Introduction: 3 Simple Ways to Check How Sharp Your Knives Are!

Picture of 3 Simple Ways to Check How Sharp Your Knives Are!

Test your knives for sharpness? It sounds a little bizarre doesn't it! And that's because most people don't bother to check for sharpness. Most people sharpen their knives and then start using them, assuming they've succeeded only to find out their edge is in fact dull. If this is you, don't worry, we are all the same. When I first started sharpening my knives, I did the same and after being frustrated, I decided I wasn't going to stop sharpening until I got the results I wanted. The 3 tips below are what I and many others use, so it's tried and tested. The best part: It's easy! You'll want to use at least one (or more) of these tips every time you're done sharpening your knife, that way you can decide whether to keep sharpening or stop.

Step 1: Everyone's Favorite: the Famous Paper Test!

Picture of Everyone's Favorite: the Famous Paper Test!

The paper test is everyone's favorite, and that's because it's quick and effortless. You can use just about any piece of paper you have: magazine pages, sticky notes, and if you're feeling extra special, use a clean sheet of A4! (be considerate of the environment though, and don't over indulge!). You get the point. So how does it work? Hold the paper with one hand and your knife with the other; Your dominant hand should be used to handle the knife. Now attempt to slice through the paper at an angle only applying minimal pressure. Two important things to note:

  1. Always slice away from your hand. Doing it this way prevents the risk of cutting yourself.
  2. Don't force it! Apply minimum pressure only. If you're unable to cut clean, it can only mean one thing: you still have a dull edge that needs more work. Remember, your safety comes first and the more you force a dull blade, the more chance for slippage and injury. If your edge is dull and lacks bite, you’ll notice it cuts rough and usually requires more pressure. On the contrary, if your edge is sharp, it will cut clean and with minimal pressure. A good way to see this is to do a before and after paper test. Try slicing the paper with a dull edge first, and then try the same blade after sharpening.

Step 2: What Are You Waiting For? Try It Out!

Picture of What Are You Waiting For? Try It Out!

What’s the point of sharpening a knife when it doesn’t do what you want it to do!? I recently sharpened a couple of utility knives in the hope that they would make cutting fruits and vegetables easier. While I did get them to be sharper than they were previously, they still required significant pressure to cut a lime or even a tomato. What’s the lesson here? Put your results to the test! Now, that doesn’t mean you should cut up a whole chicken after every knife sharpening session! All I am saying is try it on something you’d be using it for. I prefer tomatoes and limes, but you could pick anything! Added benefit: it’s quite rewarding if you get it right!

Step 3: Use Your Thumbnail!

Picture of Use Your Thumbnail!

This is probably my least favorite method to check for knife sharpness, and that's because it doesn't give the full picture. We'll discuss that later, but for now let's see how this works.

  1. Take your sharpened blade and place the edge such that it is sitting perpendicular to your thumbnail. If you've done it correctly, your knife will be 90 degrees from your thumbnail.
  2. Now apply an extremely small amount of pressure by pressing down on your nail. Don't go crazy here! Remember to always be extra careful.
  3. Did the edge slide? Or did it remain in place? If it slid, then your edge is dull, but if it remained in place, your edge must be sharp.

What I dislike about this method: You can only test a small area of your edge at a time because of how tiny a fingernail is. This is quite the contrary to the tomato test described in #2, where instead you have a good idea of how sharp the whole knife is. Having said that, the thumbnail test is great for when you don't have access to paper or any vegetables. It's an especially useful test for sharpness when out camping, fishing, or hunting.

Step 4: Don't Forget!

There are plenty of other ways to test how sharp your knife is, but these 3 are the ones I use and prefer. There is one final thing I wish you would never forget: A knife regardless of whether dull or sharp can do some serious damage! Avoid running your finger along a sharp edge as tempting as it may be, and never compromise your safety! I hope you enjoyed reading and if you did, why not favorite? Leave your comments and questions below. Have a good day!

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