or Connect
ChefTalk.com › ChefTalk Cooking Forums › Food & Equipment Reviews › Cooking Knife Reviews › Have you learned anything by failure?
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Have you learned anything by failure?

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 
In another thread I mentioned the abject failure of a flattening system to which I had such initial hopes. And an investment.

I began thinking about all of the knives, the tools, the "systems" and pastes I've purchased, and I've been pretty lucky. But I have failed on occasion. For the purposes of the overall theme of this forum section, here are the failures seen relating to kitchen knives.

First, as discussed, quality kitchen knives need quality edges. In that pursuit, I bought this cast iron flattening fixture for my quality stones. I now use it as a door stop, and I'll make you a deal, cheap!


Second, that would be chromium oxide paste. What an expensive disaster! Not only does it turn everything and everybody into a geasy rendition of Margaret Hamilton's make-up area, but it's mundane at best for sharpening knives. There are better pastes and compounds on the shelf at your local Napa automotive dealer. (Edit: pumice made from nagura is terrific.)

Oh, and let's not forget sandpaper. I have a sneaking suspicion where this myth started, but that ire is best saved for another day. Contrary to what is bandied about on the 'net, sandpaper is only good for camp axes and railroad spikes. Yes, you might need a more 'toothy' edge for cubing semi-thawed beef, especially steaks for making stews. However, I've never seen an 800 year old Japanese mural of a samurai holding sandpaper and a mouse-pad. Perfect slicing needs perfect edges.

As long as I'm on the soapbox, we might as well add fluted steels. I cannot think of any knife related device more misunderstood, misused and ultimately worthless as a fluted steel. A steel is to lightly repair rolled edges by periodic use--it's not a sharpening device. And taking a poorly made and rough dowel of suspect steel down a mirror edge is the height of folly. My steel is over two feet long, of a larger diameter and mirror polished. I use it seldom.

I have a piece of thick felt. It's not a failure in the true sense. It simply doesn't work or do anything, pro or con. It came with a sharpening system and now languishes in the shipping wrapper.

These are failures because they did not meet the goal needed, that being sharp knives. In a very odd way, nothing seems to work any better than things used 800 years ago. Waterstones. Paste (pumice). Burnishing brass.

To demonstrate this observation, a few months ago I bought a fixture to aid in sharpening high-end wood chisels--the kind used in making precise cuts, as applied in cabinet making. It works the best when paired with Japanese waterstones.

I keep coming back to square one in my study of making edges. The best way to make a keen edge is never to buy a whizbang prop or fad procedure, but to borrow a stone from a samurai's polisher. I have never failed using that ideal.
post #2 of 10
Chromium Oxide is a polishing compound used by machinists and, until recently, barbers. Rubbed into linen, it is the final step in a very long process for sharpening a straight razor and is useless on any blade that may come into contact with anything hard(bone, counters, butcher's blocks, etc.) because, to be useful, it requires such a steep bevel that the edge is very fragile.

The frustrations of sharpening are the main reason that I have two working sets and pay a guy to re-hone my edges once a month. He's cheap, good at what he does, and saves me a ton of time every month.

Also, as to fluted steel edging rods, I don't like them either. I much prefer a ceramic/diamond rod because they will actually touch up a dulled edge.
Dammi un coltello affilato e vi mostrerò l'arte più belle del mondo.
Reply
Dammi un coltello affilato e vi mostrerò l'arte più belle del mondo.
Reply
post #3 of 10
Thread Starter 
Well, you're very lucky, indeed. We have a guy in my area, and I sometimes believe he works for the mafia.

I have to admit, I never met a sharpener or a tinker I had any respect for!!! What a bunch of unmitigated low lifes. Yikes, they rub steel with a wet rock and yet they have bigger egos than Britney Spears' bikini waxer!

If there ever was a morality vortex on two legs it has to be a tinker! I wouldn't let one these crooks within ten feet of my wife.

You're better off buying a Chefs Choice or just shooting yourself.
post #4 of 10
I am indeed lucky to have a competent and fair honemeister(that's the title he likes) within reach. He's been selling knives and sharpening for everybody and their mom around here for as long as anyone can remember.
Dammi un coltello affilato e vi mostrerò l'arte più belle del mondo.
Reply
Dammi un coltello affilato e vi mostrerò l'arte più belle del mondo.
Reply
post #5 of 10
Thread Starter 
Ray, you may not know this, but I'm a knife sharpener. And I take pride in my work. My initial comment was just a bit of levity. I expected the usual morning crowd to come here and excoriate me over our wake-up coffee.

I do think that all tinkers are cut from the same cloth. I notice that you report he uses the humorous epithet "honemeister." I use terms like highwayman, cutpurse or horse thief. The idea is the same. Going to see a tinker should be an enjoyable break in your day, like a trip to an older barber shop, or meeting the boys on Saturday morning at the gunshop.

In Madison, Wisconsin we have very few decent shoe cobblers. The very place (now in a different location) where I spent my first dollar in 1968, is Cecil's Sandal Shop. The owner is still alive, still working and still bombarding his clientele with amusing stories and probably some outright woolgathering. I love that place, and I drive across town to get there.

After all, you can buy boot laces anywhere. But I'll put eight bucks of premium gas in my Harley to go see Cecil for two bucks worth of laces.

Keeping that in mind, my clients usually sit around my kitchen table, drinking cappuccino, laughing and schmoozing, twice as long as it takes me to polish their knives.

As Wisconsin deer hunters, I know that most of them can sharpen their own stuff, and coffee bars here outnumber hamburger joints...
post #6 of 10
While I didn't know that you were a professional sharpener, I did catch the sense of levity in the statement. I was mostly playing along and hoping for a pile-on of tinker jokes.

I say mostly because I have run into a few incompetent tinkers in the past so I do feel lucky to have met this one because he is a joy to visit. He's a very funny old man with nearly seventy years worth of great stories to tell while he works away at the waterstone.
Dammi un coltello affilato e vi mostrerò l'arte più belle del mondo.
Reply
Dammi un coltello affilato e vi mostrerò l'arte più belle del mondo.
Reply
post #7 of 10
Thread Starter 
LOL, no prob. There's a story you should know.

Back when cities had huge walls around them, a church elder was out riding his horse and noticed an strange man sitting by the town gate. He wasn't begging, but he wasn't doing much else, either. The elder stopped to question the individual.

"You sir," the elder yelled down from horseback, "What is your business here?"

Traveler stood and responded, "My liege, I am balladeer, a minstrel, a harlequin, a wayfarer. I bring news and spices from foreign lands. While a freeman, I will bond for a price. My travels make the news for your day. I am a leader of men, I am a follower of women..."

The horseman, raised his hand in disgust," Say no more, you're a flippin' knife sharpener..."

I often remember this story when I put stone to blade.
post #8 of 10
LOL. Fantastic joke.
Dammi un coltello affilato e vi mostrerò l'arte più belle del mondo.
Reply
Dammi un coltello affilato e vi mostrerò l'arte più belle del mondo.
Reply
post #9 of 10
That flew over my head ~_~
post #10 of 10
Can't believe I missed this one, Chico!:lol: Hope you come back to the interwebs soon!;)
"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
Reply
"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
Reply
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Cooking Knife Reviews
ChefTalk.com › ChefTalk Cooking Forums › Food & Equipment Reviews › Cooking Knife Reviews › Have you learned anything by failure?