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When you buy a brand new knife, and you get it home and take it out of the packaging, the first thing that is normally checked is the sharpness of the knife. A knife needs to have a good edge to be functional and to allow it to function for its intended use. But are all knives shipped with a sharp edge, or do you need to sharpen a brand new knife?
You should not have to sharpen a brand new knife. It should have a functional edge right out of the packaging except in certain instances where the maker declines to put a sharp edge on the blade. The decision to sharpen will depend on the supplier, the type of knife, and your personal preference.
Getting a new knife is an exciting event for those of us who appreciate the beauty and usefulness of a good knife. Unboxing a new knife with anticipation can become a little disappointing if the knife arrives with a dull edge and cannot be used right away. Is this the norm for the way a new knife is packaged?
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Should You Sharpen A Brand New Knife?
The question of how sharp a knife is when you take it out of the packaging will often be determined by the type of knife you are buying and who you are buying it from.
The decision to sharpen a new knife or not will also be influenced by your personal preference on the type of edge that you like to have on your knives.
Much of the decision will hinge on your expectations of the knife out of the box and the intended purpose for the knife.
Certain knife types and knives from certain manufacturers will be delivered with different expectations both from the knife maker and from you, the knife recipient.
The Type Of Knife You Are Buying
The type of knife that you have purchased will play a factor in the type of edge it has and the sharpness level of the edge.
For a general kitchen knife, the knife is expected to be able to perform its intended cutting task from the minute it is removed from the packaging.
A chef’s knife, on the other hand, may only come with a functional edge on the blade, with the expectation that the knife’s new owner will place an edge of the knife to their own personal liking. This is because a chef’s knife is a very personal item and is not considered a general-purpose knife.
If you want to get into a chef’s bad books, use his chef’s knife without permission and for a task for which it is not intended. You will be on potato peeling duty for the rest of your career!
A folding pocketknife will often be shipped with a sharp, functional edge, but if you prefer your knife to be shaving sharp, you will have to do some work on the edge of the blade to get it to your expectation.
A bushcraft knife will probably be delivered to you with an edge that is suitably sharp for the intended purpose of the knife.
A bushcraft knife is a multi-purpose blade that is expected to handle a variety of tasks, including some rough work that you would never subject a chef’s knife to.
Tasks such as batoning firewood and cutting rope are expected of a bushcraft blade and still retain a sharp edge.
For this reason, a fine razor edge is not an appropriate edge to have on a bushcraft knife. The type of edge on this type of knife will probably be sharp enough to sufficiently handle these tasks with ease but don’t expect it to slice an almost translucent thin slice from a ripe tomato.
TIP: Even if your new knife is sharpened well, it often happens that it loses its sharpness relatively quickly. Do you know why this is happening? Find out the main reasons in the article below:
Who You Are Buying The Knife From
The supplier that you are buying your new knife from will determine the type of edge the knife will be shipped with, and you may need to adjust your expectations accordingly.
Factory mass-produced knives will generally not come packaged with a particularly good edge on the blade, but they will be functional.
This is because the sharpening is done as part of the manufacturing process by a machine rather than the edge finessed by a human being.
Large mass producers also need to consider the safety of workers the handle these products as part of their job on the production line.
Scary sharp knives can be a concern for worker safety, which may result in the knife being sharp, but not having an optimal edge.
Commercial manufacturers will also consider the dangers of customers handling a sharp knife in the packaging and the potential for the knife to cut through the packaging material and injure the customer.
In our current society, where people do not want to take responsibility for their own actions, everything is cause for litigation, and they may attempt to sue the corporation for shipping a super sharp blade.
But those same customers will complain that the knife is not sharp enough when they unbox it!
Custom Knife Makers
Ordering a custom-built knife from a custom knife maker is a completely different experience. Some knife makers will ask you if you want to receive the knife with a sharp edge or if you want to put the edge on the blade yourself. This would leave the choice up to you whether you want to receive the knife-sharp or not.
Most knife makers take pride in their work and would not consider delivering a knife to a customer that is not sharp.
They would see this as a negative reflection of their handiwork. Thus, in most cases, when you receive a custom-made knife, it will be sharp and ready to perform as soon as you unwrap the knife.
Japanese knife makers are, in some cases, the exception to this rule. They will deliver the knife with a usable edge but consider it disrespectful to presume what edge you want to have on your knife.
Thus, they will often leave the final sharpening of the blade up to the recipient of the knife.
Your Personal Knife Edge Preference
Many people who enjoy knives and always have one on their person are also quite particular about the type of edge that they prefer to have on their knives.
For these types of people who know exactly what they want in the cutting edge of a knife, the first thing they do when getting a brand new knife is to customize the edge to their personal liking.
There is nothing wrong with having this approach, and if you have the skills and the tools to put the edge that you want on your knife, then you should feel free to do this. After all, the knife is yours, and you can customize it however you see fit.
TIP: You can oversharpen your knife when you are trying to sharpen it. But is it even possible? Find out more about oversharpening knives in the article below:
How Should You Sharpen A Brand New Knife?
Generally speaking, you should not need to sharpen a brand new knife. The edge that it comes with should, in most instances, be suitable for the intended function of the knife.
However, you may want to consider honing the edge o a brand new knife to finesse the edge and take it to the next level of sharpness.
This can be achieved quite simply and easily by passing your new knife over a stop with an appropriate rubbing compound on the leather.
This will clean up the cutting edge of the knife and give it a polish that will make a substantial difference to the smoothness of the cut that the knife can achieve.
This stropping process can take as little as a couple of minutes and a few passes over the strop to around 20 minutes, depending on the starting condition of the blade.
Many knife owners will do this as a matter of course with every new knife that they get, be it a commercially produced knife or a thing of beauty from a custom knifemaker.
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
As a rule of thumb, most knives will have a functional edge right out of the packaging. Many will, however, not have a finely tuned edge to get the maximum performance from the knife.
In these instances, you, as the knife owner, will need to put the desired edge on the blade. Many knife buyers are quite happy with the edge that the knife comes with and will not bother with finessing the edge.
But if you are a knife connoisseur, you will most likely want to pass the new knife over the strop a few times as a minimum to hone the edge, and if the edge is not quite to your liking, do a full-on sharpening of the knife to get it how you like it.
TIP: When you buy a new knife, you will have to sharpen it over time so that it still has the right properties. It is always good to know how long you should sharpen your knife on a whetstone. Find out exact values for sharpening knives on a whetstone in the article below: