Tips on how to keep your Knives in a good shape comes as a safety factor,durability, and maintenance. But it must not be all that common, really, judging by the number of knives related injuries we manage to inflict on ourselves. We could avoid a lot of that by stopping to think about the correct ways to use and store knives.
How to cut
The simple advice most commonly given first is: Never cut toward yourself, or rephrased; always cut away from yourself. It is good advice, though perhaps not always possible. You certainly need to be careful when cutting any tough material that the blade will go in a safe direction if it slips.
Use a knife only for purpose it was designed for
Another good bit of advice, often ignored, is to refrain from using a knife for a purpose it was not designed for. You should never use a knife in place of a bottle opener, or as a screwdriver or punch. Do not use a knife to cut things that a knife was not meant to cut, like metal or other very hard, dense materials.
Use a knife only where it is safe to use one
You should always use a knife in an area where it is safe to use one, like on a cutting board that is stable and will not slip out from under your work. You should be aware of the people around you so that they do not get hurt or cause you to hurt yourself. A good trick with the cutting board is to place a damp towel under it to stop it from shifting. A piece of that rubbery shelf or drawer padding material works very well too.
Select the right type and size of knife for work
Having the right knife for the work at hand is very important. For a large job, you need a large knife. A full-sized chef’s knife is actually safer for chopping a pile of vegetables that is a knife that is too small or not shaped properly. The knife should not only be of the right type and size, it should be properly sharpened. A sharp knife is safer to use than a dull knife, as it will cut and not slip. Good quality knives that are well mounted in their handles and made of high-grade materials will not break or fail in any other way and are safer to use than low-quality knives of poor construction. How you hold the knife is crucial to safe use. Keeping your fingers out of the way keeps them from harm, and a good grip means good control of the knife’s motion.
Select proper storage for the knife
Proper storage, even temporary storage is not only good for the knife but is vital for safety. It is hazardous to rummage in a drawer full of loose knives, and bad for the blades as well. A knife block is excellent, either the type with slots or the ones with parallel rods where you can stick the knives in just any way you please. Putting a knife down, not even necessarily putting it away, can be dangerous and can lead to a serious accident. You should not put a knife near an edge where it can fall to the floor, possibly injuring someone’s feet or legs. You should not cover or obscure the position of a knife with a towel, for instance, lest you grab the towel and find the sharp edge by mistake. A kydex sheath is perfect to storage your knife when you’re not using it. If you think it’s a good idea, you can take a look here on how to make a kydex sheath for your knife.
Sharpening knives is a skill that you may wish to learn, if you are not already an expert, as sharp knives are both more pleasant and less dangerous to use. But you should do that carefully as well. The movements in sharpening a knife using a whetstone are repetitive, but do not become complacent or you may slice yourself. Whether we use common sense or uncommon caution, we should do what needs to be done to protect ourselves and others when using knives.
We will look or various reasons as to why one should not sharpen his or her own knives, but, rather, rely on a qualified pro:
- You haven’t the interest or patience to master a new skill. Sharpening by its very nature takes some training. If you are not paying close attention to what you are doing, you can easily grind away more metal than you need to or, worse yet, completely ruin a perfectly good knife. Especially using a power sharpening system. There’s a learning curve. Respect the curve.
- Your time is precious. Sharpening a knife can, in an ideal world, take only 10 minutes. That’s, of course, if it’s in pretty good shape, to begin with. Otherwise, we’re talking more like 20 minutes or more. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Because, before all this, you’ve got to put in the hours learning how to, correctly, do it. And no matter what all the DIY knife sharpening experts tell you, sharpening a knife, like any valuable skill, takes time and concentration to learn and get good at. Now, granted, the major usurpers of time are manual sharpening systems. But even if you use a machine, depending on which brand/model you buy, it will take more time for you do it yourself than to pack up your knives and mail them off to a quality sharpening service. Did you know that by using an electric knife sharpener you can have the edge back to your knife in less that 5 minutes? If you don’t, you can read how to use an electric knife sharpener to know all the benefits of using it.
- Easy-peasy sharpening systems can be the least desirable sharpening solution. General rule-of-thumb-the easier the system, the worse it is for your knives. There are some exceptions to this rule, but fast easy sharpening is not necessarily quality sharpening.Second general rule-of-thumb-the more inexpensive the sharpener, the worse it will probably be for your knives. Don’t think you can save gobs of dough by buying a $20 pull-the knife-through hand sharpener and still keep your knives in tip-top shape for years to come. They won’t last that long. Inexpensive sharpeners tend to grind off more metal than is necessary, thereby shortening the life of your knives. If you really really must sharpen your own, be prepared to pay $100 dollars and up for a decent system.
- You don’t truly enjoy sharpening. Life is short. Have you ever heard that saying, “at the grinding wheel?” There’s a reason it means what it means. If you don’t enjoy grinding down metal in the first place, it’s only going to get more and more tedious, not less.
- Professional sharpening services are plentiful and affordable. There are a number of top-notch professional sharpeners you can find to mail your knives to that are only a mouse-click away. Really. And they’re not that expensive. A package of two 8-inch chef knives and two 4-inch paring knives, including shipping, could run as little a $33.
There you have it! Five good reasons. Of course, life is complicated – because there are also five good reasons why you should sharpen you own kitchen knives. (Although they don’t hold much water for me.) But that’s another article.