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Thread: Sharpening Chicago Cutlery

  1. #1

    Sharpening Chicago Cutlery


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    I have worked on about 5 Chicago Cutlery knives and so far they seem to just suck. I use the edge pro and have gotten every other knife at least shaving sharp. Any suggestions out there? The knives seem to have 60 degree inclusive edge, I dont really want to repofile them every time. I have a customer that wants me to do all of his knives and I am pretty sure this is what they are going to be

  2. #2
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    I'm assuming you haven't yet tried to reprofile any of them to a more acute angle?

    If you haven't, you might reprofile just ONE for starters. I know it's discouraging to contemplate reprofiling the whole set, but you might (maybe) be surprised at the improvement in cutting performance, when taken to a fairly acute bevel (maybe 15 degrees per side, or perhaps even lower).

    I'm only saying this based on my (limited) experience with what I'd previously assumed to be a 'cheap' imported Chicago Cutlery utility knife (6") that I purchased at Walmart for about $7.00. At the time, my main goal was to get some 'practice' using my guided sharpener (GATCO). Didn't really expect much out of the knife itself. I ended up being very pleasantly surprised at the cutting performance of the 'whatever mystery steel' blade. Took an acute edge that was literally hair-whittling sharp. I've never used the EdgePro, so I can't tell you what to do about that. But I'd think it's more than enough tool for the job. The guided sharpeners (EdgePro, Lansky, GATCO, etc.) really shine for reprofiling work. Trying to match what is probably a mediocre factory edge might be a waste of the EdgePro's capability.

    I don't know if the knives you're referring to are the same variety or otherwise similar. But, if you haven't yet tried to take at least one of them more acute by reprofiling, I'd recommend giving it a go. Kitchen knives, so long as they're not abused, can be ground pretty thin and perform very well. Whatever touching up they might need can usually be done easily by stropping or steeling.

    Hope this helps. Good luck.
    Last edited by Obsessed with Edges; 12-01-2010 at 09:57 AM.

  3. #3
    Thanks, I think I may give it a try. These are the all stainless version and the steel just seems to be crap. I dont know if maybe its a heat treat issue or not. Ill let you know what happens

  4. #4
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    Back in the day Chicago Cutlery were pretty good. Those days seem to be over. They're the knives you want to like because the do seem well thought out in terms of blade shape. I would try the re-profile. If they are older ones, they may turn out better than we're giving credit for.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by HoosierQ View Post
    Back in the day Chicago Cutlery were pretty good. Those days seem to be over. They're the knives you want to like because the do seem well thought out in terms of blade shape. I would try the re-profile. If they are older ones, they may turn out better than we're giving credit for.
    That's what surprised me with the knife I reprofiled. It was one of the 'new' generation imported knives, and it turned out quite good. I think the cheaper knives might be more hit-or-miss, with regard to heat treat issues. But you can still get lucky sometimes.

  6. #6
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    I have two of the newer Chinese stainless ones. Edge retention is not so good, but they do take an edge quick and easy. All I've ever used on mine are a coarse steel and a fine steel. Good in the kitchen but they always seem to need a swipe or two when taken out of the drawer.
    HH

  7. #7
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    I have one fairly old stainless steel Chicago Cutlery chefs knife, 41S marked on the walnut handle. I reprofiled and sharpened it with a convex edge on a 1" slack belt sander, finishing with a leather belt and then buffing wheel. Produced a super sharp edge which lasts "forever" if used only on a plastic cutting board.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by deruitem View Post
    I have worked on about 5 Chicago Cutlery knives and so far they seem to just suck. I use the edge pro and have gotten every other knife at least shaving sharp. Any suggestions out there? The knives seem to have 60 degree inclusive edge, I dont really want to repofile them every time. I have a customer that wants me to do all of his knives and I am pretty sure this is what they are going to be
    I contacted Chicago Cutlery via email because I have a set of their steak knives. This is what they said, "The Chicago Cutlery knives are sharpened at a 26 degree angle; 13 degrees per side." Hope that helps.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by 5alviati View Post
    I contacted Chicago Cutlery via email because I have a set of their steak knives. This is what they said, "The Chicago Cutlery knives are sharpened at a 26 degree angle; 13 degrees per side." Hope that helps.
    Probably won't help much, since that thread was nearly 3 years ago! Surprised that they actually answered you and even knew what you were asking about. However, the angle sounds about right for a mass produced kitchen knife.

    Blessings,

    Omar

  10. #10
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    Omar, the light at the end of the tunnel is actually the headlamp of another train!

    OP, what stones are you using??

    I've had very good results with the original EP 320 stone on low cost kitchen knives. Be sure to raise a small burr on each side, remove it and 5-10 laps on a strop.

    BTW, I have and still use a 30 year old carbon steel Chicago Cutlery skinning knife. It takes, and holds, an excellent edge.

  11. #11
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    I've sharpened most of our chicago set on my paper wheels and am very happy with the results. They seem to take a nice edge and don't dull too quickly on wood or plastic cutting boards...

  12. #12
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    Hmm... I've got a set from this company. Not sure how old it is, it was probably my parents.

    We use an assortment of kitchen knives, most of it not very good. I haven't been that good about buying and maintaining the kitchen cutlery, mostly because I'm not all that interested in it. I usually run the blades over a dual grit Norton SiC and call it good. I'll keep my eyes open for the Chicago stuff.

    If it's true that they put an edge as acute as they claim on their knives they should be pretty easy to maintain. That is, if they aren't damaged.
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  13. #13
    I bought lots of Chicago Cutlery knives to learn and experiment with. The factory angles tend to be really thick, esp. on the all-stainless (including the handle) ones. Thinning with a belt grinder and then sharpening produces good results. I can make them really sharp with paper wheels or almost any guided sharpener. Unfortunately they don't hold the edge all that well.
    Good sharpening,
    Dave

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by 5alviati View Post
    I contacted Chicago Cutlery via email because I have a set of their steak knives. This is what they said, "The Chicago Cutlery knives are sharpened at a 26 degree angle; 13 degrees per side." Hope that helps.
    13° angle per side??? They must be talking about the primary bevel beginning at the spine. The bevel at the edge is probably more like 20° per side. The softer stainless steel blades they produce today, when facing a carrot or even a T-bone, would fold over and die at that angle.

    I have a set of Chicago Cutlery kitchen knives from the 1970's and have always been impressed by their performance, a joy to work with, they take and maintain a good edge. Those were the days.

  15. #15
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    Another sad story, like Gerber they've gone to the lowest end of the market.
    Chicago used to make wonderful knives, if you like carbon steel, their old ones are great cutters. The ones people bring me to sharpen are kind of awful, very soft steel. From the factory, they're sharpened at a very blunt angle, since soft steel can't really support an acute one- you can use a steeper angle if you're willing to steel it frequently.

  16. #16
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    I have been working on my mother's set of US made SS Chicago Cutlery knives. They were dull as the butter knives, but I have used the stone border around the flower bed, and 400 grit wet or dry sandpaper on a small piece of 1/2" square steel stock that I drawfiled flat. They have hair popping edges and are still going strong a month and a half later. Now I just need to take away the sharpening steel so she doesn't ruin them . The paring knife is at 8 degrees a side (16 degrees inclusive) and the others are at 16 degrees a side or so.

    Good Luck,
    Connor

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by ConBon View Post
    The paring knife is at 8 degrees a side (16 degrees inclusive) and the others are at 16 degrees a side or so.
    What the...? 8° a side??? Comes close to my straight razors. For a stainless steel paring knife, that is truly amazing. And they stay sharp for weeks without much (very light) steeling? I'm impressed.

  18. #18
    I think the steak knives I have were originally at least 25 degrees per side (maybe 30). I thinned them down to around 18 or 20, which removed a lot of metal. They work much better this way. Edge holding is not great, but a quick pass with a ceramic steel brings them right back.

    Good sharpening,
    Dave

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Novaculite View Post
    What the...? 8° a side??? Comes close to my straight razors. For a stainless steel paring knife, that is truly amazing. And they stay sharp for weeks without much (very light) steeling? I'm impressed.
    It is a pretty stout blade, and i've always been naturally good at sharpening. But the big reason it's still sharp is that I took my time going through the grits.

    Cheers,
    Connor

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by elementfe View Post
    Another sad story, like Gerber they've gone to the lowest end of the market.
    Chicago used to make wonderful knives, if you like carbon steel, their old ones are great cutters. The ones people bring me to sharpen are kind of awful, very soft steel. From the factory, they're sharpened at a very blunt angle, since soft steel can't really support an acute one- you can use a steeper angle if you're willing to steel it frequently.
    The old ones used to be made over here and as people stated pretty good . The newer ones are made in china and are made very,very cheaply. Big dissapointment

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