How to Sharpen a Stainless Steel Knife: Expert Tips and Techniques

The essential part of a knife is its sharpness. A knife without sharpness is nothing but a mere showcase item that serves no purpose. And what’s the point of having a knife that can’t cut or chop. For example, you brought a kitchen knife that has no sharpness, so it can’t cut anything. Will it be helpful for you? The simple answer is no.

On the other hand, having a sharp knife has its benefits. For starters, it can cut as you desire and will greatly help your every work – whether in the kitchen or anywhere else. Besides, sharpness ensures the safety of the knife holder. That’s because a dull knife is more dangerous than a sharp knife, leading to severe injuries. A sharp knife can cut effortlessly with precision and less force.

For these reasons, sharpening is mandatory for knives. And there are three major sharpening methods available for stainless steel and other steel knives, which are:

  • Manual Knife Sharpening: The knives are sharpened using the manual knife sharpener, also called the pull-through sharpener; the knife is sharpened with this method. It’s the cheapest sharpening method where the knife is sharpened by pulling the knife forth and back on the manual sharpener’s two slots; one is course grit for sharpening, and another is fine grit for polishing.
  • Electric Knife Sharpening: With the help of an electric knife sharpener, the knife is sharpened. The electric sharpener also has two grits for sharpening and polishing. Just place the knife on the electric sharpener, and it will take care of the rest.
  • Whetstone: Whetstone or the sharpening stones are rectangular flat blocks with coarse grit and fine grit where the knife is sharpened using the forth and back motion.

These methods apply to all types of knives, including stainless steel knives. Now, those who don’t know how to sharpen stainless steel knives, check out how to do the job.

Understanding Stainless Steel

By definition, stainless steel is a type of metal manufactured with carbon, iron, chromium, nickel, molybdenum, and other alloys, which is highly rust and corrosion-resistant along with wear resistance due to over 11% of chromium contents. The metal is quite softer than other steels but tough and durable.

To understand stainless steel better, let’s see some of its main characteristics:

  • Rust and Corrosion Resistance: Stainless steel contains over 11% chromium, which makes it corrosion and rust-resistant.
  • Wear Resistance: Stainless steel is also worn resistance, which means it will be unharmed by friction and other damage.
  • Heat Resistance: Stain steel can bear temperature beyond any other steel and retain the same form.
  • Less Maintenance: Stainless steel is rust and corrosion-resistant. Thus it won’t need frequent oiling and maintenance and can work in any environment.
  • Extreme Tensile Strength: Tensile strength means the pressure level a metal can bear before breaking up. And stainless steel can bear an extreme amount of pressure without breaking.

Challenges of Sharpening Stainless Steel

Though stainless steel is a very beneficial metal, the major hassle with the metal is sharpening, which is extremely hard. And why is that? For these reasons:

  • Being Soft: Stainless doesn’t have a lot of carbon content but a huge amount of chromium. Since chromium is a soft component, it makes stainless steel a soft metal. And soft metals can’t form an edge that easily.
  • Wear Resistance: The chromium, nickel, and molybdenum on stainless steel increase the wear resistance of the metal. Therefore, friction and extreme force can’t remove the metals from stainless steel and sharpen them.

Types of Stainless Steel Knives

Before knowing about sharpening stainless steel knives, it’s mandatory to know how many types of knives there are. All types of stainless steel can be used for knife crafting, and those types are:

  1. Austenitic
  2. Ferritic
  3. Martensitic
  4. Duplex
  5. Precipitation

All these types have many applications in cutlery and other fields.

Sharpening Tools and Equipment

I have mentioned several times that sharpening stainless steel knives is extremely hard, but it’s not impossible. The sharpening can be done with the right tool and techniques, which are:

Sharpening Stones

Sharpening stones are rectangular hard blocks where a knife can be sharpened with pull-through motion. Many types of sharpening stones are available, e.g., Diamond-based stones, Japanese water stones, and sandpapers. These are effective tools for sharpening stainless steel knives.

  • Diamond-Based Stones: Diamond-based stones are the most effective options for sharpening stainless steel knives. Since stainless steel is wear-resistant, thus, other ordinary stones can’t sharpen the stainless steel knives. But diamond-based stones can do with within a few strokes. These types of stones are steel blocks that have diamond grits. Just choose the right angle for the knife to place on the grits, and 15 to 20 degrees is perfect. Then place the index finger on the knife’s heel and start running the knife. Within 6 to 8 strokes, the knife will be sharpened.
  • Japanese Water Stones: These stones are also excellent but cheaper than Diamond stones. And it’s easy to use them. Just wet the stone in the water before use for a couple of minutes. Then place the stone on a flat surface and start running the knife on the stone. Pick the 20 degrees angle and run the knife in pull thorough motion. After 6 to 8 strokes, the knife will be sharpened.
  • Sandpapers: It’s not a stone but an excellent and cheapest stainless steel knife sharpening option. The sandpaper has grits that can sharpen knives with little pressure. Place the sandpaper on a flat block and move the knife to a perfect angle. After a couple of strokes, the knife will get the razor-sharp edge again.

Honing Rods

Honing rods are great tools for maintaining the sharpness of the knife. But those aren’t for sharpening knives. Honing rods are steel rods used for retaining the sharp edge of a knife that already has a sharp edge rather than sharpening the knife. Therefore, if honing is what your knife requires, honing rods are the right tool.

Electric Sharpeners

Electric sharpeners are the most effective knife-sharpening tools, in my opinion. That’s because it’s fully automatic and works effortlessly. The knife holder only needs to hold the knife to the electric sharpener at an appropriate angle; that’s it.

However, many types of electric sharpeners are available, and most of them can sharpen stainless steel knives – since almost all domestic kitchen knives are crafted with stainless steel.

The electric knife sharpener has diamond abrasives that can easily sharpen the stainless steel when placed in the sharpener.

Angle Guidelines

While sharpening stainless steel knives or other types of knives, placing the knife at the right angle with the sharpener is mandatory. The blade should be placed at a right angle so that a sharp edge can form.

In most cases, 17 to 20 degrees angle is appropriate for stainless steel knives. That angle will allow the blade to form a razor-sharp edge effortlessly. And remember that the lower, the steeper the angle, the sharpened the edge will be.

Lubricants

If you have ever seen knife sharpening, you surely have noticed the use of lubricants – whether water or mineral oil. Lubricants are used during knife sharpening because of two reasons; one is to clean all the left-over metal debris, and another one is to reduce the heat generated while sharpening so that the knife can’t bend.

Basic Knife Sharpening Techniques

Stainless steel knives are hard to sharpen, but it’s not impossible. The right tool and technique can do the work within 10 to 20 minutes. Here’s the right technique to follow:

1. Choosing the Right Tool for Your Knife

A knife can’t be sharpened on its own. Thus, a sharpener is required to do the job. A wide range of sharpeners are available, but not all of them can sharpen the stainless steel knife. Only some selected sharpeners are effective for sharpening stainless steel knives.

If sharpening stone is suitable for you, diamond-based and Japanese stones are recommended to sharpen the stainless steel knives effortlessly. If that’s too expensive, go for the sandpaper that can also sharpen the stainless steel knife.

On the other hand, those who want to sharpen the knife without effort can use the electric sharper. Hold the knife on the sharpener, and the machine will take care of the rest.

2. Setting the Angle

Just running the knife on the sharpener won’t help sharpen the knife at all. Instead, it will damage the blade. To achieve the sharp edge, knife enthusiasts must run the knife at the right angle to the sharpener.

Remember that the perfect angle will help form a razor-sharp edge in stainless steel knives. And the lower the angle, the more sharpen the knife will be. Therefore, try to keep the angle as much low as possible. For stainless steel knives, 17 to 20 degrees is the perfect angle.

3. Start Sharpening with Coarsest Grit

The grit of a knife sharpener refers to the tiny particles on the sharpener that helps reduce the metal from a knife or other things with friction. And the coarsest frit means the lowest grit number possible.

Thus, starting with the coarsest grit means, start with a small grit number. And for stainless steel knives, the coarsest grit should be 600.

4. Move to Finer Grits

While sharpening the stainless steel knife, it’s best to start with the coarsest grit, which is 600, as I mentioned above. Then move to finer grit number, which should occur between 800 to 1,200 grits. After a few strokes on the finer grit, you have to finish the strokes on 2,000 to 4,000 grits, which will provide a razor-sharp blade

5. Honing the Blade

It would be best to hone the blade when all are done with the strokes on grits and sharpening. Honing is done so that the blade’s edge can align properly and maintain the edge. Use a honing rod to properly hone the stainless steel knife.

More resource:

Advanced Knife Sharpening Techniques

The above techniques will help to sharpen the stainless steel knives. But these advance sharpening techniques will also help to sharpen the stainless steel knives with efficiency:

Razor Sharp Edge with Micro bevels

For those who don’t know, the micro bevel is a secondary bevel along with the primary one that forms alongside the main bevels. The entire purpose of the micro-bevel is to strengthen the softer blades and the sharp edge to cut with precision and greater strength.

As we all know, stainless steel knives are softer due to their chromium contents. And micro bevels are just the things that will help the stainless steel knives have the necessary cutting edge and hardness required while sharpening and forming a razor-sharp edge.

Another reason to use the micro bevel technique on stainless steel knives is to properly deburring the defective knives that are hard to sharpen. Thus, micro bevels are the most suitable option for sharpening and maintaining the edge.

Convex Edges for Durability

A convex edge on knives refers to a slightly rounded edge different from traditional edges. The main purpose of the convex edges on the knife is to achieve the maximum durability of the blade. The convex edges can expand the blade’s life span and sharp edges.

At the same time, when crafting a convex edge on the knife, you are removing less material, making the knife more durable and long-lasting. Since it’s hard to sharpen stainless steel knives, thus, convex edges would be perfect for those knives because the sharp edges will last longer.

Serrations and Scallops

The serrations and scallops are excellent techniques that will boost the stainless steel knife’s lifespan, form a sharp edge quicker, and retain it for a longer time.

Serration is a technique that gives the blade’s sharp edge less contact area than the smooth blade. Thus the applied pressure gets off the roof. This helps while cutting and all the cutting points can apply huge pressure to the cutting surface.

Scallops, on the other hand, are recessed curves crafted with e primary edge of the blade so that the blade’s lifespan and cutting-edge quality can be increased.

Maintenance and Care

Sharpening a stainless steel knife takes a lot of pressure and hard work. If the knife is not properly maintained and cared for, you must do all the hard sharpening again, which is a big hassle. Therefore, properly maintaining the knife is mandatory. And follow these guidelines for taking care of your stainless steel knives:

Storing Your Knife Properly

Storing the stainless steel knife in a secure and right place is necessary because of your and your knife’s safety. That’s because a sharp knife placed in any open location carelessly can cause an accident. At the same time, the knife stored in an open environment can damage the blade. Sure, stainless steel knives are rust and corrosion-resistant, but keeping them in a wet and open environment can damage their knives. Besides, debris and other molecules can harm the knife as well.

Therefore, one must store the stainless steel knife in a drawer or, even better option is to get a magnetic knife strip for storing, which will ensure the knife’s health and safety.

Cleaning and Oiling

Cleaning the stainless steel knives after each use is mandatory. That’s because with regular use, blades will wear off, and dirt and debris will take place on the blade – not to mention bacteria and molds will make the blade their home.

So, cleaning the knife properly after use will help the knife stay in good shape. Wash the knife with soapy water and nonabrasive clothes or brush after each use.

At the same time, drying the blade after washing and oiling will also boost the knife’s lifespan and increase the rust and corrosion resistance properties.

Regular Honing and Sharpening

To properly maintain the sharp edge of the stainless steel knives, it’s necessary to hone and sharpen the knife. A stainless steel knife can’t hold the sharpness for long; thus, honing with a steel honing rod will help retain the sharp edge. And if the sharpness has faded, a sharpening will help to regain the sharpness of the knife.

FAQs

Why do I need to sharpen my stainless steel knife?

Like other knives, stainless steel knife’s sharpness also fades away with regular use. And to regain the sharpness of the stainless steel knife, one has to sharpen the knife.

Can I use the same sharpening method for all stainless steel knives?

Yes, you can use the same sharpening method on all the stainless steel knives. Knives have three sharpening methods: grinding or whetting, steeling, and stropping. You can use one of these methods to sharpen all your stainless steel knives.

How often should I sharpen my stainless steel knife?

It depends on how often you use the knife. If you use the knife regularly, you should sharpen the stainless steel knives every two weeks. Or if you don’t use the knife too often, sharpening once in a year will work.

Can I use a honing rod to sharpen my stainless steel knife?

The answer is No. Honing rods are not designed to sharpen any knife. The honing rods are designed so that one can maintain the sharp edge that is already sharp. It can’t help to form a sharp edge on stainless steel.

What is the best angle to sharpen my stainless steel knife?

It depends on the tool you use to sharpen the stainless steel knife. But the best angle for sharpening the stainless steel knife would be between 17 to 20 degrees.

Can I use an electric sharpener for my stainless steel knife?

Yes. You can use an electric knife sharpener to sharpen your stainless steel knife. Just get the sharpener suitable for stainless steel and run the knife at the right angle.

How do I know when my stainless steel knife needs to be sharpened?

When your stainless steel knife becomes dull with regular use and can’t cut with precision, that’s the time you will need to sharpen the knife. When the knife becomes dull, it smashes and squashes the food rather than slices it.

What is the difference between honing and sharpening a stainless steel knife?

Sharpening the knife means removing the metals from the knife so that it can form a sharp edge. On the other hand, honing the knife means maintaining the sharp edge that is already formed ago.

Can I use a sharpening steel on my stainless steel knife?

Well, yes, you can use sharpening steel on your stainless steel knife to honing the knife. Running the sharpening steel on the knife will make the knife retain the sharp edge.

How long does it take to sharpen a stainless steel knife?

It depends on your method and tools to sharpen the stainless steel knives. But the sharpening will take 5-10 minutes if proper tools and techniques are applied.

How do I sharpen a stainless steel knife without a sharpening stone?

Plenty of options are available besides sharpening stones to sharpen stainless steel knives. You can use sandpaper or electric sharpeners that work even better than the sharpening stones.

How do I maintain my stainless steel knife after sharpening?

To properly maintain the stainless steel knives after sharpening, you must clean the knife and oil it after each use. Store the knife in a secure place, and make sure to hone and sharpen the knife when needed.

How do I prevent damaging my stainless steel knife during sharpening?

While sharpening, stainless steel knives can get damaged by too much pressure, wrong angle, and heat. Therefore, apply the appropriate pressure, choose the right angle, and use water while sharpening your knife.

What is the best lubricant to use when sharpening a stainless steel knife?

Water, water-based fluids, and petroleum-based oils are perfect lubricants for sharpening stainless steel knives.

Conclusion: Sharpening the stainless steel knife is extremely hard because it is soft and wear-resistant. But it’s not impossible. With proper techniques and tools, such as diamond-based stones, sandpapers, and electric sharpeners, the stainless steel knives will be sharpened in no time.

But, it should be kept in mind that maintaining the knife is also mandatory since stainless steel knives can’t hold the sharp edge for long. Thus, regular cleaning, oiling, honing, and sharpening of the knife are recommended.

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