THE SECRET TECHNIQUE TO KNIFE SHARPENING AND A RAZOR’S EDGE…
I love cooking, and the part I really enjoy is the preparation of the ingredients – which usually involves a lot of cutting and slicing. Last year I was given a high-quality chef’s knife. Wow, what a difference it made! It was really sharp, and it stayed sharp for a lot longer than the old hand-me-down knife I’d been using before. However, it’s now become quite dull. I’ve tried to sharpen it, but the edge isn’t quite the way it used to be. What would you recommend?
This may come as a surprise, but a sharp knife is a lot safer than a blunt one. The moment a knife is blunt, we tend to apply more force to the blade – which is never a good thing when slicing slippery or damp food.
The next few knife sharpening tips will highlight what you need to do to transform that blunt kitchen, hunting, or fishing knife into twice the blade it used to be, even when it was brand new!
HERE’S WHAT YOU’LL NEED…
- A quality oilstone (ask for one at your local hardware store)
- A can of Q20 or Qin-One
- An old leather belt – the kind which has a back of raw leather
- A rag and/or roller towel
HERE’S HOW TO DO IT…
1. Place your oilstone on a workbench or tabletop. You can use newspaper as a drop sheet if you’re worried about making a mess. Most oilstones will have two sides: a smooth half, and a slightly rougher side. If your knife is only slightly blunt, use the smooth side of the oilstone; if it’s seriously blunt and rounded, use the rough side first.
2. Saturate the oilstone surface with a good squirt of Q20 – make sure that there are some pools on the surface. (A new oilstone may take quite a lot to saturate it). You can also use Qin-ONE, which is a slightly thicker oil so it won’t dissolve into the stone as quick.
If the oilstone is brand new it may soak up a lot of Q20 before it starts to pool.
Qin-ONE can also be used to sharpen your knives, and, because it’s a slightly thicker oil, you won’t need as much.
3. Holding your knife at no more than a 15-degree angle to the oilstone, draw it back and forth along the stone, and weave the blade from side to side at the same time so that you’re sharpening the entire length of the blade.
Use MODERATE downward pressure; make sure that you always have a controlled grip, and don’t get your fingers ahead of the blade. If the Q20 dries out, apply more.
4. Turn your knife over, apply more Q20 and repeat the process.
5. Wipe the blade clean. You should feel the rag snagging on tiny burrs along one edge of the blade. If the dull edge has gone, proceed to step six. If the edge is still noticeably blunt, keep drawing the knife back and forth on the stone.
6. Using VERY LIGHT downward pressure, repeat steps three and four. What we’re trying to do is reduce the degree of burring along the edge; which is why you want to keep the pressure very light on the blade.
7. Now here’s where the “secret” ingredient to knife sharpening comes into play…
Wipe the blade clean again. Place the buckle-end of the belt in a vice, or, hook it over something firm. Then, draw the blade (away from the edge) along the raw backside of the belt.
This is known as ‘stropping’. You want to keep the angle of the blade at the exact bevel of the knife’s edge. Count the number of times you strop on one side, and be sure to do an equal number on the other side. The stropping removes the burrs along the knife’s edge and renders your blade razor-sharp.
In the future, if you strop regularly, you won’t have to go through the entire knife-sharpening process each time. In other words, regular stropping will keep your knives sharper for longer.
8. Wipe your oilstone clean, and be sure to wash any residual Q20 off your knife before using it in the kitchen again.