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I’m sure you’ve heard it before, “a dull knife is more dangerous than a sharp one” well like most cliches it becomes a cliche because it is partly true. A sharp knife will go exactly where you tell it to go, usually straight down. A dull knife however will go the easiest route through whatever you are cutting. This lack of control and the knife not doing what you want it to is obviously very dangerous and can result in injuries. There are a few steps involved in getting your knives sharp, the first of which is using a sharpening stone as described below.

Firstly let’s dispel the myth that running a knife along a steel will put a sharp edge on it. Running a knife along the steel only refreshes the edge already on there. Running a dull knife on a steel will not give it an edge. So to put that initial edge onto a blade you must shape one using the sharpening stone. Some people get them professionally sharpened, but many sharpeners who claim to be professionals are far from it so you run the risk of them damaging your blades. Plus sharpening them by hand on the stone can be very therapeutic and quite fun.

  1. Before you begin get a ripe tomato or kiwi fruit and test out how sharp your knife is now.
  2. To sharpen a knife on a stone, lay the stone (fine side down) on a folded towel on a flat surface.
  3. Lubricate the exposed (rougher side) of the stone with a touch of liquid detergent or vegetable oil.
  4. Ensure your knives are clean.
  5. Lay the blade flat on the stone and lift the back edge off the stone by 20-25 degrees.
  6. If you’re not sure what 20-25 degrees looks like, hold the knife at 90 degreess to the stone, then go half way to 45 degrees then half way again and you should be at 22.5 degrees.
  7. That angle is what you want to maintain throughout the whole sharpening process. Memorise it!
  8. Arrange the stone laying in front of you, long side left to right.
  9. With the knife in your right hand, blade facing away from you, place the tip of the knife at the top right hand corner of the stone, sweep the knife from right to left maintaining the 20-25 degree angle.
  10. As you sweep the knife across the stone slowly bring it towards you so that when you come off the stone the base of the blade comes off the stone at the bottom left hand corner of the stone.
  11. Practice it slowly and soon you will get the hang of it.
  12. Every 3 or 4 strokes change the knife to your left hand and do the opposite.
  13. With the tip of the blade starting at the upper left hand corner of the stone, sweep across and towards you so the base of the blade comes off at the bottom right hand corner of the stone.
  14. After a few minutes you should start to notice a difference in the blades sharpness, (test it on the tomato again, and clean it before returning to the stone).
  15. Once it starts to improve turn the stone over and repeat the process on the finer side of the stone, this will put an even finer and sharper edge on.
  16. Once you have spent a few minutes per knife you should notice a dramatic difference to your blades.
  17. Wash the stone gently in some room temperature water with a little detergent, rinse very well and allow it to air dry completely before storing it.
  18. To keep that beautiful edge on there for longer, you’ll want to use the sharpening steel on a regular basis, please see “Knives Keeping Them Sharp”.

Paul Hegeman

Paul is a personal Chef to exclusive Sydney clients and is also our most frequently contributing writer. Paul was born in The Netherlands and moved to Canada at a very young age. Experience with traditional European meals at home and the diverse multicultural influence of foods in Canada gave Paul a great appreciation for different culinary styles. Over the years Paul traveled extensively and worked at every level of professional kitchens, from the deep fryer in the local burger joint, to the Head Chef in Five Star Hotels. He now resides full time in Sydney, Australia with his wife and their children. You will find his recipes emphasize natural, uncomplicated flavours and fresh ingredients such as those found in Mediterranean and South East Asian cuisines.

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