How to sharpen a knife. Properly.

Most people probably don’t sharpen their knives properly, or enough. Chances are you’re one of them. But don’t worry, we’re not going to tell you off, just tell you how to remedy it.

A dull knife, more often than not, results in a sliced hand and a smug, whole tomato.

First, the ideal way (if you’re too lazy for that, skip to the quick way).

You’ll need a sharpening stone, a sharpening steel and a dull knife.

step1 with knife

Most stones need lubrication. We recommend getting a water stone, since it’s cleaner than oil stones, you just need to soak them for a few minutes first.

Lay the stone in front of you, like this, and make sure it won’t slide (chuck it on a teatowel).

Hold your knife almost flat with the cutting edge away from you, as if you’re going to slice the top layer off the stone. You want to grind the cutting edge at its current angle (usually about 20 degrees).

step2 with knife

Rest the heel of the blade on the near part of the stone and apply a bit of pressure with your other hand to push it down. Guide the knife along the length of the stone, from the heel to the tip.

step3 with knife

Repeat this about 10 times and then do the same again with the other side of the blade. You should notice a bit of gritty paste forming on the stone and blade. Don’t wipe it off, that’s the stuff that’s helping you sharpen the blade. Just add a bit more water if it gets too dry.

You then want to do both sides again six times, then three times, then a few more single alternating swipes with progressively lighter pressure.

(If you have a double-sided stone, flip from the coarse side to the smooth side and refine the edge even further using the same technique)

Rinse and wipe the blade. Now you’ve got a knife that’s probably sharper than you’ve ever had before.

But wait, there’s more!

Now grab the sharpening steel with your less dominant hand. Holding the tip up and slightly away from you, draw your blade down the length of the steel at the same angle you sharpened it at. Start with the heel of the blade at the top of the steel and finish with the tip of the blade by the rod’s hand guard (quite a good place to have a hand guard, you’ll agree). Just do this with light to medium pressure, alternating sides every 1 or 2 swipes.

step4 with knife

You don’t need to go super-fast like you see on TV. Slow and steady wins the intact arteries.

Wipe the blade clean of any shrapnel and inspect your handiwork.

You can hold it, blade up, to a light and you shouldn’t be able to see any highlights (which would be burrs and nicks).

You can run your thumb or finger lightly down the blade (from the back edge of the knife to the cutting edge). You shouldn’t feel any catching or scraping.

Or, you could do it the cool way and cut a bit of paper mid-air, like a samurai.

Now the quick way: Get a coffee mug, turn it upside down and wet the base. Run your knife on the unglazed portion of the base, the exposed ceramic acts just like a sharpening stone. Pretty choice, eh?

step5 with knife

N.B To help keep it sharper longer, don’t put it in the dishwasher (the detergent erodes the edge) and make sure it’s not stored loosely in your drawer.

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