Last update 02.14.18 – Kitchen knife misleading. It’s simple, but powerful. And the true tip, the source of its power, is barely visible to the naked eye. Maybe that’s why it’s so easy to take them for granted. But we must resist that desire. Because only a fraction of the knowledge about knife sharpness will help you learn how to best care for and maintain kitchen knives. (picture below: my Shun Classic chef’s knife)
Each knife has a sharpness, i.e. the way the blade is sharpened to make it look sharp. The most common, of course, is the V-shaped edge, which resembles a sound – two angled edges that go straight to the cutting edge. The vast majority of kitchen knives have this advantage. Or the variant of the latter is called composite cone (or double cone) – a large V with a much smaller V at the very end. The second V is so small that you wouldn’t have seen the eagle if you had never seen it.
CONE: The term Command is normally used to describe any surface of the sheet which has been ground to form an edge. The primary bevel is the largest (and most prominent) and its depth can vary significantly from 32 inches to 3/8 inches or more. Enter the kitchen and look closely at the blade of your chef’s knife. You will notice that there is an area near the edge of the leaf where the steepest corner is the main bevel.
In addition to the standard V, convex, hollow, , and bits with teeth are also common (see figure above):
Convex is a very complex ridge that resembles the cross section of an aircraft wing. Two long arches bend towards each other and cross at the edges. It is sharp, but stronger than a traditional V. It can be sharpened, and often, after being sharpened several times, it tends to change into a traditional V-shape.
Hollow knives are often used for hunting knives and cheap butcher’s knives, but are rarely used for high-quality kitchen knives. The shape of the curves that produce an edge curve in the opposite direction as convex.
The chisel edges are mainly found in traditional Japanese knives, especially sushi knives, and are alarmingly sharp. They are ground only on one side, while the other side remains (more or less) flat, giving them a very small full edge angle. Oh. I’ll explain the angles in more detail soon.
The jagged edges of , known to most people and most commonly used in bread knives. As with wooden chisels, they only cut on one side, which makes them very sharp. They retain their sharpness incredibly well, because the real edge is hidden in any miniature architecture and is protected by a sharp outer edge of the blade. Unfortunately it takes a long time to sharpen them, and many professional sharpeners don’t worry about that. They are also problematic for grinding. Many grinding experts simply recommend buying a new grinder if the old one with notches gets too boring.
Summary: Chances are your kitchen knife has a traditional V-shaped cutting edge, making it fairly easy to maintain. But if it doesn’t have this standard type of edge, you should know that it needs special attention when grinding and sharpening. (If you don’t know the difference between sharpening and ragging, read my article Sharpening Cycle.)
Bob Kramer Carbon steel Chef’s Knife
Bob Kramer, the famous American Blade Master, together with J.A. Henkels has made a knife that uses the same fine steel as his handmade knives. Except that you don’t have to wait in line to buy in the lottery or at an auction for thousands of dollars, but you can buy it at any time for a few hundred. Oh, he doesn’t have a nice patterned damask steel, but he cuts you like a banshee and holds you in his hand like a schoolgirl. Can you tell me I’m in love?
Carbon steel Cook Bob Kramer 8 inch knife from Zwilling J.A. Henckels
What is your position?
When you hear a kitchen knife professional say that the knife has a 15 degree cutting edge, he is not talking about a common edge, but only about one side. To measure this angle – logically called the cutting angle – an imaginary line is drawn through the centre of the blade and from there the outside of the primary bevel is measured. (see figure)
The complete cutting angle of the knife (seldom called and composed of the sum of the two cutting angles) is called the included angle. Since most knives are ground symmetrically, the angle of the enclosed blade is in most cases just twice as large as the angle of the cutting edge. That’s fair, isn’t it?
Knives made in the West German tradition (e.g. Henkels and Wuschhof and team) were traditionally sharpened at an angle of 20-22 degrees. This means that the knife itself (including the angle) has been cut with a wedge at an angle of 40-44 degrees. Doesn’t look so hot, does it? That’s not true. It is designed to be quite sharp, but at the same time it is also designed to withstand a lot of abuse. He could have seen the bone, not the chips, cut or go through a frozen pork loin (something that should not be used to cut into pieces in the first place), and yet it doesn’t break or crack. He was a war horse.
Things are different now. German knifemakers are now trying to compete with the most beautiful corners of the Japanese language. This is great news for consumers!
Japanese knives (and Japanese hybrids) – factory milled with 10 to 15 degree cutting edges. Adding 20 to 30 degrees to the closed corners creates a wedge the size of half the size of a typical old western knife. Wow. No wonder Japanese knives are all rage – everything you cut looks like butter. But beware, there’s no such thing as a free meal. Try to abuse the Japanese knife and you’ll pay for it with a huge amount of chips and cracks!
HIGH DIFFERENT STEEL One of the biggest differences between Western and Japanese knives is the steel they are made of. Western knives are normally made of softer but stronger steel, Japanese knives are normally made of harder but more fragile steel. Harder steel makes the Japanese more susceptible to splinters or cracks if pushed too far. Japanese knives are usually thinner, which makes them less strong, but more vulnerable.
Before leaving this discussion about corners, I would like to repeat that not all knives are made with two symmetrical corners along the edges. There are several notable exceptions – the largest is a whole family of traditional Japanese knives with bevelled edges that are only cut on one side. One of the reasons why they are designed this way is the exploitation of geometry. Think about it. Instead of adding two angles of 15 degrees to get an angle of 30 degrees, their second angle is vertical (or 0 degrees), transforming the click angle (general knife angle) into a screaming angle of 15 degrees! It’s almost three times as sharp as your typical German knife. It’s scary hot.
Some excellent recommendations to choose from – for yourself or as a gift. Beauty, comfort and high performance for a good price.
Terminal limit – expansion microscope.
The edge of your favourite chef’s knife may look like a smooth metal edge, but it’s not. If you look at it under a microscope, you can see that it consists of very small, very jagged and irregular teeth. A type of saw blade with ultra-fine roughness. Depending on the quality of the steel from which the knife was taken and the fit and finish of the final grinding, these teeth can almost disappear (under the microscope). Because the metal was shredded in such a thin wedge, these teeth would also be extremely thin.
Why is it useful to know this? Because it is meant to warn you about the vulnerability and vulnerability of the blade to corrosion. It doesn’t look like a spoon or fork or any other fully polished kitchen appliance. It has a rough, unfinished component, an edge that is constantly exposed to the elements. Effects on hard surfaces, on acidic fruit juices, on water and air (i.e. rust) ripe for oxidation, on all kinds of things from which they need to be protected. That is why it is so important not to let it hang in a drawer, soak it in a pan or leave it unwashed in a puddle of pineapple juice. (See Sharp kitchen knives – Ten tips for more information on care).
Below are two SEM (scanning electron microscope) pictures of the ground leaf with two different grain sizes – the first is much larger than the second. The first at 600x, the second at 800x magnification. Notice how the edges of the knives are rough and discreet in these pictures. How subtle and delicate…
Look at the kitchen knives you’ve got. Can you correctly determine the edges they have? How do we keep them now? Do you protect them from damage and blunting? Now that you know a little more about the texture of your kitchen knives, we hope it will inspire you to do your best to care for them. The better you protect and store your knives, the less you have to sharpen them and the longer they will last.
(Photo: The two images of the electron microscope are taken from an academic article, The Knife Sharpening Experiments, published in 2004 by Iowa State University professor John D. Verhoven. Images by Mark Rabinow).
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