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Knife Sharpening

This page contains info about knives.  Don't be stupid.  Don't cut yourself. Nuff said.

I've made it one of my husbandly duties to keep our kitchen knives sharp and ready for action. That way, if I get stabbed, the cut is clean and will heal quicker. ;-)

We still have the original set of Chicago Cutlery knives we got for a wedding present 11 years ago. They look better than new and are razor sharp most of the time.

A sharp knife is much safer than a dull one because more force is required to cut with the dull one, and you are more likely to slip off what you are cutting.

!Steel or Stone?

An important sharpening concept is to know the difference between a steel and a stone. To put it simply: a sharpening stone is good for putting an edge on a knife that is dull, while a sharpening steel is used to maintain that edge.

For a dull knife, you use a stone, much like what is described in this article, to establish an edge.

But from that point on, you use your steel to keep that razor edge. It is recommended that you use your steel after every cutting task, to restore the edge to your knife. I do this, and all it takes is about 5 or 7 strokes on each side before I slide the knife back into the block.

!The Steel

The steel is that sharpening thing you see the chefs use on TV. It's a handle, with a metal rod coming out the end. They do it sooo frikkin fast (because they do it all the time), but you should just worry about doing it well (keeping your angle right and keeping the pressure uniform). A tip: if you have several knives to work your steel over, start with the small ones first. It will be easier to "feel" them in the beginning than after you've done the big ones.

If you only use a stone to sharpen your knives on a regular basis, they won't stay around nearly as long, because you will keep taking the blade material away when all you need is to "realign" the edge (which is what a steel does). Eventually you'll end up with the toothpick my Uncle Clyde claimed was once his "pocket knife". However, this does take a long time, so you don't need to be too paranoid about it.

The Stone

Yes, eventually, the steel will not be able to restore your knife's edge, and that's about when you need to put your edge back on them with your stone. I have to do this maybe... every two years.

What Dulls Knives

Paper products (especially cardboard) are really good at dulling knives. So one way to keep your knives sharper is to not cut paper with them if you can avoid it. Maybe buy a cheap serrated knife (that you won't have to sharpen) and use it when you need to cut paper products.

Serrated Knives

You generally can't sharpen serrated knives without specialized equipment. This is a reason never to use your serrated or scalloped bread knife for anything other than bread. Once it loses its edge, you have to throw it away.

Wooden Handle Maintenance

Part of the reason our knives look better than new is that I keep the wooden handles well-oiled and I don't let the knife handles stand in water or be washed in the dishwasher.  If they start to dry out they will warp and look crappy.

If they do soak up a lot of water, you need to let them dry out. Then if they are fuzzy, sand them with some fine grit sand paper.  Then oil them up.

If they don't need quite that much maintenance, like if one of my little terd nephews leaves it in a shallow puddle of water, you can skip the sand paper.

Oiling - I just rub mineral oil into the wood and let it sit overnight. You don't even need to rub the extra mineral oil off, most of it will get sucked right into the wood overnight. And presto, you have great-looking knives again, and the oil also helps the wood handles not to absorb anything (especially bacteria). P.S. Mineral oil is also good for oiling your wooden cutting boards and keeping them bacteria resilient, too.

Sanding - The handles came from the factory a little rough on the ends.  I took some fine grit sandpaper to the handles to smooth off the ends. This made them feel better than new, and very good in the hand.  After sanding, I oiled them.

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