How to Sharpen a Knife with Dale Cowles

Sharpe knives keep you safe, my dad always said. And for years, he took care of mine. He’s passed the baton. Here are his lessons.

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There are a good number of things my dad took seriously. Some were his personal preference, like salty peanuts. Others were more practical, like good shoes and sharp knives. For years he gave me lessons about stropping edges and washing blades.

For my part, I used to wait for a dad visit to get my knife block back into fine slicing shape. I considered sharpening knives a ‘Dad Job.’ And, I think he liked feeling needed. I think he enjoyed having a job when he came for dinner.  

But his ‘Dad Job’ has become my ‘Mom Job’. And while that’s a bitter pill to swallow, I feel blessed he left me with these lessons. If you, too, would like to make sure your kitchen knives are sharp, please enjoy the following. It is a breakdown of his wise advice on sharpening knives.

This video is cut a little short because I’m currently only able to upload a 15-minute video to YouTube. I’ve uploaded the full version to IGTV, which is best viewed from your phone. Just make sure to turn your phone sideways while playing the video.

Why Sharp Kitchen Knives Are Important?

I read a book once titled The Sharper Your Knife the Less You Cry. The premise was that the sharper your chef’s knife, the less you would cry when chopping onions. I haven’t actually found this to be true personally.

But, I have found that the sharper your knife, the safer your knife. Blunt or dull knives are dangerous because they require more effort to slice and chop — making you more likely to slip and cut yourself.

It’s also worth noting, that a dull blade makes a more jagged cut. This isn’t ideal for your food. Nor is it ideal for your fingers. Because you’ll inevitably cut yourself from time to time and the more jagged the cut, the harder is is to stop the bleeding. 

At-Home Knife Sharpening Tools

  • Chefs Choice Electric Knife Sharpener — Makes getting an edge simple and straight forward even for the most novice knife sharpener.
  • Honing Steel — Finishes the knife’s edge.
  • Crock Sticks — “Give a very nice edge if you use them right,” according to Dad, These are also a very travel-friendly option if you’d like to sharpen a knife when you’re not at home — such as at an Airbnb.

5 Step to Sharpening Your Knives at Home (for Beginners & Beyond)

1. Use Chef’s Choice Electric Sharpener Station 1 

Turn on the electric sharpener and draw the blade through both sides of station 1, two or three times.   

2. Move to Chef’s Choice Electric Sharpener Station 3

With the sharpener still running, draw the blade through both sides of station 3, two or three times. 

3. Check the Blade’s Edge 

To check the blade’s edge, you can very lightly draw your thumb over the blade from one side to another. DO NOT depress your thumb into the blade (because you’ll cut it, obviously). The idea is simply to feel a very delicate edge.

Advanced Knife Sharpening Tips

Those who are unfamiliar with sharpening knives, may want to stop here. The following steps are for those who would like a finer edge. Perfecting this skill does take some practice. While you are learning, you may actually dull your knives, but that’s TOTALLY okay. You can get the blade back.

4. Use the Honing Steel to Give the Blade a Finer Edge

Depending on the knife, the angle at which you hold the blade can vary. With most knives, you can generally hold the knife at a 22.5-degree angle. However, more exotic knives can have even sharper edges and require a more extreme angle.

WARNING: Always hold the safety guards perpendicular to the ground to help limit any painful mistakes. 

5. Use Crock Sticks to Give the Blade a Very Fine Edge 

According to Dad, crock sticks provide an even finer edge than a honing steel. To create that finer edge, draw the knife at the knife’s bevel down the crock sticks. 

How to Maintain Your Knives Between Sharpening

Dad treated the following tips more like decrees. He took knife maintenance very seriously and always admonished us kids should we fail to follow his wisdom.

  • NEVER Put Your Knives in the Dishwasher
  • Wash and Dry Your Knives After Each Use
  • Strop Your Knives Every Time Before You Use Them

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