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Like any other field, knife making and sharpening have their fair share of myths and misconceptions. There’s a lot of knowledge out there and if you’re just starting out in knife sharpening, it often becomes quite tricky to separate fact from fiction.
Through this three-part series, we intend to improve your knowledge and understanding of proper knife usage and of the knife sharpening process by sharing with you 11 of the most common misconceptions in this space.
1. The best angle myth: It’s actually 3 myths rolled into one. Quite a few believe that the best chopping angle lies between 40 and 50 degrees, for cutting it should be between 30-40 degrees and for slicing it should be no more than 20 degrees. The facts, however, tell a different story.
It’s important to understand that a narrow edge knife will cut as if gliding through warm butter. But that comes at a price; the edge on a narrow-edge knife is usually not very strong.
If you want to extract the best possible performance from a knife then you should aim for the lowest angle that its steel allows. For everyday, common use knives it’s usually 12 degrees per side and for more expensive knives it’s about 10 degrees per side. You must, however, ensure not to go overboard while thinning the edge because it’s structural integrity would be severely affected, increasing the likelihood of edge deformation during use.
2. Obtuse edge angle holds the edge better: It’s a commonly held belief that higher edge angles greatly enhance the edge’s life while a smaller angle can drastically cut short the edge’s life.
However, quite a few cutting tests (with several steel types), have shown that acute-angled edges are more likely to beat performance and sharpness benchmarks. A good example is to observe chopping axes. They usually have an angle of about 25 degrees and retain their sharpness for quite a while.
3. Sharpness should be limited according to the task: This myth has its roots in the belief that a blade will dull a lot quicker if it is sharpened beyond a certain limit. Here is why it isn’t true.
Understand that the blade’s level of sharpness shouldn’t be limited by the job at hand. In fact, there’s plenty of benefits if the knife is sharpened to the maximum possible limit the steel allows. The cutting job should only determine the blade’s required angle, not its sharpness.
Now, you may be worried that sharpening a blade beyond a certain point may make it more like to roll. Again, that’s not right because it’s over-thinning that causes a blade to bend not its sharpness.
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Here’s to sharp knives and great food!