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Sharpening a knife does have a learning curve associated with it that some knife owners find difficult to master. It is a craft that needs patience, practice, and understanding to master. There are some questions that people new to knife sharpening frequently ask, and one of those is can you oversharpen a knife?
It is possible to oversharpen a knife, which will result in the edge being ground away to become dull again, or the edge being too thin and the knife unable to retain sharpness. Oversharpening will unnecessarily wear away the steel on the knife and result in the need for re-profiling of the blade.
When an inexperienced person sharpens a knife, they sometimes try to get the knife ultra-sharp. In their zeal, they end up oversharpening the knife and destroying the edge that they worked so hard to put on the blade.
There is a point past which you should not try to sharpen your knife, and it involves understanding the sharpening process, the bevels on your knife, and getting the angles right while sharpening the knife.
If you are interested in checking out the best whetstones for your knives we recommend and use you can find them by clicking here (Amazon link).
Is It Possible To Oversharpen A Knife?
It is certainly possible to oversharpen a knife and, after all, your time and effort, still end up with a knife edge that won’t even slice soft cheese never mind slice through your steak, or an edge that does not stay sharp for long!
There are some consequences to oversharpening a knife, which we will get to in a moment, as well as offering some solutions to avoid oversharpening your knife.
What Happens When A Knife Is Oversharpened?
There are two main outcomes to sharpening a knife too much, but there are also some effects that too much sharpening will have on your blade that you should try to avoid in order to have your knife last a long time.
The first outcome is that the knife is not sharp at the end of your sharpening session. This can occur if you get your knife to a good sharp edge and decide you want to push the edge a little further and get the knife even sharper.
In this instance, the knife edge is already thin and sharp, and when you pass it through your sharpening system again, the fine edge gets rounded over, and the knife is no longer sharp.
In essence, what has happened is the thin edge has been ground too far, and the edge has been ground away completely, making the knife dull again.
The second main outcome is that your knife is really sharp, but it does not stay sharp for long and quickly becomes dull after a short amount of work that you put the blade through.
This happens when you make the thin, sharp edge of the knife too thin and it does not have enough steel thickness behind it to protect the edge.
The thin edge of the knife chips breaks or folds over quickly, even with only a moderate amount of use, which makes the knife become dull very quickly.
This is because the secondary bevel has been made too thin, and it cannot withstand the type of work that you are putting the knife through.
There are various angles for knife bevels that are suitable for knives that perform different types of tasks. It is important to put the right angle on the secondary bevel to make sure the edge has the right support behind it for the type of work you need the knife to do.
The last thing that happens with a knife that gets sharpened too much is that the edge of the knife becomes worn away.
Sharpening a knife removes steel from the edge of the knife, and continual unnecessary sharpening will remove a lot of steel, which will alter the profile of the cutting edge and wear the blade away faster than what is necessary.
TIP: The opposite is the situation when the knife is too dull. Is it even possible to sharpen a knife that is too dull? Find out the answer to this question in the article below:
What To Do If You Have Oversharpened Your Knife
If you have sharpened your knife to the point that it has become dull again before you even use it, then the only option open to you is to re-sharpen the knife again.
This time when you re-sharpen the knife, pay close attention to the tips that we offer in the section below on how to avoid oversharpening your knife.
If you have oversharpened the knife to the point where it is sharp, but it does not stay sharp for long, then you may have to dull the knife by running the edge through a corner of a piece of wood and then starting the sharpening process from scratch.
If you have a whetstone, you can also re-shape the secondary bevel by sharpening the knife at a steeper angle on the stone.
Should the sharpening have been excessive to the point of wearing the knife down too much, then you may possibly have no other alternative but to re-profile the entire blade to get the shape proportionate once again and then re-establish the edge on the knife.
This is generally most easily done with a belt grinder, but it can be achieved with whetstones of increasing grit and a good measure of patience.
TIP: Are you looking to buy a new whetstone? Check out our recommendations (we personally use the first three ones):
Our PRO choice whetstones combo (Amazon links):
- Fixing stone: Whetstone SHAPTON Ceramic KUROMAKU #320
- Sharpening stone: Suehiro CERAX soaking whetstone: Medium #1000
- Finishing stone: Whetstone SHAPTON Ceramic KUROMAKU #5000
Our budget choice (Amazon link): Sharp Pebble Extra Large Sharpening Stone Set
How To Avoid Oversharpening A Knife
There are a few main ways to avoid oversharpening a knife, the most important of which is knowing when to stop.
Start sharpening your knife at the desired angle. Once you have gone up to higher grit stones, you need to start to slow down and begin feeling the edge of the knife with your fingernail as you finish each pass on one side of the knife.
When you feel a burr developing on one side along the entire edge of the blade, you need to stop and go to stropping the edge.
Strop the blade with an even number of strokes on both sides of the blade till the burr disappears. Then STOP. Your sharpening session is done! Going any further will more than likely ruin the edge, and you will have to start all over again.
Sharpen At The Right Angle For The Knife
The way to avoid making the edge too thin is to sharpen at the correct angle for the type of knife. Here is a list of the most blade types and their associated sharpening angles that you are most likely to use.
|Axe, machete, cleaver||25 to 30 degrees|
|Pocket knives, bushcraft, or a survival knife||22 to 25 degrees|
|Chef knives and most kitchen style knives||18 to 22 degrees|
|Fish filleting knives, paring knives||12 to 18 degrees|
The angles mentioned in the table are the angles on each side, so a bushcraft knife with an angle of 23-degrees will have a secondary bevel where each side is at an angle of 23-degrees.
Putting the correct angle on the edge of a knife intended for a certain purpose will help the knife to stay sharp for longer.
For example, if you put an 18-degree angle on a survival knife, it will slice a ripe tomato like butter, but the first time you use the knife to process firewood, it will dull the edge. This is because the edge would be too weak for this kind of work.
TIP: When you sharpen knives very often, have you ever wondered if sharpening removes metal from a knife blade? Check out the main factors that cause removing metal from knife blade in the article below:
No knife use will disagree that we need to sharpen our knives from time to time, especially a knife that sees regular use or frequent hard use. Keeping the blade sharp makes the knife useful and reliable, and able to do what you need it to do.
However, restraint should be exercised in the sharpening, and the temptation to oversharpen the knife should be avoided. This will only be a cause for frustration and result in the knife not being sharp enough to be useful.
Take your time when sharpening your knife and pay attention to what is happening on the blade as the sharpening process progresses.
This will help you to not overshoot the mark when you are sharpening and ruin the sharp edge that you put the effort into attaining.
It helps to practice your sharpening skills on an older knife that you are not too concerned about taking too much steel off the blade of the knife.
Once you have honed your sharpening skills, you can tackle putting that sharp edge on your favorite knife.
TIP: Many people don’t know if they need to sharpen a knife they just bought. Do you need to sharpen it or not? Find out the answer in the article below: