I bought a new chef’s knife about 7 months ago. Within a day of use it was fairly dull. (Didn’t slice a tomato like butter; i.e. with no effort.) So a couple months later I bought a more expensive chef’s knife. It was great, but within a few days it became dull as well.
This was frustrating. I enjoy cooking, but I hate chopping with a dull knife. Not only is it dangerous, it’s slow.
Instead of buying another new knife I bought a sharpening steel.
After reading instructions on the best way to use the sharpening steel I got to work. The general consensus based on the videos and articles I read online was that I didn’t have to use it very much. Just a few quick swipes before (or after) every use and the knife would be good to go. I initially primed each knife with about 30 swipes per side.
That didn’t do the trick.
So I started doing 30 swipes per side per use.
That didn’t help.
I bumped it up to 50 swipes per side per use.
I was doing a lot of knife sharpening.
But I still wasn’t getting anywhere. The knives felt a little bit sharper, but nowhere near how sharp a chef’s knife should be. It still took effort to slice a tomato, and more than that, I’d often crush a tomato instead of slice it. That’s not the intended function of a knife.
Finally, I decided to do more. Instead of the minimum effort (30 or 50 swipes) I decided to put in the maximum effort. That is, swipe until my forearms began to burn.
Lo and behold, by putting in the maximum effort I got exactly what I wanted. I can now slice a tomato like butter and I just chopped up ginger with ease. It was beautiful.
Take away: although you might get by with the minimum effort your chances for success are much greater when you put in your maximum effort. I know this should be obvious, but sometimes I need a reminder.
Update. Bonus lesson: As Jennifer mentions in the comments, sometimes if you’re expending too much effort you might be using the wrong tool. I, in fact, should have been using a sharpening stone instead of steel as steel is used for maintaining a knife instead of sharpening.