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Getting over my fear of sharpening knives

Honing rods have always intimidated me. I understand that they should be used often to smooth the edge of the knife but the gesture of sliding the knife up and down this rod frightens me. At what angle should my large knife approach the honing rod and what exactly am I doing? When I see people honing their knives, it is like a dance in the air.

I watched my grandmother shuffle a deck of cards when she and my grandfather played cards. I was mesmerized as these wafer-thin cards flew through her hands and, with exactitude, slid effortlessly between each other without ever butting up against each other.

Trying to imitate her hands, I would find mostly the ends of the cards and rarely the space between them where they'd slid so magically between each other falling into place for my grandmother.

Fascinated, I practiced and practiced and finally I got it. It wasn’t perfect but the feeling of those cards flying in perfect precision and landing in the right spot still brings my grandmother to mind and a smile to my face.

Honing a knife seems similar to shuffling cards, only far more dangerous, moving a knife through the air dancing back and forth on either side of this rod, caressing it so perfectly that the sharpened piece of steel will slide effortlessly through the skin of a tomato without any hesitation and even slice through a piece of paper as if the knife were just sliding through air.

The only way through something you don’t know to do is to just do it.

I’m determined to learn how to sharpen my own knives. I’m not there yet since that starts

with a wet stone to sharpen the blade, but one step at a time. I’m starting with learning how to hone my knife.

Here is what I’ve learned so far.

  • Honing doesn’t sharpen, but it does clean up the blade by realigning and smoothing its edge to the way it was originally.

  • Your honing rod should be long enough so you can slide your longest knife all the way before your rod runs out.

  • Using your dominant hand, hold the knife at 20 to 25 degrees—the correct angle for honing.

  • Starting at the bottom of the rod and at the base of your knife, using your arm, slide the blade completely down the rod until the tip of the knife slides off the rod.

  • You can repeat that gesture 9 to 10 times on one side and then do the same to the other side of the blade.

  • Continue by sliding the knife on one side of the blade and then the other, alternating for another 10 to 20 times.

  • Test the knife by cutting a piece of paper or cutting the skin of a tomato; you should feel a big difference.

  • You’ll probably need to do this once a week if you use your knife regularly.

Until I learn how to actually sharpen my knives, I use an inexpensive ($20) knife sharpener. It does the trick and I’m grateful I have it every time I use it.

In the meantime, it is important to remember that sharp knives are not only easier to use but

are also safer. The main problem with dull knives is that they don’t cut but instead crush your food and it takes more pressure to actually cut through your food. Also, the chances of your knife slipping increases noticeably and that is when accidents happen.

I’ll tell you how I’m doing with feeling comfortable having a knife soaring through the air to actually doing something constructive with that flying knife. I’m totally confident we can all learn how to do this without injury.

Do you want to read about getting your knives sharpened at the Farmers Market?


Did you hear about my OUTRAGEOUS goal?!

Ending one year and starting a new one is an opportunity to think BIG!!!


Here Is What's Happening

  • I saw the first draft of my new blog design this week and I was thrilled! I wanted something that was clean and dynamic and so far that is what I got.

  • Peter and I got together to shoot some more scenes for the cooking video and some beautiful close-ups of the ingredients we are using. Though I know this next part of the process takes time and I have to be patient, I can't wait to see the results.

Le Kitchen Cookbook

A Workbook

Everything you need to know to be a good cook.

by Adeline M. Olmer


Bon Appétit
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