My knives (basic Henckels) have been professionally sharpened several times over the years. I usually wait longer than I should, because of the inconvenience of being without them for days at a time, but last summer, I found the Mino Sharp ceramic water sharpener at a small kitchenware shop near my home. Based on the recommendation of the shop owner and her return policy, I decided to try it. The sharpener cost £24, which was preferable to spending nearly £40 to have all my knives sharpened again.
The gadget works using two pairs of ceramic discs that sit in a shallow well of water beneath a guard which has two narrow slots through which t draw the blade, which prevent you from making mistakes with the angle. Depending on how blunt your knives are, you need to steadily and firmly draw the knife 7-20 times through each of the two pairs of discs. The first pair grinds the blade edge down, the second hones it to a razor sharp edge.
Each knife will take about 2 minutes to sharpen, then you simply wash the well and discs, dry , and store for future use.
I have used the Mino Sharp twice now, the first time on all of my knives and the last on the chef's knives, cleaver and boning knife I use the most. I have found that by keeping the blades honed by regular use of my honing steel, my knives have not needed a trip to the kitchen shop at all. I even managed to get a killer edge on the $5 cleaver I bought at the Oriental grocer in Phoenix four years ago.
If you have a good number of forged steel knives that you want to be able to sharpen at home, I would definitely recommend the Mino Sharp. They are available from Amazon, Russums and Art of Living among other places.
When I have a knife block full of Tojiro Senkous, I will employ fairies to sharpen them for me but until then, this is probably the best kitchen gadget I've bought in a long while. Well worth the £24.
Other ways to prolong the length of your knives' life:
* A traditional sharpening steel should be used to maintain the sharp blade, but does not actually sharpen the edge, it merely straightens it out. No matter how many swipes you give a dull knife, it will still be dull when you're finished.
*Don't ever use the sharp edge to scrape or move ingredients across a chopping board (the very thought is making my toes curl!)
* Never use harsh or abrasive cleansers to clean your blades and don't leave them soaking in water, gentle cleaning with a mild detergent is sufficient.
*Don't put your knives in the dishwasher. Aside from the harsh detergents, the rattling and banging about won't do the blades any favours. Loose knives in the dishwasher can be dangerous if you don't see them when reaching in for something else.
*Use polythene, polypropylene or wooden cutting boards. Glass, granite or other hard surfaces will dull your blades and are unsafe to cut on, as your blade can skid on them.
*Store your knives in a knife block, a drawer block or on a magnetic rack. Storing them loose in a drawer is unsafe for the blade and for your fingertips.