First off, one of the three knife sharpening services I originally reviewed has closed it doors—after being in business 80 years! Go figure. (You can’t give folks just two knife sharpening services to choose from, can you?) Secondly, when I googled “professional knife sharpening,” a bevy of new possibles flooded my iMac screen—more than I remember seeing five years back. Thirdly. . .it was time.
Five Top Services
Life is short and I have no interest in dissing knife sharpening services. It’s a tough enough grind as it is (pun intended!). So please know this—all five of these finalists are good to go. I’ve already done the heavy screening and any sharpening services deemed unworthy have been banished from these pages. Who’s left are the cream of the crop.
Although I still have some quibbles and some of these sharpeners do certain things better than others, all of these top-drawer pros understand how to achieve true sharpitude and how to do it without hurting your loved ones, er, your knives. On top of this, they are great communicators, responsive, and genuinely nice guys. They love what they do and they love making the world a sharper and better place.
These knife sharpening services are all:
1) Deeply experienced. All have sharpened, literally, thousands of blades and many have been doing it for decades.
2) One-man bands—they, personally, do the sharpening themselves. They have no assistants, no trainees, no life-long buds who sub in on the grinding belts if they get buried. Nope. Nobody touches your knives but the owner/operator. (Could I be any clearer?)
3) Well-established bricks-and-mortal businesses, as well as mail-order outfits. They have clear instructions and procedures (well, some clearer than others—oops, I’m already quibbling) as to how to send them your beauties.
Finally, and maybe most important of all, I have personally auditioned them all. Yes, pinky promise (as my teenage daughter used to say). I am not simply parroting what I’ve heard or read about or garnered from multiple websites, but sharing my own personal experience as a fellow consumer. And, this time around, believe me, it was a ton of work.
These five pro knife sharpening services only represent a fraction of the pro sharpeners I researched and considered. Nonetheless, I’m pretty sure there are more high-quality knife sharpening services out there. So just because a knife sharpener doesn’t appear in these pages, doesn’t mean they’re not high-quality. On the other hand, please please be careful who you give your knives to.
I’ll begin with the two knife sharpening services from my original review and then proceed to the ones most recently sampled.
Seattle Knife Sharpening
I first found out about Seattle Knife Sharpening by accident from a YouTube video. Early on in my knife-sharpening education, I stumbled onto a clip of a very satisfied Seattle Knife customer showing off his newly sharpened set of Global knives. He sliced off slivers from a sheet of paper with ease and raved about the sharpitude. I was entranced.
I went to the Seattle Knife Sharpening website and liked what I saw (literally as well as figuratively—it’s a nicely designed site). The business seemed to be a small operation by one guy, Bob Tate, which I found attractive. Personalized service. He had learned his craft from Bob Kramer, one of the most well-known and high-quality bladesmiths alive. And—judging from what he wrote on his site—Bob (Tate, that is) seemed open and friendly. I wrote him an email or two with questions about his craft, how he ground his edges, and he answered back quickly.
His method is slightly unorthodox, but wickedly sharp. He explained that for each knife he started from as sharp an angle as he dared as his primary angle, and then ground the rest of the blade down so that it smoothly segued from the edge up to the spine. It sounds thorough, and it is. As he mentions on his site, it’s a 6- to 7-step process using belt sanders and polishing wheels along with sharpening compounds. On a German-style knife this often means thinning down the blade a bit and creating an edge angle much sharper than usual. Fine with me!
I boxed up a bunch of my knives as per Bob’s instructions and sent them off to Washington state. Almost two weeks later I got them back (unfortunately, I live on the other side of the country). I was a little disappointed at the turnaround time—but the knives, the knives! They looked sharp. I grabbed a newly-sharpened chef knife and immediately tried what I’d seen the guy in the YouTube video do. Oh, yeah. Right through paper, not only without resistance, but not leaving any roughness either. The cut edges of the paper were perfectly smooth—like I’d used a pair of German scissors. I zipped through a tomato—the first time in years without a serrated knife in my hand. This was as true for the Henckels knives I’d sent him as my Japanese-made Global.
Having no Japanese knives that needed sharpening [at the time of my original review—that has changed], I chose the more standard Western-style service. I queried him about his sharpening process and he confirmed that it was the usual combo of belt sander followed by a de-burring wheel or buffer. But, unlike Bob in Seattle, Dave prefers to sharpen Western knives at the more traditional angle of 20 degrees or so. He’ll do the majority of the blade at a steeper, more acute, angle, but for the final bevel, he will widen it out a touch. Although he feels it’s not as “pretty”, he’s found it be to the most durable angle for German steel. Different strokes for different folks. (Interesting note: Dave is the only professional sharpener reviewed that takes a decidedly different approach to sharpening German steel from Japanese.)