Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Convex, Double Bevel and Chisel Point

Have you ever been out to dinner with a terrible conversationalist and thought to yourself, "someone, please, sharpen this knife"? If so, Professor Jason Moulenbelt is here to save the day, by teaching us LIFEers how to sharpen knives and other blades. (Side note: injuring yourself to get out of boring or awkward situations is never advisable. Instead, try faking a headache or an emergency phone call.) It was a full hour my friends, and the class hung on Jason's every word. The excited tension in the room was so thick you could cut it with a ...well, anyway, moving on.

Did you know that in most states you can only legally carry a blade that is 4" or less, but here in Texas, it is 5"? Which made Jason guilty of only one count of bringing a weapon on our campus, for the 9"golok, which was pretty cool. Jason walked us through the anatomy of a knife, ways to tell if your blade needs to be sharpened or honed, and then methods of sharpening or honing your blades. FYI, did you know scissors are merely two long chisel points put together on a pivot? That being said, you still shouldn't run with scissors, or chisels.

Sharpening vs honing? Who will win? Actually, you will, when you learn the right way to do both, since you will have knives in great shape, ready to cut through anything with minimal effort. Sharpness is defined by how well your knife cuts into something. Honing will make sure the blade is straight and thus makes a clean cut. An easy test to tell if your blade is dull is the thumbnail test. Run your blade GENTLY over the back of your thumbnail. If the blade bumps along, then it needs to be sharpened.

To sharpen your blades, you can either do it yourself, or take your blade to, as Jason put it, " a reputable knife sharpening place, not the mall." To do it yourself, you can use several tools, but Jason was quick to remind us that you get what you pay for. The best sharpening tools are usually Japanese water stones, Arkansas water stones, or diamond files. The stones need to be kept wet so the metal filings coming off the blade get whisked away and not embedded in the pores of the stone. Remember in the old days when your grandpa used to spit on the stone before sharpening his knife? Same principal.

To sharpen stones, pay attention to the angle you are holding the blade as you push the edge away from you. One way to tell you have the correct angle is to color the edge with a magic marker. When you sharpen at the correct angle, you should remove all the color. Also, pay attention to the grit of the sharpening material. A lower grit removes more material, but most knives don't need a low grit sharpening unless you really damaged your knife. When honing, pull the knife towards you on a firm strop. Strops can be made of many types of material, but are traditionally leather.

See the pictures below of our exciting class, including Jason's arsenal, I mean, tool display. Then read the slide show about blades, edges, and ways to sharpen a knife. With so much knowledge, soon you'll be the sharpest knife in the drawer! Aaaaaaaand I'm done. See you next week!

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