Are cheap knives worth sharpening?

One of the questions we get a lot is with regards to sharpening cheap knives. It is a common misconception that cheaper knives aren’t worth it - often, the only thing that sets them apart from better knives is a small but important detail:

Professional knife sharpening

Cheaper knives are often made of good quality steel. To keep production cost low, they are machine grinded and never receive the labor intensive finishing touch that would turn them into great knives. This is where professional sharpening by hand comes in. As long as the steel is of sufficient quality, we can transform an OK knife into an Oh Yes! knife. 

How do I know if the steel on my cheaper knife is of good quality?

Low grade steel is often very shiny, giving knives an almost chrome-like look. On the other hand, very heavy, very thick blades can be an indicator for low grade steel as well. If the blade feels too thick to be a knife, it most likely is. 

Another giveaway for lower quality steel is micro-serration (tiny teeth along the edge of the blade). Of course, there are exceptions to the rule, but micro-serrations are usually added to make knives feel sharper than they actually are. Those knives can’t be resharpened. 

Can you recommend brands?

Sure. We have seen very good results on IKEA knives. Yes, you read that right. We are all aware of the beauty of a hand forged, high quality knife, but we are not immune to a little Scandinavian simplicity either. Especially not if it saves us a couple of bucks. The steel used in IKEA knives is usually good - but their edges are not. Hence, they would benefit massively from hand sharpening. 

If you are looking to spend a little more money and crank up your chopping game quality wise, Opinel is worth a mention. This lesser known French brand has been in the market since 1890 and especially their knife sets are very good value for money. Their edges are great to begin with, i.e. you can put them to use before you have to think about having them professionally sharpened. 

Another brand worth mentioning is Tojiro - a little more pricey than Opinel but still at the entrance level for quality knives.

Anything I should stay away from?

If it sounds to be good to be true, chances are your gut feeling is right. As a rule of thumb, if a knife feels good in your hand and you like to work with it, it’s a good knife. What works for John might not work for Jane, and vice versa. 

*this list is by no means extensive or complete