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What is the best tool for sharpening kitchen knives?

Honing a knife on one of those extremely coarse grinding wheels or belts that are commonly used by peregrinating peddlers or key makers is one of the most unsatisfactory methods. Repeated sharpenings on these instruments wear away your blade within a few years.

Almost as bad are those small pairs of steel rotating disk-cylinders that are supposed to be attached to a kitchen door or cabinet. Not only do these gadgets devour the metal of the blade faster than need be, they tend to scratch the blade too much and throw it out of alignment. Electric knife sharpeners perform better, though they are not recommended for high-quality carbon or high-carbon steel knives. These countertop appliances can permanently alter the angular shape of the knife's cutting edge given by the knife's manufacturer.

The best day-to-day sharpening implement is the butcher's steel, a rough-surfaced, hard metal rod equipped with a handle. However, unless you use the steel frequently to sharpen the knife, the edge of your knife may dull beyond the restorative powers of the honing rod. In that case, you will need to sharpen the knife periodically with a whetstone, a small, abrasive, bluish-black block made of the exceptionally hard silicon carbide Carborundum (available in most hardware stores). Sometimes the abrasive material is a thin coating of minuscule diamonds.

15:31:23 on 02/18/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

How to select the right knife to buy?

Selecting the right blade alloy is not enough. You should buy only a knife produced by a quality manufacturer because fine knife making requires skilled workmanship involving a myriad of precision tasks, such as tempering the steel. In fact, unless you can buy superb carbon steel knives, it is recommended that you purchase the top-of-the-line, high-carbon stainless steel knives of a quality manufacturer, such as Washof (Trident trademark) or Henckels.

The tang (the part of the metal enclosed by the handle) should run the full length of the handle and should be well secured with at least three rivets. Otherwise, the handle and the metal part of the knife may separate within a matter of years. The full tang also contributes weight and balance, two essential qualities that inexpensive knives usually lack.

A knife's handle should be easy to grasp and feel comfortable in your hand. Its material should be durable and nonslippery. Nearly all hardwood and many modern plastic-and-wood composite grips fit the bill; plastic hilts do not.

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05:51:51 on 02/18/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -