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A Few Knife Sharpening Hints

All straight edge knives need to be sharpened regularly. When we see a chef shapening his knife it makes us green with envy becasue he makes it look so easy. The fact is it is easy - just learn the procedure of washing the knife, drying it, and then steeling it before putting the knife away in a protected sleeve or knife holder.

Knife Tips
Every once in a while, you will need to use a whet stone or a knife sharpener (different from the steel) to bring back the edge. Then, finish the knife with the steel and you are all set.

Some knives hold the edge better than others. Always use a wooden or a plastic cutting surface when chopping and slicing. Glass and ceramic surfaces are very hard on the edge of the knife. It is good when there are slash lines left on the wooden or plastic surface as that indicates that the knife cut right through your food and found little resistance even on the board or cutting slab. When the sharp edge meets a very hard surface, such as a glass or ceramic surface, the sharp edge gets flattened and you will quickly lose the edge of the knife.

Never put your good knives in the dishwasher. Detergents are hard on them, and they could jiggle around, harming the edges.

Keep those knives sharpened. You will enjoy cooking even more when using sharp knives.

If using a wooden knife holder, place the knife in up-side-down so that the cutting edge is facing up and thus not resting on its own weight.

WASH . . . DRY . . . STEEL . . . PUT AWAY!

The following are two opinions on knife sharpening that were posted to one of the cookery newgroups by Steve and Pete:

A steel is only useful when the knife is already sharp. If it is totally blunt, start by scarpenit on a carborundum "stone" or a real stone if you live in sandstone country, until it will cut paper. Then procede as Steve Lelievre describes.

Another word of warning steels wear out. If the longtitudinal ridges are blunt you wasted 35p. A good steel should have triangular ridges. If they are semi circular put the offending object in the dustbin.

Have you seen the new knife shop? Well worth a look <click here>

If you imagine the cutting edge of any knfe seen close up, you get a thin bit of metal which is very sharp. Cutting things with the sharp bit can make it fold over rendering the knife blunt and the steel is used to comb the sharp edge back into line so it will cut properly again. Note that as in this case, a sharpening steel will not in fact sharpen the knife, it will only return the blade of a sharp knife to full funcion again. If you have a blunt knife you need to take more drastic action!

Also bear in mind that differering knives are designed with different uses in mind, for example, all the knives sold in a supermarket (kitchen devil, etc) are using a metal alloy designed to withstand the dishwasher and chemical attack rather than holding a sharp edge. On the other hand a professional knife like a Global is designed to hold that ultra sharp edge for as long as possible as the expense of being a bit tempramental (like going rusty in the dishwasher and that).

If you really want to sharpen stuff, you'll need a way of removing metal to re-grind the blade. My favourite thing at present is a diamond steel (which you can get hold of for less that £15) comprising an oval bar studded with about two million diamonds that really will put an edge back on just about anything.

I've had great fun with this steel as for me it is the only sharpener that really really works, I got the hang of it by putting a sharp edge back on a pair of supermarket kitchen devil knives which now work fine though the smaller one has a blade like a bad haircut.

I also don't really go in for technique, a grind angle of about 20 degrees I do by just flailing knife and steel in the air as the very microscopic) jagged edge left the diamond steel gives a cutting edge I'm happy with on my big cheap chefs knife.

I would not be this viscious on my one and only Global knife which really needs to be only steeled till it's blunt and then sharpened by a professional - If you've not tried a Global, they start off almost unbelievably sharp and after some months of use decline to being only bloody sharp.


Have you seen the new knife shop? Well worth a look <click here>

Knife Sharpening

I was taught to do it the other way round. That is, pulling the blade backwards over the steel, rather than cutting into it. My method is:

Hold the steel horizontally (I find it helps to push the tip against a cupboard door in order to keep it stable). Rest the knife on the steel so that they touch near their handles, with the knife tip pointing upand away from you, and the cutting edge facing you. Position the knife at 45 degrees to the steel like an open pair of scissors, and also slant it outwards somewhat so that only the cutting edge of the knife is in contact with the steel (the knife should still be horizontal along its own length). The amount of slant depends on the cross-section shape of the cutting edge of your knife.

Now pull the knife downwards, while keeping the same slant and the 45 degree scissor angle. As you do this, the point of contact travels towards the tip of the knife and of the steel, until the tip of the knife drops off the steel. Repeat a few times, pressing firmly but not hard. You need even pressure throughout the whole stroke to ensure the whole length of the blade is sharpened equally. Now repeat the process for the other face of the knife. This either means having the knife underneath the steel this time and slanting it downwards, or changing hands and doing the operation in mirror image.

The method works well for me, but it took me a while to master it.

I do one or two sharpening strokes before each use of a knife. That seems to work better than doing all my knives more thoroughly as a weekly or monthly job.

Steve Lelievre

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