani (and yes, shun has great prices for their quality) … i’ve also known several people who have owned working shuns, and i’ve never heard of anything like that happening. the only time i’ve heard of any knives just falling apart at the edge is when they’re put away wet, the edge is obviously the most vulnerable part, but i’m assuming you aren’t doing that!

have you contacted shun? it’s always possible they got a derped batch of steel or something, and if they did it would be a batch problem, they’d probably send you a new knife =o

sucks to hear, anyway… jeez…

sort of… honing is breaking off the burr on the edge, which happens every time you use a knife at a near-microscopic scale, so it is technically removing steel, but it’s removing steel that forms naturally during use instead of cutting an edge.

that burr is the absolute key to sharpening, the whole point of stoning a blade is to raise that burr at ascending grits then take it off with the next, exposing the raw edge surface.

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My cousin’s wife publishes a foodie / locavore newsletter in Massachusetts. A recent issue had and article on knife sharpening:


Other family connection: My father made the knives! (Not the ones in the header photo.)