Which butcher steel for which purpose

In the past K. ISLER AG manufactured a single blade with a standard cut that is relatively rough by today’s standards. On the other hand, this blade could be purchased with very many different handles, some of which were made by hand. Today it is the other way around. As a result of newer grinding methods (belt and hollow grinding), we now manufacture at least five different blades, as well as speciality items manufactured at the request of a few customers from abroad.


1. The standard cut

The normal cut that ISLER has been making for years is called F = finely ridged surface. Such buchter steels are favoured by trainees. But the butcher who only sharpens his knives from time to time will also reach for such buchter steels. Attention! If used on newly ground knives, a new F-grade buchter steel will quickly create a burr.


2. The leader among ISLER steels

is undoubtedly the SUPERCUT. We developed this steel as a special product around 15 years ago. Today it is our top-selling butcher steel, suitable not only for boning knives but also for bench and block knives.
Incidentally: Finely ridged steels are not simply worn-out steels. We create almost twice the number of individual ridges on a steel blade when we manufacture a SUPER CUT.


3. The smoothest ISLER steel

is the POLICUT. Very thinly ground knives such as filleting knives, trimming knives, salmon knives and charcuterie knives achieve unparalleled sharpness when whetted on a POLICUT. Of course, blunt knives – not to mention nicked knives – cannot be resharpened with this special tool. The super-fine surface of this butcher steel cannot withstand knives that are in poor condition. But professionals who love fine quality will never give up this butcher steel.

4. The shiniest ISLER steel

is the SILVERCUT, polished to a high gloss. It is our only buchter steel without any ridged surface at all. This steel will never “snag.” This tool is comparable to the leather strap barbers once used to hone their razors. Those who thinly grind their skinning or boning knives will get great pleasure from this buchter steel, which turns sharply ground blades into razors. Those who maintain their newly ground knives with the SILVERCUT will never complain of a wire edge or burr on its cutting edge. A buchter steel that polishes but does not take off any material.

5. The hardest of the ISLER steels

is the PX 88, the top product of a technically innovative combination: precise manufacturing techniques and the most modern manufacturing technology. The PX 88 effectively goes into action where other butcher steels fail to do their job. Its extraordinarily high level of surface hardness enables the PX 88 to restore the keenest edge even to knives which would otherwise need to be reground. Trips to the grinding machine are reduced almost by half.

Maintenance of butcher steels

1. During work

During work breaks, the buchter steel should be rinsed off with cold water and wiped dry. Butcher steels should not be stored in sterilisation basins. At 82-degrees Celsius and often heavily contaminated, the water will quickly destroy the chrome layer. Butcher steels with a fine layer of grease on the blade surface are well protected against corrosion.


2. After work

Clean the butcher steel with a brush using soapy lukewarm water, rinse well, and wipe dry. Rust formation can be substantially prevented by also rubbing food-grade oil into the blade of the butcher steel.
Butcher steels with screw-on handles (9916, 9924, etc.) are not waterproof in the handle area. Therefore one should avoid immersing these butcher steels in water when washing them. Better suited for this are models 9905 or 9926 with full plastic handles (see also Chapter C Intended use). Butcher steels can also be washed in washing machines.
(Note: add chemicals in accordance with specifications)


3. Extending service life

Never do the following to butcher steels

  • cover with lather
  • clean with chlorinated or acidic cleaners
  • leave in salt water
  • grind the tip to shape
  • clean with sand paper, Scotch-Brite, or the like
  • place in caustic cleaning solutions

Butcher steels are not maintenance-free. Regular care significantly prolongs the service life.

Surface rust

1. Basic material

Butcher steels are made from carbon steel with very low chrome content. Thus unlike knives, butcher steels are not stainless. Professional knives are usually hardened to 56 HRc, which is possible with chrome steels with approx. 14% chrome content.
Butcher steels, however, require a hardness of 64 HRc. There is no chrome steel on the market that can be hardened to this level.

The higher the chrome content, the lower the capacity to achieve high hardness levels.
Nickel-chromium steel (e.g. in sinks) cannot be hardened at all.


2. Hard chroming

To nonetheless achieve a certain rust resistance, as well as to make the surface more resistant to wear, most butcher steels are hard chromed. Through a galvanization process, a layer of hard chromium is deposited on the hardened carbon steel. The thickness of the layer is 6 - 8 microns.
Other coatings are:

  • Jet Coat procedure (PX 88)
  • diamond coating
  • nickel-plating, etc.

Chrome layers are very resistant to wear, but somewhat porous, that is, water or water vapour can penetrate to the underlying material (carbon steel) at any time. The result is a punctiform layer of rust as the underlying material starts to oxidize. The oxide penetrates through the pores to the surface and is visible as rust.

Far worse enemies of hard chromium plating, however, are

  • cleaning agents (basic or acidic)
  • salt water
  • spices or additives such as saltpetre
  • certain animal fats with high acid content

Hard chromium plating is rust-free only to a limited degree
Chrome layers that are applied too thickly flake off


3. Abrasion

Depending on the coarseness of the butcher steel, sharpening produces extremely fine metal dust that is deposited on the surface of the blade. Such abrasion dust can rust and is called flash rust. Flash rust can be wiped off with a damp rag.

Flash rust can be wiped off with a damp cloth. Never clean with abrasive materials (Scotch-Brite or the like).

Prolonging edge retention

1. The edge maintenance tool

Butcher steels are used to keep sharp knives sharp for as long as possible. This can be accomplished with very finely cut whetting tools that are used often but only briefly. By whetting the knife too long and with too much pressure, one creates a burr on the knife and puts needless wear on the whetting tool.
If the knife is used until it becomes dull, it can never be 100% resharpened using a whetting tool. The result is a significantly shorter service life of the cutting edge.


2. The sharpening tool

In the Isler family of whetting tools, there is only one sharpening tool, the PX 88. It is used when the knife has lost its edge. Along with this very hard steel, the highly polished SILVERCUT should be used to refine the cutting edge.

Frequent, brief whetting significantly prolongs edge retention.

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