For some reason a lot us who are used to trusting professionals to help us with all sorts of other household duties—i.e. mowing our lawns, cleaning our carpets, troubleshooting our PCs—don’t consider using a professional knife sharpening service for our kitchen knives. Why is that?
(Possible reasons—garnered from my own personal experience.)
1) We don’t know they exist.
2) We don’t know how to locate one.
3) We worry that even if we do locate one, they’ll cost too much.
4) We’re afraid a sub-standard outfit might ruin our beloved knives.
5) We can’t afford the time to deal with any of the above, OR, even if we could manage to spare the time, we deeply doubt it’ll be worth it.
John Boos & Co. Cherry Edge-Grain Fusion Board
Here’s a really cool-looking board I’ve never seen anything quite like. Edge-grain cherry with wooden feet and an Asian feel—it also comes in maple. As I mention elsewhere, Boos is known for their quality. Beauty and brains . . . what’s not to like?
John Boos & Co. Cherry Edge-Grain Fusion Board, 20″ x 15″ x 1″ @ Amazon
Answers to the five reasons above:
Number One—they’re he-re. Some home gourmets may not even realize these professional sharpening services exist for consumers, and that, along with professional chefs, they service consumer cooks as well. It’s a big knife-sharpening world out there. Don’t shirk an invaluable resource.
Number Two—where? Thanks to the internet, assembling a short list of possible candidates for any given service is not the big hairy deal it used to be. Just google that puppy. Try “knife sharpening services” and you’ll see an endless scroll fill your screen. And if you’re willing to mail your knives somewhere—and there’s no reason you shouldn’t—you’ll have a long list to choose from, a variety of approaches, and some high-end candidates. Which brings us to. . .
Number Three—how much? As much as it might sound like a luxury, sending your knives to be sharpened somewhere, depending on the service, could cost less than 6 dollars per knife. For example: a 4-inch paring knife could run $5–7, while a standard 8-inch chef knife $6–10. Most services charge by size range, such as $6 for blades 7 to 10 inches long, but some figure their rates more exactly by the inch. Either way, considering you’re getting professional treatment, they’re pretty darn affordable.
A package of two 8-inch chef knives and two 4-inch paring knives, including shipping, could run as little a $33.Of course, if you’re not dropping them off yourself or using a highly-trained team of super-charged carrier pigeons—you’ll have to pay for shipping. But if you deploy the good old USPS and not something pricey like FedEx overnight, it won’t add up to as much as you might think. Plus, the more knives you send in one package, the more you can spread out the shipping costs—thus, you’d be smart to do at least three or four blades at a time.
So, for example, a package of two 8-inch chef knives and two 4-inch paring knives, including shipping, could run as little a $33. Total. (Barely the price of a movie date and a drink and some popcorn.) Does that sound like too much? Think of what you’re getting—the kind of scintillating sharpitude a professional chef has in their hands every single day. Which could last to a year or more before needing to be resharpened. (That is if you hone regularly.)
When you factor in the lifespan of your knives, the cost of having to buy new ones, and the hassle of perpetually putting up with dull-cutting blades, it’s really not very much.
Nonetheless—if that still sounds like too much to pay, then maybe you should consider buying your own sharpening system and learning how to do it yourself. But, along with the startup cost of investing in a quality DIY system ($120 and up), it will cost you time (depending on the system—a serious chunk of it) to master and maintain the skill of sharpening. Especially at the beginning.
Powered: The Master Grade® Premium Knife Sharpener is compact, nice-looking, and does an excellent job. It’s small enough to fit on a counter, but can also be stowed. What I like most about it is that, unlike many other brands of electric sharpener, the two wheels it uses to sharpen with are not hard and rigid, but pliable and soft. This means: 1) they can conform to the blade better than hard wheels, thus creating a smoother bevel and 2) they will not whisk away as much metal. NOTE: You need to be very very careful with powered systems because they can, in short order, eat up your knives. Always practice on a knife you don’t care about first. Also, like most counter-top electric sharpeners, this machine will not handle a knife with a bolster well. It’s ideal for knives like Japanese hybrids.
Manual: The Edge Pro Sharpening System is precise, well-designed, and extremely versatile. The best thing about this system is: 1) it guarantees you’ll consistently sharpen on the correct angle, and 2) it employs waterstones which are gentler on your knives than whetstones (or diamond) and will insure you take as little metal off as necessary. (Yes, it’s expensive, and believe it or not, I don’t get a penny for this recommendation.)
Number Four—avoiding ruination. How do you know any of the services you’ve looked up on the web are any good? How do you know they won’t chew up your kitchen knives instead of bringing them back to their original factory sharpitude? This is a really good question and a really important one—so much so that I cover it more in depth elsewhere on this site: a) See my article Finding a Professional Sharpening Service which offers tips on how to find a quality service. b) Or, better yet, read my article Reviews of Professional Knife Sharpening Services which covers services I have used and can recommend.
Suffice it to say, I am certain that through the web (or other avenues) and my guidance anyone can find a service that will satisfy even the most finicky customer (of which I am one).
Number Five—time, time, time. Properly caring for your knives, no matter which way you go, will take more time. No doubt about it. Just as it does for your car, your lawnmower, and, the-mother-of-all-time-sucks your house. But if you choose to send them to a professional, and in between sharpenings hone them yourself, it will be a matter of minutes, not hours. Sixty-second snippets, every couple days. Not quantity, but consistency, will make all the difference. If you pine for your knives to be sharp, all it takes is a little diligence.
Mailing off my kitchen knives to a quality knife sharpening service has reenergized my culinary life.The good news is that mail-in sharpening services are designed to save time and make things easy. Most have simple, clear instructions (which often includes a downloadable form to print out) as well as standard means of payment (credit card or PayPal). The steps required to properly package up and mail out a box of knives can be mastered in 20 minutes. Yes, you’ll have to learn how to roll them up in newspaper without nicking yourself. (Or—you can just buy a set of knife guards.) But after you’ve done it once, and gotten the hang of the whole process, the next time will be a cinch. Plus, KitchenKnifeGuru is always here to help and guide!
True confession: Mailing off my kitchen knives to a quality knife sharpening service has reenergized my culinary life. I’m not exaggerating. It’s evaporated the nagging complaint I had carried around for years in the back of my cranium that moaned, “Our kitchen knives are not sharp enough, but what can I do about it?” It’s given me back my cutting edge beauties for a price that’s more than worth it. Simple tasks like slicing up a melon for breakfast, instead of being a herky-jerky trauma, go smooth and quick. I now enjoy pro-quality blades every single day without having to add “sharpening the knives” to my already long list of duties and errands.
Do yourself a favor and seriously consider a pro knife sharpening service. And if you need any convincing not to do your own knife sharpening, please read Kitchen Knife Sharpening: Five Good Reasons NOT to Sharpen Your Own.
(Photo credit: Thanks to Chi-Chatty on Flickr.com for her photo of the sharpening wheel.)
I used to send my knives off to get them sharpened. Only problem is I’m such a procrastinator. I finally just went with an Apex system from Edge Pro. Funny thing is I actually enjoy using this thing. Even contemplated starting a little side business sharpening knives with it. Easy to use and highly effective.
I hand sharp every knife. The old way.
Good for you, Sam! I highly respect the craft.
For me to 1) learn how do it right and 2) do it on a regular basis would take a serious commitment of time and thought. As a stay-at-home Dad with a part-time job (this website), I just can’t spare the time. I’ve also been spoiled by the incredible quality offered by professional sharpeners such as Seattle Knife Sharpening.
As a matter of fact, you might be curious to read an in-depth interview I did with Bob Tate, chef-cook-and-bottle-washer of Seattle Knife. Who knows, you might even pick up a few tips :)
Thanks for checking in!
I remember the bloke who came around to sharpen knives. He also took the hollows out of spoons where the bowl was used to crack nuts. My grand mother would then ask the guest to pay her. My grand mother had more manners than most nobs.
The chap who sharpened the knives would and could fix most things.
He did single side and double side sharps on knives. He could do blades on saws and the roller lawn mower.
I would watch very carefully and in my later life sharpenen my own knives. Both table cutlery and kitchen knives. It is not hard but can be tedious. But my husband believes that it is easier to buy a new item.
I remind him, that these days that goes for partners.
After 50 years of marriage I will continue to sharpen my own knives.
Stay safe, allow others to do the same.
I read your article because I was wondering how much does these sharpening services charge. Not because I needed something sharpened, but because the only one offering the services in my town is the hardware store. The wife works at that store & says they charge $20 for a lawn mower blade.
I sharpen everything. It’s an archaic thing that’s beyond most people’s ability now. I’m a little older, though not ancient yet. I carry a ceramic rod everywhere just in case someone needs it.
I mean, just imagine you call someone for an appointment. They show up with a bag in hand & a half hour to an hour later the guy is gone & you are left with every item you own razor sharp. Not just the knives, but the scissors, the pruning shears, wood working tools like chisels & planes, your lawn mower, drill bits. We’re talking mythical Hattori Hanz? sharp here.
All of a sudden my wife saying that would be a good idea isn’t. No, it’s a ridiculously great idea. It might even be life changing. I like to do this. I was doing it for everyone, for free. Axes hand ground, without a grinder, to a razors edge, for FREE!!!
I like to cook too & couldn’t imagine the apprehension you felt walking into your kitchen with dull knives, that just dangerous. I’d like to say thank you for opening my eyes. I’ll NEVER have to work another day in my life. Email me, I’ll sharpen your wares. I’ll get a website up soon.
Congratulations, John! If you haven’t already, you should also read my article, “Reviews of Professional Knife Sharpening Services.” It might offer you some tips as to how to approach your new biz. . . :)
I’ve been kicking around the idea of starting a side business too doing sharpening. I’ve been sharpening for over 40 years and I enjoy it. The only problem I really see is how to get enough customers to make it more than a once in a while service. How do you go about getting customers?
Very informative site. I’m old enough to remember the knife-sharpening truck that used to drive around the neighbourhood ringing a bell (or maybe that was just a Canadian thing).
I’ve seen a number of questions in your comment section about various home sharpeners and, based on my experience, my advice would be, DON’T use them. I have a 25-year old 10″ Swiss made Victrinox chef knife that I sharpened exclusively using a popular German knife manufacturer’s counter-top manual “hand-pull” sharpener (because the sharpener trucks were gone and, sadly, your website didn’t exist to warn me against them). I’ve continued to use the knife despite it’s mangled cutting edge. I wish that I could attach a photo for you to use as an example of why to use a sharpening service. Despite no knife bolster, the rear 2″ of the cutting edge is 1/16″-1/8″ lower than the forward part of the blade because of the difficulty of engaging the manual sharpener at the rear edge. There’s actually such a gap between the front and rear of the cutting edge, that I now chop with the rear 2″ hanging off the cutting board to accommodate the edge discrepancy. I could probably have a sharpening service try to salvage the knife, but it doesn’t owe me anything. It’s time for a new knife.
Do you know of a website with chef knife recommendations for…I don’t know…say…six knives? Keep up the great work.
Thanks for sharing your story, Ron!