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Avg BESS score for cheap kitchen knife?
What’s a decent score for the average cheap kitchen knife like a Henckles or Wusthof chef knife?

I’ve been sharpening lots of these knives for neighbors and trying to find the balance between a quick sharpen on the belt sander (~5 min) and a decent keen edge. I am scoring around 150-175 while sharpening at 20 dps. 

These are very soft stainless steel and I worry that if I try to go sharper or a steeper angle the edge will roll almost immediately. The steel is so soft that I can usually push a new burr just with strong finger pressure.
First, believe it or not, Henckles is “one of the largest and oldest manufacturers of kitchen knives for domestic and professional use, having been founded in June 1731 by Peter Henckels.” (I got that from a quick Google).  Really?  1731?  Amazing.  Wusthof has been at it since 1814. 

The point is that both of these companies probably know something about what makes a good useful blade and how hard the steel should be.  Just think about how many knives these companies produce and why they make them the way they do.  Obviously they know way more about it than I ever will.

Anyway, more Google:

Henckles, “With an exceptional 57 Rockwell Hardness for superior edge retention and an edge angle of 15°.” Wusthof is generally RHC 58.  So, both of these companies that have been making knives for a long time have decided that RHC 57-58 is the ideal hardness for durability and resistance to chipping.

I’m no expert in metallurgy, but I do know that knives much harder, > RHC 57-58, such as RHC 60+ like some Shun knives are not only more difficult to sharpen but prone to chipping.  Additionally, edge retention of super hard steel blades is not significantly increased enough to offset the proclivity to chipping.  If you search around in the BESS Exchange you can find experiments supporting this.

The reason I mention all of that is that, if you search around, RHC 56-58 is very common.  A good compromise for the hardest steel for edge retention vs chipping.  You mentioned, “These are very soft stainless steel and I worry that if I try to go sharper or a steeper angle the edge will roll almost immediately.”  RHC 57-58 is not very soft steel.  It’s actually pretty hard. 

I would have no problem sharpening those blades at 15°.  All knives will roll and dull.  We like that… Right?  We can sharpen them!

Personally, and I could be wrong, I think that bevel angle is more about how the blade is going to be used.  For hacking and whacking, closer to 20°, for slicing and dicing closer to 15°.  But, it’s up to you.  I mostly sharpen kitchen knives between 15-17° and generally end up with BESS 100-135 sharpness.

That said, a BESS 100 edge will quickly become 150 after minimal use.  A 100 edge is fun, but doesn’t last all that long.  Slicing a few carrots or whatever will quickly make the blade 150.  Try it yourself!  Get a blade really sharp, like 100, and then slice some stuff and measure the sharpness.  Super sharp edges don’t last very long in real world use.

150-175 is a very useful edge, especially at 20°.  I doubt you will get any complaints.  Even a 300 edge is amazingly useful. 

Check it out for yourself.  Use your knives and measure the sharpness.  When they start to get dull to the point you notice it measure the sharpness.  For me, I was surprised at just how sharp and useful a 300 edge is.
Let us know your findings.  I’d be interested in what you find out.

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