serated knife sharpening guide
Get the right sharpener for the job. A simple, pocket-size option is a progressively tapered diamond hone.. Ted Morrison

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Think of the blade on a serrated knife as a set of carnivorous teeth; the sharp points do the killing and receive the wear, while the recessed teeth stay sharp to shave meat from the bone. Designed to maintain an edge, a serrated blade will continue to cut after a fashion even when worn, because the scallops and V notches receive little wear relative to the points. The catch is that a serrated blade eventually begins to tear and shred rather than slice cleanly. That’s where the trouble starts, because most people have no clue of how to sharpen one. It’s not hard. Just keep in mind that you are sharpening only the side of the blade with the serrations; the opposite surface remains flat.

Step 1

diy serrated knife sharpen step 1
Step 1: Hold the sharpener at an angle that matches the original angle of the serrations. Illustration by Dan Marsiglio

Hold the sharpener at an angle that matches the original angle of the serrations. The easiest way to do this, and to maintain that angle as you work, is to position your thumb on the back of the blade, resting the edge of the thumb against the hone. To determine the angle, adjust your thumb until the file aligns with the deepest part of the serration.

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Step 2

diy serrated knife sharpen step 2
Step 2: Push or pull the serration into the cone. Illustration by Dan Marsiglio

Place the serration nearest the finger guard into the thin end of the cone-shaped hone. Push or pull the serration into the cone, working toward the thicker end, until the width of the serration is barely filled by the cone. Rotate the sharpener for a consistent result. Repeat the process with the same serration, counting strokes and stopping every few strokes to feel for a raised burr on the flat side of the blade. This burr indicates that the serration is fully sharpened. When you feel it, move on to the next serration, which should require the same number of strokes.

Step 3

serrated knife sharpening step 3
Step 3: Grind the burrs off. Illustration by Dan Marsiglio

After you have sharpened all the serrations, flip the knife over. Using very light pressure, grind the burrs off. You can use the diamond hone, but it’s best to use a ceramic rod or fine steel that will remove the burr without sacrificing too much metal.