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Horl Rolling Sharpener at Messe Frankfurt Ambiente

A talk with Co-Founder Timo Horl

When strolling from booth to booth, I stumbled upon Horl by accident. I was unaware that Horl had a booth at the Ambiente event in Frankfurt, Germany. Despite seeing numerous advertisements (mostly seen in 2020 and ignoring the trend) for their rolling sharpeners, as a knife enthusiast, I held a sense of skepticism toward the product. While I knew it would work, part of me secretly hoped it would fail (a product so simple is too good to be true), as it simplified the aspect of sharpening that makes it challenging for regular home users.

First Impression and Horl Representative

The product felt like it was well built despite its simple appearance, showing a sense of premium craftsmanship that enhanced the rolling experience, a subtle yet noticeable quality that may not be fully appreciated without firsthand experience. The encounter with the Horl representative, Timo Horl, was a highlight of my visit to the booth. As someone who had only seen advertisements for Horl products previously, I was pleasantly surprised by Timo’s extensive knowledge and genuine passion for the company’s offerings. Little did I know at the time that he was the co-founder of Horl when he approached me. What stood out most was his approach, unlike typical sales or marketing representatives, Timo wasn’t focused solely on expanding their retail network. Instead, he was eager to share his enthusiasm for the products and engage in meaningful conversations about their creation and application. Meeting the Horl family, who were also present at the booth, further emphasized the genuine commitment and passion behind the brand. Overall, the interaction with Timo and the Horl family left a lasting impression, showcasing their authentic dedication and love for their craft.

Timo Horl (Left side) - ChefPanko (right side)
Timo Horl (Left side) – ChefPanko (right side)

Understanding Knife Sharpening Basics

The knife sharpening process is straightforward. You simply remove material from the blade at a specific angle on both sides. This creates what we call an ‘apex.’ Think of the apex as the very edge of the knife blade, where the two sides meet to form a sharp point. Imagine sharpening a pencil to a fine point, that’s similar to what we’re doing with a knife. Ensuring this apex is precise and well-defined is essential for achieving a sharp and effective cutting edge.

Mastering Knife Sharpening Skills

Understanding the basics of knife sharpening may be straightforward, but mastering the craft poses a significant challenge. Achieving a finely sharpened blade demands skill, technique, and precision, particularly in determining the correct sharpening angle and maintaining consistency on a whetstone. The variety of whetstones available, each with its unique requirements like pre-soaking and grit ratings, further complicates the process. Despite the importance of these skills in achieving a sharp apex, many individuals are hesitant to invest the necessary time and effort to develop them, or they may face physical limitations that make freehand sharpening impractical. In response, electric sharpening systems and angle-guided sharpeners offer alternative solutions to simplify the sharpening process.

Free Hand Sharpening Basics:

  1. Understanding the concept of the sharpening angle.
  2. Developing precision and consistency on a whetstone.
  3. Practicing techniques to achieve a sharp apex.
  4. Overcoming challenges such as maintaining angle and pressure.

While the fundamentals can be learned relatively quickly, achieving mastery in freehand sharpening entails a continuous process of learning and refinement. It takes months, if not years, of dedicated practice to develop the muscle memory, judgment, and intuition necessary to produce razor-sharp edges consistently. Even then, the pursuit of perfection is ongoing, making it a lifelong journey for many enthusiasts and professionals alike.

Rolling Sharpeners

Rolling sharpeners have revolutionized the way home cooks approach knife sharpening. While teaching friends the basics of free-hand sharpening, I realized that although they grasped the fundamentals, achieving the level of sharpness could be challenging. Mastering the traditional method requires time, practice, and a deep understanding of various techniques and tools. The complexity and multiple steps involved often deterred them from pursuing the skill further. However, with rolling sharpeners, the process has been simplified immensely. Instead of months or years of practice, users only need to focus on understanding the apex concept. The rolling sharpener takes care of the rest, eliminating the need for guesswork and precise angle adjustments. With preset angles for Western (20°) and Japanese (15°) knives on the Horl product, users can achieve sharp results without overthinking.

Knife Sharpeners & Enthusiast Thoughts: A Game-Changer!

As a knife enthusiast, I understand the potential benefits that advanced features and options can bring to a sharpening tool. However, I also recognize that these complexities can intimidate and deter many home cooks from effectively using such devices. This is where the simplicity and efficiency of rolling sharpeners truly shine, making them a game changer for home cooks! While I appreciate the effectiveness of the current design, as a knife enthusiast, I can’t help but envision further improvements, such as additional angle options and an increased rolling rate. It’s worth noting that Horl offers a pro version that rolls three times faster at the same distance as Horl 2, which could address this potential enhancement.

Horl 2 (left) - Horl Pro (right)
Horl 2 (left) – Horl 2 Pro (right)

Not For Experienced Knife Sharpeners and Enthusiasts

However, it’s essential to acknowledge that rolling sharpeners are not suitable for those who have already mastered the art of free-hand sharpening or for enthusiasts seeking more advanced adjustments. For such individuals, guided angle sharpeners or a whetstone may better suit their needs. Things like a smaller knife also would not work well if it does not align correctly with the rectangular puck. So their pros are also their cons as it won’t do well with pocket knives or repair work. It is a simple tool with a simple goal and that is maintaining a knife edge and simplifying the knife edge sharpening process for home cooks, not for repairs, not for knife enthusiasts, and not for those that already mastered free-hand sharpening.

The Rise of Copycats and Alternatives

The success of Horl’s rolling sharpeners has led to the emergence of copycat and alternative products seeking to replicate their design and functionality. While these imitations or alternatives may boast similar features or add extra functionality, it’s crucial to evaluate their quality and reliability compared to the original Horl sharpeners. Factors such as the availability of replacement disks, overall product quality, and the lifespan and effectiveness of the disks are essential considerations. However, since I haven’t had the opportunity to thoroughly test these copycats, alternatives, or the original Horl rolling sharpener myself, questions regarding their performance remain unanswered. I intend to address these questions in an upcoming rolling sharpener review, where I’ll provide insights into their effectiveness, durability, and overall user experience.

Exploring Sharpening Angles and Tools

As a knife enthusiast, I enjoy exploring the intricacies of sharpening angles and sharpening tools like whetstones. However, teaching these techniques to friends using traditional methods often proved challenging, particularly when explaining intricate concepts like angle adjustments.

Realization at the Horl Booth

Despite my initial skepticism, testing the rolling sharpeners at the Horl booth revealed their remarkable effectiveness, especially for those less familiar with knife sharpening. While part of me wished for their failure due to their simplicity (a product so simple is too good to be true), I couldn’t deny their practicality and efficiency. It’s clear that rolling sharpeners are not just a passing trend or viral social media video, they are here to stay as a reliable solution for home kitchen knife sharpening.

Impression of Horl Sharpeners

Moreover, the quality of the abrasive disks used in Horl sharpeners, especially the corundum whetstones, left a positive impression. Though my time with the product and abrasive disks was limited, the corundum whetstone disk gave me a sense of familiarity similar to brands like Naniwa abrasive.

Visit the Horl Store:
Horl Amazon Store
Horl Official Website

Want to know more about my Visit at the Ambiente event: 
ChefPanko at Ambiente Frankfurt Germany

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ChefPanko

Hi, I'm ChefPanko, I have worked for multiple restaurants and have decided to share my experience with you guys. I will share recipes and techniques that I have learned, taken, and improved from the French, Japanese restaurants that I have worked for. I will also explore other cuisines with you guys.

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