The purpose of this article is just to chat about some miscellaneous items related to sharpening freehand that have come up recently.
|Knife made by Rick Marchand in Lunenburg.|
It is very nice, easy to sharpen and takes a fantastic edge.
Recently I was conducting a sharpening demo at Big Eric's on their Grand Opening day. A lot of people are interested in knives and seem captivated by the sharpening process, a lot of good discussions came up. A similar pattern emerged: "I used to watch my Grandfather sharpen on an oil stone", I hear this a lot and in fact it is how I got started sharpening, watching my dad do it.
Along with these conversations came some familiar misconceptions about sharpening and I was able, I think so anyway, to teach some folks a variety of things, to clear up some of the myths that at one time, I probably believed in myself.
Myth 1: "I use a sharpening rod to sharpen my knives, they turn out great" I hear this often, and I mean OFTEN. It goes to show that people are interested in sharpening knives, they love the sensation that a new knife delivers and spend the rest of their days trying to re-capture that feeling by making the new, but now dull knife, sharp again. Most seem to just wing it, give it to a friend with a grinder or just pick up one of the multitude of sharpening gadgets, the "best knife sharpening tool in the world" devices that are easy to find. The "sharpening rod" or Hone or Steel is the most common one that is being misunderstood on a daily basis by millions of people. Companies are happy to stamp "sharpener" on one of their devices and people just gravitate towards them.
So what do I tell them?
I am often dealing with older men who have "been sharpening for years" so right off the bat there is a barrier to break down. How do you tell a nice old man that he is wrong, even though the rod has been in his family for years and, "it's all we ever used" sort of thing.
I came to realize, a few years into my business that the actual sharpening is the easy part and not the only important aspect of the job. Educating people is a large part of what I do, some are good listeners, some are head nodders who don't really give a shit what I'm saying.
The explanation is pretty simple actually, it's a matter of explaining some of the sharpening fundamentals, the basics and once understood by those who have egos that allow them to listen, the problem goes away. I just explain the need to bring Side A and Side B of the knife together at the Apex as precisely as humanly possible and in so doing, I am removing the metal that is causing the knife to be dull. I explain that the rod can't remove the metal, regardless of the amount of pressure applied and that it's purpose is to push that fatigued metal back into alignment. I also explain that it is a temporary fix and only effective if done properly.
Myth 2: Since the process of sharpening a knife involves the removal of metal, it is a destructive process that shortens the lifespan of the knife.
This is another easy one to explain. It boils down to people lacking an understanding of what is involved. The same folks who think what I do is harmful to a knife are the same who use a gadget, a pull through device or just refuse to use anything but a Steel. So again it is a matter of educating people as to the fact that primary edges on knives are microscopically thin and come under pressure every time that they are used. The owners cause the knife to get dull basically by using it, I'm just the guy who re-establishes those broken primary edges by removing as much metal as necessary, it has to go. Naturally a good sharpener will remove as much metal as necessary and only as much as required and in any case, less than a Chef's Choice electric sharpener. I also talk about sharpening freehand being a tradition that has been around for about 800 years.
Another very common question, perhaps the most frequently asked question is "How often should I have my knives sharpened?" I've struggled with this answer for a few years, I don't want to say once every 6 weeks for example because they will think I am just trying to make more money by over sharpening their knives. Now I simply explain that when that sensation that a new knife or freshly sharpened knife fades away and you can't get it back despite your best honing attempts, the knife needs to be sharpened again. I tell them at least twice a year, that is at the very least and realistically, that is not enough. I get them to think about maintenance and see how long they can maintain the edge that works for them, the edge that slices through a tomato without bending the tomato and breaking it rather than slicing it.
Myth 3: Cutco knives are the best knives you can buy.
This is sensitive topic among Cutco owners. I told a lady who has eight Cutco knives that if she ever wanted to upgrade, I can give her some ideas.
"How can you upgrade from the best knives in the world?" was the response and I've never seen here since. Clearly I didn't know what I was talking about.
Thanks for sticking around. I often wonder if anyone is reading my Blog but even if there is one person out there, I will keep at it.