There’s nothing more satisfying than using a freshly sharpened knife, especially if you’ve been putting up with a blunt one for any length of time. And if you’ve decided to get yourself a really high-quality blade, such as one of our TOG knives, you’re going to want to maintain that edge. After all, what’s the point of investing in a precision instrument, unless it can perform to its fullest capabilities at all times?
As you may have read in our article about the stunning craftsmanship that goes into TOG kitchen knives, these are some ridiculously sharp blades. The cutting edge is made of a specialised high-carbon Japanese steel - ACUTO 440 - which due to its hardness stays sharp for longer. But eventually, all knives become blunt, as microscopic parts of the blade get bent over and chipped with use.
In this guide we cover different kinds of sharpening tools, as well as top tips for keeping your knives in great condition for longer - so that your blades can last for life.
What’s the best way to sharpen a knife?
When sharpening your knife blades, always make sure you sharpen the entire length, and that you’re holding the knife at the correct angle. The two most common methods of getting your knife sharp again are with a rod or a whetstone. These actually serve slightly different purposes.
1) Honing rod or sharpening steel
When you use a rod (otherwise known as a sharpening steel or honing rod), the knife’s edge is dragged along the textured rod, which straightens out tiny parts of the edge which are bent over. This straightening process is known as honing, and should be done perhaps once a week.
The honing steel’s surface is also slightly abrasive; how abrasive will vary between different types of rod. This takes away a very small amount of material to sharpen the blade. When using the rod, always pull the knife along it all the way from tip to heel - otherwise, over time, you could create a dip in the knife as the middle part gets ground down.
We’ve got a ceramic honing rod by TOG that has a fine grit, making it perfect for regular use. It even has a shock absorber system which reduces the risk of breakage should you drop it.
Watch the TOG knifemaster’s guide to this type of sharpening:
If a knife has become too blunt for a rod to sharpen effectively, or if it has become chipped, whetstones are a more effective way of grinding material off the blade for sharpening. A whetstone, or sharpening stone, is a porous, hard block with an abrasive surface, usually with a coarser grit on one side and a finer grit on the other side.
Whetstones only need to be used for sharpening every few months. They are incredibly versatile and can sharpen all types of knives, as well as garden tools!
Soak your whetstone before use. It’s important to keep it still, so put a cloth or paper towel underneath it. For sharpening, start with the coarser side; to hone your knife, just use the finer side.
Find the correct angle that the knife should be sharpened at - manufacturers will usually provide this information (TOG knives are sharpened at 10 degrees). Draw the blade down the stone in a wide, circular manner, holding the blade at a constant angle until the tip of the knife runs off the other edge. Repeat several times on each side of the blade, depending on the dullness of the blade, and finish on the finer grit to hone. Again, always sharpen all the way from tip to heel.
Watch the TOG knifemaster’s guide to whetstone sharpening:3) Pull-through/electric sharpeners
Whilst electric and pull-through sharpeners are a quick and easy way to sharpen a knife, they don’t work with all sorts of knives. You have to be careful about matching the type of blade with the sharpener - not just the angle, but whether your knife is single or double beveled. Furthermore, they eventually wear out.
We think it’s worth investing time into learning how to use rods and whetstones - it will take some practice, but it’s not rocket science by any means. You might even find that a Sunday afternoon spent sharpening all your knives becomes a true pleasure!
How should you clean knives?
To keep your blade in the best possible shape, wash and dry knives by hand straight after use with a non-scratch washing up sponge or a cloth. Never leave them to soak. Putting knives in a dishwasher is not advised - for a TOG knife, this will void the lifetime guarantee. Dishwashers stress the handles of knives, encourage corrosion and rattle them against other metal utensils, dulling the blades.
TOG knives contain copper layers within the blades - over time, these may darken as they oxidise. To brighten them back up again, simply rub the blade with half a lemon.
How should you store knives?
The ideal method of storing knives is either on a magnetic knife rack or in a knife block - these protect the blades from damage, and display the knives well. It’s not ideal to keep knives rattling around in drawers, as they can become scratched and blunt, but if a drawer is your only option then keep them protected with cloths or in their original boxes. If you’re transporting knives, a knife roll will keep them safe and secure.
Whatever you choose, just make sure the blades aren’t being bashed about, and always store your knives dry. Drying your knives straight after washing will prevent tarnishing of any sort, and if you have a wooden knife block, it will stop mould growing on the inside.
Sharpening knives is a fun, empowering and useful skill to learn, and we encourage you to give it a try. However, if you’d rather leave it to the professionals - or perhaps your knife has suffered a particularly nasty chip - you can drop your knife off with a sharpening service. Simply look up local knife sharpening services in your area.
TOG knives have partnered with Scott Mclellan of Sheffield Knife Sharpening, who has sharpened, repaired and restored well over 1000 knives using Japanese whetstones. Find details of the service in our TOG knives care guide.
We hope this guide has helped you feel more confident with maintaining a knife. Regardless of whether you’ve got a cheap kitchen knife or a stunning TOG blade, a little care will go a long way in keeping it performing at its best and lasting longer.
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