Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Guided System vs Freehand Sharpening

Hi there,

I appreciate the fact that you are here reading my Blog.
I spend a lot of time trying to think of articles that would interest people with a common interest, knife sharpening or just knives.  It isn't as hard as I thought it would be, that's because I do it so much, so I get a lot of life experience from sharpening knives.

I think it is very important for people to understand that knife sharpening is a skill that is not that hard to learn, yet is is a very essential skill. I think of what I do as an art and I hope that doesn't come across as boasting but I am very proud of what I can do.

You don't need to be able to get your knives to a point where they can shave arm hair and it's really important to take that in. You just need to be able to improve the edge so that what you are cutting is being sliced and not torn. Is the tomato bending a lot before the knife breaks through the skin? If so, you want it to be sharp enough not to do that, effortlessness equals sharp.

Here is a key test to see if the knife is sharp enough for you:

Is it enjoyable to use the knife, is it something that is making your work easier. If you pick the knife and cut a vegetable and think how easily the knife went through it, in other words, if  the sharpness of the knife caused a nice sensation then it is sharp enough. Conversely,  if it did the opposite, it is dull.

Lets get to the topic title, what is better,  the Edge Pro or free hand sharpening?

This is topic I feel very comfortable talking about because I have lived it for about four years now, I own the Edge Pro Professional and I sharpen free hand, I sharpen with both.

Four years ago, the edges I produced on the Edge Pro were superior to what I could do on full sized stones.

Once I became comfortable with the system the knives were sharper than anything I had seen before. The first kitchen knives I did for people were done on the EP and the customers were delighted.  It is an absolutely fantastic system, I have sharpened thousands of knives with it and it is as good now as the day I bought it. It enables, it forces you to sharpen at precise, chosen angles so the result is always going to be great if you follow the instructions.
What I like about it most is that for those difficult to sharpen knives, birds beak paring knives, boning knives or just older knives that have had their edges distorted by frequent use of a Steel and not used properly. It allows me to follow the contour of the edge and get into those hard to reach areas.

I cannot say enough good things about it.  I have not used the Wicked Edge Precision Sharpener but I am also confident when I say that it too is a fantastic system. I have the utmost respect for  the inventors of these two systems, Ben Dale and Clay Allison. There is another guided system that looks pretty good called the KME and I am sure that it too is very good.

Now..... please remember that I sharpen every day for four to five hours and these days I sharpen freehand about 90% of the time.  I find it quicker and I am able to produces edges as good or even better than I can on the EP.

This is no way means I have changed my mind about the EP, in fact, if it got lost I would order a new one immediately, it has been there for me for years and always will be.

However, with much practice and focus and obsession I am quite comfortable with my freehand edges. They are a little different, slightly convex, very slightly and I can just do more by sharpening freehand.

MOST importantly however is that I ENJOY freehand sharpening more than I do using the EP. That may be the answer because logically, the EP should produce the perfect edge but I constantly surprise myself.

Now....the EP edges are always razor sharp, there are times when I sharpen freehand that I have to go back to stone # 1 and take another shot, I may been off a tiny bit, this doesn't happen often but it has.

In conclusion... perhaps the best way for me to wrap this up is by saying that in my particular case I am happy with the edges from both techniques but I get the most satisfaction from sharpening freehand. I don't mean satisfaction from the resultant edges I mean satisfaction as in joy,  ZEN.

I used the EP today in fact on the knife in the first picture and the edge was fantastic. I really love the EP for smaller knives like paring knives and Folders.  

So what is better, it all depends on the user, I enjoy freehand sharpening a lot, I mean A LOT. I love my Edge Pro. I think the best sharpeners should eventually become familiar with both systems and get to the stage where they can make their edges razor or beyond razor sharp.  They are both tools in my sharpening system, ones that I could not live without, they are crucial to my business.

When I get the Wicked Edge Precision Sharpener I will include that in this list, I have no doubt about that.

Using the Edge Pro has made me a better freehand sharpener, that is absolutely true. I have heard this many times.  It build up my confidence, I had never seen knives so sharp so it was a crucial stepping stone for me and I am so glad I chose to buy the Edge Pro Professional.

Having said this, as I mentioned, the majority of the knives I sharpen are done by freehand, it is my favourite method by far. I am happy with the edges from both methods but freehand sharpening is truly enjoyable for me.

Yusu Shiro and a brand spanking new Naniwa Chosera 400.

Here's looking at you. (35th wedding anniversary shot at Le Caveau)

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