Pull-through Knife Sharpener
Most people use classic abrasive whetstones for sharpening knives, which can be bought at the nearest hardware store. Although this tool can restore the sharpness of the blade, it is poorly suited for the care of expensive tools of a home or professional chef. Some manufacturers of kitchen accessories offer more capable options, among which the most popular is a pull-through knife sharpener.
Let us take a closer look at what you can use to sharpen knives these days and what makes the pull-through type sharpener stand out from the rest.
1. Types Of Knife Sharpeners
All sharpening tools available on the market can be broken down into several groups:
- whetstones with different abrasive grit sizes;
- professional knife sharpening systems that can make the knife edge sharp at the desired angle;
- honing rods or musats for blade edge re-alignment;
- mechanical pull-through knife sharpeners and their improved version - devices with an electric motor.
All of the above knife sharpeners can bring back the sharpness of the knife edge and fix the edge damage caused during use. But their use requires the chef to have different levels of skill in sharpening. For example, even the most inexperienced user can use a pull-through sharpener without a manual, but inexperienced handling of stones or professional systems can break the tool and cause injury.
You should choose the right sharpening tool depending on the number and type of knives in use, your skills and your desire to care for chef knives and other blades. Now let us focus on the features, pros and cons of each option.
1.1. Sharpening whetstone
This tool is especially popular among experienced chefs and people who love to gather knife collections and take the time to care for them. Every self-respecting chef who uses expensive knives made of high-quality steel has several stones of different grits. They are used to sharpen the knife cutting edge in stages.
- 80-400 grit. This stone is used for rough blade honing, profiling and restoring the cutting edge when it is damaged and heavily worn-out.
- 600-4000 grit. This stone is used for finishing and honing (straightening) of knife during use. It removes defects left on the blade after sharpening with a coarse stone.
As an optional addition, you can purchase a third bar with a grit value of 3 to 5 thousand grit. It is used for the most careful finishing of the knife edge.
To avoid injuries, you should place the stone on a special holder or lay it on a towel to avoid slipping. They should be soaked in water prior to use to prevent metal residue from clogging the pores. During the sharpening process, the blade should be held at a certain angle to maintain the edge angle designed by the manufacturer. You also have to change knife sides and put chamfers on sharp edges of the stone.
With the help of sharpening stones, you can make any knife sharp, but you will have to take into account some features:
- You have to hold the blade properly and keep the same angle.
- Maintain the right pressure for sharpening without destroying the stone.
- Determine the right level of sharpness for the knife depending on its purpose.
The advantages of manual whetstone sharpening include:
- the possibility to eliminate any damage of the edge of the blade;
- the possibility of choosing different grit stones for each sharpening stage;
- affordable cost (except for expensive and exclusive models from well-known manufacturers).
The disadvantage is that it takes a lot of experience and knowledge to use the stone properly, and the process itself is time-consuming.
Abrasive stones should not be considered as a tool for everyday use. They are only suitable for professional chefs or people who restore the sharpness of knives in workshops.
1.2. Sharpening system
This term refers to sophisticated professional devices designed specifically for sharpening blades of various knives. They are most often used by collectors and people for whom caring for blades is one of their favorite occupations.
- choose a stone with the desired grit depending on the sharpening stage;
- fix the angle at which you will sharpen the blade;
- keep the knife fixed in place until the work is finished.
The sharpening system is a sophisticated device that includes clamps, heigh adjuster mechanism, abrasive holder and other units. All this is designed for a chef or a craftsman to be able to securely clamp the knife and set the desired blade sharpening angle. The entire work process is manual.
Thanks to this tool you can properly and safely make your knife sharp. But it takes at least 10-20 minutes to set up the whole thing ready for use and clamp the blade. The process of sharpening the edge takes even more time. Besides, all the equipment takes up a lot of space both in use and in storage.
Advantages of such a sharpener:
- high efficiency;
- adjustment of the sharpening angle;
- careful knife blade surface processing.
A drawback is that restoring the sharpness of the cutting edge is complicated and time-consuming.
If a craftsman has skills with locksmith tools and a talent for engineering, he can design a sharpening system on his own. Thanks to numerous settings, the device is easy to adjust to work with any kind of knives - table knives, hunting knives, carpentry knives, etc. However, it is not possible to recommend it as a tool for use in the kitchen. Unless we are talking about compact sharpening systems, such as a TSPROF Pioneer.
1.3. Honing rod (musat)
Sharpening a knife, even with the finest bar, is a process of removing metal from the blade. Therefore, it is only appropriate to restore the sharpness of the cutting edge when it is really needed.
It is best to do straightening (realignment) of the cutting edge line with a honing rod (a musat) between full sharpenings. It does not remove metal particles from the knife edge, but corrects minor defects that occur during the use of the blade. As a result, it restores the sharpness and, as a consequence, the efficiency of the tool and extends its service life.
Professional chefs use a musat all the time. It is used for honing almost every shift or before cooking every dish. And they sharpen the knife no more than 3-4 times a year. However, as long as they use quality knives made of high-strength steel.
You do not need to have any special skills to use a musat. You will need to rest the honing rod on the table perpendicular to the surface and run the blade over it several times on both sides. It is only important to maintain the blade sharpening angle provided by the manufacturer.
It is best to avoid impact loads when using ceramic tools so that they do not crack during use. You should also store musats apart from other cutlery in order to preserve their abrasive properties.
Advantages of a honing rod:
- careful processing of the cutting edge;
- extension of the knife's service life
- quick and easy to use.
A particular feature and at the same time a disadvantage is that a musat cannot be called a sharpener. It is best suitable for honing (straightening) of the cutting edge. However, in case of chipping and other defects, a musat will not help you to restore the geometry of the cutting edge.
1.4. Electric sharpener
This is the easiest and most convenient way to make knife blades sharp. It does not require special knowledge and skills, and the whole process takes a few seconds. In terms of design, such devices can be different, but consist of two main elements:
- an abrasive belt or disc that removes metal particles from the blade;
- an electric motor that rotates the abrasive element during operation.
The user only needs to position the knife according to the manufacturer's recommendations and move it back and forth on the backing plate until the knife is at the desired sharpness level. With some models, you will not even have to move the blade.
The most advanced and expensive models have multiple slots, where you can change the abrasive material and run multiple sharpening programs. It is controlled by buttons and switches on the handle or front panel.
Manufacturers try to make their tools as versatile as possible. Therefore, they are suitable for sharpening any knives:
- serrated (bread);
- hunting or hiking.
The capabilities of knife sharpeners depend on the model, so it is necessary to choose it depending on your purposes.
There are a few things to consider when choosing an electric sharpener:
- due to the powerful motor and lack of force adjustment, the abrasive removes a large amount of metal from the blade;
- there is a small amount of influence that the user can have on the sharpening process.
The advantage of an electric sharpener is the simplicity of the process of restoring the sharpness of the edge and the speed of use. But it greatly reduces the life of the knife. The device itself can be quite costly.
There is no point in using this tool for sharpening expensive professional knives. It is best to use it when you need to quickly restore sharpness to a large number of medium quality knives.
1.5. Mechanical knife sharpener
This device is versatile and most popular among home cooks and chefs in professional kitchens. It is also called broach or pull-through knife sharpener.
You can consider them as a replacement for electrical devices. Mechanical models are much cheaper and treat blades more carefully. They are also easy to sharpen the blade at the predetermined sharpening angle. You will only have to put in a minimum amount of force.
The demand for a pull-through knife sharpener is due to high efficiency, sufficient control over sharpening, and increased knife blade life.
The pull-through knife sharpener consists of a metal or plastic housing with two or three V-shaped slots. The sharpener has abrasive elements inside that are involved in the sharpening process. To restore the sharpness of the knife edge, insert the blade into one of the slots and pull the knife toward yourself.
The choice of slot depends on the manufacturer's preset knife edge sharpening angle. This is why it is important to make sure that the knife sharpener is compatible with your kitchen accessories before purchasing it. It is best to purchase a model from the same brand as the knives. Otherwise, you should make sure that the sharpener has slots with the angles suitable for your knives.
The pull-through knife sharpener also removes some of the metal from the knife. But the amount is much less than with an electric knife sharpener. For comfortable use, many sharpeners come with large and wide handles or fixtures that can be used to secure them to the table.
The main advantages of this tool are:
- affordable cost;
- ease of use;
- ergonomic design.
The main disadvantage is that you cannot manually adjust the sharpening angle.
It works when a chef needs to make a knife sharp quickly and carefully, without having to spend time caring for stones or putting together a sharpening system, and without having to use noisy and bulky electric machines. These sharpeners can be considered the best kitchen helpers both at home and in the professional kitchen.
2. Types of pull-through sharpeners
On the outside, mechanical sharpeners are similar to each other. But if you inspect their specifications, you will find that there are differences. The main one is the sharpening angle of the blade. To determine it, you need to read the markings on the body or the abrasive element. Next, you need to find out the angle of the knife edge and purchase compatible accessories.
Some brands offer pull-through sharpeners with variable sharpening angles. They have movable abrasive stones that change position depending on the pressure. The range is 12 to 20 degrees, which covers almost all types of knives.
Besides, variable-angle sharpeners allow you to restore the sharpness of knives with a single-sided grind. Bread knives with a serrated blade often have this type of grind.
1. Abrasive material: diamond and ceramic abrasive materials.
Kitchen accessory stores sell pull-through sharpeners with ceramic and diamond-coated sharpening elements. Diamond vs ceramic rods:
- diamond abrasives sharpen the knife faster, but remove a lot of metal, which reduces the service life of the tool;
- ceramic abrasives carefully treat the blade and better polish the edge, thus extending the knife's service life.
If speed is important to you, choose a diamond-coated model. If the main focus is on the best quality of the cutting edge, go for ceramic ones.
2. Sharpening steps.
The quality of the blade edge finish depends on the grit size of the abrasive stones. The cheapest models have just one slot, and therefore are only intended for coarse sharpening. More advanced and expensive models come with discs of different grits. For this purpose, the design includes two or three slots to pull the blade through during sharpening.
Price plays an important role in the choice. The simplest and easy to use pull-through sharpeners are very cheap, but you cannot use them for professional knives. Coarse abrasive removes a lot of metal, quickly making the tool useless. Buying a model from a well-known manufacturer will cost more money. But the investment will pay off many times over, as you will not have to buy a new knife after 3-6 months of its use.
3. The possibility of changing stones.
Some brands offer pull-through sharpeners with the option of installing other abrasive elements instead of the standard ones. To replace them, the housing must be disassembled according to the instructions. This allows the user to have the best match of abrasive grit to the wear and steel quality of the knife.
The only drawback of this option is the lack of additional stones in the basic set. You will have to purchase them separately.
3. How to use a pull-through knife sharpener
Although the process of sharpening with a mechanical manual tool seems simple and easy, it best to follow these rules if you want to get the desired result:
- Prepare the workplace. To avoid slipping, you should work with the stone and the blade on a towel or piece of cloth resting on the countertop. It will also protect the surface from mechanical damage.
- Choose the right grit slot. You have to chose it according to the knife sharpening angle. You can look up the knife specifications on the manufacturer's website and find the right slot on the pull-through knife sharpener.
- Choose the grit size. If the sharpener has several slots with disсs of different abrasiveness, you have to choose them according to the wear of the cutting edge. The more damage, the coarser the initial abrasive should be.
- Clean the knife. Only clean kitchen tools should be sharpened. You have to wash them under the tap with warm water and dry them with a towel. It would be best to keep the handle completely dry so that you can hold the knife securely in your hand.
- Sharpen the blade. To do this, put it into the slot and slide it back and forth a few times. At the same time, hold the knife sharpener firmly by the handle so that it does not move with the blade during work.
- Check the edge sharpness. For this, you can use one of the best sharpness tests: cutting a tomato or soft bread. If the knife gets the job done without deforming the product, it means that it is properly sharpened.
You must store the pull-through mechanical knife sharpener according to the manufacturer's requirements. It should be thoroughly cleaned of dirt and traces of metal and dried after washing. It is best to place the tool so that it avoids contact of foreign objects with the abrasive elements.
There are many ways to restore the sharpness of a kitchen or hunting knife, but the most affordable and easy to use is a pull-through knife sharpener. Even unprepared users will have no trouble using this mechanical manual sharpener. But when buying one, it is important to consider the limitations of this tool and choose the right angle slots to have the best match with the sharpening angle of the knife you are using.
If the blade damage is too great, you can get an electric knife sharpener or go to professionals who sharpen knife blades and work with special equipment and will certainly do the best job. Or you can get a TSPROF Sharpening Kit with a set of diamond stones and experience what it feels like to sharpen like a professional.