Tormek T-1 Review
One of the most exciting parts of my job is to test, evaluate and understand new sharpeners. I recently had the pleasure of testing out the Tormek T-1. Below are my notes, first impressions, and overall evaluation of the Tormek T-1.
The Tormek T-1 Knife Sharpener
I've been using Tormek machines for many years so I had high expectations for the quality of the T-1. When lifting it out of the box, the 12 pounds in a compact sharpener makes it feel very solid. Once I placed it on my counter, I was able to appreciate the thoughtful Swedish design. It looked right at home in my kitchen. In fact, I left it on my counter over the weekend and my wife didn't object to its presence in our kitchen. After the positive first impression, the next step was to actually use the sharpener to sharpen some kitchen knives.
Testing in My Kitchen
Most of the sharpener testing I do in our shop at work. Our shop was designed to test and demonstrate sharpeners. However, the new Tormek T-1 is truly designed for the kitchen, so I did all of my testing in my home kitchen.
Testing As a Customer
When I test sharpeners for the first time, I like to use them as anyone else would. I don't consult with anyone; I just start using it. I also try not to know too much about the sharpener or at least try not to learn more than someone purchasing the sharpener would know. I have access to the experts at Tormek, but using that resource really wouldn't achieve what I set out to do. I also try not to use my sharpening knowledge to my own advantage. If I have a bit of knowledge that others may not know, I try to evaluate and test by limiting my use of that knowledge. There is plenty of time to learn more about a sharpener later, but for the initial tests, I prefer to limit myself to how a customer would view the sharpener.
The Tormek T-1 is a very solid and good-looking sharpener. It has a cast zinc body and is powder-coated a light gray color. It looks right at home in the kitchen like a high-end small appliance. It weighs about 12 pounds. The weight is light enough to easily move it on a kitchen counter but heavy enough that it doesn't move around in use. The motor is super quiet. When just spinning, it is quiet enough that it is hardly noticeable.
The Angle Guide is really the only thing that needs to be set before use. The angle is adjusted by loosening a single thumbscrew. The adjustment has a needle that points to angles between 8 and 22 degrees. There are lines in one-degree increments. If you plan to sharpen all your knives to one angle, this is something that you set once. However, I would recommend trying different angles on different knives. Remember, a lower angle is sharper, but it is less durable. I like to use lower angles on slicing knives and other thin blades that are used more gently.
The diamond wheel is a different design than standard round wheels. The sharpening surface is conical in shape (the base of a cone, not the top). This differs from most sharpening wheels that are designed to be used on the flat side or more commonly, the outside of a wheel. The advantage of this design seems to be that it allows for a convenient position of the knife while sharpening. I did learn that the diamond wheel is a 600 grit.
The Honing Wheel
The other side of the sharpener has a honing wheel. It is basically a rubber and abrasive wheel that is very fine. It is designed to be used after the diamond wheel.
Testing My Knives
In total I sharpened 5 Wustof knives and a Shun Santoku. I have a set of Wusthof Classic knives that I received as a wedding gift some 15+ years ago. The Wustof set happens to be a very popular knife set among our customers, so testing on these makes a lot of sense. I also really like my small Shun Santoku for testing purposes because the design of the knife makes it very easy to sharpen and it is also a popular brand.
Wusthof Classic 8" Chef's Knife
This knife has seen a lot of testing over the years, I've sharpened it on just about every conceivable sharpener. It sees a lot of use in my kitchen, so it can always benefit from sharpening.
T-1 and my Wustuf Kitchen Knife
Sharpening on the Diamond Wheel
Honing on the Composite Honing Wheel
By starting with this knife, I was able to learn what it would take to sharpen a knife that has had lots of use but was already relatively recently sharpened.
I set the angle to 18 degrees. This knife would often be sharpened to 20 degrees, but I like to get a little extra sharpness out of the knife. I think 15 is too low for this knife.
I turned on the T-1 and started sharpening on the diamond wheel. I did a few passes on each side before I could tell that it quickly developed a burr on both sides. This process went so quickly that exactly how many passes I did was rather unimportant. It was fast, taking roughly a minute in total.
I then took the knife and moved to the honing wheel. My goal was to match the angle as close to 18 degrees as possible. This process doesn't use the guide. The honing wheel is very fine so it doesn't really remove a significant amount of metal, so being exact on the angle isn't critical. When stropping or polishing a blade like this, I start by using an angle that is likely too low. If I'm too low, all I've done is polished the blade at the back of the edge. I will then raise the blade a little bit until I feel like I've raised it enough to start honing the edge. In the case of the T-1 honing wheel, I started low and raised the blade until I could feel the edge being sharpened. I flipped over the knife and did the same on the other side. I did this process 3 times. The only important tip is to make sure the wheel is spinning away from the edge, not into the edge (label on the machines reminds you). That is true for any leather or composite stropping as the edge will dig in, and you want to avoid that.
After I sharpened my chef's knife, I could tell it was super sharp. I confirmed its sharpness on my Edge On Up Tester. It was now sharper than factory sharp.
I repeated the process on my other Wusthof knives with similar results.
The next knife I sharpened was my 6" Shun Santoku. This knife I set to sharpen at 15 degrees. This steel is a little harder than the Wustoff and the way I use the knife lends itself to the lower angle.
On Japanese knives, I tend to shy away from coarse sharpening machines so I often sharpen this knife by hand, on water stones. The diamond wheel on the Tormek T-1 is 600 grit so I felt more than comfortable sharpening my Shun.
When sharpening the knife on the diamond wheel, it felt very gentle on the knife. The knife was already relatively sharp and I spent no more than a minute on the diamond wheel.
I followed the same process on the honing wheel as I did with my prior knives. The honing wheel created a very fine edge in very short order. I can honestly say that the edge was just as good as when I sharpen it on my water stones.
Testing My Neighbors' Knives
There was nothing formal about the process of sharpening my neighbors' knives. My wife was having a few of the neighbor ladies over and I asked them to bring over a knife they wanted to be sharpened. I did this for two reasons. First, I wanted to get more experience with the sharpener. Second, my knives don't represent the average knife. Mine are generally sharp or at least have been sharpened. Most people just don't sharpen their knives, so I knew that these knives would be in a very dull state, and I was not disappointed.
Tormek T-1 and my neighbors Wustof Grand Prix 17CM Santoku
The first knife I tested was a Wusthof Grand Prix 17CM Santoku. This style has become very popular over the years and for good reason, they're very useful in the kitchen. This blade was obviously very popular in that household, as the edge was truly butter knife dull. The edge itself was not dinged or nicked in any way, but a nice smooth dull edge. This was to be my first test to see how the new Tormek T-1 would handle a truly dull knife.
I decided to sharpen the knife to 17 degrees and set the angle on the T-1. I could have potentially gone a little lower, but I felt that angle would be a good compromise between durability and sharpness.
I started sharpening by taking 10 passes on each side of the knife. There was no point in wasting extra effort by alternating sides at this point. The knife needed a lot of work. I then progressed to taking a few passes on each side. Once I started developing a burr on part of the knife, I started alternating sides on each pass. The whole process on the diamond wheel took about 10 minutes. Keep in mind, this knife was extremely dull so I consider 10 minutes to be roughly the maximum time it would take to sharpen a very dull knife on the T-1.
After I was satisfied with my edge on the diamond wheel, I moved to the honing wheel. Whether starting with a dull or sharp knife, the honing wheel is only used after the edge is already sharpened on the diamond wheel, so the process of using the honing wheel is always the same. I spent about one minute on the honing wheel. The purpose of the honing wheel is to make the knife sharper and to essentially wear away the burr that is created during the sharpening process.
I tested the knife by slicing a scrap of paper I found in our kitchen junk drawer. It cleanly cut the piece of paper from the heel to the tip of the knife. I knew from this test that the knife was truly sharp and I had completely removed the burr on the honing wheel (if I missed a spot, the knife would have caught on the paper).
Sharpened Knife in Tormek Knife Sleeve
When I handed back the knife to my neighbor, I could tell that she was thrilled to have a sharp knife. And in all likelihood, the knife was now sharper than it came when the knife was brand new. Luckily, the T-1 comes with a couple of knife sheaths. A dull loose knife laying around is one thing, but a super sharp 8" blade is something that should be handled with care.
The other two knives I sharpened followed a similar process. I had one Henckels chef's knife and a Chicago Cutlery utility knife. The Henckels knife was actually not too dull and only took about 3 minutes on the diamond wheel. The Chicago Cutlery knife was rather dull and took almost 10 minutes to sharpen. I was very happy with the results of both knives.
Incidentally, a week later I learned that two of my neighbors cut themselves (nothing serious) on the knives I sharpened. It is often said that a dull knife is more dangerous than a sharp knife. But if you're used to a very dull knife and you treat a sharp knife as careless as you do a dull knife, you're more likely to get cut. I fully expect they will be more careful from now on.
I really think the new Tormek T-1 is a winner. It is designed for the home kitchen and performs that job very well. I like it for 3 reasons: speed, simplicity, and adjustability.
It takes just a few minutes to sharpen a knife. If you have 3 knives that you use regularly, you should be able to sharpen them in 10 minutes total. The first time will likely take a little longer, but once you've sharpened your knives, a few minutes is all that it will take.
Being easy to use is critical for a kitchen knife sharpener. The real goal of the kitchen knife sharpener is to have sharp knives. In my experience, the biggest impediment to sharp knives in the kitchen is the fact that it is considered too difficult or requires skills. For that reason, a kitchen knife sharpener should be very easy to use.
The Tormek T-1 is really designed to be used for kitchen knives. In the past, just having a fixed 20-degree angle was probably enough. Now many home kitchens have many different types of knives that are sharpened to different angles. Adjusting the angle couldn't be easier. And if you decide you want to change the angle on your knife, you're just minutes away from making the change with the Tormek T-1.
Tormek T-1 Now Available
The new Tormek T-1 is available starting February 10, 2022.