Why Can’t I Get My Knife Sharp?

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So you’ve just started freehand sharpening.

You finally got your hands on a whetstone, you have the right surface, and you can’t wait to restore the edge on your favorite knives.

But once you finally get to work, you notice that your blades aren’t getting sharp, and you begin to ask yourself, “why can’t I get my knife sharp?”

There are a lot of reasons your knife might not be getting sharp, but one of the most common reasons is the angle.

Your knife may not be sharpening because you’re using the wrong angle! You need to accurately match the angle on your knife to get the best results when freehand sharpening.

If you sharpen at too high of an angle, you’ll be getting an edge that isn’t as sharp, and if you sharpen at too low an angle, it will take a whole lot of time to get the right edge.

But this isn’t the only reason your blade isn’t getting sharp.

In this article, we’ll take a look at some common issues that people run into when sharpening their blades, and how to fix them.

Read on to learn more.

Why Is My Knife Not Sharpening?

Wrong Or Inconsistent Angle

As we said earlier, this is the main reason people end up not being able to sharpen the blades.

Firstly, it’s important to match the angle that the blade was sharpened at when it came out of the box.

Matching the angle, or at least getting as close as possible will give you the best chance at getting a nice edge.

That being said, there are times that keeping a consistent angle is actually more important than getting an exact match.

Keeping things consistent can be very tough, especially for beginners, but is definitely something you should train your muscles to do as this is one of the ways you can ensure that you’re sharpening the knife right.

For an average kitchen knife, it’s ideal to keep the angle between 18-20 degrees and try to stay as consistent as possible during the entire process.

Not Sharpening To The Edge

This is the next most common mistake that people have when trying out freehand sharpening.

To get a very sharp edge, both sides of the blade need to meet at a line.

The best way to check if this happened is to check the burr.

If you have no burr on your blade, that means the sides of your knife do not meet at the edge and instead come together on a curve before the edge.

This can result in a fairly dull blade and should be avoided when hand sharpening.

You can avoid this issue by starting with a coarse enough grit as coarse grits are needed to achieve the right burr.

So if you’ve been going at it and sharpening for a certain amount of time but you still don’t feel a burr, which is the indicator that you have sharpened all the way down to the edge, that might mean you’re not using the right grit.

Consider shifting to a coarser grit, and going through the sharpening motions until you feel the burr.

In fact, shifting to a coarser grit actually tends to solve most of the problems first-time sharpeners have and can also save you a whole lot of time in your workshop.

Using The Right Stones

Another thing that could be getting in the way of you and a sharp blade is the actual whetstones you use.

It is very important that you trust that your stones can do the job so you can approach sharpening your knives with confidence, or else you might end up giving yourself a hard time.

It’s always better and more convenient to get trusted brands such as Shapton or Gessshin, just to name a few, as brandless stones typically have no indication of the grit and are lubricated by oil.

While these stones can still do the job, it might make the job much harder for you, which is why we recommend buying quality whetstones for your workshop.

But it has been said by a lot of experts that the right grit is much more important than the right brand.

Make sure that you have a fine, medium, and coarse stone as that’s what you will need to get the job done.

And keep in mind that if a company makes good knives, that is not an indicator that it makes good stones, which is why it’s always best to go for the tried and tested whetstone brands.

Conclusion

Freehand sharpening can be a challenging process, and just about anyone will tell you that.

It takes a lot of practice and patience to develop the muscle memory and the skill level to consistently get a sharp edge on your knives.

But with these tips in mind, it will definitely make the learning curve much easier to get over.

And now that you know them, all that’s left to do is go ahead and get sharpening!

Last Updated on July 22, 2021 by Andy Wang

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My name is Andy Wang, and I'm a retired chef. I used to work at the City Vineyard restaurant in NYC. I also had a culinary degree from the Institute of Culinary Education in New York. And this blog is where I share my love for knives and cooking with people like you.