As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases with no additional costs for you.
Why do knife blades chip, and what can you do when it happens? Many of us have had to face that sinking feeling in the heart as we stare at a chip that has just manifested itself on the edge of our favorite knife. You are not alone. From professional chefs to campers to the happy home cooker, the chipped knife blade demon lurks and awaits the unwary.
There are two common reasons for a chipped knife. One is that the user misuses the knife, e.g., twisting it in a joint to separate two pieces of bone. The other could be a manufacturing defect in the blade, such as poor heat treatment that has weakened the blade edge, which fails even in everyday use. Misuse and incorrect storage can also result in chips.
In the following article, we will give you some tips on minimizing the risk of chipping, more detail on why it can happen, and what you can do once the foul deed is done!
If you want to check out the best Japanese knives (made by Hayate Yoshihiro) we recommend and use, you can find them by clicking here (Amazon link).
The Pain of a Chipped Knife
Chipping the blade on a good quality knife is probably unusual because they are expensive and tend to be looked after first. Secondly, someone investing in a good quality knife probably, or hopefully, knows the correct way to use it. But accidents will always happen.
A little knowledge of how the sharp edge of a blade is constructed will go a long way to helping you understand why blades chip and how it is possible to minimize or even avoid the risk of this annoying malfunction.
A top-quality sharp knife will have a very fine angle honed onto the cutting edge. An angle of ten degrees on each side is considered super sharp.
But, the trade-off here is this super sharp edge is very sensitive and will not take kindly to hitting bone, a cutting board, or bashing against other knives in your drawer.
Chips don’t have to be significant to dull a fine edge. A 1/64-inch chip is more than enough to become a problem. The more chips, the worse off you are. Of course, a big chip, say a ¼ inch half circle of material knocked out of your fine edge, is unsightly and detrimental to performance.
It will also require some expertise and effort to engineer the removal of the considerable amount of blade material needed to eliminate the chip.
Is It Normal for Knives to Chip?
It is not unusual for chips to develop on a knife edge. As a rule, the finer the angle on the sharpened edge, the sharper the knife will be, and consequently, the easier it will be to damage the cutting edge.
The acute angle of a fine edge leaves less material to support it, so going into a tough job becomes risky. Jointing meat, cutting thick hard-skinned vegetables, or chopping action onto a board, will put the edge at risk.
The first rule then will be that you should always use the correct knife for the task. Use an excellent fine-edged knife for slicing through a fillet but engage something much more robust to chop through tough meat, bone, and sinew.
The heavy-duty tasks are where meat clever shines. It is heavy, has a thick blade, and is often sharpened on one side, adding strength. The secret here is not the sharpness of the clever as much as its weight and the chopping action momentum that carries the blade through bone, etc.
Moving further to the other extreme, an axe’s cutting edge could be around 25 to 35 degrees on each side. This provides considerable strength to support the cutting edge and lessens the likelihood of chipping. Unless you strike a rock, that would not be so good for the edge.
TIP: A sharp knife makes all the effort out of cutting, but not all knives can hold a sharp edge and stay sharp for a long time. Check out the best knives in the article below:
These 3 Kitchen Knives Hold the Best Edge (You Should Try)
Why do Knife Blades Chip?
Inevitably this comes down to using the right knife at the right time for the right job. Of course, the quality of the knife itself is a significant consideration.
Cheap knives are cheap for a reason. Cheaper materials and cheaper processes add up to a product that will not perform as well as its more expensive cousins.
Those ridiculously sharp and expensive Japanese Sushi knives have very thin blades that are hardened and tempered to a precise degree.
They are then sharpened at a very shallow angle and down to an ultra-fine finish. With these knives, you will effortlessly and precisely slice through those fine tuna, salmon, or prawn cuts.
The downside is that all those factors contributing to a super sharp edge also contribute to a super vulnerable edge.
You don’t use a knife like that to dismember tough cuts of meat and sinew or to chop through even little bones. Simply dropping such a knife onto a tiled floor can easily result in a chipped blade or the tip broken off.
TIP: If you are interested in buying a Japanese knife, we recommend these knives (Amazon links):
- Santoku: Yoshihiro NSW Hammered Damascus Santoku
- Gyuto: Yoshihiro VG-10 Hammered Damascus Gyuto
- Nakiri: Yoshihiro Hammered Damascus Nakiri
The Rockwell Scale
Delving slightly into technical matters, the hardness of heat-treated knife steels is commonly measured against the Rockwell C scale.
A knife of under 57 Rockwell is considered soft, won’t hold its edge well, and won’t chip as easily. A 58 to 60 Rockwell hardness is usual for a quality utility knife, hard enough to hold an edge but more susceptible to chipping.
Super hard would be around 63 Rockwell, where you would find top-quality Sushi knives. Thus, trade-offs have to be made all the way, be it on hardness and sharp edge retention, impact resistance, flexibility, blade strength, and of course, cost.
TIP: Sushi chefs spend years perfecting their skills, but all this hard work can’t be done without suitable tools. Check out the best sushi knives in the article below:
Ultimate Breakdown: 4 Best Japanese Knives For Sushi
Can You Save a Chipped Knife?
Here we have some good news and some bad news. Slight chips on the edge of a steel knife blade are relatively easy to overcome.
If you can put up with them and are a little patient then just your regular sharpening activity removes material from the edge of a knife blade, and eventually, those little chips will disappear on their own.
The more extreme chips can also be avoided by more aggressive and/or more frequent sharpening. If you have access to a belt grinder or sharpening machine, be careful not to overheat the edge you are working on. Excessive heat will destroy the finely balanced heat treatment for making a good knife blade.
A large chip, let us say something a ¼ inch deep, will require much more effort, tools, and skill to remove it. The knife’s cutting edge will first have to be ground away right down to the base of the chip.
This task will almost certainly require a powered tool as it will simply take forever to use a hand stone to remove enough material.
The downside is that you will now be left with a very much thicker edge than on the original blade. It may be possible to go straight in then and there and sharpen the edge to the chosen angle. But if the edge is too thick, you are faced with a complex repair job.
You will have to carefully grind both sides of the blade to get the edge thickness back to where it was. This requires skill and the right equipment, as it will require multiple grinds using finer grits each time and perhaps polishing at the end to regain the original finish.
If you are not up to speed in knife repair, it would be best to send the knife to a professional knife sharpener. This will surely only be viable for an expensive, high-quality knife. Replacing an inexpensive product just may be more cost-effective.
A much more sinister issue will be if you chip a ceramic knife. Ceramic knives are made from Zirconium Dioxide, an incredibly hard-wearing material, and ideal for use as knives.
A ceramic knife will hold its edge way beyond that of a steel knife, but again, the trade-off! They are extremely brittle and easily chipped.
If you have minor cracks or chips in the edge, you must use a diamond stone to re-cut the edge. A standard oil or water stone will not be of any use whatsoever.
TIP: Ceramic knives may be great but are prone to cracks and chips. Check out the step-by-step guide on fixing chipped ceramic knives in the article below:
Step-By-Step Guide: How To Fix A Chipped Ceramic Knife
Is It Safe To Use a Chipped Knife?
A chipped blade will probably not present any danger to the user. Perhaps, if the chip is accompanied by a fracture in the blade material, using the knife could result in the blade breaking and causing injury.
The effect of a chipped blade has more to do with aesthetics and function. It doesn’t look lovely, and the user finds the now rough edge dragging through instead of making a clean slice. The more chips, the bigger the problem, and the harder you must try to do the job.
A jury, out on this question, would call it unlikely to be dangerous but always possible.
BTW: If you are interested in buying the best cutting board, you can find our recommendations below:
- The best overall: Virginia Kitchen Boys Cutting Board (Amazon link). This fantastic cutting board is made from sustainable walnut wood from the United States and brings almost perfect safety when cutting with your knives.
- Alternative: Yoshihiro Cutting Board (Amazon link). Professional traditional Japanese cutting board that chefs around the world use.
- Cheaper option: Shun Cultery Cutting Board (Amazon link). Another Japanese cutting board stands out, especially for its simplicity and affordable price.
A pet hate for many of us is going into a friend’s kitchen and using a knife that won’t cut. The blade is bent, probably chipped, made of cheap soft steel, and has an awesomely dull edge.
Often that kitchen has a selection of a dozen knives or more, all of the dubious quality, damaged, blunt, or all of the above. It makes any kitchen task wearisome; cutting a tomato becomes a mission!
So, do yourself a favor; instead, have fewer knives of good quality and always use the right knife for the job. Store them correctly and look after them carefully.
TIP: Avoiding knife marks on a cutting board is impossible, but you can minimize damage by following simple steps. Check them out in the article below:
Avoiding Knife Marks On Cutting A Board & Getting Rid Of Them