I see posts all the time on various Internet knife sites where the poster proclaims his knife is as sharp, no, sharper than need be. The usual equipment is a Chef's Choice 120 electric or some sort of Rachael Rayish pull through device or even some semi sophisticated crock stick system. The touters of regular old German sharpening steels afford me the largest grins. I picture them, imitating the slashing motions of some TV chef. Everybody wants to be a Samurai.
Those knives are not sharp. The next time you watch The Food Network, notice how the chefs will actually saw through a tomato. Their knives aren't even sharp enough to slice the medium with one easy pull or push.
I'm not a pro sharpener or a pro cook. I'm a home cook who happens to be a lover of very nice kitchen knives and one of my hobbies is making them as sharp as possible.
When you buy a big block of knives at the department store you are getting knives sharpened at 22 to 25 degrees per side. I'll be nice and say 22, or a 44 degree "included" angle, bevel A plus bevel B. The boning knife and the vegetable slicing Chef's knives all have the same angle. Hmmmm. It makes sense for the boner to have this angle because it needs to be tough and not break down when hitting bones. Makes sense to me. The slicing knives, however, should be as sharp as possible because it is their job to slice, nothing more. So why do they have the bevel angles of a boning knife? Beats me. I guess it's because the electric sharpeners are set up this way. The steel from which these knives are made is mediocre no matter what the marketers say, but I have no problem getting a 15 to 18 degree edge to hold fairly well on a Wusthof or Forschner. I don't think the 22 degree bevels will go away soon.....
A sharp knife needs three things, a thin blade, very acute bevels (or bevel), and steel that can handle it. There are two sources of the steel, Japan and Sweden. The Swedish steels made by Uddeholm and Sandvik are so good that several Japanese, as well as some American custom knife makers, are using it. Assuming a blade that will not be used on bone, there is little reason not to make it as sharp as possible consistent with edge retention.
Here is a picture of what I call sharp:
The top knife is an Aritsugu 240mm "A" model Gyuto and the little one is its baby sister 140mm "A" Petty. The shiny stuff you see is the bevel. Big? You bet. It's cut at about 6 degrees. I'm left handed and therefore the bevel on that side. There is no bevel on the right side, merely the gentle angle of the blade itself.
Aritsugu "A"s normally come from the maker unsharpened. You read it right. No bevels whatsoever. Knowing that I would have several hours worth of time cutting the bevel myself with a DMT extra extra coarse diamond stone, I petitioned Aritsugu to cut the bevel for me. It came rougher than crap as expected but at least the hard work had been done with their giant 3-4 foot diameter motorized waterstones. The bevel on the Petty was cut by yours truly but being so short in length it didn't take all day....
Once I flattened Aritsugu's miserable work with a 150 grit Naniwa Omura, I proceeded through my main stones, 1, 2, 4, and 8k Shapton Glass Stones and 10k Naniwa Super Stone. After that I stropped with .5 micron chromium oxide followed by .25 micron diamond spray.
Sharp? Oh yeah. Spooky sharp. Scary sharp. Just as importantly, the edge is holding up extremely well. No chipping whatsoever and I've been beating it up chopping on the cutting board just to see what happens. After two weeks of hard use in the home kitchen I stropped it with chromium oxide and the edge is better than 95% newly sharpened.
Anyway, this is what sharp means to me. You? Oh the included angle - I'm guessing at about 18 degrees. I could cut down the right side a tad and make it sharper yet, but I'm liking the feel of the lefty bias.