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Before you got into knives, I am sure you thought a knife was just a knife! As you expand your knowledge on knives, the types of knives, and their different purposes, you discover that the knife world is not as simple as you first thought. Bevels are another aspect of knives that not many people consider until they start looking at the purpose a knife was designed for. So, what is the difference between a single bevel and a double bevel knife?
A double bevel knife tapers on both sides of the blade from the spine to the sharp edge. A single bevel tapers on one side of the blade only. The other side is flat or slightly concave. The double bevel is robust and multipurpose. The single bevel is less robust and used for precise, delicate cuts.
The different types of bevels on a knife are one of the easier aspects of knife design to describe and get a grasp of. What is the purpose of having a single bevel on a knife, and are there any advantages of a single bevel over and double bevel and vice versa? We will discuss these two different knife bevels and explain the ideas around the different designs and if they offer any advantages to the knife user.
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The Differences Between Single And Double Bevel Knives
If you look at the cross-section of a knife, the bevel is described as the taper from the spine of the knife down towards the sharp cutting edge of the knife.
The angle of this bevel is usually determined by the intended purpose of the knife since different angles offer different characteristics to the cutting edge of the knife.
A double bevel knife is one where the bevel slopes from the spine to the cutting edge on both sides of the knife.
A single bevel knife is one where one side of the knife is flat, and there is only a bevel on one side of the knife to create a sharp cutting edge. A single bevel knife can be either a right-handed single bevel or a left-handed single bevel.
This covers the visual aspect of the differences between a single bevel knife and a double bevel knife and will allow you to identify the type of knife bevel simply by looking at the bevels that have been ground into the blade.
You may hear the single bevel grind in the knife world, also referred to as a chisel grind. This is because the typical grind on a woodworking chisel has the same grind geometry, with one side being flat that the other side having the taper to the sharp edge.
Let’s examine each bevel type to get an idea of how they perform, the benefits they offer, and what you would use them for. This will help you to decide if you need a single bevel knife or if you should stick with a double bevel knife.
Double Bevel Knives
Double bevel knives are the most common type of knives, and you will certainly find more of these types of knives in any kitchen than any other bevel style.
There is a good reason for this, and it will have a bearing on how these knives are used and for what purpose they are used.
When you are cutting with a double bevel knife, the double bevel pushes the food away from both sides of the knife simultaneously as the sharp edge slices through the food.
This means that the slice being cut away will fall away from the knife blade, and the part you are holding with the other hand will try to move away from the knife blade.
Most western-style knives are double bevel blades, and they are the general go-to knife in a western kitchen. Single bevel blades are more common in Japanese-style kitchen knives and then only for knives that have a specific purpose.
Double Bevels And Sticky Foods
Sometimes, depending on what you are cutting, the part of the food that you are holding may stick to the side of the knife and hinder the passage of the knife through the food. This will require more effort on your part to get the knife through whatever you are trying to cut.
This issue is more common when you are trying to cut soft or wet items such as fish, meat, cheese, or soft vegetables. The food sticking to one side of the knife makes the cut more difficult, and the cut is therefore not as clean and straight.
While this may be a little irritating, the food sticking to the knife is generally not too much of a problem in most circumstances. However, the cut is never as neat and clean with a double bevel blade compared to a single bevel blade.
Double Bevels Are Ambidextrous Use
Another advantage of a double bevel blade is that the knife can be used by people that are left-handed or right-handed without any compromise to the performance of the blade as a result.
This is not the case with single bevel knives, and you would need to use one that suits your dominant hand.
Robust Edge Of Double Bevel Knives
A double bevel knife has a more robust edge than a single bevel knife due to the fact that there is simply more steel behind the cutting edge.
This results in the advantage that the sharp edge is more robust and less likely to become rolled over when cutting through tough material or when making contact with a chopping board.
The disadvantage of the additional metal behind the edge is that the angle of the edge needs to be larger, which means that the edge can never be as fine as that of a single bevel blade.
This results in a double bevel blade not being able to be sharpened to the same level of sharpness as a single bevel knife.
What Can You Use A Double Bevel Knife For?
A double bevel blade can still have an extremely sharp edge, and the robustness of the edge makes it a truly multipurpose blade in the kitchen. It is for this reason that you will find more double bevel knives in any kitchen than single bevel knives.
Double bevel knives can be used to process poultry, rough-cut meat, chop and dice vegetables, and even for rough peeling of fruit and vegetables.
The double bevel knife can also be used for the same purposes that a single bevel knife is used for, but you will not get a cut that is as neat, precise, or clean.
Single Bevel Knives
Single bevel knives are not as commonplace in the average kitchen n comparison to double bevel knives. Professional kitchens are more likely to have a range of single bevel knives that are intended for specific tasks in the kitchen.
Most domestic kitchens would have a limited number of single bevel knives, and the bias would certainly be on the side of the double bevel knife because of their multipurpose functionality and durability. Many home kitchens may have no single bevel knives at all.
This is mostly because a double bevel knife can do the majority of tasks in a domestic kitchen that a single bevel knife can do. It just does not do it as cleanly or as neatly.
For this reason, single bevel knives are more commonly found in professional kitchens where precision and decorative knife work are required as part of their daily food preparation.
Single Bevels And Sticky Foods
Single bevel knives cut much more cleanly than double bevels because of the shape and sharpness of the bevel.
Single bevel knives push the slice of food that is being cut off away from the blade, causing it to fall away from the knife.
The flat edge on the opposite side generally has a slight concave grind to it which breaks the surface tension between the knife and the food. This allows the flat side of the knife to glide against the food with much less resistance.
A single bevel knife will feel like it requires much less effort to cut through food, especially the wet foods that we mentioned earlier, such as fish and raw meat, soft vegetables, and cheese.
The fact that the sharp edge on a single bevel knife can be sharpened to a much sharper edge than a double bevel knife also means that it will cut softer material with a greater degree of ease.
Single Bevel Single Orientation Use
Because of the cutting action of a single bevel knife, the blade is intended to be used with a particular orientation.
On a right-handed single bevel knife, the bevel is on the right-hand side of the blade. When this knife is used by a right-handed person, the piece of food being sliced off will fall away from the blade and offer no resistance to the knife as it passes through the food.
If a left-handed person tries to use a single bevel knife with a right-hand bevel, the bevel will try to push the large piece of the food being held away from the blade, which is not possible due to it being held in place.
The piece that is being cut off will also not be pushed away from the blade. This will offer resistance to the blade as it passes through the food, and you will lose the advantage of the single bevel.
The same will occur if a right-handed person tries to use a single bevel knife with the bevel on the left side of the blade.
Thus, if you are right-handed, you will need a right-hand single bevel knife, and if you are left-handed, you will need a left-handed single bevel knife.
Single Bevel Edge Durability
A single bevel knife can be sharpened with a much lower angle, which will allow for a much finer sharp edge than a double bevel knife. However, a finer edge means a thinner cutting edge. While this edge can be much sharper than a double bevel knife, the thin edge is also more susceptible to rolling over and becoming dull when it is used to cut harder foods.
The thin edge is also prone to chipping, especially if you are cutting through meat and the edge encounters bone unexpectedly.
Thus, the edge of a single bevel knife is not as robust or as durable as that of a double bevel blade. It is also the reason that the single bevel blade is used for more delicate precision work.
What Can You Use A Single Bevel Knife For?
A single bevel knife is generally reserved for when a clean, precise cut of the food is needed, and this is generally for presentation purposes for the food than any other reason.
This is why the single bevel knife is preferred for cutting sushi, sashimi, where the presentation of the food is striking, and precision cuts make a big difference to the visual appeal of the food.
The delicate flavors of this type of seafood can be negatively affected by a less sharp double bevel knife which tears through delicate food rather than slicing through it, which is another reason single bevel knives are preferred for this type of food preparation.
Because a single bevel knife is extremely sharp, it is also used to cut wafer-thin, almost transparent cuts of certain vegetables such as daikon.
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Sharpening Single And Double Bevel Knives
Part of knife maintenance is keeping the edge sharp and well maintained, and there are some differences in sharpening double and single bevel knives that require consideration.
Sharpening Single Bevel Knives
The flat side of a single bevel Japanese kitchen knife is referred to as the Ura side of the knife. The Ura or “flat” side of the knife plays an important role in the cleanness and precision of the cut.
This is why single bevel knives are preferred in many professional kitchens where the visual presentation of the food is held in high esteem.
The Ura side of the knife allows a single bevel to be sharpened to a much higher level of sharpness than a double bevel knife.
People who sharpen a single bevel knife are often unaware of these characteristics of the blade, and one of the biggest mistakes that they make is to place a micro-bevel on the flat or Ura side of the knife.
This has the potential to ruin your single bevel knife, or at the very least, reduce the lifespan of the knife since more steel will have to be removed to correct this sharpening error.
The majority of the sharpening of a single bevel knife will be done on the bevel side of the blade, and the Ura side will only be touched in the final stages of the process.
The sharpening of the knife will be concentrated on the beveled side of the knife until a burr is raised, which you will feel on the Ura side of the knife. At this point, the knife has essentially been sharpened, and the final stage is to remove the burr.
This is the only time in the process where you will place the flat side of the knife on the stone. You will also only be removing the burr with high grit stones, stones of 6000 grit or more, which are considered finishing or polishing stones.
The removal of the burr on the Ura side will be achieved with very few strokes of the flat side of the knife across the stone.
The additional care that needs to be taken when sharpening single bevel knives is one of the reasons that these knives are less common and generally mostly found in professional kitchens.
Even professional chefs who use these knives often do not sharpen these knives themselves but rather outsource this job to an experienced, professional knife sharpener.
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Sharpening Double Bevel Knives
Sharpening double bevel knives is a little easier than on single bevel knives since the edge geometry of these knives is much more forgiving during the sharpening experience.
There are variations, however, in how a double bevel knife can be sharpened. The classic method is to sharpen the knives with a 50/50 micro-bevel or edge.
This means that the angles of the sharp edge on either side of the knife are exactly the same angle, which places the sharp edge directly in the middle of the steel under the spine of the knife.
The 50/50 edge is the most common way of sharpening double bevel knives, and most knives will have this style of edge. It is possible and desirable, in some cases, to sharpen an edge with a 30/70 split between the angles.
The reason for this is for the edge to more closely mimic a single bevel knife, and the thinking is that a knife sharpened in this method will be sharper than an edge with a 50/50 split.
When sharpening a double bevel knife, you will sharpen both sides of the knife, using the same grit stones on both sides. You will work up the grit levels equally on both sides and finish off by using the high grit stones on both sides of the blade.
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Single Bevel Vs. Double Bevel Summary
For the purpose of a quick comparison, we have tabled the main differences between these two knife bevels so that you can see the differences at a glance.
|Feature||Single Bevel Knife||Double Bevel Knife|
|Shape||Bevel only on one side of the blade, either left or right||Bevel is on both sides of the blade, tapering to the sharp edge.|
|Durability||Thin edge with less metal behind it to support the edge, thus, less robust and will roll over more easily and also chip more easily.||The robust edge is less likely to roll over and become dull or chip.|
|Sharpness||Generally sharpened to a lower angle and is much sharper than a double bevel.||The edge is sharpened to a greater angle due to the material behind the edge, thus not as sharp as a single bevel blade.|
|Precision||Highly accurate, clean, neat cuts.||Cuts are less accurate and not as clean, especially on softer foods.|
|Uses||Cutting sushi, cleaning and filleting fish, decorative accurate knife work for aesthetics.||Multi-purpose.|
|Sharpening||You may think that a single bevel is easier to sharpen, but the single bevel needs to be more precise, which is more difficult to accomplish.||The geometry of double bevels is a little more forgiving and, therefore, easier to sharpen.|
|Occurrence||Single bevel knives are found mostly in professional kitchens where precision and accurate knife skills for the aesthetic presentation of food are required. Single bevel knives are less common in domestic kitchens.|
Single blade knives are not common in western-style knives but are more common in Japanese-style knives.
|Double bevel knives are found in professional kitchens and domestic kitchens and are the most common type of knife bevel.|
Most western-style knives are double bevel knives.
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Do You Need A Single Bevel Knife?
If you only work in a domestic kitchen, then the answer to this question is no, you don’t need a single bevel knife. But, if you are interested in knives and want to take your knife skills to the next level, then the answer is yes, you do need a single bevel knife.
Once you slice through delicate food with scalpel precision and with very little pressure, you will understand the appeal of these knives when preparing food that feeds the eyes as well as the stomach.
If your work is mostly in a professional kitchen, you will need a single bevel knife to perform all the delicate cuts that a double bevel knife is simply not capable of.
BTW: If you want to know more about Japanese and other types of knives and their sharpening check out the books listed above. These books are recommended by professional sharpeners and knife makers (Amazon links):
- Japanese Kitchen Knives: Essential Techniques and Recipes
- The Knifenerd Guide to Japanese Knives
- Knife: The Culture, Craft, and Cult of the Cook’s Knife
- Sharp: The Definitive Introduction to Knives, Sharpening, and Cutting Techniques, with Recipes from Great Chefs
In essence, double bevel knives are the multipurpose workhorse knives of the kitchen, and they are the style of knife that you will find the most useful in the kitchen, whether a domestic kitchen or a professional kitchen.
However, where a precise, delicate cut is needed, there is no substitute for a single bevel knife to perform these tasks.
Once you have experienced the delicate touch and the pleasure of using a very sharp single bevel blade to slice a ripe tomato, cut your sushi, or even slice extremely thin slices of vegetables, you will always want to have one of these knives available for these tasks!
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