Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Learn to Sharpen Knives Correctly

There is nothing worse than trying to hack through a over ripe tomato with a dull knife that better resembles a blunt spoon. A sharp knife is not only safer, but makes life easier when addressing your cutting needs. Keeping a knife sharp is not a difficult task, yet most people rarely sharpen their knives. Here are some tips for turning you knife drawer into razor sharp surgical instrument tray:

Tools Needed:
2-3 sharpening stones (200 to 600 grit, or even 1200 grit)
Water, or Honing Oil
Leather Strop

Decide whether to use water or honing oil with each sharpening stone. Switching between the two will ruin the stone. I prefer using water its cheaper. Submerge or cover the stone with water before each use. Place the stone on a towel to keep it from moving.

Maintaining consistency when passing a knife over stone is crucial. It is important to emulate the angle of the factory edge, and to cover the entire range of the blade. If necessary practice on a sheet of glass or mirror to develop technique. Sharpening one side repeatedly before switching to the other will also increase consistency.

Create a Burr
Sharpen until a thin wire or burring occurs. Switch to a finer stone to alleviate the burr and slowly progress to the finest stone.

Stropping a Finished Edge
A leather barber strop will polish the edge ensuring maximum sharpness. The polished edge will decrease drag allowing it to stay sharp longer. Do not put oil on a strop unless it is brand new and has never been used before.

Cutting Surface
Do not cut on hard surfaces, which may over exert the blade. Storing knives loosely in a drawer may also dull a blade prematurely if they contact other blades.

This method has been used for thousands of years on everything from samurai swords to sushi knives. It takes a minute to learn and a life time to master.

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