View Full Version : Can a professional sharpening service shorten the life of knives?

09-21-2009, 04:31 PM
I was at a Farmer's Market on Saturday and couldn't miss a professional knife sharpening service that was set up with sparks a flying. The name of the outfit is The Sharp Brothers (http://www.thesharpbrothers.com) and they seemed reputable enough.

Today I looked at their brochure and read this (spoken from the voice of a knife):

PLEASE, PLEASE DON'T "Steel us," as in that steel rod you got with us; throw it out, you don't know how to use it

From what I understand, improper steeling will not damage a knife or shorten its useful life. The steel does not remove any metal, it just aligns the molecules at the edge of the blade. By not steeling, knives will require more frequent sharpening, and based on the aggressive grinding I witnessed, your knives will wear out early.

Are these guys hacks or am I ignorant of proper knife care?

K Kruger
09-21-2009, 06:26 PM
Well, I'll skip the question http://tvwbb.infopop.cc/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_smile.gif and say this:

Smooth (metal) steels remove negligible metal, but others do - or can - remove some, especially if the knife steel is soft and depending on the pressure used.

You are correct that steeling is mostly done to realign the edge. You are also correct that improper steeling won't necessarily damage a knife, and you are correct that knives that are not steeled usually require more frequent sharpening.

Agressive grinding can damage a knife, improperly done, and can definitely shorten a knife's life.

Ron G.
09-22-2009, 09:41 AM
Brookfield Farmer's Market?

I was there, and witnessed the same thing you saw a few months ago.

Sharp Bros. is supposed to be very reputable around here - I asked a resteraunt person or two and the people in the meats dept at my local grocer, and they all said that they use these guys. I don't know if the set-up that they use at farmer's markets is different from their shop (drop-off service in Whitefish Bay).

It was my understanding that high-quality knives should usually be sharpened either slowly and/or wet, in order to avoid over-heating the metal and taking the "temper" out of it. I saw a few sparks flying, but they did seem to be using a light touch -- stopping in between, to let the blade cool. Maybe, for someone properly trained in cutlery sharpening, this is acceptable, but it surprised me to see.

Anybody else see what is typically used by "professional" sharpening tradespeople?

K Kruger
09-22-2009, 09:55 AM
Often something quite similar - which is why I learned to do it myself. I never found a service that used a technique such as this, when I was in commercial kitchens, that could sharpen as well as I learned to.

I run into some services that use a slow, stone technique - or aomething like the professional system from EdgePro. They do a fine job.

Joe Dang
09-22-2009, 11:06 AM
I'm with Kevin. Get something that you can do yourself, it'll save money in the long run, and you'll always have sharp knives.

Are you using German knives or similar? A Spyderco Sharpmaker may be the ticket. and cheap (around $60 or less online, they have a dvd for $5.95)

They have two ceramic stones (fine and medium) and two angles, 30 total (15 each side which is what Shun uses) and 40 total (20 each side). If you are sharpening at home you can go for the acute angle (15) and just swipe a couple times when it gets dull. Should be fine. If not, go for the 20/40.

Use a smooth steel to hone if you like.

Carl H.
09-23-2009, 03:28 AM
It's possible to do a pretty good job with a belt sander and buffing wheel, as described on the Sharp Brothers website. The great majority of knives receive their final factory sharpening that way.

That being said, it's also possible to do a lot of damage really fast with these powered methods. Much depends on the skill of the operator.

Sparks flying? That sounds like someone to avoid.

09-23-2009, 06:44 AM
Smith's Sharpener for less than $10 at Wal-Mart is what I use on old knives that are really dull and hard to sharpen. It does remove a bit of steel but it does a great job of sharpening and it is quick too. I use the steel that came with my kitchen knife set to keep them sharp.