Why Are Some Knives Hard To Sharpen?

By Ryan Leavitt •  Updated: 04/28/21 •  5 min read

If you’ve been sharpening knives for a while you’ll know that not all of them are easy to sharpen.

In fact, there are a whole lot of blades out there that some people even consider “impossible” to sharpen?

But why are some blades easy to sharpen and why are some knives hard to sharpen?

The answer is simple: different knives use different steel. The steel that is commonly used on cheaper knives with no brand is not of the highest quality.

While renowned knife manufacturers spend a long time making their steel recipes so that their knives will retain their edge for long and can be sharpened easily, cheaper, no brand knives tend to use steel that is too soft and thin to maintain their edge for long let along be sharpened.

If you’ve been having a tough time sharpening knives in your workshop, you could simply be sharpening the wrong type of knives.

But that isn’t always the case as there are also a couple of other things that could contribute to you not being able to achieve the ideal edge on your knives.

And in this article, we’ll be talking about some of these issues and how to work around them.

Read on to learn more.

Why Is My Knife Not Sharpening?

Bad Knife Steel

As we said earlier, different knives and different brands use different steels for their blades.

For example, the more well-known and respected brands out there tend to use high-quality materials specifically designed for knives.

Because of this, the blades will retain their edge for much longer, and they are also hard enough to be sharpened down once the edge wears out, which will happen naturally over time and with regular use.

However, cheaper knives tend to use cheaper steel to keep the cost down, and while that makes their products more affordable, that will also mean you’re going to be dealing with a blade that is soft and thin.

Not only does that mean it won’t retain its edge for too long, that also means that a whetstone might not be able to grind the metal down to a proper edge.

On top of that, since the material is so thin, you might even risk grinding down too much of the metal, making your blade completely unusable.

Using The Wrong Tools

This is another common issue that a lot of people encounter.

Just because it’s called sharpening steel, that doesn’t mean that it necessarily sharpens the knife.

Instead, what it does is straighten out the edge and remove tiny imperfections on the blade that might get in the way of its performance.

This is a very useful tool, and you should make sure to hone your knives with it before every use so that the edge is always straight.

But that doesn’t mean that it sharpens the knife.

So while a honing or sharpening steel should be used regularly to improve your knife‘s performance, you will still need to have it sharpened or sharpen it yourself after some time, when the honing steel doesn’t cut it anymore.

To do this, you will need a whetstone, which requires a lot of skill and technique to get right, and if you do it wrong, you might risk dulling out the knife.

So if you don’t have the time to learn the ropes of using whetstones on your blades, it might be best for you to bring your cutlery over to a professional who can sharpen them for you.

Wrong Grinding Angle

If you are already using a whetstone and you find that your knife still isn’t sharpening, you might have the wrong angle.

When sharpening with whetstones, it’s important to have a very flat surface and grind the knife at a specific angle, preferably the angle that it was previously sharpened at.

For most kitchen knives, that is anywhere between 18-20 degrees, so make sure to try and get that angle when you’re sharpening.

That being said, sometimes a consistent angle is more important than getting a specific one.

So once you have found the angle you want to sharpen your knife at, make sure to keep it at that angle the entire time you’re sharpening.

This is going to take some practice since you have to train your muscles to be able to do it, but if you put in the effort, you will get the hang of it in no time.


Remember, not all knives are made the same, and sadly, some of the cheaper blades out there are not designed to be sharpened once they lose their edge.

That’s why it’s important to always get high-quality tools for your kitchen when you can because while they cost more since they last you a much longer time, it might even help you save money in the long run.

And if you decide to sharpen your knives by yourself, make sure to use the proper technique and be patient, and sooner rather than later, you’ll be sharpening razor-sharp edges in the comfort of your own kitchen!

Ryan Leavitt

Hi my name is Ryan Leavitt a Marine Corps Veteran and currently an over the road trucker (Long Haul). I am no expert chef but am enjoying preparing my own meals on the road and testing all the different knives.