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Optimal Bevel Angles for Different Uses

Discussion in 'Maintenance, Tinkering & Embellishment' started by DKsharpshooter, Apr 9, 2008.

  1. DKsharpshooter

    DKsharpshooter Banned BANNED

    Apr 9, 2008
    There are a number of excellent knife sharpeners out there these days that provide the ability to set the angle of the edge bevel on your knife to a particular degree. Some of them have pre-set angles and others have continuously variable angle adjustment capability. This ability to set whatever angle bevel you desire leads to the inevitable question: What's the most appropriate angle for a particular use?

    Let's start with factory edges. Factory edges are generally put on knives by a machine. Typically, the edge bevel angle is set at 25 degrees. Rarely is any honing or stropping done to the edge before the knife goes into a box for sale. This angle is presumably used because it is believed that it will be sharp enough for most consumers and it will last longer than a knife sharpened at a more acute angle. I have an Alaska Knife made for skinning that I swear came with a 45 degree bevel! I personally think that's an angle more appropriate for an axe or a splitting wedge.

    As a hunter, I have found through much trial and error, that a 22 degree bevel seems to give me the degree of sharpness that I need, while providing the edge durability required to make it through the complete field dressing of an elk or two without having to resharpen, or hone, or strop. Putting a 22 degree edge bevel on top of a back bevel set at 15 degrees to create a double bevel is even better and it makes touch-ups significantly faster. But that's for hunting knives. What about other kinds of knives?

    Kitchen knives are probably the single most abundant knives on the planet, bar none. Everybody has at least one, if not half a dozen. That said, I wonder how many, what percentage if somebody could do a survey, are truly sharp and are set at the correct angle for kitchen use? I would bet very few. Every kitchen has a drawer with at least one or two sharpeners in it and plenty of people have electric sharpeners on their countertops. Almost none of these sharpeners provide the ability to set whatever angle the user chooses. Many, if not most, are downright damaging to knives. If you have ever used an electric knife sharpener, have you ever noticed that if you aren't very good at drawing your knife through the sharpener at exactly the same speed from heel to tip, your edge looks wavy and uneven? Anyway, I digress. Sorry about that! Another subject for another day... So what angle is the best for kitchen knives?

    Most professional chefs that I know tell me that 20 degrees or less, depending on the particular type of kitchen knife, is what you need. A paring knife, for instance, should have an extremely acute bevel because this is a knife used for delicate and precise trimming. A large chef's knife should also be around 20 degrees or maybe just a few degrees under. In a kitchen, your sharpener is never far away, so you don't need the level of edge durability that a hunting knife requires, thus you can easily get away with a thinner edge. Again, a double bevel is useful on kitchen knives and makes touch ups much faster.

    Woodworkers and carvers often like to have their chisels sharpened at 15 degrees or less. This allows them to easily shave very thin strips and gives them a very high degree of precision. Carving employs a specific cutting technique called press cutting, as opposed to slice cutting, which is what one does with kitchen and skinning knives. For slice cutting, less polishing is generally preferred. For press cutting, the more polished the edge, the better. This is because the troughs in the microserrations left by an unpolished edge increase resistance when pressing a chisel or other blade through the object at hand. They also tend to leave tiny scratches in the surface of your carved object. On the other hand, for slice cutting, those microserrations add a tearing and ripping action when cutting by concentrating the force applied on the peaks of the microserrations. For more information about what level of polish is appropriate for a particular use, see my forum post titled: Edge Polishing for Different Uses.

    Knife sharpeners that allow you to set the edge bevel angle on a knife include those made by: Gatco, Lansky, EdgePro, and Wicked Edge. Only the EdgePro and Wicked Edge provide continuously variable angle setting and the Wicked Edge allows you to work on both sides of a knife at the same time.
  2. 12thsign


    Apr 9, 2008
    Wow, your post was pretty much a knife sharpening manifesto. Was your question what angle I prefer? Depends on the knife. For fillet and kitchen knives, I use a lansky at the 20 degree slot, for everything else, I use the next slot up, or a whetstone.
  3. Lurker


    Jan 8, 2002
    You want the most acute angle that will hold up and the type of steel is an important factor in that equation, as is how carefully or carelessly you cut. I personally don't think that the angle makes nearly as much difference as whether or not the knife is truly sharp.
  4. me2


    Oct 11, 2003
    Only my santoku set at 12 degrees per side and touched up at 15 degrees on the Sharpmaker would stick a little in the cutting board. Cheap knife, dulled quickly, but still cut in the kitchen fine with the thin blade and edge. To me, the thinner the better, 20 degrees per side is the most I have, except one blade on my trapper, set at 25 per side and touched up on the Sharpmaker at 30 per side. Still shaving sharp, but it will debur metal conduit without damage, and comes back to shaving sharp after about 30 strokes on the Sharpmaker.
  5. DKsharpshooter

    DKsharpshooter Banned BANNED

    Apr 9, 2008
    I used a 20 degree angle on my hunting knives for a long time, but just found that the edge wouldn't quite hold up through field dressing a whole elk. So I bumped it up to 22 degrees and have been very pleased with the results. Ultimately, putting a nice gothic arch on it will make it last the longest.
  6. EdgePal


    Nov 7, 2004
    A tool who cuts steel sheets have 90 degree edges
    An axe for wood chopping have 45 degree edge
    A knife have 22 degree edge
    A Razor have 11 degree edge

    Depending on your personal feeling, and how you use your knife, you can use +/- 1-2 degrees from that – for normal tools.

    In Scandinavia this is normal edge angles
    Razor / razorblade: 9-15°
    Kitchen knife for vegetables and filleting: 20°
    Kitchen knife, ordinary: 25-35°
    Woodwork knife for soft wood: 19 - 20°
    Woodwork knife for hard wood: 25°
    All-round knife: 23°
    Penknives: 20-25°
    Hunting knife: grinding edge 20°, whetting edge 25° (Big game)
    Fisherman's knife: 19-20°
    Knife for filleting fish: 18-19°
    Scissors: 50-60°
    Chisel: 20-25°
    Axe (convex edge): 30-40°
    Axe for carving (straight edge): 25-30°
    Forester's axe (convex ege): 30-40°
    Wood chopping axe: 40-55°

    Most knifes works better with an secondary bevel (not knifes special for woodwork).
    A secondary bevel shall be 1-3 degree above the main bevel. If you have 10 degree main bevel, the secondary edge shall be 2 degree more = 12 degree total.

    The secondary bevel is a personal thing and you balance your way of using the knife, and the material you work in, with the degrees on the secondary bevel.

    The secondary bevel shall be 2-3 tens of a mm wide = when you can se this edge, stop grinding!
    Start with 2 degree. If it works fine for you, keep this angle. If you need a stronger edge, go to 2,5 or 3 degree. If you need a sharper edge, go down to 1,5 or 1 degree.
    Half a degree on this bevel make a big difference in performance of the knife.

    Depending on where you live on earth, the material you shall cut, slice or chop is different. You must adjust the edge angle so it fits the material your knife normally is working with.
    The same thing for hunter is that big game needs stronger edges (higher angles) so the edge holds during the complete butchering.

  7. Hard H2O

    Hard H2O

    Aug 10, 2007

    I have been playing around with angles a bit. I do not have any high end steels. I have mainly cheapish production knives. I do not have any safe queens. Mine are all users.

    I have found that with care and not hacking into anything that I can make my cutlery slice much better when sharpened to shallower angles.

    What is normal for a certain task with a certain knife might not hold true depending on the user and the steel. I do not slice tomatoes on a ceramic plate. I use a cutting board and take care. My wife hacks things and might cut on a plate now and again. The angles on her knives are pretty much the factory serrated garbage edge. The angles on my knives are much more refined.

    It is fun to question what is "normal".
  8. me2


    Oct 11, 2003
    As a general statement, I think most steels can handle angles 5-10 degrees lower than commonly thought, depending on use. Kitchen knives used for vegetables and meat on a cutting board can certainly handle included angles of 20-25 degrees, when 35-45 is commonly recommended. Of course one trip through the dishwasher and its over, but banging into other objects under pressurized water is hardly the same as cutting. Metal cutting bits for stainless tubing I've seen were somewhere around 50 degrees I think, maybe as much as 60, but they were held in a machine, not by hand.
  9. mat clewes

    mat clewes

    Feb 28, 2017
    hi Im new to the site.
    im making two of my own blades from scratch to sharpen my teath and was wandering if we are talking inclusive angles or angle per each side of bevel? both are O-2 (1/8 x 1-1/4) but if they come out good will also repeat in CMP S35VN (5/32 x 1-1/2)

    i have a good idea what would be best for each, but un sure if we are talking inclusive or each side
    bushcraft all rounder with a scandi
    a full tang hunter (ish), spay point but with sharpened spay. 15mm secondary bevel or face and 16mm flat. primary will be around 1mm thick at widest point

    any other input would be appreciated.
    i have handled a few off the shelf blanks and only have these to go off, with limited measuring devices (ruler)

    making a jig to help grind bevels and faces etc but need to be confident on angles terminology to get my measurements right.


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