Hanging with the edge

Since writing a column about knives in October, I’ve continued to obsess. I’m doing my own sharpening now–for real, not like last time.

So this is going to be pretty geeky. After a while of enjoying my current knife, I realized that part of why I like it so much is its lack of a full bolster. Take a look:


That’s the Togiharu Molybdenum 210mm. Did you know it’s currently on sale for $47 at Amazon and makes a great gift? Just checking.

The part I’m pointing to is going to make more sense when you look at the next picture, which is of my old knife (well, it’s similar), a Henckels:


See how the bolster is a thick chunk that extends down to the edge of the blade? This is–and if you own a knife like this, I apologize for dissing it–a design flaw. It means that when you sharpen the knife, eventually you’ll leave a pocket next to the bolster, and the bolster will hit the cutting board first, and you won’t cut all the way through your scallions, and you will cry. Then you’ll have to get the bolster ground down by a professional with power tools. (If you have your own power tools, okay, you win. What would you use for this sort of thing, anyway? Belt sander? Dremel? Router? Garden Weasel?)

Few knives are made with the full bolster anymore. The standard Wusthof and Heckels, basically. My parents have a Messermeister San Moritz, and the thing is heavy, sharp, German–and has a partial bolster.

So, anyway, back when I used the Henckels, I think my resistance to sharpening it myself was that I knew I would be slowly ruining it, and eventually I’d have to pass it off to a pro for bolster surgery anyway. With the Togiharu, okay, I might still screw it up while sharpening, but at least it’s not a sure thing.

Thanks for indulging me here. You’ll be pleased to know that I abandoned an extended skateboarding analogy after Laurie explained to me that my knowledge of skateboarding is perhaps less than current.

As for my current sharpening media:

Norton 1000/4000 grit waterstone

DMT D8X diamond stone

For some reason, Iris finds these sharpening stones completely awesome. It’s not like I would let her try sharpening a knife, but she likes to carry them around and stroke them lovingly and tell Laurie all about them. I guess it’s because one of them comes in a cool box and the other sparkles with real (industrial) diamonds.

8 thoughts on “Hanging with the edge

  1. matt wright

    So I am interested – how does the sharpness when sharpened with a waterstone manually compare to the sharpness when done with the edge pro?

    Great article! I love that Iris likes the stones. I wonder how much she can talk about them though! surely there is only so much to say about an inanimate stone? Oh.. wait.. 4 year olds can talk about anything for ages :D

  2. mamster Post author

    The waterstone gives you more options than the Edge Pro (you can sharpen at a lower angle than the Edge Pro will go to), and it’s a little bit faster, but the edge isn’t any better and your hand gets a lot more tired. The two stones I bought cost about $110, which is less than the Edge Pro but not much less.

  3. Sarah

    Thanks for the reminder that this knife is on sale. I just happen to have a $50 g.c. for Amazon and was wondering what I would spend it on.

  4. Caroline

    I suck, totally, at sharpening knives, which is why I a) use an Accusharp in my kitchen (on my Western, not my Asian, knives) and b) haul everything to a pro knife sharpener once a year. But before I started doing this, I ruined a few knives on a diamond stone.

    Yes, the diamond stone is pretty. No, my sad fate will not befall you, as my knives were even geekier than Matthew’s: beveled-edge knives made for double-reed woodwind players to use on their reeds. They’re basically obscure woodworker’s tools. And once I figured out how to use it, the diamond stone was really satisfying.

  5. mamster Post author

    You mean like this? That looks cool and I would be scared to sharpen it, too.

    Caroline, I don’t think I have any aptitude for this sort of thing.

    The diamond stone is only for really damaged blades or if you want to thin or change the bevel on a knife. You don’t want to use it on a knife that’s just kind of dull, which is why I haven’t used mine yet. (I now have two of the Togiharus so I can play around with one without fear of ruining dinner. I’m a real geek.)

  6. SteveO

    Interesting that you mentioned your parents’ knives… in my experience, everyone’s folks use a drawer-full of three dollar knives with wobbly handles and so many nicks that you can’t tell the serrated from the straight edge. Maybe it’s just a mid-west thing… no one spent money on kitchen things back in their day.

    I can’t read about, listen to folks talk about, or look at knives without hearing Adam warn Maurice that he has ten inches of Solingen steel poised to carve him from breastbone to brisket if he makes one false move.


  7. mamster Post author

    SteveO, I loved that show.

    My parents got the Messermeister a few years ago; I’m not sure what they used before that. Perhaps they are listening.

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