How To Sharpen A Bread Knife Without Damaging It
Bread knives are very different to normal knives. If you notice your bread knife is no longer cutting as well as it once did, it will likely benefit from a good sharpening. Bread knives have a serrated edge that is unsuitable for whetstones and other tools used in the sharpening of straight edge blades. For this reason you must use the specific technique we outline below if you intend to sharpen your bread knife without damaging it.
Using the wrong technique can lead to you inflicting irreparable damage which will make your bread knife far less effective. In the worst cases you can completely blunt its edge, which would render it utterly useless. The tools and techniques for the sharpening process are not expensive. It would cost far more to keep replacing your bread knife every time it loses its bite, than to learn how to sharpen it correctly and keep the same one forever.
Here we provide you a step by step guide on the best way to sharpen your bread knife without causing any unwanted damage. To begin with, you will want to collect the list of tools outlined below before you start any stage of the process. We recommend following the steps without jumping ahead, this will save you from running into any unnecessary setbacks.
- Serrated knife sharpening rod (ideally tapered)
- Whetstone or normal sharpening tool (if your knife has a straight edge)
- Fine surface sandpaper
Identify The Beveled Edge Before Anything Else
The beveled edge is the side of the knife where the edge angles out at a gradient. In the vast majority of serrated knives there will only be one side that has a bevel. Look at both sides of your knife to spot the difference. One side will be flat all the way from the spine, right to the edge. The other side will have an angle to its edge that is very noticeable. The side with the bevel is the side that must be sharpened. The flat looking side should not be sharped or receive any grinding at all.
Hold The Sharpening Rod Within A Groove Or Scallop
Hold the knife flat in one hand with the bevel edge facing up so that you can see it. Hold the sharpening rod in your other hand above the knife with the rod facing down If your rod gets thinner towards its top (tapered), holding it in this position will help you control how far you use it as you start your motion.
The rod needs to fit into each scallop section or “groove” throughout the edge of the knife. The process of you moving the rod against the bevel will sharpen the edge. It needs to be done at the right angle to be effective. This is relatively easy on a bread knife, as you can slightly alter your movements until you can feel the rod grinding at the same angle of the bevel.
The idea is that the rough surface on the rod grinds into the groove at the same angle as the bevel. This will create an efficient sharpening action.
Sharpen Each Groove One By One
It matters very little which end you start at. You should be using short strokes if you are using a tapered rod to ensure you can keep the rod at a good fit within the diameter of each groove. If you keep pushing the rod too far, with long strokes, you risk grinding the grooves in a way that expands them. This can make the knife far less effective at cutting, and this damage cannot be reversed.
The grooves may be larger as you continue along the blade. This is the advantage of a tapered sharpening rod. As the grooves get wider, you are able to adapt your strokes accordingly, using increasingly wider parts of the rod to match.
Grind Each Groove Until Shavings Are Evident On The Flat Side Of The Knife
Each groove should only take a few strokes. They way to check if you have sharpened each groove sufficiently is by checking for metal shavings cast over on the other side of the knife. This shaving is called a burr. After applying several strokes within a groove, flip the knife over to the flat side and run your fingers along the edge of the grove you’ve been sharpening. If you feel your finger catch on some roughness, that groove is done.
Use A Whetstone Or Sharpening Tool If Your Knife Has A Straight Edge
If your serrated knife has edges that are straight, you must not use the serrated sharpening rod to grind them. This is where you will need the conventional sharpening tool or a whetstone. When you grind the straight edge on the whetstone or tool, be sure not to accidently grind any of the serrated edges on this inappropriate surface.
Removing All Shavings From The Knife Edge
Finally, when all of your grinding is complete, you can use your fine surface sandpaper to remove any remaining metal shavings from the flat side of the knife. Run the flat side along the sand paper just hard enough to wipe the deposits away. Rub it too hard and you risk leaving marks from the sand paper.
Avoid Bluntness And Damage To Your Bread Knife
The bread knife is one of the most useful and most frequently used tools within the kitchen. But every blade will become less sharp over time and will eventually need sharpening. Attempting to sharpen your bread knife in the wrong way can certainly damage it for good. Sharpen it with the right techniques as outline above and it will have the best chance of lasting you many more years into the future.