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A Beginner's Guide to Knife Sharpening Angles

Written by:
Aleks Nemtcev
April 20, 2024
knife sharpening

Understanding the correct knife sharpening angles is crucial for anyone looking to maintain their cutting tools in optimal condition. The angle at which you sharpen a knife significantly influences its cutting performance, durability, and overall functionality. Different knives are designed for various tasks and thus require specific angles to achieve the best results. For instance, delicate slicing knives used for culinary purposes generally require a sharper angle, enhancing their precision and ease of cutting through soft materials. In contrast, tougher blades, such as those intended for chopping wood or other hard substances, benefit from a wider angle, which offers greater durability and resilience against wear and tear.

By mastering the art of knife sharpening, beginners can ensure their blades perform efficiently, maintain their edge for longer periods, and reduce the likelihood of damaging the blade during use. This guide will provide an essential overview of knife sharpening angles, equipping newcomers with the knowledge to choose the appropriate angle for their specific knife type, thereby enhancing their cutting experience and extending the life of their tools.

Understanding Sharpening Angles

The “knife sharpening angle” refers to the angle between the blade and the sharpening tool during the sharpening process. This angle is pivotal in determining how sharp the blade’s edge becomes. A smaller angle typically creates a sharper edge. Conversely, a larger angle yields a less sharp but more durable edge. The choice of sharpening angle should align with the intended use of the knife, as it directly affects the blade’s effectiveness and longevity. 

Inclusive or Exclusive Sharpening Angles?

When discussing sharpening angles for knives, it’s important to clarify whether the specified angles are inclusive or exclusive. An inclusive angle refers to the total angle at the edge, including both sides of the blade. Conversely, an exclusive angle pertains only to one side of the blade. Understanding this distinction is crucial when sharpening your knives, as it affects how you set up your sharpening tools and execute the sharpening process. Knowing whether to measure the angle from one side of the blade or across the entire edge can impact the sharpness and performance of the knife significantly.

knife sharpening angles

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Sharpening Angles for Different Knives

Different types of knives require specific sharpening angles based on their intended use, material, and blade design. Here is a concise list of common knife types and their typical sharpening angles, providing insight into how each angle suits the knife’s function:

Kitchen Knives

Paring Knives: 15-18 degrees – Offers precision for peeling and slicing small fruits and vegetables.

Chef’s Knives: 15-20 degrees – Balances sharpness for slicing and durability for chopping.

Butcher Knives: 20-22 degrees – Provides durability for cutting through meat and small bones.

Ideal Sharpening Angle for a Chef’s Knife

The ideal sharpening angle for a chef’s knife depends on the specific type.
Western-style chef’s knife: Aim for a sharpening angle of 17-20 degrees per side for a good all-around performance.
Japanese-style chef’s knife (Gyutou): If you prioritize slicing precision, a slightly more acute angle of 15-17 degrees per side might be suitable. However, be aware that this makes the knife more delicate.

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Pocket Knives

General Purpose: 20-25 degrees – Ensures enough durability for various cutting tasks while maintaining sharpness.

Utility Folding Knives: 22-25 degrees – Offers enhanced edge retention for regular, versatile use.

Hunting Knives

Skinning Knives: 18-22 degrees – Allows for precision in skinning without sacrificing blade durability.

General Hunting Knives: 22-25 degrees – Provides robustness needed for processing game and cutting through tougher materials.

Rationale Behind Different Sharpening Angles

The rationale for different sharpening angles across various knives lies in balancing edge sharpness and durability to match the knife’s specific tasks. Kitchen knives, for instance, often have sharper angles to facilitate precision cuts and smooth slices necessary for culinary tasks. In contrast, hunting knives feature slightly wider angles to withstand the rigors of cutting through tougher materials like hide and bone without damaging the edge. Pocket knives vary based on intended utility, often optimized for general-purpose versatility and prolonged edge retention. Selecting the correct angle is crucial for maximizing a knife’s performance and longevity, tailored to its unique duties.

Knife Sharpening Angle Chart

Sharpening Angle (Degrees) Type of Knife Properties and Use
7-12 Straight Razors, Razor Blades, X-Acto Knives Extremely sharp angles for precision cutting, ideal for fine, delicate cuts and artistic detail work.
12-17 Fillet Knives, Paring Knives, Sushi Knives, Most Japanese Cutlery Sharp angles for precise, clean cuts in culinary applications, suitable for fish, fruits, and vegetables.
17-22 Boning Knives, Carving Knives, Chef’s Knives, Smaller Kitchen Knives Moderately sharp angles balancing precision with durability, versatile for various kitchen tasks.
22-25 Hunting Knives, Pocket Knives, Survival Knives, Sport Knives Durable angles for robust tasks, providing good edge retention for outdoor and general use.
25-30 Cleaver, Machete Wide angles for maximum durability, ideal for heavy-duty cutting tasks requiring significant force.


This table illustrates the relationship between the sharpening angles, the types of knives, and their specific properties tailored to their intended uses. These angles are optimized to balance the blade’s sharpness and the strength required for their respective tasks, ensuring both efficiency and longevity.

knife sharpening angle chart

Image credit: Work Sharp

Choosing the Right Sharpening Angle

Selecting the appropriate sharpening angle for a specific knife is a critical decision that hinges on several key factors, including the knife’s intended use and the material of the blade. The primary consideration is the knife’s purpose: delicate tasks such as filleting or precision slicing require a sharper angle for fine cuts, whereas tougher applications like chopping wood or butchering demand a wider angle for increased durability and edge retention. The material of the blade also plays a vital role; harder steels can often sustain sharper angles without compromising the edge, while softer steels may need a more obtuse angle to prevent quick dulling or chipping.

It is equally important to adhere to the manufacturer’s recommendations when available. Manufacturers design their knives with specific uses in mind and determine the optimal sharpening angle that ensures the best performance and longevity of their products. Ignoring these guidelines can lead to suboptimal cutting efficiency and potentially damage the knife. By considering both the purpose and the material of the knife, and by following manufacturer directives, users can effectively choose the right sharpening angle, maximizing their knife’s functionality and durability.

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Sharpening with the Wrong Angle

Using an incorrect sharpening angle can significantly undermine a knife’s performance and longevity. If the angle is too acute for the intended use of the knife, the edge can become overly thin and fragile, making it prone to chipping or breaking during routine tasks. Conversely, an angle that is too obtuse may result in a duller edge that requires excessive force to cut, increasing the wear on the blade and causing inefficient cutting that can damage both the knife and the material being cut. Consistently using the wrong angle can also lead to uneven wear and tear along the blade, which might necessitate more frequent sharpening and potentially permanent damage over time. To ensure optimal functionality and durability of knives, it is crucial to sharpen them at the appropriate angle suited to their specific design and intended use.

sharpness chart

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Sharpening Techniques

Mastering the art of knife sharpening involves understanding and applying techniques that are effective across a range of sharpening tools such as whetstones and sharpening rods. When using a whetstone, begin with a coarser grit to reshape the edge and remove any burrs or imperfections. Progress to finer grits to refine and hone the blade’s edge, ensuring smooth, consistent strokes at the correct angle for your specific knife type. Sharpening rods, often used for quick touch-ups, require holding the knife at a consistent angle and drawing the blade along the rod in smooth, controlled motions from the heel to the tip. Regardless of the tool, maintaining a steady angle and using gentle pressure are key factors in achieving a sharp, durable edge. Regular practice and patience are essential, as these skills develop over time and with experience. By utilizing these general techniques, you can effectively sharpen various types of knives, enhancing their performance and extending their useful life.

knife sharpening angle

Image credit: Lansky

Maintaining Sharp Knives

Maintaining a sharp edge on your knives involves regular honing and appropriate stropping, which are essential to prolonging the life and efficacy of the blade.

Honing with a steel rod realigns the edge of the knife, correcting any small bends or deviations that occur with normal use. It is advisable to hone your knife regularly, preferably before each significant use, to ensure it maintains its optimal edge.

Stropping, performed after sharpening and between uses, involves dragging the blade’s edge along a leather strop or similar material to polish the edge and remove any remaining microscopic burrs. This technique refines the sharpness and smoothness of the blade, enhancing its cutting ability.

Both honing and stropping are critical for maintaining the knife’s sharpness without removing significant amounts of metal, thus preserving the blade and extending its functionality. By incorporating these practices into your knife care routine, you can sustain your knives at peak performance for longer periods.

How do I ensure I’m sharpening at the correct angle at home?

Achieving the correct sharpening angle at home is crucial for maintaining the effectiveness and longevity of your knives. Here are some general methods to help you maintain the correct angle during the sharpening process, without focusing on specific tools:

Use Angle Guides: Many sharpening systems come with angle guides that can help you maintain the precise angle needed. These guides are especially useful for beginners and ensure consistency across the entire edge of the knife.
Visualize the Angle: As a rule of thumb, the angle between the blade and the sharpening surface should be small—imagine the edge of a matchbook (approximately 15 to 20 degrees) beneath your knife if you lack an angle guide.
Consistent Hand Position: Keeping your hand steady and in the same position can help maintain a consistent angle. Anchor your elbow or arm on a stable surface to help control the motion and pressure.
Practice with Inexpensive Knives: Before attempting to sharpen fine cutlery, practice with less expensive knives to get a feel for maintaining the angle without the pressure of potentially damaging valuable blades.
Mark the Edge with a Marker: Use a permanent marker to color the edge of your knife. As you sharpen, check to see if the ink is being removed evenly. If it isn’t, adjust your angle accordingly.
Check the Burr: A burr is a small fold of metal on the opposite side of the edge you are sharpening. Feeling a slight burr along the edge indicates that you are sharpening at the effective angle and that the knife is being sharpened correctly.

Video credit: Sharpening Supplies

Conclusion: Key Takeaways on Knife Sharpening Angles

In summary, understanding and applying the correct knife sharpening angles is crucial for maximizing the performance and longevity of your cutting tools. The angle at which a knife is sharpened significantly influences its cutting efficiency, durability, and suitability for specific tasks. Delicate cutting jobs, such as culinary slicing, typically require sharper angles, enhancing precision and ease of use. Conversely, tougher tasks, such as chopping or hunting, demand wider angles for increased edge resilience and durability.

Choosing the right sharpening angle for your specific knife and intended use is essential. Following the manufacturer’s recommendations when available can provide guidance and ensure that the knife functions optimally under its designed conditions. By carefully selecting the appropriate angle and maintaining your knife with regular honing and stropping, you ensure that your blades remain sharp, reliable, and ready for any task at hand. This attention to detail in sharpening practice not only enhances your cutting experience but also contributes to the overall care and maintenance of your knives.

Author: Aleks Nemtcev | Connect with me on LinkedIn

Aleks Nemtcev is an esteemed expert in knifemaking and sharpening with over ten years of experience. Specializing in a variety of sharpening techniques suitable for everything from kitchen knives to rugged outdoor blades, Aleks combines traditional skills with innovative methods to enhance blade performance and longevity. He actively shares his knowledge through workshops and online sources and contributes to the knife-making community, ensuring that both novices and professionals benefit from his extensive expertise.


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