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Old 03-10-2009, 06:25 PM   #1
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How sharp is "sharp"?

So here's the thing...I have a cheap set of knives that I sharpen several times a week. I'm obsessive about them being sharp, but others have told me I'm being ridiculous and there's no need for a knife to be sharpened that often.

What I would like to know is what is a reasonable sharpness? Is there some kind of test that's recognized to mean a knife is really, really sharp? For me it's the tomatoes and bell peppers that get to me. If I have to apply pressure and really start sawing, I think the knives aren't sharp enough. Unfortunately, I've never gotten to that point with my knives...so I'm wondering if I just have impossible standards or whether my knives are substandard.

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Old 03-10-2009, 06:31 PM   #2
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Welcome to DC ---- Your "tomato" test seems like a reasonable standard ---

Have Fun & Enjoy!!
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Old 03-10-2009, 06:43 PM   #3
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It's not wrong or unreasonable to want sharp knives.

What's scary is that you have to sharpen your knives several times a week!

If you are referring to using a steel on the knife, that's not sharpening. I use a steel every time I use my knives. That's basic maintenance. If you're using some sharpening stone or tool that often, you need new knives.

I have a set of Henckels PRO S and sharpen them a couple of times a year. Any of my knives will easily cut through a tomato or bell pepper at any time.
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Old 03-10-2009, 07:42 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AlanS2323 View Post
So here's the thing...I have a cheap set of knives that I sharpen several times a week. I'm obsessive about them being sharp, but others have told me I'm being ridiculous and there's no need for a knife to be sharpened that often.

What I would like to know is what is a reasonable sharpness? Is there some kind of test that's recognized to mean a knife is really, really sharp? For me it's the tomatoes and bell peppers that get to me. If I have to apply pressure and really start sawing, I think the knives aren't sharp enough. Unfortunately, I've never gotten to that point with my knives...so I'm wondering if I just have impossible standards or whether my knives are substandard.
The tomato/bell pepper test is a reasonable test of sharpness. However the cutting stroke is important. At a microscopic level a knife edge is a saw, therefore you should be using a long cutting stroke that is at least 45 degrees in angle. If you hack straight down like an axe you're not actually getting very much cutting done, merely crushing with a sharp edge.

I work in a professional kitchen and sharpen my knives once a week. Whilst there are some easy to operate sharpening systems available that will get you a reasonable edge the only way to get knives really sharp is to use whetstones.
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Old 03-10-2009, 07:42 PM   #5
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Goodness, I don't sharpen my knives several times a week and my knives are USED a lot. Even after quite a while, they still slice tomatoes like a hot knife through butter. Perhaps you need to invest in a couple of very nice knives. You'll enjoy them.
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Old 03-10-2009, 08:17 PM   #6
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I agree about the tomato test. Your knife should pierce the skin and begin to slice the meat of the tomato when you simply draw it across the tomato's surface, pulling the blade toward you with little or no downward pressure.

I sharpen my knives infrequently but use the steel on them very often.
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Old 03-10-2009, 08:55 PM   #7
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Also, a clean tomato or pepper slices easier, get that wax off!
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Old 03-11-2009, 03:01 AM   #8
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A good test is generally cutting what you normally will be cutting. Overripe tomatoes are a pretty good test- if you can slice them without crushing them you're sharp. I'll also see how thinly I can slice something; a knife has to be pretty sharp to get a very thin slice without tearing. Try cutting a lemon or onion thin enough to read a newspaper thru. Very finely sliced green onions are a pretty good test, too. Obviously cleaning cutting a pepper with the skin side up will tell you something but a knife that can't do that needs a lot of work

I agree that sharpening several times per week is overkill unless you're a butcher or work in a very high volume restaurant (or are a sushi chef, but I didn't get the sense that you are). You're really wasting a lot of steel, and if you're sharpening correctly they won't need to be completely resharpened that soon.
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Old 03-11-2009, 08:43 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AlanS2323 View Post
What I would like to know is what is a reasonable sharpness? Is there some kind of test that's recognized to mean a knife is really, really sharp?
Everyone answered your first question. I'll answer the second. Tomatoes, lemons, whatever.... no two are the same so it is difficult to get a relative value. Many of us who are high end sharpeners use push cutting computer paper as a quick and easy test. I keep one ream of paper separate just for testing. This is as close to quality control as I can get so I have to live with any deficiencies. Orient the paper portrait style and hold it pinched between thumb and forefinger about a third of the way across the top. Place the knife blade on the top edge of the paper and push straight down with no sawing action. If it cleanly slices the paper along all points of the blade consider the knife very sharp. How sharp? It depends on how far away from the pinch grip the blade will cut cleanly. It's sharp at a quarter of an inch, but with proper blade geometry, proper steel, and super high grit polishing the results can be amazing. My personal record is 2 1/4" from the pinch and it was accomplished by the weight of the blade alone, no pushing. That's your definition of "really, really sharp".

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Old 03-12-2009, 03:17 PM   #10
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What I would like to know is what is a reasonable sharpness? Is there some kind of test that's recognized to mean a knife is really, really sharp?

If you find that your knife causes nuclear fission with each stroke, then it's probably too sharp

Personally, I have a Wustoff Classic set and I really can't get the things as sharp as I'd like, even though I apply the steel every time I use them and have used a ceramic sharpener several times on them.

But maybe it's for the best. I kind of like having all my fingers, so a duller knife may not be such a bad thing.
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