November 19, 2021 4 min read
Oh no! Your beautiful handmade knife is bent! Perhaps it got dropped, maybe someone sat on your knife roll, or god forbid, it got stuck in a cutlery drawer. Whatever the cause, a bent knife can be heartbreaking. In my experience, it’s an even worse feeling than having a chipped blade.
Fortunately for you, this happens more often than you’d think, and over the years we’ve become incredibly good at straightening out bent knives. From little bends to big ones, we’ve even fixed knives that were in a car accident. Some knives actually bend naturally over time, usually single bevel knives. Because they’re made of two pieces of steel with different compositions, the two halves can expand or contract at different rates, leading to slow bends over time.
Resident Knifewear sharpening wizard and all-around great dude, Naoto Fujimoto, always checks knives for bends and straightens them before sharpening. Even subtle curves can make sharpening more challenging, and achieving a perfect polish even tougher.
Whatever your reason for needing to straighten your knife, Naoto’s full of incredible knowledge and tips for straightening out your knives. Check out this video we made all about how to straighten your knife, and read on and I’ll break down his tips for you!
First off, a disclaimer. Steel is somewhat elastic, but not infinitely so. If it gets bent back and forth enough, it will wear out and snap. Think of a tin can lid. This is a process that should be done gently, slowly, and ideally by a professional who has lots of experience. If you can bring your knife to a Knifewear store or mail it to us, we suggest doing so rather than attempting this yourself, especially if the knife has a serious problem.
Also, if the knife is bent in a fragile section such as the tip, it’s likely this part of the knife will snap off when you straighten it. This even happens often when we do it in-store. If you’re going to straighten your own knife, contact us first for some advice and include a few photos of the knife if you can. Once you get to work, be sure to do so slowly and patiently to avoid destroying your knife.
First off, you need to check your knife. You want to find out if it is, in fact, bent, but also where the bend is, how bad it is, and if the knife is bent in multiple spots. It may be bent in one specific spot, or have a gradual curve along part of the blade. Hold the knife by the handle, with the tip facing away from you. Now spin it around so the tip is facing you. You want to look at the edge side as opposed to the spine. Handmade knives can have imperfections on the spine that may give the illusion of a bend, whereas the edge is the part that’s actually doing the work and receiving the sharpening. It’s most important for the edge to be straight.
Hold the knife out straight, between you and a light source. The brightness will create a silhouette of the knife so you can focus on shape of the edge without being distracted by other aspects of the blade. Look for both subtle and obvious bends, and check all along the edge for multiple bends. Is the bend hard in one spot, or is it gradual along the blade? Once you have a road-map, you’re ready to get to work!
You may be inclined to check your knife on a flat table or sheet of glass. Be careful here; the taper of the blade can create the impression of a bend that isn’t there.
If you have a “bendy stick”, as Naoto uses in the video, use that! It’s a very handy tool, and you can easily make one yourself. Get a solid piece of hardwood, and cut a couple of slots in it with a saw. The slots in ours are about 35mm deep, and 6 and 10mm respectively. These give you pressure points to press the steel against. You can also straighten a knife on a sturdy counter or table, so don’t sweat the stick too hard!
If you’re using a counter or table, lay the blade flat on the surface so the blade is bending away from the surface, up towards you. The handle should be hanging off the edge. With the heel of your palm, apply pressure on the bent section, and gently pull the knife’s handle up towards you. Do this slowly and gently, checking the knife regularly. The goal is to gently flex the knife back without bending it the other way.
No fancy gear needed, a sturdy table or desk works great!
If the knife is bent in multiple spots, address each one. If the knife has a gradual curve, work along the length of the bend in several spots. Do not straighten a gradual bend in one spot only.
Straightening a knife should be done slowly, and patiently. Take your time, and check your work often.
If you’re using a bendy stick, the right angle corners of the slots are pressure points that you can use for straightening in place of the heel of your palm. Again, take your time and be patient. If you’re not seeing results, get in touch with us so we can help.
Congrats! You’re at the end of the process, and you have a straight knife once more. You’re ready to sharpen or get to prepping dinner! If you’d like to know more about fixing up your blades, don’t hesitate to message us here, visit us in person, or check out our other articles and YouTube videos for more tips!
Nathan started at Knifewear in 2013, when he left the restaurant industry to slang knives. Nowadays, he handles our communications, social media, and YouTube channel. If you're reading words on this website or watching one of our videos, Nathan was involved. He spends his spare time growing food, cooking, fermenting food and booze, and enjoying the great outdoors.