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Old 04-30-2008, 01:44 AM   #1
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Note to self: stop volunteering to sharpen stuff...

Man, I like a challenge as much as the next guy but I gotta stop volunteering to sharpen knives for people! It's no secret that I'm a knife-nerd; you'd have to be deaf not to know! So about a month ago a guy I work with asked me what I'd charge him to sharpen he & his wife's kitchen knife set. Well, I'm fairly skilled at sharpening but I don't consider myself good enough to charge for it. I told him, "just bring 'em in- I'll sharpen them just for kicks."

After a month of forgetting to bring them for me his wife got tired of waiting and took them to be "professionally sharpened". I figured that was that, but a few days later he told me the guy really screwed 'em up, and do I think I might be able to fix them? Hmmm...at this point I'm starting to wish I'd never offered. My mind conjured up images of this "pro" grinding away with either an 8" wheel or a belt grinder with 80 grit belts. Oh, well- I'll take a look at 'em. After all, how bad could they be?

D'oh!
Pretty bad! If it wasn't for the shape I swear you couldn't tell which side was supposed to be sharp and there were "nicks", to use the term charitably, more than a 1.5mm into the edge. It was so bad I didn't even want to waste my coarse waterstone, so I started with my DMT ultra-coarse diamond plate. After at least ten solid minutes of grinding/reprofiling the nicks were finally ground out to the point where I felt ready to use the stones. I used my coarse EP stone followed by the medium, finally getting a pretty good edge. Since I know neither of 'em knows how to sharpen, and given the cheap nature of the knives, I opted to go no higher (it's generally a waste to try to get a polished edge on soft stainless). I stroked it lightly on the ceramic rod and tested it on some paper. Not bad, pretty smooth, quiet cuts. It shaves hair, albeit not incredibly well, but it has an edge that's pretty sharp for practical uses- ie cutting stuff.

All in all I should learn to keep my trap shut but it was kind of interesting resuccitating such a badly mangled blade. And given the "pro" sharpeners in this town I really ought to start charging after all!

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Old 04-30-2008, 01:55 AM   #2
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you sure sound competent, Rob----I'd readily pay you to sharpen mine..........I had my knives (luckily nothing expensive---too darned cheap 15 years ago) sharpened by a wizened old Egyptian who carried his cement grinder on his back. I paid him to come to my house once a month and you could always tell when he came cause of the plentiful bandaids on my fingers!! Well, after 6 years those cheap knives were ground to about nothing but boy they were sharp for a month...they were cheap quality so it really didn't matter---I finally ditched them and got some really decent knives
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Old 04-30-2008, 02:07 AM   #3
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Well, at least they were sharp! Eventually any sharpening, no matter how skilled, will cut the blade away. The key is to remove metal carefully and not excessively. I recall a sculpture describing that he didn't really create, say, a marble elephant...he just cut away everything that didn't look like an elephant to release it.

It's really sad how many people claim to be experts and do a hatchet job on peoples knives. I wish I had a dime for every time a well meaning person advises someone to ask their butcher of meat cutter who does their knives. Now before anyone dresses me down, I'll admit this sometimes works! But most butchers, meat cutters and even chefs I know are generally not all that knowledgeable about sharpening. Consider this- Jeff Gordon may be one of the best drivers in the word, but that doesn't necessarily mean he's qualified to turn a wrench. He might know a bit but it's not his forte. Ditto for a butcher. He knows meat- he may not know knives.

When it comes to having your knives sharpened, caveat emptor is the rule. I suggest letting them sharpen a "beater knife" or two before you entrust an expensive one to them.
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Old 04-30-2008, 02:28 AM   #4
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yep, you are so right, Rob............my little guy with his sharpening wheel fulfilled my needs for the 6 years that I was there but would I let him near my Wusthoff and Henckels today---I don't think so........well, my hubby wouldn't allow it for sure...he was mad that I handed over my cheap knives to be sharpened...too bad....they were worth every bandaid that I sported..........hahaha......Ace's Hardware always offers to sharpen knives and scissors but I'm really reluctant to hand them over......I have an especially wonderful surgical pair of scissors from Germany that are nearly 30 years old and are really in need of sharpening but I don't know who to trust them to.....any ideas??? I've used them for everything.......they cut chicken like no tomorrow
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Old 04-30-2008, 03:33 AM   #5
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I have an especially wonderful surgical pair of scissors from Germany that are nearly 30 years old and are really in need of sharpening but I don't know who to trust them to.....any ideas??? I've used them for everything.......they cut chicken like no tomorrow

Yeah, I do know a couple guys who are really artisans when it comes to sharpening, and that also happen to do scissors. I'll PM you asap, but it might take a day or two (gotta find their contact info, but I have one week of school left with 3 finals and 2 papers...).
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Old 04-30-2008, 05:32 AM   #6
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I give you credit for tackling that job.

It's scary that 'pro' knife sharpening services are so bad. I had a bad experience with a cutlery store's sevice. That pushed me to start sharpening my own knives. I found I can do a much better job than what I paid for.
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Old 04-30-2008, 05:43 AM   #7
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well, I really would like someone reputable to sharpen my surgial scissors----they are awesome and I use them for so many cooking related items....it's only after 30 years that they are so dull that they are probably dangerous at this point......I'd be willing to pay for mailing as long as I know that they will come back safe and sharp.....so I thank you if you can come up with a name to send them to
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Old 04-30-2008, 05:44 AM   #8
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surgical scissors, that is, surgial must be a word
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Old 04-30-2008, 05:54 AM   #9
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Good luck on all your exams, Rob---my daughter is also in the same boat as you and she' graduating this year---just posta pm when you can reach your head above water....I'm going to be in the states next week and until June 2----so good luck in the meantime
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Old 04-30-2008, 08:05 AM   #10
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If you were able to look at the knives before they got butchered, you could see if they were mishandled. Then offer some advice on proper use/care. I've sharpened a few knives for different friends. Some were used on glass cutting boards, some had knicks and some just were not shaped correctly from the factory. The blade tells a story if you look close enough.
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Old 04-30-2008, 10:17 AM   #11
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I'm kind of in the same boat in my kitchen, Rob. I'm the resident "knife guru" when it comes to sharpening. If, and that's IF, I pull the kitchen's stones out, between one and three other people will start bringing knives to me.

We are having some "training" classes, in house, for all the cooks. It's all old-hat stuff to me, but for the cooks that haven't received formal training, it's really informative. I've told the boss that I'd be willing to hold a demo on knife sharpening for all the cooks, and try to impart some of my knowledge. They will have to develop their own skills.

There are some things I see at work that are just plain sad. One of the cooks leaves his main knife, an 8" Shun, out pretty much every day. It's dirty, and dull. This particular cook really abuses that knife on a steel. There's another cook that abuses his knife on a steel as well.
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Old 04-30-2008, 11:36 AM   #12
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If you were able to look at the knives before they got butchered, you could see if they were mishandled. Then offer some advice on proper use/care. I've sharpened a few knives for different friends. Some were used on glass cutting boards, some had knicks and some just were not shaped correctly from the factory. The blade tells a story if you look close enough.
I didn't get to see them until he brought them to work for me to look at. In all fairness to the the "sharpener" that worked on them they could have been in horrible shape when he got them. They're really ancient Chicago Cutlery knives- you can tell they're old by looking at the wear on the handles and the "seasoning" of the block they inhabit. But no matter how bad they were, they were ultimately fixable. Well, the Chef knife was, anyways. The only one I'm a bit dubious of is the slicer; that one is literally so dull that I could probably take my pick as to which side to sharpen!

I'm actually planning to attend a sharpening school this summer, with my dad. I hope to pick up some skills related to some equipment I haven't used much. The school is basically one guy teaching just one or two people; it's completely hands-on and one-on-one. I do most of my sharpening freehand on stones or on an Edge Pro Apex, along with my Spyderco Sharpmaker for touchups and my Edgemaker Pros for work knives and quick sharpenings (and I recently got an HF 1x30 belt grinder that I plan to mostly use for power stropping/polishing). But the classes cover the use of the Tormek, paper wheels, belt grinders, the F. Dick commercial sharpeners and lots more.
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Old 04-30-2008, 11:43 AM   #13
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Hardly anyone I know has knives worth of setting up the Apex. I do them on paper wheels and give them edges like they've never seen mostly because I finish with a quick chromium oxide stropping.

Rob, when you PM expatgirl mention Chico Buller. I'm quite sure he has a scissors attachment for his EP Pro and I can attest that he's the best I've ever seen first hand with that device.

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Old 04-30-2008, 11:47 AM   #14
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I'm kind of in the same boat in my kitchen, Rob. I'm the resident "knife guru" when it comes to sharpening. If, and that's IF, I pull the kitchen's stones out, between one and three other people will start bringing knives to me.
I never take stones with me to work. For one thing, at my present job there isn't much prep space to set up to sharpen, and I don't have as much time as I did when I was "The Chef". I keep my Spyderco Sharpmaker in my work-knife bag along with my Edgemaker Pro's. The nice thing is that once I get the edge I want with waterstones I can usually bring it back with a smooth ceramic "steel" for quite awhile, and then do a few swipes on the Sharpmaker when the ceramic doesn't do it anymore. That'll keep 'em all shaving sharp for a long time between actual sit-down-and-sharpen-it sessions. If someone requests I sharpen one at work I generally use one of the aforementioned tools.

For those junkier knives the Edgemaker Pro is a godsend. It's not that it won't work on good knives; it's just a very fast way to bring up a good edge on a knife that's in terrible shape. I keep all three models in my bag, and the blue Bevelmaker will cut an edge into almost anything. It's not very good for removing chips in the edge, though- for that you almost always need to break out a coarse stone. Can't fault any gadget for that, though.


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There are some things I see at work that are just plain sad. One of the cooks leaves his main knife, an 8" Shun, out pretty much every day. It's dirty, and dull. This particular cook really abuses that knife on a steel. There's another cook that abuses his knife on a steel as well.
It's tragic to see a Shun treated that way! It's difficult to even imagine a dull Shun! I never use a steel steel, ever. If I ever break down and get a Hand America smooth steel that might be of some utility, but the ribbed ones suck the big one, especially for Japanese knives.
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Old 04-30-2008, 01:19 PM   #15
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Hardly anyone I know has knives worth of setting up the Apex. I do them on paper wheels and give them edges like they've never seen mostly because I finish with a quick chromium oxide stropping.

Rob, when you PM expatgirl mention Chico Buller. I'm quite sure he has a scissors attachment for his EP Pro and I can attest that he's the best I've ever seen first hand with that device.

Buzz
Agreed, on both counts. I've still got to pick a knife for Chico to work his magic on...I'm leaning towards the Hattori Forum gyuto.

The knives that my coworker brought in really aren't worth setting up my Apex, but nothing less would have allowed me to fix them! I was just curious to see what I could do with them; I think he's gonna be shocked!
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Old 04-30-2008, 01:23 PM   #16
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BTW, Buzz- the class I'm hoping to get squeezed in is by Steve Bottorff. Everything I've heard about him is positive and Dave Martell has a link to him on his DR Sharpening site, iirc. There isn't much higher endorsment than that!
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Old 04-30-2008, 01:33 PM   #17
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I think he's gonna be shocked!
Ha haaaa haa haaaaaa. Oh man I hear you. Even the less expensive lines from Wustof, Henckels, and Forschner will fairly well handle a 15* edge, so if the friend's/neighbor's knife is going to be used strictly for veggies and boneless meats, that's what I give it. The first time I do one of these for them I go (after reprofiling) EP 800 stone, 10k Naniwa, .5 micron CrO. When they get the knife back I first do a paper push cut demo and then give them a little lecture about knife handling, paying attention, etc.... You know the drill.

They all cut themselves within two days. No exceptions.

I love it.
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Old 04-30-2008, 02:00 PM   #18
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BTW, Buzz- the class I'm hoping to get squeezed in is by Steve Bottorff. Everything I've heard about him is positive and Dave Martell has a link to him on his DR Sharpening site, iirc. There isn't much higher endorsment than that!
I hope you get in. Should be fun and informitive. I've been happy with his wheels. One does have to be careful not to overheat the blade but a bucket of cold water eliminates most of the danger.

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Old 04-30-2008, 07:40 PM   #19
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Ha haaaa haa haaaaaa. Oh man I hear you. Even the less expensive lines from Wustof, Henckels, and Forschner will fairly well handle a 15* edge, so if the friend's/neighbor's knife is going to be used strictly for veggies and boneless meats, that's what I give it. The first time I do one of these for them I go (after reprofiling) EP 800 stone, 10k Naniwa, .5 micron CrO. When they get the knife back I first do a paper push cut demo and then give them a little lecture about knife handling, paying attention, etc.... You know the drill.

They all cut themselves within two days. No exceptions.

I love it.
ok, I'm sending your email to my Korean doctor who stitched up my last finger......he actually had the nerve to ask if I had thrown out my Wusthof Santoku knife....I looked at him like he had asked if I had thrown out my firstborn......of course not, are you nuts I retorted.....it comes with the territory----'sides I have 8 more fingers to go
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Old 04-30-2008, 11:53 PM   #20
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ok, I'm sending your email to my Korean doctor who stitched up my last finger......he actually had the nerve to ask if I had thrown out my Wusthof Santoku knife....I looked at him like he had asked if I had thrown out my firstborn......of course not, are you nuts I retorted.....it comes with the territory----'sides I have 8 more fingers to go
Maybe someday we can get some salamander stem cells injected, maybe we could get our fingers to grow back!

Buzz- there are still quite a few open dates for Steve's school, and I think my Dad & I will probably call him and send the deposit to hold our slot. I'm leaning towards sometime in July. Obviously some of the stuff he teaches I can already use, albeit probably not at his level of proficiency.

When I got home from work tonite I sharpened the rest of the block. There's obviously a limit to the amount of grinding I'll do on a 30 year old Chicago Cutlery, for free, but I think he'll be stunned; he won't recognize them. As Buzz can probably attest, the easiest thing to sharpen on the Apex is a completely straight slicing knife. I'm not exaggerating, you could hardly tell which side was the cutting edge- we're talking butter knife territory. But now it will shave easily (but won't treetop hair). I stopped at a medium stone, then finished on the ceramic hone.

I hope he passes 'em around the store...there are three other people who've asked me about sharpening, but I think these are the last ones I'll do for free. I don't mind donating my time but everything I'm given is butter-knife-dull and I'm burning thru my 120 grits at an alarming rate. I'm gonna have to at least charge enough to cover the cost of new waterstones.
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