The key to the proper and efficient use of any knife is
making sure that it is sharp. A knife with a sharp blade always works
better and more safely because it cuts easily, without requiring the user
to exert pressure, which may cause the knife to slip and result in injury.
Knife blades are given an edge on a sharpening stone and maintained
between sharpening by honing with a steel.
Sharpening stones are essential to the proper maintenance
of knives, and are used to sharpen the blade by passing its edge over the
stone at the correct angle. The grit - the degree of coarseness or
fineness of the stone's surface - abrades the blade's edge, creating a
sharp cutting edge. When sharpening a knife, always begin by using the
coarsest surface of the stone and then move on to the finer surfaces. A
stone with a fine grade should be used for honing knives and other tools
in which an especially sharp edge is required. Most stones may be used
either dry or moistened with water or mineral oil. Once oil has been used
on a stone's surface, the practice should be continued. Before using a
stone, the user should be sure that it is properly stabilized. Place
carborundum or diamond stones on a dampened cloth to stabilize them. Make
sure you have enough room to work. A triple-faced stone is mounted on a
rotating framework that can be locked into position so that it will not
move. The blade should be held at a 20-degree angle to the stone's surface
and the entire length of the blade should be drawn across the stone.
Grinding wheels, electric sharpeners, leather strops (such as those used
to sharpen barbers' blades), and other grinding tools may be necessary to
replace or restore the edge of a badly dulled knife.
A steel should be used both immediately after sharpening
the blade with a stone and also between sharpening to keep the edges in
alignment. The length of the steel's working surface can range from 3
inches for a pocket version to over 14 inches. Hard steel is the
traditional material for steels. Other materials, such as glass, ceramic,
and diamond-impregnated surfaces, are also available. Steels come with
coarse, medium and fine grains, Some are magnetic, which helps the blade
retain proper alignment and also collects metal shaving. A guard or hilt
between the steel and the handle protects the user and a ring on the
bottom of the handle can be used to hang the steel. When using a steel,
the knife is held almost vertically, with the blade at a 20-degree angle,
resting on the inner side of the steel. The blade should be drawn along
the entire length of the steel.