I think I’ve mentioned this before but, if there is one thing I can count on in the cutlery business, it is that Chef’s Choice will have a new twist on their electric knife sharpener at least once a year. Having used every variation offered by the maker over the last couple of decades, I’m a big fan of all their sharpeners. I have found these machines to be the ideal no-special-skills-required tool for the average person to keep a razor sharp edge on their everyday cutlery.
Depending on blade thickness, the machines work equally well for most outdoor knives. While I have no problem using traditional benchstones, I usually run my kitchen and butchering blades through a Chef’s Choice several times a year just to keep the bevels thinned out. This makes resharpening on any other hone you choose to use much easier.
The Multi-Stage Sharpener
The latest model, called the “AngleSelect,” is based on the premise that, to have their most efficient cutting edges, Asian knives require different sharpening angles than American and European blades. Chef’sChoice already makes a sharpener designed especially for traditional Japanese knives, but many of us own a mix of eastern and western styles. To solve this problem, the new sharpener has a first stage for Asian knives, a second one for American and European blades, and a final proprietary stage of ultrafine abrasive stropping disks. The Asian stage sets the edge bevel at 15 degrees while the American and European stages are set at 20 degrees.
Given that the Chef’sChoice manual stated this new machine will perfectly hone single-bevel knives as well as conventional double-bevel, I bravely set out to try it on a pair of hand-forged Shinichi Watanabe knives. According to the manual, the first stage should require five to 30 pulls through the wheels to produce a good burr on the primary edge bevel. Much of this depends on how the knives have been ground and sharpened in the past and mine required the full 30 passes. From there the manual suggested five to eight passes on one side of the stropping wheel. I made six. The knife is then finished with two or three passes on the flat bevel in the opposite stropping slot. Whether you use the left or right slots on single-bevel knives depends on if you are sharpening a left- or right-hand knife. While I found the edge bevels on the Angle Select were a little different than my own hand-honed angles, the knives were certainly razor sharp when I finished.
After the single bevel Watanabe knives, I moved on to a collection of Asian pattern Murray Carter and Takeda blades. These proved much easier and faster to resharpen than the first two. All very quickly had shaving edges (and my forearm will prove that statement beyond a doubt).
My American and European knives took even less time to resharpen on the AngleSelect. I’m guessing this is because most have been sharpened on Chef’sChoice machines enough times in the past to have the proper bevels already established. Not wanting to limit the sharpener to kitchen knives, I tried it on a Norwegian Stromeng Saami Leuku, a D-2 Bob Dozier Elk Hunter, an Ontario RAT-7 fixed blade, and a variety of pocket knives. I finished the test with the USMC combat/utility I bought at Fort Bragg back in 1969 and carried in the 82nd Abn. Relatively thick blades were no problem in the primary sharpening slots but they did seem a little tight on the final stropping stage. Chef’sChoice also states serrated blades can be resharpened using only the stropping stage of the sharpener.
Avoid These Blunders
No matter what sharpening system you use, not thinning the primary edge bevel from time to time is probably the most common mistake the unknowledgeable make. The other side of that coin is that too frequent edge profiling will shorten the life of any knife. I feel it should be stressed that once a blade has been ground to the same angles as the primary stages of a Chef’sChoice machine, the edge can be restored for a long period of time with only the stropping stage.
Chef’sChoice’s new AngleSelect will keep your cutlery cutting like razors with only a few minutes work. As many of my friends and relatives can testify, I think highly enough of Chef’sChoice electric sharpeners to have given a number of them as gifts. And I have yet to have anyone say they weren’t totally thrilled with their knives’ new edges after that.
For more information visit www.edgecraft.com or call 800-342-3255.