Monday, December 7, 2009

Holiday Rituals: Knife Sharpening

Back in my Boy Scout days part of getting my "Whittling Chip" (name for the training and right to use a pocket knife and other sharp implements) was some instruction in the use of a sharpening stone. The general principle I learned then is common among the many sharpening techniques: movement of the blade across a harder than steel surface at a consistent angle. In Scouts a knife-related foul would result in one of the older Boys tearing off of one of the four corners of your Whittling Chip card (sometimes capriciously) . . . when all the corners were gone you'd be in for repeat training. To avoid any sharpening mishaps in adult life I purchased the Chef's Choice 130 Sharpening Station.

I'll use the sharpening station to touch up my knives several times a year. The unit includes three positions:
1) Diamond Abrasive
2) Steeling
3) Stropping/Polishing

The sequence of pulls through the positions will determine what type of edge you would like to create in your knives. At the core of sharpening is manipulating the microscopic burrs on the surface of the edge. A few pulls through the stropping disc (3) will straighten the edge on a somewhat dull blade and will be all that is necessary to recover sharpness. When the blade has significantly dulled a true resharpening is in order so use of the diamond abrasive disc (1) will re-sculpt the edge by removing metal. The steeling position (2) in this unit will impart a series of microscope serrations that give the edge more 'bite' that is ideal for cutting fibrous foods. In all positions a precise angle is maintained to impart maximum and consistent sharpening.

If you're looking for a fast and easy way to maintain your knives and keep them in top form for holiday cooking, a electric sharpener is a simple way to go.