The hand grind is the traditional way of grinding knives. Today, most knives are machine-ground, so that the hand grind is exclusive to very high-quality knives. The manual re-grind of a knife is also called a hand grind.
Until the beginning of industrialization in the late 18th century, all knives were ground by hand. Long after the introduction of machines in knife production, machine-ground knives were inferior to hand-grown knives and often had to be reworked manually. Modern grinding machines, however, are now precise enough to achieve excellent results.
Therefore, the hand grind is necessary only in two cases: for grinding hand-forged knives and for re-grinding knives. It should be noted, however, that the blade of a machine-ground knife tapers from the spine to the edge at several precisely defined angles. Since this level of precision cannot be achieved with a hand grind, the knife should be ground with a machine and finished manually. Depending on the type of blade, a hand grind may require more than a hundred processing steps. It is not recommended to hand-grind simple machine-ground knives – e.g. stamped kitchen knives – because the low quality of these knives does not justify the considerable effort of a manual re-grind. This means that they hand grind is used for a small number of applications. A hand grind requires a whetstone, a leather strap and chalk. Whetstones are available in a wide variety of grit grades – from coarse grit for repairing chips or nicks to very fine grit for the perfect finish.
They can be used with water or soaked in oil. Hand-ground European knives should be honed on a whet-steel between regrinds to keep the edge sharp and intact – unlike Japanese knives, which are made out of harder steel and keep their edge longer.