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How to decide what bevel to use?

Wed May 29, 2013 2:21 pm

I have a mixture of Japanese and German (Wustof) knives in my kitchen. The two kinds have different bevel angles. Is setting the bevels on the German knives to narrower angles than they had out-of-the-box not a good idea? Intuitively, a narrower angle would produce a better instrument, but the less hard metal of the German knives would not maintain the edge as well. I am considering buying a course Shapton stone to set a narrower angle then finish with the 2000 and 6000 stones and a final stropping with boron carbide. Perhaps I'm being too anal. Please inform me. Thank you.


Re: How to decide what bevel to use?

Wed May 29, 2013 2:46 pm

It's not really a BAD idea, but it won't work like one would hope. A Wusthof with an 8 degree per side bevel will fail almost immediately whereas a hard steel knife probably would hold it.

And you're not being "too" anal.....you're among some of the most anal sharpeners on the planet. :)

Re: How to decide what bevel to use?

Wed May 29, 2013 3:29 pm

You can get a little more "life" out of Wusthof/Henckels knives by increasing the angles somewhat, but you can't get anywhere near the kind of edge that you can on a knife with most Japanese or Swedish steels. I've had better luck steepening the angles of "cheap" Forschener/Victorinox than I have with my 80s and 90s forged German knives.

Re: How to decide what bevel to use?

Wed May 29, 2013 3:51 pm

Hi Nollie,

As a general rule of thumb, the lower the angle you sharpen a knife to, the better it will cut, but as you point out, if you get too low of an angle, the edge will roll or chip. That said, the point it will roll or chip will greatly depend on the individual knife, what its cutting, how you are cutting with it, and what you are cutting on.

In sharpening, to take all that into account, here's what I do.
I sharpen all my knives to as low an angle as I can and then use them. If they develop an edge problem, I resharpen a few degrees higher and see how that goes.

Re: How to decide what bevel to use?

Wed May 29, 2013 5:25 pm

Almost all current Wusthof production is X50CrMoV15 with a claimed hardness of 58. The factory angles and symmetry for these knives is 16* both sides, 50/50. Factory edge geometry is flat bevel. Current knives are sharpened by laser guided machines.

All things considered that's very good geometry for the newer Wusties; whether, Classic, Ikon, or whatever.

I don't know how you sharpen, but if you know how to "click in" it's probably best to do that and maintain the factory angles and geometry for the first four or five sharpening sessions. From session to session the angle will naturally, gradually and inevitably become increasingly obtuse. After awhile you'll have to re-profile the knives by thinning slightly and begin the process again.

When you do thin, don't worry about 16*. Just do you your best to hit 15*.

If you sharpen a newer Wusthof to anything substantially more acute, the edge will burr from impact very easily and require constant steeling to maintain.

Older Wusthofs, with ~RCH 56, were hand sharpened convex to a very nice, durable edge; the equivalent flat bevel would be something around 20* bevel angle; and you can't go much more acute than that. They work well with a micro-bevel style compound bevel of 20*/15*, but will collapse too easily at a flat 15*

When I sharpen European made knives, I usually use oil stones. If you have an oil stone kit, you'll want to re-profile with something like a coarse India, draw your first burr with a fine India, switch to a soft Arkansas and finish with a "Surgical Black" or translucent Arkansas. Arkansas edges are especially suitable for knives which don't have much scratch hardness because they hold up so well.

If you're using a water stone kit, I suggest that you not go too coarse with your profiling stone. Something like a Bester 500 ill be plenty fast enough, and won't leave nearly as much scuff to take care of. Finish anywhere in the 3K - 5K range.


Re: How to decide what bevel to use?

Thu May 30, 2013 7:49 am

I've found that if you're the end user, or you can teach the end user proper knife etiquette to compensate for the softer steel, you can have any angle you want to on these European blades. Now that I've instructed my little lady on how to cut, what types of surfaces to cut on, etc., I sharpen her Wusthofs at rather acute angles and they last with a little steeling here and there. I also tend to convex my secondary's with more of a micro-ish bevel primary, which I find also helps on these babies. Finished a few of them this morning on my Amakusa Jnat with beautiful results, can't say enough about this humble stone. It's the Dark Horse in my collection. -Josh

Re: How to decide what bevel to use?

Thu May 30, 2013 9:44 am

I've found a single micro-bevel @ some 35 degree, as described here by Jon Broida, to be very useful, with softer steels as well. It's important to really cut the microbevel, not round towards it, in order to avoid performance loss.

http://m.youtube.com/watch?client=mv-go ... wnFrjiAA_8
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