Knives: Staying Sharp During Changing Times – On the House

Knives: Staying Sharp During Changing Times

By on November 15, 2015

Back when we were kids there was no color photography – only black and white. A look back at what was old and antiquated was a little different then. When it came to pictures we got our kicks out of browsing through albums filled with old sepia toned (brown toned) photos of ladies in bustles and gentlemen in derby hats. Truth is times are constantly changing whether its photography or rocket science nothing seems to ever stay the same. Well at least that’s the way it is for most things. And although there are new and interesting ways to sharpen knives for example, the way that works the best is still the same as it was a thousand years ago. All you need to do is rub the dull edge of the knife against some sort of rough or textured edge and in very short order the knife begins to get sharp. You may also look for a company that offers Mail-in Cutlery knife sharpening services.

Restaurant cooks send their knives out for sharpening on a weekly basis. There is nothing worse than a tool that doesn’t work right, and for a cook there is nothing more dangerous than a dull knife. The same really holds true in your kitchen too. If you find yourself forcing or applying hoards of pressure to get that knife to work then you may be setting yourself up for an injury. With a sharp knife a gentle touch is all that it takes to cut properly. That’s one of the reasons why it is so important to use a sharp knife. When you don’t have to exert excessive pressure to cut through something using the knife becomes safer.

No, you probably won’t have to send your kitchen knives out for sharpening every week, but you may want to consider doing so once or twice a year. Keep in mind that even a commercially sharpened knife must be fined tuned with a steel. A steel is a long cylindrical tool that is used to hone a fine edge on a knife that is already pretty sharp. A steel is not really designed to sharpen a knife. Its purpose is to keep an already sharpened knife sharp.

If you look closely at a steel you will see grooves that run the length of the tool. When the edge of the knife is drawn across the grooved surface of the steel the curled edge of the knife blade is cut away and the knife is more finely sharpened. There is no specific angle, however we have found that holding the knife edge at about a 15 degree angle to the steel works well. It is important to note that the length of the knife blade should be drawn across the steel so that the grooves in the steel are almost parallel to the length of the knife. The best sharpening occurs when the grooves are most parallel to the knife edge and when the side of the knife is laying at a slight angle — as we just mentioned.

When our friend Dom Deluise does one of his comedy cooking demonstrations he usually includes a gag that involves a guest throwing a piece of fruit into the air, which Dom then catches on the tip of a butcher knife. It is funny and interesting to see. But the fact is that the trick requires the use of a really sharp knife. Otherwise the fruit would simply bounce off the end of the blade. The point is all cooks – even the funniest ones – know the importance of using a sharp knife.

At one point or another most of us have seen a cowboy movie where the hero slowly rubs the blade of his knife against a rock to hone its edge. Well, you don’t have to go out and sit in the garden and rub your knife on a rock and you don’t have to send your knife out either. All you really need is a small electric knife sharpener (cost about $50). Electric knife sharpeners work really well and the built in guide helps the user grind the edge at a pretty consistent angle on both sides of the blade. Again, a specific angle isn’t an imperative, but having a built in guide makes cutting the primary edge a little easier. Just before the holiday season rolls around the knife sharpener comes out at our house.

By the way, if you really want to do it the old fashioned way – and use an oil stone – keep in mind that canola oil is a good substitute for petroleum based oils – especially if you are going to use your knife to cut foods. It is not harmful, unlike petroleum products and some synthetic oils. Olive oil works but it dries out and can gum up the process. Canola oil seems to stay thin. Soap and water is all you will need to clean up as even canola oil thickens up over time.

Here’s a neat trick. Mark the edge of the knife with a black indelible magic marker before starting the sharpening process. The marker comes off on the areas that touch the sharpening stone, so you can check to determine how consistent you are in holding the angle constant and if all of the edge is being sharpened to the same degree. You can reapply the marker during the process to continue checking. Oil will remove the marker when you have finished. And, that’s all there is to it. For more home improvement tips and information visit our web site at And, good luck!

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