Knife Edge Sharpening Angles (A Simple Guide For Beginners)

If you are a newbie to knife sharpening, you’ve probably watched dozens of YouTube videos on how to sharpen your knife.

And while they all make it look so easy, you still can’t get your knife as sharp as you would like it. 

You ask yourself, “What am I doing wrong?” “Am I missing something?”

There are many contributing factors that will influence a knife’s cutting edge like the blade's material and its geometry.

But when it comes to knife sharpening, there is one very important element that should always be carefully considered and that is knowing the proper “edge angle” of your knife. 

Finding and maintaining the correct edge angle (aka edge bevel) for your knife will make all the difference in your knife’s overall performance.

Keep in mind, however, when choosing an edge angle, there will be some compromise between the sharpness and the durability of your knife’s edge.

So if you’re not familiar with knife edge angles, you have come to the right place. 

In this Guide, you will learn:

  • What is a knife edge angle?
  • Why are knife edge angles important?
  • What are the various knife edge angle degrees?
  • And much more!

What is a Knife Edge Angle?

Basically, a knife edge angle (aka edge bevel) is an angle that has been ground to the blade’s surface to form its cutting edge.

An edge angle can be ground on one side (known as a single-edge bevel) or on both sides (known as a double-edge bevel). 

Most types of knives have an edge bevel on both sides. Have you ever heard the expression, “put a 20 degree angle on a knife”? It means to sharpen each side of your knife to 20 degrees thereby creating a total combined angle of 40 degrees.

So when you hear someone say “angle on a knife”, it simply means the angle at which you hold your knife against your sharpening stone.

You will find in certain instances where there is no total combined knife angle since some Asian-style knives will only have one bevel.

For example, you may sharpen one side to 20 degrees while the other side is left unsharpened, making a total combined angle of 20 degrees.

However, most Asian-style knives that are sold in the US are double-beveled in order to keep in line with the Western-style approach. 

Why Are Knife Edge Angles Important?

The angle at which your knife is sharpened is a crucial first step in the sharpening process.

Using the correct edge angle for your knife will help you to maintain and keep it sharp.

To find the right edge angle, there are three key factors that need to be considered. 

  1. Knife’s Intended Use
  2. Edge Sharpness
  3. Edge Durability

Let’s first discuss the most important factor - your knife’s intended use.

So how will you be using your knife? Will it be used for cutting vegetables or slicing meats? Perhaps it's for whittling or batoning wood? Or maybe it’s simply for shaving?

From these instances, it’s obvious that each scenario will require a different type of edge.

Moving on to "edge sharpness" and "edge durability".   You may have to sacrifice one for the other.

For example, thinner edges tend to have better sharpness but at the expense of durability, leaving them vulnerable to chipping and becoming dull than a knife with a thicker edge.  Conversely, a thicker edge is more durable, but loses points on sharpness.

In the end, it’s all about how you will use your knife.

Below is a simple guide explaining the various angle degrees, how they affect your knives, and which are best-suited for your knife’s intended purpose.

What Are The Different Knife Edge Angle Degrees?

Before diving into the different angle degrees, let’s first discuss the factory edge angle.

Factory edge angles are typically ground onto the knife’s blade by a machine and are generally set at 25 degrees.

This degree angle is presumably used since it is considered to be sharp enough for the majority of consumers and is more long-lasting than a knife that is sharpened at a more acute angle.

There are also a lot of excellent knife sharpeners on the market that provide users the ability to set the angle of the edge bevel on their knife to a specific angle degree.

Some sharpeners will have pre-set angles, while others will have variable angle degree adjustment capabilities. This ability allows a user to set whatever angle bevel they wish, which leads to the fateful question, “What angle should I sharpen my knife?” 

With that said, let’s wrangle your angle!

10 Degrees and Under
Anything at 10 degrees or under is for edges that are typically used to cut softer materials. These lower angles are best used for razor blades and other comparable tools.

A razor’s edge is extremely sharp but also fragile and therefore can easily become damaged. This is why it was designed to cut body hair and not to be used for any other purpose.

10 to 17 Degrees
A knife blade sharpened between 10 and 17 degree angles may still be quite low for most knives. Even with a combined angle of 20 to 34 degrees, it may be sharp, but still has a delicate edge. So don’t go chopping firewood with a blade of this angle.

Keep in mind, some harder metals are more brittle, therefore making them more vulnerable to impact damage.

Knives that are used to cut softer materials will benefit from these lower angles since they can hold up well and deliver a smoother cutting edge.

These lower angles are great for filet knives and paring knives since they can achieve a superior edge.

17 to 22 Degrees
Almost all kitchen cutlery fall into the 17 to 20 degree angle range.

Although some knives are sharpened to around 17 degrees (usually Japanese-style knives) and most Western Knives are sharpened at around 20 degrees, kitchen knives can still get a keen edge and be quite durable at the 15 to 20 degree range.

However, these angles are still not that durable even with a combined angle under 40 degrees. It just won’t react well to harder treatment in tougher materials.

For higher-quality blades, a 20 degree edge angle is the most commonly used sharpening angle and perhaps the one most frequently used.

22 to 30 Degrees
Knife edges in this range are substantially more durable.

That is why outdoor knives such as survival knives and EDC knives, including hunting knives, are ideal for the 22 to 30 degree range.

Specifically, a 25 degree angle is recommended for most knives that need a durable, sharp edge.

Over 30 Degrees
Anything over a 30 degree angle is best reserved for edged-tools like an ax, machete or cleaver.

Blades sharpened at this angle are considered to be extremely durable. However, sharpness will be compromised. Despite that, there is a favorable benefit; the extreme durability allows for more strength to be added helping to make that tough cut.

While the majority of other knives would damage much more easily under this type of hard-hitting abuse, the ax, on the other hand, is certainly doing exactly what it was constructed to do. 

Final Sharp-Up!

While there is no “one size fits all” angle, there are, however, angle degrees created specifically for certain uses as mentioned above.

So when it comes time to sharpen your knife, remember, it's your knife’s purpose that will dictate your blade’s proper sharpening angle.

Having more knowledge of the various sharpening angle degrees will not only help extend the life of your knife but also ensure its excellent performance.

So what’s your knife’s preferred angle?

Whether you're a novice or seasoned pro, we hope this article provided a bit more knowledge on sharpening angles. We look forward to any questions, comments or suggestions you may have!

Remember “Always stay sharp!”

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