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Knives and sharpening mania, how to save time and money

 
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markkubis



Joined: 06 Mar 2008
Posts: 8
Location: Bury St. Edmunds, England

PostPosted: Thu Mar 06, 2008 12:33 pm    Post subject: Knives and sharpening mania, how to save time and money Reply with quote

I'm new to this great site and like many here I'm both an engineer and passionate about cooking.

I've read with interest the numerous posts about knives and sharpening and am surprised by how much money people have paid and how far some people have taken things with what amounts to just a knife. As long as a knife is reasonably sharp it will have NO effect on the food you are preparing and the final result.

Have you ever tasted great food and the first thing that comes to your mind is "I wonder what knife the cook used and how he sharpens it". Exactly, it's just like reading Shakespeare and asking "I wonder what pen he used".

As for me I bought about 8 assorted modestly priced knives averaging about 20 dollars each and have had them for the last 19 years and they will last at least another 19.

As like most people here I found they weren't all that sharp out of their blister pack. So the first thing I did was use a grinding brick to sharpen them. To keep the edges sharp I regularly used a sharpening steel and every now and then used the grinding brick to resharpen.

This sharpening nonsense was way too time consuming for me so I bought a purpose made commercial electric knife sharpener which of course proved to be useless.

So I then bought an inexpensive electric rotary grindstone for 50 dollars that has a grinding wheel at one end and a revolving sanding belt at the other. The sanding belt is fantastic because it revolves between two pulleys with a flat area inbetween that has a flat metal support underneath. The belt is about 2 inches wide making the supported flat area about 2 inches by 4 inches. I only use the sanding belt as it provides a flat grinding surface making it very easy to use. All the knife needs is one swipe on each each side and it's done. 10 seconds per knife. Knife is as sharp as hell.
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SirShazar



Joined: 30 Jul 2007
Posts: 89

PostPosted: Fri Mar 07, 2008 6:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
I've read with interest the numerous posts about knives and sharpening and am surprised by how much money people have paid and how far some people have taken things with what amounts to just a knife. As long as a knife is reasonably sharp it will have NO effect on the food you are preparing and the final result.


I consider kitchen knives to be THE most important tools in food preparation. I've cooked with different stoves and different pans, but nothing made a difference as big as using good knives. When I need to cook in someone else's kitchen, the main thing I bring are my knives.

I take great pride in owning and caring for an assortment of high quality cutlery. The sum cost of my knives is probably around $450, with my most expensive knife costing around $130. I think of them as high quality precision tools, and I use them everyday

Quote:
Have you ever tasted great food and the first thing that comes to your mind is "I wonder what knife the cook used and how he sharpens it". Exactly, it's just like reading Shakespeare and asking "I wonder what pen he used".


I pay attention to a dishes that have articulated knife cuts, and I know from experience that a great knife makes a world of difference when making precise cuts. It's not the first thing that comes to mind, but I do want to know what tools the chef used to prepare my food, so that I could make them myself.

I like sharpening on my Japanese waterstone, it was around $30 and with it I can get my knives as sharp as a shaving razor. Is it vital that my knife edges be equivalent to scalpels? No, but they make cooking faster, safer, and more enjoyable. It takes some time and practice, but it's incredibly satisfying to get that beautiful mirror polished edge that falls through most foods.
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Phaedrus



Joined: 07 Mar 2008
Posts: 2

PostPosted: Fri Mar 07, 2008 9:42 am    Post subject: Re: Knives and sharpening mania, how to save time and money Reply with quote

markkubis wrote:


Have you ever tasted great food and the first thing that comes to your mind is "I wonder what knife the cook used and how he sharpens it". Exactly, it's just like reading Shakespeare and asking "I wonder what pen he used".



I'll make a confession, markkubis- I'm not an engineer. You obviously are by your thinking! Teasing Let's examine two holes in the ground; one dug by an auger run by the PTO of a farm tractor and the other dug by a guy with a posthole digger. The guy behind him putting the post in might not notice nor even care whether it was dug by machine or man. But the poor bastard digging it sure does!

I'm a professional chef. Junk tools make my job a lot harder. You probably don't work on a $299 E-Machines computer purchased at Wal-Mart. Likewise, I don't work with $20 knife from Wal-Mart. And in the predictable way that your clients could tell the difference, so can mine. Powdered steel knives with extremely fine carbide structure can be sharpened to very acute angles; the results can be breathtaking. The guy on TV may tell your $20 Ginsu-2000 can "cut a can in half yet still slice this tomato paper thin" but it ain't necessarily so. Teasing My knives will treetop hair and allow precision in cuts limited only by my skill. Lesser knives limit my skills in the way that a racecar driver would win few races driving a Ford Pinto.

And let's not even bring up sashimi knives! I cook primarily Western fare; Japanese cooking is whole nuther animal. Wafer thin cuts and artistic presentation is the lifeblood of that culinary style. Ron Popeil doesn't sell many knives to Japanese sushi chefs!

All in all, it's difficult to acheive professional results with subpar amateur tools, whether you're a carpenter, mechanic or racecar driver.

Just my $.02. Smile
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rembrant



Joined: 30 Jun 2008
Posts: 11
Location: Santa Cruz Mountains

PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2008 8:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm a pro cook and an amateur photographer. In either case,the hardware and the skills go togather. Price is not the yardstick,quality and function are.

I have some old cameras that these days are very cheap,and they do a lot of things better than newer,more expensive cameras. I also have some of the newer automated cameras-but I'm very selective because I know what I need in a tool.

I'd bought my first "real" knife, a 10" Forschner,30 years ago as a restaurant cook. I knew what I wanted and why,just as I did about then when I bought my first camera. Some years ago my trusty Forschner vanished....I got another like it. I have a half dozen knives I take to work,and much of my day I'm using them. They make the job much more pleasent....and efficient.

I might add....about 30 years ago I got the last "bad" cut I'd had in working as a cook....using crummy "house knives" and the next day is when I got MY knife. I use good stones,nothing that expensive,but the kind I've learned to use right. My knives are not exotic,but are always THE sharpest + best knives in the kitchen..and it's a very big kitchen.

A $150 knife is good out of the box.....but any knife needs to be sharpened. If you sharpen a $150 knife like it was a $20 knife,it will cut pretty much like a $20 knife. The cool thing is there are $25 knives that when sharpened well,perform like a $75 knife.
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tpowell



Joined: 26 Nov 2009
Posts: 7

PostPosted: Thu Nov 26, 2009 2:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

rembrant wrote:
I'm a pro cook and an amateur photographer. In either case,the hardware and the skills go togather. Price is not the yardstick,quality and function are.

I have some old cameras that these days are very cheap,and they do a lot of things better than newer,more expensive cameras. I also have some of the newer automated cameras-but I'm very selective because I know what I need in a tool.

I'd bought my first "real" knife, a 10" Forschner,30 years ago as a restaurant cook. I knew what I wanted and why,just as I did about then when I bought my first camera. Some years ago my trusty Forschner vanished....I got another like it. I have a half dozen knives I take to work,and much of my day I'm using them. They make the job much more pleasent....and efficient.

I might add....about 30 years ago I got the last "bad" cut I'd had in working as a cook....using crummy "house knives" and the next day is when I got MY knife. I use good stones,nothing that expensive,but the kind I've learned to use right. My knives are not exotic,but are always THE sharpest + best knives in the kitchen..and it's a very big kitchen.

A $150 knife is good out of the box.....but any knife needs to be sharpened. If you sharpen a $150 knife like it was a $20 knife,it will cut pretty much like a $20 knife. The cool thing is there are $25 knives that when sharpened well,perform like a $75 knife.


I agree, if your knife is well maintained (sharpened, cleaned, and stored) to its highest standard, then best results will be guaranteed.
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The BoardSMITH



Joined: 14 May 2008
Posts: 8
Location: High Point, NC

PostPosted: Sun Nov 29, 2009 11:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

My 2 pennies worth...

You can tell a lot about a craftsman looking at the tools he uses. Low quality tools tells me he/she is more into saving a buck than the results of their labors. A craftsman who uses only the most expensive tools is more about showing off how much he spent on the tools and those tools don't always guarantee good results. The craftsman who buys quality tools and takes care of them is the one I look for. If they take the time to care for their tools properly, I believe they will take the time to take care of the end result.

In short, there is no short cut to quality.
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GaryProtein



Joined: 26 Oct 2005
Posts: 535

PostPosted: Tue Dec 08, 2009 8:32 pm    Post subject: Re: Knives and sharpening mania, how to save time and money Reply with quote

markkubis wrote:
I'm new to this great site and like many here I'm both an engineer and passionate about cooking.

I've read with interest the numerous posts about knives and sharpening and am surprised by how much money people have paid and how far some people have taken things with what amounts to just a knife. As long as a knife is reasonably sharp it will have NO effect on the food you are preparing and the final result.

Have you ever tasted great food and the first thing that comes to your mind is "I wonder what knife the cook used and how he sharpens it". Exactly, it's just like reading Shakespeare and asking "I wonder what pen he used".

As for me I bought about 8 assorted modestly priced knives averaging about 20 dollars each and have had them for the last 19 years and they will last at least another 19.

As like most people here I found they weren't all that sharp out of their blister pack. So the first thing I did was use a grinding brick to sharpen them. To keep the edges sharp I regularly used a sharpening steel and every now and then used the grinding brick to resharpen.

This sharpening nonsense was way too time consuming for me so I bought a purpose made commercial electric knife sharpener which of course proved to be useless.

So I then bought an inexpensive electric rotary grindstone for 50 dollars that has a grinding wheel at one end and a revolving sanding belt at the other. The sanding belt is fantastic because it revolves between two pulleys with a flat area inbetween that has a flat metal support underneath. The belt is about 2 inches wide making the supported flat area about 2 inches by 4 inches. I only use the sanding belt as it provides a flat grinding surface making it very easy to use. All the knife needs is one swipe on each each side and it's done. 10 seconds per knife. Knife is as sharp as hell.


WORDS OF SANITY, MARKKUBIS


While I love my Wusthof and Henckels knives (that I have owned for 15-30 years) and sharpen them frequently using a steel so they shave the hair on my arm, I pretty much agree with everything you said--even about your sharpening materials and methods because I use basically the same tools followed by a steel to sharpen my knives every five years or so if the blade gets damaged in use and needs refurbishment. They do come out razor sharp and with an exquisitely fine cutting angle.

Fine tools definitely aid in the production of a superior product, but the tools used aren't everything.

What comes to mind is a conversation with a car body repairman I used while I was in school in the late 1970's. I was in his shop having my car painted and saw a Mercedes 450SEL 6.9 (a supercar at the time) having its frame aligned after a crash. I asked Frank how he ever fixed expensive exotic cars before they had the high tech equipment today (in the 1970's). He told me there were a few talented people who had a lot of know-how. He went on to say that nowadays we have lots of equipment, and very few people have any know-how.

I believe the same holds true in part for many knife afficionnados. It's the know-how that makes a great chef. A fine knife will help get the job done, but the final product is the result of an effort by a person, not a tool. Not that they don't necessarily know what they are doing. They certainly know how to sharpen a blade to razor sharpness and they know how to cook, and a $1200 knife make a chef feel good while he is using it, but it certainly is not necessary to cook a wonderful meal.
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IDontUse
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 26, 2010 7:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is offensive. A knife is a chef's most important and used tool. If you ever sit down at a really nice french restaurant, the cuts will be perfect, because the knives are sharp and the cooks are trained. A sharp knife also makes everything easier, which makes you faster. I can small dice an onion in seconds with the right knife, but if it goes a week without being sharpened (I put a thin edge on my knife that dulls quickly) it can faulter. And steels don't sharpen.
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BoB/335
Guest





PostPosted: Thu Apr 01, 2010 7:19 pm    Post subject: Steel vs. Stones Reply with quote

Does it pay to steel at all or should you just go to a stone to "keep" a blade in shape?

I have been wondering at the difference between these 2 ceramic steels for a Mac 8" Chef knife.

The Mac Black Ceramic Honing Rod is an extremely hard 81 Rockwell C compared to metal rods ("steels") at 62 and White ceramic rods at 76. The rod must be significantly harder than the steel blade so that the softer blade "wears" away or hones when rubbed against the harder rod. Mac knives are among the hardest available at 58 - 60 and therefore should only be honed using ceramic rods. Other brands of knives generally range 52-57 and can easily be honed with the Black Ceramic Honing Rod.
http://www.cutleryandmore.com/details.asp?SKU=14587
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blackwidow



Joined: 29 Apr 2010
Posts: 1

PostPosted: Thu Apr 29, 2010 11:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am currently looking for a sharpener that is not too expensive. Any suggestions?
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GaryProtein



Joined: 26 Oct 2005
Posts: 535

PostPosted: Sat May 01, 2010 12:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Blackwidow--get a steel and give your knives a few strokes on a regular basis.

BoB/325--it definitely pays to use a steel.

IDon'tUse--call is what you will, sharpen or not, but steeling a knife will convert the blade to one that doesn't shave the hair off my arm to one that will, and cut anything that touches the blade.
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DrBiggles



Joined: 12 May 2005
Posts: 355
Location: Richmond, CA

PostPosted: Sat May 01, 2010 4:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

GaryProtein wrote:
Blackwidow--get a steel and give your knives a few strokes on a regular basis.

BoB/325--it definitely pays to use a steel.

IDon'tUse--call is what you will, sharpen or not, but steeling a knife will convert the blade to one that doesn't shave the hair off my arm to one that will, and cut anything that touches the blade.


Heh, yeah it doesn't sharpen the knife, but it does make the knife sharp. Realigning molecules and stuff.

xo, Biggles
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fun123



Joined: 30 Sep 2011
Posts: 1
Location: Hawaii

PostPosted: Fri Sep 30, 2011 1:44 am    Post subject: Best way to sharpen your high quality knives? Reply with quote

Ok, read the posts and some people say you should use a stone and some say you should use a steel to sharpen your knives, so what is the best for me.

I am not good with a steel and don't want to use a stone and scratch up the blade of my $200 knife so it looks like a wood cutter sharpened it (i want to keep it looking like I just pulled it out of the box). Is there a sharpener that does a good job. I am good with a stone, but have used them primarily on hunting knives and it seems to scratch up the blade a lot, which in that instance doesn't matter.

Is there a stone that doesn't scratch up the blade or what should I be using. Need some tips.
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Michael Chu



Joined: 10 May 2005
Posts: 1626
Location: Austin, TX (USA)

PostPosted: Mon Oct 03, 2011 10:09 am    Post subject: Re: Best way to sharpen your high quality knives? Reply with quote

fun123 wrote:
Ok, read the posts and some people say you should use a stone and some say you should use a steel to sharpen your knives, so what is the best for me.

Steels are used to restore an edge that is still on the knife but has been bent out of shape (curled) due to use. This is referred to as "honing" and does not involve sharpening (the removal of material to form an edge) unless done improperly. Generally, the advise is to use a standard steel (not a diamond steel) and draw the blade across and down it holding the knife at the same angle as the final cutting edge (you'll feel it when you do it - it's the angle of least resistance). If the blade is still not sharp after using the steel, then it needs to be sharpened (usually stones are recommended although grinding with grinding wheels is more common).

fun123 wrote:
Is there a stone that doesn't scratch up the blade or what should I be using. Need some tips.

How are you scratching up the blade? Is the main part of the blade touching the stone for some reason? If you aren't laying the blade down on the stone then the only part that will be affected is the part in contact with the stone. If you mean that the edge looks rough, then simply progress to a finer (higher grit #) stone to polish the edge. If you are using a whetstone with water, then be sure to gently rinse away the slurry as it builds up too much to prevent the rest of the blade from scratching (the slurry can build up and if you aren't careful and wipe it off, it will scratch). Those are the only things I can think of that can cause scratching...
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