Last updated 11.12.22 — Five years gone and thousands of published words later and it’s time to refresh the KKG list of professional knife sharpening services. I’m still a very very very very picky person, so rest assured, I’m still not taking my mission lightly. But the landscape has changed.
Four Top Services
Life is short and I have no interest in dissing knife sharpening services. It’s a tough enough grind as it is (pun intended!). So please know this—all four of these finalists are good to go. I’ve already done the heavy screening and any sharpening services deemed unworthy have been banished from these pages. Who’s left are the cream of the crop (starting with my two originals):
Bozeman Knife Sharpening (seattleknifesharpening.com)
Where: Bozeman, MT / Contact: Bob Tate
Martell Knives (in the process of moving)
Where: Philadelphia, PA / Contact: Dave Martell
Where: Berry, KY / Contact: Phil Fox
REK Knives (rekknives.com)
Where: Greenville, SC / Contact: Josh
Although I still have some quibbles and some of these sharpeners do certain things better than others, all of these top-drawer pros understand how to achieve true sharpitude and how to do it without hurting your loved ones, er, your knives. On top of this, they are great communicators, responsive, and genuinely nice guys. They love what they do and they love making the world a sharper and better place.
These knife sharpening services are all:
1) Deeply experienced. All have sharpened, literally, thousands of blades and many have been doing it for decades.
2) One-man bands—they, personally, do the sharpening themselves. They have no assistants, no trainees, no life-long buds who sub in on the grinding belts if they get buried. Nope. Nobody touches your knives but the owner/operator. (Could I be any clearer?)
3) Well-established bricks-and-mortal businesses, as well as mail-order outfits. They have clear instructions and procedures (well, some clearer than others—oops, I’m already quibbling) as to how to send them your beauties.
Finally, and maybe most important of all, I have personally auditioned them all. Yes, pinky promise (as my teenage daughter used to say). I am not simply parroting what I’ve heard or read about or garnered from multiple websites, but sharing my own personal experience as a fellow consumer. And, this time around, believe me, it was a ton of work.
These five pro knife sharpening services only represent a fraction of the pro sharpeners I researched and considered. Nonetheless, I’m pretty sure there are more high-quality knife sharpening services out there. So just because a knife sharpener doesn’t appear in these pages, doesn’t mean they’re not high-quality. On the other hand, please please be careful who you give your knives to. (Read Finding a Professional Knife Sharpening Service for more advice.)
I’ll begin with the two knife sharpening services from my original review and then proceed to the ones most recently sampled.
Bozeman Knife Sharpening (formerly Seattle Knife Sharpening)
I first found out about Bozeman Knife Sharpening by accident from a YouTube video. Early on in my knife-sharpening education, I stumbled onto a clip of a very satisfied Bozeman Knife customer showing off his newly sharpened set of Global knives. He sliced off slivers from a sheet of paper with ease and raved about the sharpitude. I was entranced.
I went to the Bozeman Knife Sharpening website and liked what I saw (literally as well as figuratively—it’s a nicely designed site). The business seemed to be a small operation by one guy, Bob Tate, which I found attractive. Personalized service. He had learned his craft from Bob Kramer, one of the most well-known and high-quality bladesmiths alive. And—judging from what he wrote on his site—Bob (Tate, that is) seemed open and friendly. I wrote him an email or two with questions about his craft, how he ground his edges, and he answered back quickly.
I zipped through a tomato—the first time in years without a serrated in my hand.
His method is slightly unorthodox, but wickedly sharp. He explained that for each knife he started from as sharp an angle as he dared as his primary angle, and then ground the rest of the blade down so that it smoothly segued from the edge up to the spine. It sounds thorough, and it is. As he mentions on his site, it’s a 6- to 7-step process using belt sanders and polishing wheels along with sharpening compounds. On a German-style knife this often means thinning down the blade a bit and creating an edge angle much sharper than usual. Fine with me!
Bozeman charges $2.00 per inch, plus a $5 handling charge. Bent tips are fixed for free; broken tips are $10.
I boxed up a bunch of my knives as per Bob’s instructions and sent them off to Washington state (long before he moved to Montana). Almost two weeks later I got them back (unfortunately, I live on the other side of the country). I was a little disappointed at the turnaround time—but the knives, the knives! They looked sharp. I grabbed a newly-sharpened chef knife and immediately tried what I’d seen the guy in the YouTube video do. Oh, yeah. Right through paper, not only without resistance, but not leaving any roughness either. The cut edges of the paper were perfectly smooth—like I’d used a pair of German scissors. I zipped through a tomato—the first time in years without a serrated knife in my hand. This was as true for the Henckels knives I’d sent him as my Japanese-made Global.
As if this were not enough, Bob was also big on follow-through. He recommended the best type of hone to use to keep my knives sharp as long as possible (see My Favorite Honing Steels), and even gave me honing instructions over the phone. What a guy! I was off to a great start with my first professional knife sharpening service.
I heard of Dave Martell—the owner, chief cook, and bottle washer of Martell Knives (in the process of moving)—from my favorite kitchen knife book, An Edge in the Kitchen by Chad Ward. Dave has been building a reputation in professional knife sharpening for over a decade and has a special passion for Japanese blades. Actually, he’s divided his business into two separate sharpening services—one for Western-style knives, the other for Japanese.
Having no Japanese knives that needed sharpening [at the time of my original review—that has changed], I chose the more standard Western-style service. I queried him about his sharpening process and he confirmed that it was the usual combo of belt sander followed by a de-burring wheel or buffer. But, unlike Bob in Seattle, Dave prefers to sharpen Western knives at the more traditional angle of 20 degrees or so. He’ll do the majority of the blade at a steeper, more acute, angle, but for the final bevel, he will widen it out a touch. Although he feels it’s not as “pretty”, he’s found it be to the most durable angle for German steel. Different strokes for different folks. (Interesting note: Dave is the only professional sharpener reviewed that takes a decidedly different approach to sharpening German steel from Japanese.)
For German knives, Martell Knives charges $1.50 per inch with a $5 minimum. Broken tips are steep—$11 (not sure why). Japanese factory-made knives are another story—$3 per inch with no maximum ceiling. So an 8-inch chef will run $24. Zowie! And then there’s Japanese hand sharpening which starts at $5.50 an inch and goes up from there.
The poor bread knife had been seriously abused over the years, sawing through frozen bread among other things. . .
I packed another box, not quite so many this time, and the knives were returned in one week. Yes, in half the time of Seattle Knife, but then Fleetwood, PA, where Martell is located, is only a 5-hour drive away. The bevels (the part of the blade that Vs in to the cutting edge) were impeccable—as even and straight as if they’d come from the factory and the sharpness matched factory standards as well. They cut through tomatoes, sliced cucumbers nice and thin. They slivered paper—just like the YouTube video. That said, if I were to be persnickety (and that is my job as KitchenKnifeGuru), they weren’t quite as searingly sharp as Seattle Knife. But more than sharp enough for your average home kitchen or any other that’s not filigreeing radishes a mile a minute.
Global Chef Knife (G2), 8-Inch
Global makes some of the most strikingly modern kitchen knives on the planet. And they also happen to be killer sharp. Most of them, including this chef’s, are what I call Japanese hybrids—designed and manufactured in Japan, but with German-type blades and a Western sensibility in mind. They’re light and sleek and won’t tire out your hand. I own their 7-inch santoku which always makes carving up pineapples fun instead of a chore! (For more suggestions on chef knives, make sure to visit Best Chef Knives — Six Recommendations.)Global Chef Knife (G2), 8-Inch @ Amazon
One of the knives I sent Martell Knives was a workhorse Henckels—a wedding present—that not only had many years of faithful service to its name (decades, really), but many sharpenings of mixed-quality that had left it with an ugly, uneven edge. If you chopped parsley on a flat board, you’d miss sections with every chop. Sure enough, when I got it back from Martell, the edge was straight and even. No more gaps on the cutting board. Hurrah!
I also sent them one of my serrated bread knives which they sharpen for an extra charge. Not every professional knife sharpener can handle serrated, but most in this review do. The poor bread knife had been seriously abused over the years (another wedding present), sawing through frozen bread among other things, and really needed an overhaul. It came back refreshed, but not fully restored—which may be the best one can hope for a serrated blade, I know they’re challenging to fully resuscitate. (Though I might send another bread knife to another service and compare sometime.)
Martell Knives’ website has a mailing form (pretty basic) you can print out for totaling up your charges (Seattle does not, you must create your own). Martell also has a very convenient payment system where they email you a Paypal invoice when the knives are ready to ship back. Very fast and easy for the customer to process—a big plus in my book. All-in-all, a top-notch operation.And now for the new reviews. . .
KySharp (as in “Kentucky” Sharp) first caught my eye not only because it had a clean and inviting home page design, but also, on that very first page, said the kinds of things I wanted to hear. Things like, “this [sharpening] process removes only a minimal amount of metal and gives a very stong, long-lasting edge.” Minimal metal, long-lasting edge. Bingo!
As I dug in deeper, the story only got better. The owner/operator, Phil Fox, had a love for quality knives since he was kid, held degrees in physics and engineering, specialized in sharpening only kitchen knives, considered himself a craftsman (not a “sharpener”), and had worked for years to discover a sharpening system that could consistently produce razor sharp edges. Double bingo!
Phil doesn’t differentiate between German and Japanese knives…I emailed Phil some questions about his sharpening technique and the difference between his three sharpening rates—$8, $10, or $12, irregardless of length. He explained a two-stage process, similar to Dave Martel’s, but with a very important difference—Phil doesn’t differentiate between German and Japanese knives. For his top-of-the-line Signature Service ($12) Phil sharpens at 15 degrees, adds a mirror polish bevel, and fixes anything that needs to be repaired (broken tip, chip removal, bolster reduction, etc.). His Deluxe Sharpening ($10) is the same as Signature, but doesn’t include any repair, and Serrated Sharpening is exactly as the name implies, for serrated blades only. (Which is great, because some services won’t touch serrated.) Unlike Dave, Phil doesn’t feel it’s a waste to finely finish German knife edges, thus, he’s more in sync with Seattle Bob. Good enough for me!
While I packed up the knives—super-easy because of Phil’s incredibly clear and well-thought-out website—I mused about why a man with degrees in physics, engineering, and math (yes, I forgot to mention) would opt out of the traditional job market and hole up (with his wife and two kids) in the wilds of Kentucky sharpening knives. People never cease to intrigue. . .and I love that about them.
Five days later, including a weekend, I got the knives back from KySharp! Whoa. The Blue Grass State felt as close as Jersey. And—which was just as sweet—I hardly recognized the knives. All dings and bends had evaporated including a broken tip I couldn’t tell ever existed. The edges looked smooth, consistent, and polished. I immediately carved a half moon out of folded-over magazine paper (a test I picked up from a Bob Kramer video) and the blade cut effortlessly, leaving a smooth edge, no raggedness. That’s the way they do it in Kentucky. Yay, I’ve found a new professional knife sharpener!, I silently cheered.
Kitchen Knife Supply Pipeline
Right about here I should pause and explain that this time around the whole knife gathering, mailing, receiving, and evaluating process became much more complicated than five years back. The main problem being that I have become more educated, and finicky, about who should have command over my beauties. Plus, most of my blades are newer, higher quality, and in more pristine shape than they were five years back. Truth be told. . .I couldn’t quite bear to have an untested knife sharpening service—even if highly-screened and hand-picked—sharpen my darlings.
My solution? Offer free knife sharpening to my friends and borrow their kitchen knives! And if you’re thinking, “What a minute, he won’t send his own knives, but he’s willing to let his friend’s knives get trashed”, please let me explain: 1) I was pretty darn sure none of my friends owned any fancy-schmancy kitchen knife brands, and 2) I was fully prepared to replace any blades if for some bizarre reason they were ruined.
So. Ten knives total from three different friends. Which ended up being a project management challenge in-and-of itself, what with tracking who’s knife was who’s, what kind of shape it was in before (plenty of mind-numbing pics), which pro sharpener to send it do, and, finally, testing how well the freshly-sharpened blades sliced stuff up. But somehow my artsy-fartsy brain made it through the organizational gauntlet intact. The only mildly horrifying thing was discovering the condition many of my friend’s knives were in—nicked edges, bent tips, scratched up blades. Poor babies. . .but excellent trial-by-fire for my three new knife sharpening services.
(Above: Wusthof Grand Prix chef knife with “ding” in the cutting edge and a bent tip. Below: Henckels Four Star with a swale in the heel from being regularly sharpened on a Chef’s Choice sharpener.)
* Extra credit: Guess which knifemaker made eight of the ten commandeered knives? (See the bottom of this article for the answer.)
Ignore the scary-looking REK Knives home page and the scary-sounding name and you have the nicest, most competent, blade sharpener you’d ever want to meet. Josh, the sole owner/sharpener, has been a full-time professional knife sharpener since 2010. And all you need do is sample one of his blog entries (like, What is a regrind and how does it help my knife?) and you will be thoroughly convinced that this is a man who lives and breathes knife sharpening and its mastery.
REK Knives originally came to my attention from a comment left on this very page—a reader who had recently sampled Josh’s services and was thrilled with the life it had breathed into his kitchen knives. And he had not even used Josh’s premium Hand Sharpening!
Speaking of which, Josh offers an incredible array of services, like PVD coating and grind conversions (I have no idea), things that have little to do with kitchen knives and much more to do with that whole other world of hunting and tactical knives. Which is a wonderful thing, but does give his kitchen knife customers more info to wade through. Plus, I think his various services and options could be described in a simpler, clearer way. (Oops, did we just stumble into a quibble?) Fortunately, Josh is only an email away and very responsive. We had a nice exchange where he clarified his prices as well as explained (along with photos) what he meant by a microbevel.
As far as kitchen knives are concerned, Josh has two services: 1) Machine Sharpening—with a belt sander only, slow speed and under coolant, of course, and 2) Hand Sharpening—with a belt sander followed by hand sharpening on the Wicked Edge Precision Sharpener where he adds a microbevel. Out of curiosity, and to get a fuller sampling of what Josh was capable of, I specified two knives machine sharpened and one hand sharpened. Machine Sharpening costs $2 an inch—with an $8 minimum and $15 max. (So, a 3.5-inch paring costs $8; an 8-inch chef $15). Hand Sharpening costs $6 an inch with a $25 max.
See the Money, Money, Money section for a cost comparison chart on
all five services.
Just call me dense, but in spite of asking for a clarification of prices, I still missed something. I did not fully digest the fact that unless you either use the premium Hand Sharpening service, or pay $.50 an inch for reprofiling, Josh will simply restore the factory edge and angle. Which means if you’d like him to improve on the edge angle of, say, an older Henckels 6-inch chef, bringing it down to 15 degrees from its factory 22, you will need to either pay $3 extra for reprofiling (on top of $12) or use his Hand Sharpening service. In my case, Josh ended up, for all practical purposes, sharpening one knife twice—but he did not charge me for it. He was a really good sport and only added on the reprofiling. Classy guy . . . and I very much appreciated it. (Just for the record, Seattle Knives and Art of Sharp include reprofiling in their regular sharpening rates and do not charge extra. KySharp includes it in his Signature and Deluxe services only.)
REK uses a spiffy, online form to record which knives you’re sending in, etc. I love the convenience, even more now, because I believe it’s been improved from when I sent in my knives last year. I would still recommend, as a safety, sending along hard copy in your shipping box (i.e. a list that includes each knife and what you wish done). Regardless, Josh will email you if he has any questions about your intentions.
After the usual couple emails back-and-forth, I packed up the last three blades and sent them on their way. And if it hadn’t been for my reprofiling SNAFU (mentioned above), the turnaround would have been five days. Sweet! So if you live on the East Coast or East of the Mississippi, your turnaround should be quick. All knives were returned plenty sharp! And an old Henckels six-inch chef’s with dings in the edge that underwent premium hand sharpening, came back reborn—shiny and smooth and razor sharp. As if it had come from Seattle.
This is where the knife nuts will all gravitate and everyone else just glaze over. But what would a review of five knife sharpening services be without some testing and comparing of sharpness? If you feel yourself already nodding off, please feel free to skip to the end of this whole section where I draw some conclusions about all the professional sharpeners and compare them.
In my original review, I handled my evaluation of edge sharpness in a pretty general and unmethodical way. I sliced some paper, cut a few veggies, and that was that. This time around—and especially, since with three new sharpeners, it would be a total of five sharpening services I would be recommending—I wanted to be able to offer a better basis of comparison. Something a little more concrete. Hmmm. Easier said than done.
What happened at first was, when each batch of blades came in from each different sharpener, I grabbed some newspaper (or better yet, news magazine paper ) and slivered off corners with the newly-sharpened edges. Cool. The first batch (KySharp) did excellently; the second (Art of Sharp) did as well, but was a bit inconsistent; and the third (RazorEdge) whizzed right through. OK. I could tell all these knives were in the proper sharpness universe and certainly sharper than knives in at least 95 percent of all U.S. home kitchens—but I still felt I was skimping on analysis.
After some trial and error, I came up with a two-part system:
First, with each knife, I tried to carve half moons through loosely folded-over news magazine paper (as already mentioned—something I culled from Bob Kramer). The object was for the knife to enter and exit the paper without resistance and remove a complete half moon (really, more like an orange slice shape). Ideally, the edges of paper the knife cut through would be smooth without any toothiness, thus, confirming a extra level of sharpitude. In short order I discovered the newspaper test was not demanding enough. Although a few of the Art of Sharp blades had problems with exiting the paper, in general, all the knives (from all five sharpeners) could carve full, and pretty smooth, half moons. Darn. (Below: sharpness test with newspaper)
Second, I added the classic and most knife-problematic vegetable to the mix—the tomato. (Yes, I know, it’s really a fruit.) I quickly discovered tomatoes were much much better at revealing how sharp a blade was. Unquestionably more exacting than paper. Good, but I needed to codify my procedure—because I wasn’t being nearly consistent and detailed enough in my recording of tomato data. (Wow, do I sound like a knife nerd or what?) Number One, my tomatoes weren’t all the same exact type or in the same ripeness. Big diff, folks. And Number Two, I wasn’t paying close enough attention to exactly what kind of resistance, or lack or resistance, the knife edges were giving me all along the entire edge. Plus, I wasn’t applying the exact same types of cuts or being diligent enough about exerting the same amount of pressure. Ha!
But from these initial phases, I finally came up with my final series of parameters for my final series of tomato tests. It was exhausting. But here they are:
#1) The tomato: The best tomato—because it was the most challenging—was a common, ripe, hothouse tomato. The kind most grocery stores sell all year round and come quaintly displayed in vined bunches. No plum tomatoes, too firm. No other kind of tomato in general, too firm. And no tomatoes that hadn’t softened into ripetude.
#2) The cut: Every cut needed to be a push cut. First, because that was a cut that demanded the most from the cutting edge, and second because it was a cut that was fairly easy to track and control.
#3) Edge consistency: Multiple push cuts were needed in order to determine whether the sharpitude was consistent along the entire edge. To suss out weak spots. So I performed a minimum of three push cuts, each starting from a different area of the blade—tip, belly, heel. (Have you nodded off yet?)
#4) Pressure/weight: Ideally, a finely-sharpened knife should take very little downward pressure (or hand/arm force) to break through the skin of the tomato. And it should be one, uninterrupted push. Any need to saw back-and-forth was evidence of inferior sharpitude. Unfortunately, because of the varying weights of the knives themselves (some widely), downward pressure was sometimes the trickiest element to gauge. Larger, and older, knives that carried more heft always seemed to slice more effortlessly. So be it. . .just something to be aware of.
Important Note: One major element I didn’t have to worry about was inconsistencies stemming from using a wide variety of models (high-end to low) from a bevy of manufacturers (Wusthof to Shun). All but one blade was German-made, and five out of the ten were the exact same line—Henckels Four Star. See the exact brands and models below in Sharpness Test Results. (I warned you this section was for knife nuts, didn’t I?)
So, I drove to my local grocer; bought pounds of ripe, hothouse tomatoes; piled them into baskets on my kitchen island; and I was on my way! (Below: KKG’s journey through his Tomato Sharpness Test.)
Sharpness Test Results (for slicing tomato)
A rating of:
excellent = little resistance, minimum pressure, no weak spots
good = additional pressure needed or had weak spots
OK = significant pressure demanded and/or sawing back and forth
(All three knives at $12 signature rate)
– Wusthof Gran Prix chef, 6-inch: excellent
– Henckels Four Star chef, 8-inch: excellent
– Henckels Four Star slicer, 8-inch: good, better mid-blade than tip
(Each knife sharpened at a different rate.)
– Henckels Four Star chef, 6-inch [$25 hand sharpening rate]: excellent plus, absolutely no weak spots, every millimeter sharp
– Henckels Twin utility, 6-inch [$12 machine sharpening rate, plus $3 for reprofiling]: excellent plus, absolutely no weak spots
— Calphalon parer, 4 1/2 inch [$9 machine sharpening rate]: good to OK, always had to apply pressure
As a means of further comparison, I also auditioned knives sharpened by my original two sharpeners, as well as a blade with a factory-sharpened edge.
($1.50 per inch—standard rate for German-style knives)
— Henckels Four Star, 6-inch [$9 standard rate]: OK—wouldn’t cut on first push even with serious pressure, buuut. . .could slice very thin. [I never used this blade after having it sharpened years ago—it stayed in a drawer wrapped in newspaper.]
Seattle Knife Sharpening
($2.00 per inch, standard rate—plus $5 handling per package)
— Calphalon santoku, 7-inch [used quite a bit]: excellent plus
— Global santoku, 7-inch [used quite a bit]: excellent to good, no weak spots, minimal pressure
— Henckels Pro S, 8-inch [used quite a bit, our go-to chef knife for years]: excellent plus
— Wusthof Classic Ikon chef, 9-inch [newly sharpened]: excellent plus
Wusthof Factory Edge
— Wusthof santoku, 7-inch [lightly used, honed regularly]: excellent plus
First off, let me just say as a general disclaimer that all of this is just One Man’s Opinion!
1st Place, Top of the Class
Seattle Knife Sharpening and REK Knives sort of tie—both of these guys produce consistently super-sharp edges. But please note, with REK Knives you must pay extra for this performance. His standard “machine rate,” while more than adequate for most home kitchens, does not match the sharpitude of knives sharpened at Seattle’s single-tier rate.
Oh, and my Wusthof santoku with factory-sharpened edges places here as well. Like all of Wusthof’s Japanese-style knives, it’s a thinner blade and sharpened at a sharper angle than your regular Wusthof German-style knife. Congrats, Wusthof!
2nd Place, but no Slouch
KySharp comes in very close behind with a strong point of rock-solid consistency. Also note, that KySharp’s test results were from knives sharpened at Phil’s top-level Signature Service with 15-degree edge angles. His Deluxe Service should equal this performance, but his Express Service (with 20-degree edge angles) might not.
KySharp had a challenge with his slicer (long, thin carving knife)—but, to be fair, neither Seattle nor Razor Edge had a slicer to compare to. I queried another pro sharpener I know about whether slicers are particularly hard to sharpen and his answer was negatory. But I’m still not convinced. I think the fact a slicer is so long and narrow might make it harder to ensure a consistent sharpitude along the entire length of the edge. Just my opinion. . .
3rd Place, but still Highly Acceptable
Martell Knives comes in last along with REK Knives machine edges only (which, actually rates a bit higher—maybe in-between second and third).
I was a bit disappointed that Martell didn’t show better, but in Dave’s defense, German-style knife sharpening is not his preferred thing. Plus, he purposely sharpens his German knives with less acute edge angles. His passion is Japanese where he has long been considered a master. I would be willing to bet that factory Japanese knives sharpened with his Japanese technique would score “excellent” to “excellent plus.” I look forward to someday, when I have a Global or Shun that needs sharpening, sending him one to weave his magic on.
From these tests on these knives, it would appear the biggest difference in performance lies between Second- and Third-Place knives. First- and Second-Place knives are not as noticeably different in sharpitude. So if you are finicky and truly appreciate super-sharp edges, stick to the First- and Second-Place knife sharpening services. And save the Third-Place services for a rainy day. . .
Also, be aware that other brands and models of kitchen knives might perform differently. My testing is probably most useful as a reference point when reading the next section below on pricing. It can help guide you as to what kind of bang you’re getting for the buck.
Finally. . .please remember that all the knife sharpening services considered in this article stand head-and-shoulders above the majority of other pro sharpening services, and all produce knives sharper than those in probably 90 percent of home kitchens in the U.S. of A. In addition, none of them will, in a million years, damage your knives, but sharpen them correctly at slower speeds, using a coolant if necessary.
You’ve got the top of the pops!
Money, Money, Money
So, say you sent off three knives (or six) to each service—an 8-inch chef, a 6-inch chef, and a 4-inch paring knife. What kind of tab would you run up?
Lets assume the knives don’t need any repair—although, as I’ve already mentioned, some sharpening services perform minor stuff for free. We also won’t include shipping and insurance which we will deal with separately. And, because of all his options, lets figure Razor Edge at three different levels of sharpening, to give us a full range. Also: rates on a couple of these services have gone up since I shipped out the knives for this review—so, we’ll use the latest prices.
Cost Comparison Chart—Sharpening Only*
|Sharpening Service||Three Knives||Six Knives|
|Martell Knives (German knives)||$27.00||$54.00|
|KySharp (Deluxe Service)||$30.00||$60.00|
|REK Knives (Machine Sharpening)||$32.00||$64.00|
|Seattle Knife Sharpening (including service fee)||$41.00||$82.00|
|REK Knives (Machine Sharpening w/reprofiling)||$41.00||$64.00|
|REK Knives (Hand Sharpening)||$60.50||$120.00|
|*If you treat your blades right, you could go three years or more between sharpenings.|
Interesting spread, no?
It’s kind of a fun surprise that, even though the knife sharpening services all vary in the way they charge, the majority of them come in closely clustered in price. Only REK Knives’ more premium services begin to leave the pack, with his hand sharpening topping out at double the cost of many of the others. Which begs the question, could it possibly be worth it? And what about Seattle Knives versus Martell? Could Seattle be worth the extra ten dollars?
Let’s look at REK first:
I must admit I have ambivalent feelings about REK Knives’ hand sharpening service. On one hand, I immensely enjoy and respect the incredibly sharp edges Josh is able to produce. On the other, I wonder if he’s pricing himself out of the market. Because the difference in sharpness between REK’s premium hand sharpening and Seattle’s standard sharpening is pretty much nil. And the difference between it and KySharp’s deluxe service is next to nil. For me, it’s not worth paying up to twice as much for. Thus, I’d only consider using REK’s hand sharpening for a knife or two I really really cared about, or a couple that were my kitchen mainstays, but not indiscriminately. Otherwise, I would stick with his machine sharpened service, or combine machine with reprofiling on knives that had wide edge angles I wanted narrowed down. Or I’d go elsewhere.
Seattle Knives is another story. Paying a bit more for Seattle might be worth it because, 1) his knives are consistently sharper and more refined than the rest (other than RE’s hand sharpening service). The edges have been ground, buffed, and polished to a higher degree. And, 2) his knives will probably stay sharp longer. This is mainly due to the simple fact that Bob’s standard process of creating a long gradual bevel from spine to edge tends to make the edges thinner in general. As the edges wear down, they’re still pretty darn thin and will continue to cut better. We are talking Western blades here. For Japanese, where the blades are already thin, Bob’s technique might not make as much a difference.
Bear in mind KySharp does some standard reprofiling himself to thin blades out—so who’s to say who’s edges will last the longest? We’d need to run some more tests!
As a final sidenote, I should point out that there is one possible negative to Seattle’s sharpening method—and that is, because the knife edges are thinner, they are more delicate. They won’t take as much abuse. So if you plan on slamming into frozen cookie dough (don’t laugh, one of Bob’s customers did), or if you just can’t afford the mental energy to think about protecting your kitchen knives’ edges, then Seattle might not be the best choice for you. You’d be better off with Martell’s or REK Knives’ machine sharpening. Those edges will be plenty sharp for your average kitchen, but less apt to get damaged or dulled. Up to you. . .
Bad News/Good News
Believe it or not, in the above scenario, the total cost of shipping-and-insurance (both ways) will be around $30—or close to price of the sharpening itself. That’s the bad news. Buuuut, if you ship the way I recommend, you’ll pay the same for six knives as you will for three. That’s the good news. Which means the more knives you ship in a single box, the more you’ll save per knife in shipping costs. Got it?
More good news is USPS’s Flat Rate Boxes. They cost exactly the same, no matter where you send them and now matter how many knives you stuff into them. And the largest Medium Flat Rate box (13-5/8” x 11-7/8” x 3-3/8”), the size I recommend, will fit a whole lot of knives. I’ve personally packed as many as twelve, over half of them 6- to 9-inch chef knives. And the cost? Only $13.60. That’s lit (as my daughter’s gang would say)! I shipped a box all the way across the country to Seattle, WA for only $13.60.
You can pick up a Medium Flat Rate box at any post office for FREE and to top it off it’s Priority 2-Day Delivery. Can you beat that? Unless you live five million miles away from a post office, it’s the only way to go. And to round things out, the knife sharpening services will mail your knives back to you the most economic way, which nine times out of ten will be USPS as well.
Shipping Costs Recap
– Best value shipping—USPS Medium Flat Rate Box, Priority 2-Day Delivery: $13.60
– Insurance average: $2.05 (up to $100) – $4.60 (up to $300)
– Shipping/insurance going: $15.65 – $18.20
– Shipping/insurance returning: $12 – 18
TOTAL shipping/insurance (both ways): $28 – 36
If we add an average cost of shipping/insurance ($30 for three knives; $32 for six knives) to the sharpening prices listed above, this is what we get:
Cost Comparison Chart—Including Shipping/Insurance*
|Sharpening Service||Three Knives||Six Knives|
|Martell Knives (German knives)||$57.00||$86.00|
|KySharp (Deluxe Service)||$60.00||$92.00|
|REK Knives (Machine Sharpening)||$62.00||$96.00|
|Seattle Knife Sharpening (including service fee)||$66.50||$100.00|
|REK Knives (Machine Sharpening w/reprofiling)||$71.00||$114.00|
|REK Knives (Hand Sharpening)||$90.00||$152.00|
|*Sorry to have to repeat this, but please remember—if you treat your blades right, you could go three years or more between sharpenings.|
To some, it may seem like a suitcase of money, but it really isn’t. Not when you understand that:
• Your knives are the most valuable tools in your kitchen—yes, even more valuable than your pans. Because you can easily create a meal without cooking anything in your pans. But try creating a meal without a knife and you will get nowhere. You’ll be ripping apart fruits and veggies with your fingers!
• A quality professional knife sharpening job can last an amazing amount of time. It all depends on how well you treat your beauties when you get them home. (Yes, “beauties” because thinking about them that way will help you treat them better.) Depending on how much you use a newly-sharpened blade, it could stay sharp for three years or more. (I own a chef knife that is still tomato-cutting sharp and the last time it was sharpened was six years ago.) There are just three things you must do to make their sharp edges last:
1) Not slice or chop on anything other than the right kind of wooden or plastic cutting board
2) Not use your knives to power through frozen food, bones, or anything else they were not designed to do
3) Hone them regularly with a ceramic hone.
• And finally: You will work faster and have more fun in the kitchen with sharp knives!
If you take, say, Seattle Sharpening’s price for six knives and divide it by three years—you pay $33.33 a year. For keeping your kitchen knives super-sharp 24/7. Doesn’t that seem worth it?
As far as I’m concerned, you can’t go wrong with having your knives sharpened by any one of these four professional knife sharpening services I have reviewed. They are all masters of their craft, consistent, and well-organized. They all produce sharp knives. If you love and appreciate handling a sharp kitchen knife, there’s no reason to put it off any longer. I have done the homework for you. If you don’t have a clear preference—relax, close your eyes, and pick whichever one your finger falls on!
If you’ve got a knife you know needs some minor repair work, here’s a quick snapshot of the five sharpening services’ repair policies:
– Seattle Knife will straighten a bent tip for free; but fixing a broken one is $6. Don’t know their policy on chips, but I’m guessing it’s fairly liberal.
– Martell Knives has a large disclaimer up front from that they do NOT fix any thing extra (“no edge nicks or broken tips”) for free. Nothing about bent tips though (ask, he might throw them in as a freebie like Seattle). Martell did even out a couple of swales on my well-worn blade for no extra charge. Broken tips are $11.
– KySharp does not charge for repairs a la carte, but folds them into his Signature Sharpening Service which is only $2 more than Deluxe. So you pay only $2 for everything from a removing a chip or smoothing out a swale to fixing a broken tip. Best deal ever if you’ve got a seriously beat-up knife!
(Above: Wusthof Grand Prix chef knife shown earlier with a ding and bent tip after being sharpened and repaired by KySharp.)
– REK Knives doesn’t list standardized prices for the most common repairs, so it’s not clear what he charges and if he includes anything for free. But he does clearly state that the $25 cap on hand-sharpened kitchen knives does not include any repair work. At any rate, Josh is extremely responsive and approachable, so don’t be afraid to ask.
Important note: If you have any repair issues you are not clear about, make sure and ask ahead of time. That way you’ll avoid any misunderstandings.
Japanese Knife Sharpening Services
Every knife sharpened (with one exception) in my knife-sharpening odyssey was a Western/German-made knife. But there’s a whole world of Japanese-made knives out there that need sharpening as well. Most traditional Japanese knives (which Global is not) should only be sharpened by a specialized service in the Japanese tradition using a water stone (usually a combo of motorized and manual). I do not currently own any of these thoroughbred Japanese knives, so this particular market is outside my personal experience.
But if you own a traditional or high-end Japanese blade, here is a list of Japanese knife sharpening services with impeccable credentials. The first three have huge reputations and the fourth is not too shabby. They are not cheap—but you are probably getting a half hour or more of a master sharpener’s expert care. If you value your Japanese knife and wish to use it for years and years, do not skimp!
Japanese Knife Sharpening [japaneseknifesharpening.com]: As mentioned earlier, this is Dave Martell’s (of Martell Knives) other sharpening service (his true love, really) that specializes in Japanese blades. He is passionate about his craft and a longtime master. Check out this quote from his website: “Dave still continues to hone his skills everyday. He strongly believes that the most intriguing part of sharpening is that you never achieve pure perfection no matter how long you work at it.”
Korin [korin.com]: Written and talked about everywhere, Japanese master Chiharu Sugai is the name brand in Japanese sharpening. Recommended by the The Wall Street Journal and, apparently, everybody in the known world.
Carter Cutlery [cartercutlery.com]: Created by another legendary bladesmith, Murray Carter, the twist being he’s an anglo who studied in Japan 18 years. He mastered age-old Japanese knife making and sharpening techniques and became a 17th generation Yoshimoto Bladesmith. Fascinating story. Still sharpens everything himself. . .or does he?
Elite Edges [eliteedges.com]: Stumbled on a YouTube video where Elite Edges completely rejuvenated a beautiful hand-forged Japanese blade that had been trashed. He feels like the real deal.
Canada Knife Sharpening
After the U.S.A., my Canadian visitors number the most. So here’s a couple of knife sharpening services I can recommend North of the Border:
New Edge Sharpening [halifaxknifesharpening.com]: I met the owner, Peter Nolan, online a few years back and have been quite taken with his dedication to the craft of sharpening. He sharpens by hand, only using Japanese waterstones, so he should be on my “Japanese Knife Sharpening Services” list above as well. He’s a humble student of the age old craft. Located in Nova Scotia.
Tosho Knife Arts [toshoknifearts.com]: Both partners have solid credentials and much promise and specialize in handmade Japanese knives. Located in Toronto.
Knives List (which knives I sent to each sharpening service)
Seattle Knife Sharpening
Henckels Professional “S” chef, 8-inch
Henckels chef, 6-inch (natural wood handle)
Global G-48, 7-inch
Sabatier slicer, 8-inch
Calphalon santoku, 8-inch
Henckels Professional “S” paring, 4-inch
Henckels Four Star paring, 3.5-inch
Henckels Four Star chef, 8-inch
Henckels Professional “S” chef, 6-inch
Henckels Professional “S” bread knife, 8-inch
Wusthof Grand Prix chef, 6-inch
Henckels Four Star chef, 8-inch
Henckels Four Star slicer, 8-inch
Henckels Four Star chef, 6-inch
Henckels Twin utility, 6-inch
Calphalon paring, 4.5-inch
* Zwilling J.A. Henckels
(Photo credit: sharpening wheel courtesy of Bob Tate of Seattle Knife Sharpening.)
I used Bob Kramer for sharpening my knives when he was in Seattle and Bellingham, WA, and I could visit and talk to him. When Bob stopped sharpening, I followed his advice and have been using Bob Tate ever since. I agree with all you said about him. My one additional comment is that for a Seattleite, or even an occasional Seattle visitor as I am now, the turnaround is one to two days and no $10 fee if you can drop off and pick up at one of several UPS stores.
Thanks for chiming in, Randy! You’re lucky you live within driving distance of one of my favorite knife sharpening services (Seattle Knife Sharpening). I’m envious :)
I’m loving your site, very interesting and full of useful information.
You mention Tosho Knife Arts in Toronto. While I have not used them for sharpening since I do my own, I have heard nothing but great things about them and Dave Martell speaks highly of them. Another place in Canada is Knifewear, Kevin the owner is highly respected in the sharpening world, I’ve seen their work and would trust Knifewear completely.
I personally do not charge for chips, nicks and tip repairs, it’s all just part of the service in my opinion. If people are good enough to trust me with their knives, it just makes sense for me to return the favour by sharpening them to the best of my ability. If that includes some chip repair so be it, so $1.25 an inch it is. Regardless of whether or not the knife looks like it was dragged behind a car for an hour.
Regarding Korin….Master Sugai is my idol :)
Thanks, Peter, for your feedback! One of these days when I find time to write a review of Japanese-style sharpening services, you’ll be on the short list for consideration :)
Thank you Nate for sharing!
Fantastic article and so easy to read.
Iam waiting for more!
I’ve been a knife maker for the past 37 years and have sharpened thousands of knives over those years professionally as well.
Born and raised in Montana, I moved here to Country Village, Bothell, WA in 1995 and set up a knife shop where I still work today.
I’ve known Bob Kramer for as long as I’ve been here and now share a shop with mastersmith Michael Rader who makes beautiful kitchen cutlery as well.
I make a few kitchen knives from 52100 and other steels, but work mainly on my Xross Bar Lock folders these days.
Nice to meet you, Lyle! After taking a quick tour of your website, it looks like you’re the real thing. . . :)
Country Village sold part of the village, that my knife making shop was located on to a developer, and I have been displaced. My new digs are at 19510 Bothell Everett hwy, Bothell, WA.
It has been a good move in many ways as I’m more visible with a street sign and I have been blessed with very good ratings.
2017 looks like it will be a banner year and I will be pressed to keep up with the knife making part as the sharpening side has increased greatly.
This is one of the more in-depth articles I’ve read on knife sharpening services and sharpening rates which a lot of people forget to compare. Above you mentioned how Seattle’s prices were more than Just Knives and I know you hit the nail on the head when you said it was due to how the knives were sharpened.
I have a knife sharpening service and offer 3 different edges that I can put on knives and charge accordingly. I’d say 90% of services use some sort machine to sharpen their knives and charge a bracketed rate or a 1$ per inch. Machine sharpened edges are a” quick and dirty” way to sharpen a blade, but are quick for the sharpener to do. There are a few disadvantages to sharpening a knife this way such as removing more blade steel than necessary. A hand sharpened edge is more time consuming. It does result in a much more refined edge, as you mentioned, because of the slower more detailed process. Is it worth it?
What I advise people when they ask is to tell me about their knives. Generally, if the knife is old, poor quality or beat up, I suggest a machine sharpened edge as the knife probably won’t hold an edge for very long regardless-it’s what most people consider to be sharp anyway. For “good” knives to very high end cutlery I firmly suggest having the knife sharpened by hand. I try to inform the customer as much as possible about what I can and can’t do to their knives.
I also have a mail-in knife sharpening service at http://www.eliteedges.com and do charge for return shipping but don’t understand why some other services charge a handling fee on top. All of the packages go out at the same time so there is no real added cost. Anyway good article and please advise your readers to compare services, methods, and prices to get the most for their money.
Dan—thanks for your comments and observations!
Let me just clarify, in case somebody gets the wrong impression, that Seattle Sharpening does NOT hand sharpen. Bob uses a series of variable belt sanders and polishers that have been customized. And when I asked Bob about hand sharpening versus machine, he felt the most important element in the whole process was the skill and perfectionism of the human doing the sharpening. (If anyone’s interested in hearing more from Bob, read my in-depth interview with Seattle Sharpening.)
P.S. KKG visitors: For the record, I have not used EliteEdges or reviewed them. But they sound like a high-quality outfit—thus, I have supplied their hyperlink above for my readers to click on and check out for themselves.
I would like to comment on the machine versus hand-sharpening methods. Yes, some machines will remove a lot of metal and leave a poor edge at best.
However, after 40 years of making and sharpening knives, I believe that I can obtain as good of an edge with my 2- by 72-inch belt grinder as the ancient masters could with their waterstones. Today’s belt technology is really fantastic.
Sure I could sharpen knives by hand, but would have to charge a much higher price for it and still not have the ability of removing that blob of metal on some chef knives, called a bolster, that is directly in the way of sharpening and also leaves the blade off of the cutting board. I usually hollow grind most of it away and it looks clean and professional.
Sometimes knife sharpening is more like knife restoration as I take out the blade sway, restore the rocker edge, lower the bolster, regrind or straighten the tip, thin the edge back a ways and of course put on a screaming sharp edge.
I have serviced many happy repeat customers for the past 20 years at Bronk’s Knifeworks, Country Village until they decided to sell my shop to a condo developer.
My new sharpening shop is presently located at 19510 Bothell/Everett Hwy.
I have long been under the impression that machine sharpening generates too much heat and can damage the metal’s temper. For the guru and the pro sharpeners, what are your opinions about that issue?
I touch on exactly what you’re talking about in my article Finding a Professional Sharpening Service. This is one of the main reasons it’s so important to find a credible pro sharpening service and was a driving force behind creating this website.
It all depends on: 1) what kind of machine and belts the pro sharpener is using, 2) how fast the machine is running, and 3) the skill/know-how of the operator.
All pro sharpeners that I use, or recommend, run their sharpening belts (or wheels) at much slower speeds than if they were doing serious grinding. Some have specially customized machines. This helps control the friction/heat as well as ensure the machine doesn’t take off any more metal than is absolutely necessary. A pro might also use a machine that water-cools the wheel/belt and, if not that, regularly dip their blades in a water bucket to cool them off. For traditional Japanese blades, there is a waterstone wheel that can be used that operates at very low speeds, sort of like a record player. (After using the wheel, a Japanese sharpener may then continue with manual sharpening at higher grits.)
It’s all about controlling the heat. But there’s no reason why a skilled operator, using the right machine, can’t sharpen a kitchen knife to a razor edge without ruining the temper.
Dan, of Elite Edges, feels he can produce finer, more perfectly polished edges, using hand sharpening. He is welcome to his opinion. . .and it may be be the best route for traditional Japanese blades. But, regardless of this, I don’t believe he is saying that a machine-sharpened approach MUST destroy the temper.
If you’re hungry for more, you might want to check out my two-part interview with Bob Tate of Seattle Knife Sharpening!
I’m trying to help out my sister. We’re both getting up there in age (I’m the young one at 63!), but I try to build or fix whatever she needs on the farm. Her son gave her a set of Henckels Eversharp steak and kitchen knives. I’m sorry, but to me they seem the most worthless group of knives I’ve ever used! If they cut at all they just tear through stuff—but most of them don’t cut worth a darn! This Thanksgiving they just tore the turkey apart—more like pulled turkey than cut pieces! Geez, that was an abuse of good meat!
Recently, I bought a Work Sharp Ken Onion edition knife sharpener for my military, work, and hunting knives. Seems to get a really nice edge to my knives and keep them that way for a long time. Can I use that belt sharpening system to sharpen those crappy Henckels steak knives? (I’m half convinced I should grind off the serrations and start over on them—but before I go nuts, could you give me some suggestions how I could sharpen her knives up?) Would it ruin crappy knives to try to slowly grind on a better edge?
Geez, that would be great. I appreciate your time.
Best regards, Ken Johnson
I’m sorry but I am not, nor do I claim to be, an expert on the nitty-gritty details of knife sharpening. That said, from what I understand about sharpening, trying to sharpen a serrated edge is extremely challenging and, no matter how much of an expert you are, will not yield the amount of improvement gained when sharpening a normal edge. To add to this, the knives you’re talking about have a micro-serrated edge which would be impossible to sharpen and keep the serrations. You would have to simply grind off the serrations which would be pointless and would make the knives worthless.
Henckels makes a vast array of kitchen knives that vary greatly in quality. And Eversharp is a stamped, inexpensive, low-quality line. So, please don’t get the wrong idea that Eversharp is the best Henckels can do. That would be totally inaccurate. For more about what Henckels lines I recommend, please see my article on best chef knives.
Sharpening serrated knives is actually quite easy as you can sharpen the flat side and leave the serrations intact. However after multiple sharpening with this method, the serrations will disappear.
My husband and I have a mobile sharpening business located in Hudson, New York. We use the Edgemasters system mounted in a Dodge Sprinter and service restaurants within an hour of us, as well those home kitchen chefs who appreciate the value of a good edge. Hudson is a hot bed of the farm to table movement and full of foodies. Our business is only a year old but we have quite a few chefs who are very loyal and will only trust their knives to us.
I have found your website to be very informative and interesting. I just put a link on our FB page to your article on choosing a knife because we are asked quite often which are the best knives. I want to thank you for your thoughtful opinions. I think I will be tapping your site pretty often.
We are 2 hours north of Manhattan. Perhaps you will give us a try for future sharpening needs.
ProSharp Mobile Sharpening
Thanks, Eileen, for checking out KKG! Yes, Hudson and Duchess County (NY) are one of the places to be if you’re serious about food. I just ordered Modern Farmer magazine that’s centered in Hudson as well. Maybe some day I’ll take a looooong drive up your way and check out the whole scene :)
I think it’s a bit unfair to compare these services based on how subjectively sharp they returned your knives. That one was sharper than the others was likely due to a judgement call and not to skills or techniques. All these guys are capable of sharpening blades to the point where you are not going to be qualified to bicker about them, unless you’re a professional sushi chef (in which case, you’re doing your own knives every night).
Mr. Tate most likely thinned your edges to a more acute bevel angle than the other two. He chose performance over durability. The others would have done this had you requested it.
I would imagine the real differences between the three are matters of service and value. They can all sharpen the hell out of a fancy knife.
Thanks for your opinion, Paul, but I heartily disagree!
There is a distinct, qualitative, difference between what Bob Tate at Seattle Sharpening does and what the other two services do. Have you read my interview with Mr. Tate — Interview with a Sharpening Service. . .? Do you realize he was trained by Bob Kramer one of the master knifesmiths of the world? I have a chef knife that Tate sharpened over three years ago that still cuts paper. (Of course, I treat it right and hone regularly.)
That’s not to say there’s anything shabby about the other two services. As a matter of fact, Dave Martell of D&R Sharpening is a highly-respected master of Japanese sharpening techniques on waterstone. But he has two discretely different services he offers: 1) what he calls “Regular Sharpening” (for Western knives made of German steel) and 2) “Hand Sharpening” (for Japanese Western style knives, made of Japanese steel). When I sent my knives to him a few years back, all my knives were German. And when I asked Dave about how he would sharpen my Henckel’s knives, he said he preferred to do them the standard way (how they usually come from the factory), with a narrow bevel sharpened at 22 or so degrees.
Contrastingly, Tate’s technique is to create one extremely long and gradual bevel starting from 1/2 to 3/4 of-the-way up the side of the blade (depending on the knife). He does this on both Western and Japanese-Western style knives. On your average chef knife, the bevel may begin an inch away from the actual cutting edge. This ends up giving you an edge of 15 degrees or sharper, and yes, the edge will not be as indestructible as a typical factory edge. But, if you know better than to use your chef knife to power through chicken joints, the edge will hold up just fine. Especially if the knife is made of German steel (which is tougher than Japanese).
If you have a passion for quality (and I think you do, judging from your website), you owe it to yourself give Seattle Sharpening a try!
P.S. I’d be a little careful about specifying bevels with sharpening services. Trying to create the kind of bevel that Tate creates, without having had plenty of experience, could result in permanently damaging a knife.
Just wanted to add that I recently had a very good experience with Razor Edge Knives (razoredgeknives.com) located in Greenville, SC. So, they may be a good option for your readers located in the Southeast U.S. I sent them six of my good kitchen knives—Wusthof and Henckels—including two serrated edges. For a very reasonable price, they put a very sharp edge on them and polished the blades. Turnaround time, including shipping, was one week.
I am a home cook trying to learn and improve my skills, not a trained chef, and really appreciate your articles and videos. Based on your info, I recently purchased the ceramic steel you recommend which I had always lacked the confidence to try.
Keep up the good work!
P.S. I am not affiliated with REK in any way. Just found them via Google and decided to try based on other reviews and because they are located closer to me so shipping time would be less.
Thanks, Walter, for the feedback and the tip! I took a quick look at Razor Edge and they look pretty solid. If I ever get any free time again, I might try to review them :)
The only thing I might mention is that, on their German knives at least, it looked they were ending in a very short primary bevel which is not my favorite style of sharpening. (It’s the way kitchen knives come from most manufacturers though.) My favorite style is what Bob Tate of Seattle Knife Sharpening does and that is to blend the primary bevel entirely into the side of the blade so that it’s just one long, continual bevel. The reason I like this unorthodox style (and why Bob employs it) is that it makes for a very thin edge that lasts and lasts. (With proper honing, of course.)
All my knives are Cutco products. Are you familiar with the brand? Do you have any suggestions on sharpening these knives? Thank you.
Yes, I’m familiar with Cutco knives. But I must admit they’re not my favorite brand. There are other brands I much prefer that are better value for the price and will hold their sharpitude longer. See my article Best Chef Knives. . . for more details.
Nonetheless, there is one neat thing about Cutco — any knife you buy from them they will sharpen for free forever! Here’s the link:
Otherwise, if you send your Cutco knives to any of the sharpening services I’ve reviewed in the above article, they will do an excellent job!
Hi Knife Guru,
Thanks for this great article on reviewing online sharpeners. I have been sharpening for years, but recently had a friend help me build up a website. I sharpen pretty straightforwardly using the Edge Pro method mainly. I listed your article on my smart sharp blog. I think a lot of my friends/family/clients would be intrigued to see what’s out there.
I like all the comments that pile up on your article. You’ve got quite a complete list of the online sharpeners around that are quality. Thanks for this. Be well!
Thanks for checking in!
I must admit I had to chuckle when I read on your website how you strive to match the exact angle of the knife you’ve been given. I don’t want a sharpening service to match my factory edge, I want them to improve on it! (See my article Best Chef Knife — Don’t Overrate the Factory Edge where I spout off more about this.) But I hear you loud and clear about only taking off the minimal amount of metal necessary. That’s a must.
Best of luck with your business and new website! The Edge Pro system is probably the way I would go if I ever managed to carve out the time to sharpen my own kitchen knives :)
As it’s been a few years since you wrote the original article, I was wondering if you could share your thoughts on the durability of the edges you got from each company. You gave some predictions in your article, just curious if reality has met your expectations and which blades have dulled the most after the first year, etc, etc.
I’m especially interested in whether D&R and Just Knives wore in the same way—they seemed to be roughly equal in initial sharpness. If they’ve proved to be equal in durability, I’d see no reason not to go with the cheaper option. I’d also like to know if Seattle stayed sharper longer as predicted, and whether you’ve had any instances of damaging your knives due to his thinner technique. I think that could be the last piece of the puzzle when it comes to selecting which company I want to use. Thanks!
Thanks for your inquiry. Good question! Unfortunately, I cannot give you a definitive answer about the durability of D&R and Just Knives sharpened edges. I have not tracked them that closely, but, my general impression is that they are very similar to each other.
What I can tell you, without a doubt, is that there has continued to be no comparison between their edges and those of Seattle Knife Sharpening. Seattle’s edges were not only the sharpest, but have lasted and lasted—way beyond what knives from the other two outfits would ever be capable of.
The reasons are 1) geometry and 2) finish.
1) Geometry: Seattle does not use the typical primary bevel that most Western knives come from the factory with. Bob Tate creates one, continuous bevel from the spine to the edge. This gives his knives a thinner edge that stays sharp much longer. And, no, I have not run into any problems with his edges being too thin or too delicate. But I do NOT abuse my knives—I treat them with care.
2) Finish: Seattle goes through more steps in his sharpening process and brings his knife edges to a much finer, much more polished, final edge. Way beyond your average factory edge and way beyond most other professional sharpeners—other than traditional Japanese hand sharpening on waterstone.
So, if you are like me, and really appreciate quality and want your kitchen knives to stay sharp as long as possible, I would highly recommend using Seattle. They are unique!
Please make sure to check out The Power of Honing a Knife where I show what one of my chef knives can still do three years after being sharpened by Seattle Sharpening. It’s pretty impressive. (Of course, I’ve honed regularly with a ceramic steel.)
I have several Japanese laminated blades with VG10 and SG2 cores. I have not had good results with a steel and VG10 and have quit using one on my VG10 and SG2 knives.
I have two Smith’s 11 1/2-inch diamond stones, a coarse and a fine. I haven’t needed the coarse on my knives, but previously could have used it if I had it. I follow up the fine stone with leather strops imbedded with 1 micron and 0.1 micron diamond dust. The length of these stones is useful for removing a belly or straightening a wave in an edge (by going mostly lengthwise across the stone with the blade), and then using a more traditional angle to finish the edge. Usually my touch-ups are done with the leather strops.
I sharpen to a thin angle, have an end-grain board, and am very careful not to abuse my edges. I sometimes sharpen my “normal steel” (440C, AUS8, 1095, etc.) knives on a belt sander (wetting the blade each pair of strokes) and finish with green chrome on a buffing wheel. Either technique, scary sharp.
Hi Chef Jeff,
Thanks for sharing the techniques you use to keep your knives “scary sharp!”
RE honing/steeling VG10 blades: Were you using a steel hone or a ceramic on your VG10s and SG2s? Because for over two years I’ve honed my Japanese Shun Classic (with a VG10 core) with a DMT ceramic hone and had wonderful results. It’s kept the blade reasonably sharp and not inflicted any damage. If you were using a ceramic hone, I’m guessing our different responses may be due to that fact that you demand a higher degree of sharpitude in your kitchen than I do :) Otherwise, you may want to give a ceramic hone a try sometime!
RE sharpening: As I freely confess on these pages, I’m a whimp when it comes to doing my own sharpening. As a stay-at-home Dad who cooks, runs a biz, and tries to keep his house properly maintained, using a honing steel is all I have time for. And, judging from reader’s comments, I think most visitors to this site are in the same boat. They would be doing well if they simply honed/steeled their kitchen knives on a regular basis :)
I tried a 14″ Freidrick Dick steel hone on a Kanetsune 240 mm VG10 laminated gyuoto, noticed a few chips, I didn’t hone very hard, quit using steel on VG10.
I find it easier to sharpen my own than the process of sending them out. I used to buy blades, put handles on them, and make sheaths. My glass business took off and I quit “making” knives. I still have a few friends that occasionally ask me to sharpen their knives, none of which are really hard steel, so I use the belt sander and buffing wheel on them. I try to evaluate the condition of the edges to determine what kind of angle to sharpen their knives. One friend uses his pocket knife to cut anything, sometimes I think including bricks. He gets a fairly obtuse angle.
You made me smile while imagining someone cutting bricks with a knife:) He’s lucky to have you as a friend! —KKG
I have been sharpening knives for about 15 years and I use a Tormek machine because the wheel travels thru water and that keeps the blades cool and I can control the angle that I want. I do sharpen serrated knives, but I know that there must be a better method then I use. So. . .does anyone have a method that they use that works really well, other then using a file and doing each serration individually?
This web page is mainly for consumers looking for a quality professional sharpening service so that they can compare notes and share tips. But other sharpening services have already gotten into the act, so I suppose you’re welcome to give it a shot :)
Hi, not a professional chef, just love to cook. I have a set of Wusthof Classic knives. I am frustrated that I can not seem to get them really sharp. Are they worth spending money on or should I replace them?
You’ve come to the right place! And your experience reflects my own frustrations. Learning how to sharpen a knife properly to a fine edge is a task that takes much patience and training. I’d rather leave it to a pro.
And now your question. . .
1) Wusthof Classic knives are definitely worth spending money on to get super-sharp. The quality of the steel in the blade will enable them to take a sharp edge and hold it—especially if you hone them regularly with a ceramic hone. This is not Japanese-knife sharp, but definitely sharp enough for most kitchens.
2) The only reason your knives would not be worth getting professionally sharpened would be if they had been worn down a lot (mainly from sharpening, or worse yet, improper sharpening), OR, had deep dents in their edges that would require taking a lot of metal off in order to sharpen properly. (I show an example of this in my article Finding a Professional Sharpening Service.) In this case, you might consider starting from scratch. But you could decide on this on a knife-by-knife basis.
3) All of the sharpening services on this page should send your knives back to you as sharp as or (more likely) sharper than they came from the factory. So got for it!
4) Read my article Kitchen Knife Sharpening Action Plan and Do What It Says to Do!
5) Since you love to cook, for the fun of it, you might want to try out a Japanese hybrid chef knife. Check out some of the terrific deals available in Quality Kitchen Knives on Sale.
Best of luck,
Thanks, I have never had them sharpened at all, so I don’t think they are worn down, although they are 10 years old. I have the hone that came with the set. I have used it but never seemed to make a difference, I even watched a video on a TV cooking show once. UNTIL I watched yours, you showed a different technique. I tried your way, and even though they are 10 years old and never been sharpened, WOW is all I can say. It really made a difference. Thanks for that honing video! I am considering sending them out to the place you sent yours, but there is a place in Grand Rapids called Williams and Sonoma that does sharpening, but I wonder if they know what they are doing. Any comments on places like this?
Kit, I can’t speak for every Williams-Sonoma store. But my impression is that the kitchen goods stores do not use high-quality sharpening services. They seem to be more interested in selling customers knives than getting their knives properly sharpened.
If they were my knives, I would send them to one of the pro sharpening services I recommend. Seattle Knife Sharpening is the very best, but a bit pricey, especially when you figure postage. One of the new sharpening services I’ve added, Art of Sharp in Chicago, is nearer you, would do a fine job, and save you a little money.
I just received my knives back from D & R Sharpening and could not be happier with them. The knives are sharper than they have ever been. The turnaround time was very quick – just over a week until I received them back in the mail. I haven’t used the other knife sharpening services mentioned here, but I would definitely give D & R a thumbs up.
Thank you for the great reviews!
I was wondering if you’ve received any feedback on, or have an opinion about, Zwilling J.A. Henckels in-house knife sharpening service. I have a large collection of Four Star II knives—most of which are in new or like-new condition (they all still have the red/black stickers on the handles), but they aren’t particularly sharp. Their service is fairly affordable, compared to the services you’ve reviewed, which I’m not sure I can afford. That said, I’d hate to send in a bunch of “new” knives and have them botch the job since, like you, I am very, very, very picky.
I’m also curious how different can I expect the knives to appear after professional sharpening. Will my “new” knives still look factory new or should I expect them to look like they’ve been altered? Many thanks for you help. :-)
Sorry, but I have no feedback on Zwilling Henckels’ knife sharpening service. As a matter of fact, after doing a thorough Google search, I couldn’t even find it. But no matter. . .
My experience in life dictates that, in general, you get what you pay for—and knife sharpening is no exception. Depending on the knife, Henckels’ service may be able to match their factory edges. And since you are talking about Four Star II knives, not any of Henckels’ Japanese-made blades, you may fare decently. But factory edges are often hit and miss and rarely the cat’s meow. Not a good match for a “very picky” home chef.
Of the knife sharpening services recommended in the article above, D&R is the closest to a factory edge and, thus, my least preferred. All the others—Seattle Knife, KySharp, RazoEdgeKnives, Art of Sharp—would clearly beat a factory edge.
My take? I would always opt for using fewer knives, but with sharper edges. Quality over quantity every time. So, if it were me, I would get three or four knives excellently sharpened and use them (and hone them) regularly, rather than have half a dozen or more blades with so-so edges. And, BTW, if you send your knives to Seattle Knife Sharpening I guarantee you will thank me for the rest of your life. I am not exaggerating.
As far as how different your knives will look, they will look different—especially with Seattle, since he goes further up the side of the knife in order to blend in his primary bevel. That’s the nature of getting a knife sharpened—whether you do it yourself or someone else does it. (Actually, D&R will probably look the least different since he tries to match the factory edge.) But once you start slicing and dicing and feeling such little resistance, you will totally forget about the way they look :)
Thank you for the great reply.
Just curious: do you have an opinion one way or the other about the Four Star II line?
Again, many thanks.
Zwilling Henckels Four Star II is a rock-solid, journeyman’s German-style knife from one of the oldest and most famous German knife manufacturers around. It’s forged from quality steel and hardened to HRC 57. I believe the quality of the blade is very very comparable to Henckels’ flagship line the Pro S. The main difference is in the handle and feel.
The toughness of the steel allow this knife to hold up under stress and handle substantial abuse (not that I ever recommend it). The trade off is that it will not keep it’s edge as long as a knife made of a harder steel such as most Japanese knives. But if you start with a sharp edge and hone it regularly the Four Star will function quite well in a home kitchen. Honing is the key!
I own both the original Four Star (no II) and the Pro S and much prefer the handle, balance, and look of the Pro S. Sorry, but I don’t like the aesthetics or feel of molded handles. Funny enough, even though the Pro S handle appears to be made of wood, both the Four Star (II) and Pro S are made of the same polypropylene (plastic).
My Four Star knives were given to me as wedding presents eons ago and have long been retired to the deep recesses of my archive knife drawer. My Pro S was a hand-me-down from my Mom and is still in respectable condition (although with newer additions, it has been retired). BTW. . .the only difference (that I know of) between the original Four Star and the Four Star II is that the steel runs entirely through the handle of the II (full tang) and forms a bolster at the end. This gives it a touch more weight and a different balance—but the quality of the blades is identical.
Of course, all this said, there is another knife world out there—Japanese-made knives—which tend to raise the bar on sharpitude and performance. For more details on brands/models of knives I’m sweet on, please mosey on over to Best Chef Knives—Six Recommendations. You also might want to check out How to Buy a Great Chef Knife and Knife Edges 101.
Thank you for your thoughtful reply.
I, too, have a few Four Stars (not II) from the 80’s that my mom gave me when I moved into my very first apartment after college. I kept them in great condition until I got married at which time they were poorly treated by my in-laws and the like. I still have them (post marriage), having kept them for sentimental reasons. When I decided to invest in some new knives, I originally wanted to go with the Four Star over the Pro S—again, purely for sentimental reasons—but the quality, weight, and feel of the newer ones did not measure up to the older ones. Instead, as a compromise, I opted for the Four Star II’s, which are heavier and feel more substantial than the latest Four Stars, and still allow me to pay homage to the knives I grew up with and the ones my mom gave me. :-)
Any recommendations for sharpening services in the Boston area? We recently moved here and I’m in desperate need of a great service. I look forward to your response.
Sorry, I don’t know of any pro sharpeners in Bo-Town—but who cares? You should do as I do, and as I recommend. . .ship them out!!
KySharp, RazorEdgeKnives, and D&R Knives are easterly and have fast turnarounds. I think the best bang for the buck is KySharp and his turnaround is lightening.
Sorry, I’ve been madly trying finish up my revised review for almost a year—but have no worries, these new guys are top-notch.
P.S. What are your reservations about shipping your knives to someone?
I have been using Art of Sharp for a couple of years now. He does some of the local farmer’s markets and is a nice guy and really knows what he’s doing. It’s a bit mesmerizing watching him sharpen the knives.
Hey Mark! Thanks for confirming that Frank really does know his stuff :)
Thanks so much for the new reviews on knife sharpening services! I so need to send my beloved Bob Kramer to be sharpened, and also a beloved Japanese Tojiro santouko. Do you recommend sending both to Bob Tate at Seattle or should I send the Japanese knife to Dave Martell at D&R, as he seems to specialize in Japanese knives?
Like you, my knives are my babies and I’m a bit nervous about sending them away, but I do not dare use a water/whetstone on them, so it must be done.
Your opinion will be greatly appreciated! Thanks!
I sent my knives to Bob Tate in Seattle a year ago & was thrilled with the results. I was just getting ready to send off another batch and his website states he’s moving to Montana & has closed his shop in Seattle as of August 1st, 2020. He states he will reopen his business in Montana sometime in 2021.
I thought you and the people who follow your blog should know.
Thanks sooooo much! What a temporary loss. I’ll get the work out. . .
I find your reviews most interesting. Thank you for them!
I live in Canada (Quebec) and would be interested in such a service if it is available at all in the country. Any info you can provide?
You’re welcome! At the end of this very article, I mention two Canadian professional knife sharpeners that I recommend looking into. Check them out:
I certainly appreciated your comments about the “top five”, but the West Coast (other than Seattle) sort of got left out—probably due to your own personal location.
Have you any comments about sksharpening (Mike Schmidt’s Knives) in Irvine, California? Their Website pre-prices their services by not charging by the inch (something of a commentary on the failure of the California Public Education system to teach basic math?), pre-sends you a specialized shipping container to save you the effort of newspaper-wrapping your knives and running to the post office, etc. The shipping container which arrives at your house contains “loaner” knives for your free use (and evaluation to purchase of course), and for those of us living near-by, offers a drop-off service to save a few bucks.
In trying to checkout their service I found Facebook reviews (BUT 4-5 years old, nothing current), YELP (again most were several years old), etc., but not much really truly current.
What have you heard?
You Californians make me laugh. Just like New Yorkers, you think the world ends outside your state lines :) If you look at where the pro sharpeners in my article reside, you’ll notice there isn’t a single one near me (in the NYC area) either. It’s just the way things panned out. . .
The main reason a CA company is not on the list is because, at the time of my last major revision, I didn’t find any sharpening services in CA that fit my first-cut parameters. In the case of SK Sharpening, it was probably because they’re not a single-man shop, but a more factory-like operation with many anonymous workers doing the sharpening. Not my thing. I highly favor small operations with one guy doing the sharpening—because quality control can be much tighter.
This doesn’t mean that SK Sharpening might not do a terrific job of sharpening. Why don’t you try them out and let us know? And if they’re great, maybe I’ll check them out at some future date.
Otherwise. . .take advantage of my research and pack up your knives and ship them off to someone you can trust (one of the pros in the above article)—just the way I do :)
I was going to see if the Art of Sharp could sharpen my knives, since I live pretty close to his location. I contacted him by email last month but haven’t heard back. Is he still in business?
Sorry to say, I don’t think I can help much. Frank has been a bit stand-offish with me after the review came out. Not sure why. I have excellent relationships with all the other professional knife sharpeners I’ve reviewed and they’ve all been super appreciative.
December is a crazy month for everybody and Frank might have be buried in work and family. I think it would be worth writing him again and referring to your earlier email.
Anybody else out there have the latest on Frank of Art of Sharp in Chicago?
Th KKG ANONNYMITY section was a pleasant surprise in this era of “Influencers”. Absolutely the surest way to get the true measure of a service for the average customer. Respect for the process – if not the spelling :) Love your site! Just took an entire evening getting educated, and it was time well spent. Thank you!
That’s for your generous compliments! I hate misspelling stuff. . .thanks for the tip. Done!
Frank of Art of Sharp is indeed still in business. I just received my sharpened knives back and they are the sharpest theyve ever been. The cost was very modest and the turnaround time from the East Coast was exactly 1 week.
Thanks so much for the update!
I posted awhile back for honing tips on a cleaver and a bird’s beak parer. I took your tip and tried stropping. I use it almost exclusively on my Japanese knives, since they are more delicate, and my honing rod works great on my German knives. It took awhile to get used to it but it’s great.
Since then, I’ve acquired quite a bit of knives, for cooking and as a hobby. I’ve also picked up some stones for some amateur sharpening on my German knives. It takes awhile but it’s fun! I don’t trust myself yet with sharpening the Japanese knives yet, so I’ll try D&R or Art of Sharp when it comes time for a sharpening.
Thanks so much, Gabe, for continuing to chronicle your kitchen-knife sharpitude journey :)
I was just getting ready to send some knives to Seattle but their website said they are closed. The owner has moved to Montana
After this pandemic year,maybe we could get updated
recommendations in case other small businesses have also stopped operating.
Thanks so much for checking in. Yes, I’ve been meaning to put a notation on the KKG site—sorry I’ve been so delayed.
– Seattle Knives is still not open, but is still intending to reopen in Montana.
– He will let us all know when he is ready for business on his Seattle Knives website.
– Meanwhile, I’m pretty sure all my other recommended pro sharpening service are open and ready for biz. I checked them all out around six months ago and they all were in business—one of the benefits of online business model.
– Please feel free to contact me if you have any other questions :)
Excellent article and great update. I use high end pocket knives and REK has put some alien type sharpness onto them. He’s a great sharpener, but he recently transitioned to making knives. He will still do belt sharpening, but no more custom profiles or mirror polishing. Just giving you info. Please keep us updated. Although I’m not a chef knife user, the variety of premium steel and different blades and grinds of many high-end pocket knives need expert service to keep them in their intended league of super knives.
Hi Michael, and thanks much for the feedback and info on REK. It’s really a pity he no longer does custom profiles because he’s soooo good at everything he does. I guess we’ll just have to take what we can get :)