Look in any kitchen drawer, toolbox or fishing tackle box and you are bound to find a knife with a serrated edge. This is despite many schools of thought saying that a straight bladed knife will always outperform a serrated knife. It may well do so in some scenarios, but when it comes to being able to cut through tough and fibrous materials the serrated edged blade often wins.
The reason it can do so is due to the way in which a serrated blade is designed, with individual serrations able to cut through more easily than a simple flat blade. However, it is not all good news for serrated blade knives. When it comes to sharpening the blade, the task is not as simple as is for a normal blade which can literally be sharpened by any sharpening tool, be that manual or electric.
Sharpening Straight Blades vs. Serrated Blades
One of the benefits of a serrated knife over a standard flat bladed knife is that it does not need to be sharpened as often. That is the case even if two knives, one flat and one serrated, are made from the same material. The reason for this is that with a flat blade, the entire length of the blade will be in contact with what is being cut as the knife is moved back and forth to slice through it.
With a serrated knife, it is the pointed teeth that are doing most of the cutting work, but as the knife is slicing through the material, there is less friction and thus less degradation to the blade. So, if you have two knives being used for exactly the same amount of time, it will always be the flat bladed one which needs sharpening first.
Sharpening a Serrated Blade Manually
The normal way a serrated blade is sharpened is with a manual sharpener. This will normally be in the form of a rod which has been specifically designed for sharpening serrated blades. Unlike a flat blade, it is not a case of sliding the knife through any kind of narrow gap with sharpening stones on each side, but instead, each tooth is sharpened along the length of the blade.
At this point, you should be waking up to the fact that this is process is going to require a great deal of patience. Whereas as you can sharpen a normal knife in one or two minutes, properly sharpening each tooth on a serrated blade is going to take a lot longer.
The process used will either be to move the knife along the sharpener and with every move, you sharpen each tooth individually, or it is the sharpener which is held and moved along to sharpen each tooth. Either way, it is going to need a fair level of elbow grease, and as we mentioned before, some patience to complete the entire length of the blade.
Can You Use an Electric Sharpener to Sharpen a Serrated Knife?
It is fair to point out to you that there are many people who say that electric sharpeners are not ideal for sharpening the serrated blade of a knife, and some will even tell you that an electric sharpener should not be used.
Our take on that is that if you are talking about cheap, basic electric knife sharpeners, then there could be a case for not using them, given the way in which serrated blades need to be sharpened. On the other hand, there are many excellent electric sharpeners that are not only capable of sharpening a serrated blade, but there are some which have been specially designed to do so.
Sharpening a Serrated Knife with an Electric Sharpener
What you need is a knife sharpener which operates in ‘phases.’ in other words, it carries out distinct functions as separate parts of the entire knife-sharpening process. Also, ensure that it states clearly that it is suitable for sharpening serrated blades, as not all electric sharpeners can do so.
The first phase is likely to be the abrasive diamond wheel, which will take the dullness away from the edges of the knife. Next, there will be an even finer diamond grit, which will further refine and hone the edges of the knife. Last, is the polishing stage, which ensures the blade edge is as sharp as can be.
Note that some electric knife sharpeners may not have all three stages and may only have two stages. Others will come with instructions which advise you to put only your serrated knife through specific phases and not all of them. This obviously means that whichever electric sharpener you use, always read the manual.