What’s the difference between sharpening kitchen knives and sharpening many other types of knife such as hunting, survival, folding, pocket, etc? It’s a simple enough question. There are many differences. Let’s break them down.
Kitchen vs Daily Carry Knives: Sharpening Differences
There are many differences between kitchen knives and daily carry knives. These differences range in scope from blade materials, task orientation, construction, and features. These differences impact sharpening in one way or another and need consideration to effectively take care of your blade’s edge.
1. Blade Materials
As far as the chemical composition of blade materials, sharpness is almost exclusively the concern in any kitchen knife. Other daily carry knives are concerned with sharpness and edge retention, virtually equally. So the steels used in blade construction are reflective of these differing requirements.
Kitchen knives stay in the kitchen (or some sort of food prep area). In a kitchen, you should always have access to sharpening media of some sort such as a stone, honing rod, or both. So an edge that gets super sharp at the cost of dulling sooner is allowable. One can hone a kitchen knife after every use, and when it finally gets dull, sharpen it.
However, many knives are carried in many pursuits or lines of work on a daily basis outside of the kitchen. Not everyone carries some sort of sharpening device for a daily carry knife. Not everyone even knows how to sharpen a knife. This means daily carry blades need to have improved edge retention to prolong the longevity of the edge. Many daily carry knives have exotic materials included in the steel that preserve the edge longer through daily tasks.
Kitchen knives are dedicated to food prep. Other knives are more generalized in use or task.
Kitchen knives are called upon to cut vegetables and meat. The most pressing task that could harm the edge of a kitchen knife should be along the lines of boning a large fish or breaking down an animal carcass such a spatch-cocking a chicken, prepping a rack of lamb or butchering a side of beef. Any work around the bones and joints can be hard on a kitchen knife.
Daily carry knives are more generalized in their tasks. They are required to be even tougher than kitchen knives. Daily carry knives are often called upon to break down boxes, open clam shell packaging, cut tape or rope, cut paper, minor food prep such as slicing fruit, cut straps, whittle wood, cut wire, open bottles, cut carpet, cut drywall, etc. These tasks, because of the materials, are much more damaging to a blade’s edge.
The types of steel, because of their very nature, take longer to sharpen. Sharpening may take longer, not only because of the higher edge retention but also because daily carry knives are put through so much abuse. They will often show more wear and damage such as chipping and rolled edges. These take more time to repair.
Folding knives have a hinge (and possibly a lock). Kitchen knives are fixed blades.
Kitchen knives have a fixed blade that does not move or collapse. The blade extends into the handle as one solid piece of metal. Some extend fully, others partially. If the knife is on the table, the blade is out (unless it has a sheath).
Many people don’t carry a fixed blade every day. It’s unfeasible. To avoid this, pocket knives and other daily carry knives have some sort of a hinge (or other mechanism) so they can be opened when needed. Their handle becomes their sheath so carrying one is safer. I don’t think anyone wants to put a fixed blade knife in their pants pocket…unless they want an excuse to go to the hospital.
Sharpening a folding knife requires that you pay attention to the locking mechanism or slip joint to ensure the blade is securely open. You don’t want it collapsing on your hand or fingers during sharpening.
4. Blade Length
Folding knives usually have shorter blades (except for paring knives). Kitchen knives often have longer blades.
Kitchen knives force one to use the entire length of a sharpening stone. This better achieves an even wear pattern on your stone.
Shorter daily carry knives often have sub 5 inch blades. It is common to see a dished out stone because someone was short stroking the stone when sharpening.
Ensure you use the entire length of your stone to avoid dishing it out. It’s easy to get into a lazy rut (literally and figuratively). You then have to re-flatten your stone.
Many daily carry knives have quillions, finger guards, jimping, choils, or even multiple blades. Kitchen knives usually have simpler handles and only one blade.
Kitchen knives have less hardware that can get in the way when sharpening. This makes them easier to sharpen. They are unassuming and straightforward. There is no guesswork.
Many daily carry knives have enough features on the blade or just before it that sharpening becomes an exercise in non-Euclidian geometry. It’s really more like someone wanted to see a miniature game of twister. You may be forced to contort the blade to get a good angle. Sharpening one side of a Swiss Army knife’s blade is slightly different than sharpening the other side since the blade is not symmetrically centered.
5. Bonus Features
Other knives have additional features such as serrations, glass breakers, thumb studs, pocket clips, and strap cutters; many of which may be removable. Kitchen knives usually don’t have these extra features, except serrations. However their serrations are very different in form and function.
These additional features usually don’t have many issues that could impede sharpening. Thumb studs/discs and serrations are the exceptions though. Since thumb studs/discs stick out of the side of the blade, then can alter the smooth continuation of the edge angle you are sharpening at. Be aware of them.
Serrations often require special attention such as alternative use of your sharpening stones corners, or a rod of some sort. They also take time. Lots of time. Each one needs to be treated like its own knife edge.
Many knives can be disassembled. Kitchen knives usually cannot be taken apart. This makes cleaning easier for kitchen knives. Conversely this makes cleaning more difficult for daily carry knives. They have nooks and crannies that can collect dust and pocket lint worse than a cell phone charging port. Invest in Q-tips or pipe cleaners to get to all those spots. Invest in some WD 40 as a cleaning fluid for them. Invest in a good oil to keep hinges and moving parts moving free.
Conclusion: Take Away
The differences between kitchen knives and other daily carry knives are many. There are many considerations to take into account when sharpening. At its most essential form, study the knife you are sharpening. Look at it. Examine it. Get the feel for its weight, length, shape, materials, handle, etc. Sharpen it according to its needs. If you pay attention to it you’ll figure out how to sharpen it.
Keep your knives sharp and your wit sharper.