Carbon-Based Life Form
So I asked to rummage through someone's spare kitchen tools. Looking for miscellaneous kitchen equipment to fill my new knife roll for college, given they require certain tools and gadgets I don't use.
I quickly find in this cardboard storage box a nine and a half inch nameless stained and tarnished chef knife. It's wide, tip intact, good solid wood handle. Triple-riveted, stamped blade goodness. Being a honer, I am excited to have a true carbon-steel blade. I have some Calphalon "Katana" VG1-core blades and expected to be able to stain and create a patina on the core steel, but no.. it's actually stainless. I also expected to be able to stain and patina my seven inch Tojiro DP gyuto, but that, too, is effectively stainless. Despite their warnings these blades are as corrosion resistant as my stain-resistant knives.
I have a number of vintage carbon-steel straight razors I've honed and use to shave with and love how they can take an incredibly smooth (i.e. sharp) edge. I'm a good sharpener, free-hand, of cutlery but the ultimate test of a delicate touch and enduring mindfulness is honing straight razors to shaving sharpness. So I was very excited to be in possession of a genuine carbon-steel chef knife. Some of the best things in life...
I used MAAS metal polish and rust remover to clean it up and saw it remove the slight iridescence which was a legitimate patina that had formed over the typical gray tarnish pattern I was so familiar with from eBay carbon-steel straight razors. Oh well. Soapy wash after that for hygiene.
I was working with a blade that hadn't had the factory secondary bevel ground off, so it didn't qualify as a complete edge restoration by my definition. I have a coarse DMT 8"x3" diamond tablet but stayed true to my cutlery routine and used my cheap India stone (aluminum oxide) with it's combination coarse/fine sides. Starting with the coarse, I took it lightly at first, to gauge the hardness of the steel. Yep, pretty hard. Then tackled it with the gusto that alarms people who I'm sharpening for, you know, the dramatic bearing-down-ripping-off-tons-of-metal kind of sharpening. The kind of thing you only do when the blade's edge is so impacted that it only functions as a glorified butter knife. For more than 20 years and nine moves this knife lurked in storage. Washing the swarf off on a regular basis (in a large house I'd stick near a sink for this kind of work) I worked on this blade, with frequent straight-on visual inspection until I'd removed all the impacted sites.
Making quick work with the fine side I moved on to the DMT 6"x2" extra fine diamond tablet. It is at the higher grits that carbon-steel shows it's easy honeability. It smoothed so quickly I was excited. Put a polish with the tablet on the rest of the bevel to reduce drag on push-cutting and slicing. Used it on some fibrous vegetables and it works very well. Haven't used it on a lot of food to put it to the longevity test but it looks very promising.
To top it all off yesterday I finished honing a German-made carbon-steel straight razor, 5/8ths wide, muted spike point. It honed up beautifully, seems to be a pretty hard blade. Stropped it on a chromium oxide (0.5 micron) pasted paddle strop, then on to the leather strop but not so much to guarantee a really smooth shave fresh off the hones. Left a little bite on the edge to see how it would work on my skin. I had several days worth of beard and used a quality glycerine shaving soap. A very fine shave; fast, smooth, close and very safe shave. No tugging or pulling and it cleaved the hairs around my lips in a very safe manner. My jaw and chin (where the beard is thickest) was smooth by the most aggressive direction (by the direction of my beard growth) for over twelve hours, which is my main criteria for determining if it was a close-shave by my straight-razor shaving standards. A+ blade (the "A" is for Axel).
Yeah, I'm a carbon-aholic. It's not a problem.. it's a solution!