[london.food] Fwd: knife sharpening

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From: Greg McCarroll
Subject: [london.food] Fwd: knife sharpening
Date: 13:38 on 15 May 2007
Hi folks,

Jonathan was the person who taught me how to sharpen a cooking knife,  
he used
to work as a caterer in the army. Anyway I asked him if he could jot  
down some
instructions about sharpening a knife and he very kindly supplied the  

This information is supplied with no warranty, if symptoms persist  
consult a
physician, the value of your knives may stay the same or rapidly go  
down if
you fuck them up.

Hope this helps,


Begin forwarded message:

> From: Jonathan McKeown <jonathan@______.za>
> Date: 15 May 2007 11:49:47 BDT
> To: Greg McCarroll <greg@xxxxxxxxx.xxx.xx>
> Subject: Re: knife sharpening
> On Tuesday 15 May 2007 10:15, you wrote:
>> ive been watching a discussion on knife sharpening over on
>> london.food and i thought of you -


>> any chance of jotting down some notes or a quick diagram to
>> help the others out?
> Ooer. That's like the programmer's interview question about  
> describing a
> procedure for tying your shoelaces! OK, here's my wisdom on knives and
> sharpening (gleaned from an uncle of mine who worked in catering for a
> while).
> You can buy all sorts of exotic ceramic and diamond-studded  
> sharpening tools,
> plus whetstones, oilstones, etc, and all sorts of implements with  
> either
> little wheels or two small angled files (which tend to chew the  
> edge of the
> blade). I haven't.
> I use heavy-bladed carbon-steel knives (at the moment a Lion  
> Sabatier chef's
> knife, a couple of smaller Wuesthof Trident knives, and a Chinese  
> cleaver
> branded Ken Hom, all of which I've had for fifteen years or so). I  
> use two
> tools to sharpen them: a standard steel and another knife.
> First off, I find it easier and more effective to hold the knife  
> mostly still
> and move the steel: being left-handed, that means I hold the knife  
> in my
> right hand and the steel in my left, crossing the knife blade at a
> right-angle with the steel always on top.
> As I stroke the length of the steel along the length of the knife  
> blade
> (always from base to tip and making sure I cover the full length of  
> the
> blade), I like to have the edge of the knife leading, and the steel  
> moving
> across the knife from the edge towards the back of the knife (if  
> you like,
> you're pushing the steel up the cutting edge into the knife rather  
> than
> drawing it down and away).
> Bad ASCII Art: looking along the knife blade, if the knife (angled)  
> and steel
> (flat) are moving as shown (as well as in or out of the screen),  
> ``up'' and
> ``down'' look like this (obviously the knife is at a much shallower  
> angle):
> Back of blade             Back of blade
>    \                           /
>     \                         /
>      \ ===>                  / ===>
> ______\____          _______/_______
>  <===                 <===
>   steel up blade       steel down blade
> I will usually start with the tip of the steel at the base of the  
> blade with
> the edge pointing towards me; push the steel across and along the  
> blade until
> the base of the steel is at the tip of the knife; turn the knife so  
> that the
> edge is away from me and the base of the steel is at the base of  
> the knife;
> and then draw the steel back across and along the blade until the  
> steel's tip
> reaches the tip of the knife.
> The angle between the edge and the steel should be quite shallow:  
> the best I
> can offer is to say that with a little practice, you can feel when  
> it's
> right; keep it fairly flat, but if it's too flat, the steel feels  
> as though
> it's slipping rather than having a feeling of the steel slightly  
> ``engaging''
> with the edge.
> You shouldn't need a lot of pressure on a well-maintained knife -  
> you're
> actually straightening a folded or rolled cutting edge rather than  
> grinding a
> new edge - but one advantage of this method is that if the blade is  
> very
> blunt you can apply more pressure (still at the same angle and with  
> the same
> technique) and almost re-grind the knife edge.
> You can (carefully and gently!) test the edge of the blade with  
> your thumb
> until you're happy with it, and you can then get an even better  
> finish using
> a second heavy-bladed knife with no nicks or chips in the back of  
> the blade.
> This finishing process will only take one or two strokes, and is  
> going to be
> done oppositely to the steel stage in two ways: the second knife  
> (acting as a
> steel) is stationary in your ``wrong hand'', and the knife being  
> sharpened in
> your ``working hand'', on top, and moving across and along the back  
> of the
> second knife; also, move the sharpened knife with the back leading  
> so that
> the back of the second knife is travelling ``down'' the cutting  
> edge, as
> opposed to moving the steel against the knife with the edge leading  
> so that
> the steel moved ``up'' the edge.
> HTH.


> Jonathan

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