The Busy Galley: Sharpening a Knife, Using a Knife

Here's a handy guide if you want to know a bit about sharpening a knife—or chisels and axes—and using a knife.



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A complete sharpening kit featuring stone, oil, and strop.
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Creating a sharp blade
This illustrates the stages a knife or other blade goes through during the sharpening process.
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The steel polishes and refreshes the edges of the kitchen blades. It is held upright and the knife is brought down and back on alternative sides. The feel of experience retains the angle on both sides.
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Inveterate whittlers and pocket-knife tinkerers, as well as trappers, nurserymen, and ropeworkers, may find a pocket steel like this Gerber useful for constant keenness. The grooved edge shapes and the abrasive flat finishes. Another great advantage is that the strong chisel-shaped steel pries, hacks, wedges, and performs all the jobs that can bollix your knife.
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The tip of a blade is often neglected; grasp the flat of the blade up near the tip and give the tip special attention when sharpening.
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 Immobilize you axe or hatchet, then filed it to a proper bevel.
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The sharpening angle of chisels and plane irons is especially critical. There are several devices that hold the blades rigidly at angle to make sharpening easier and better.
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The French Cooks Knife is a deceptively simple instrument that a good cook can use with the grace and flair of a kendo swordsman. It has reached such a peak of simple effectiveness that no one thing can replace its many functions.
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Use a round stone to sharpen and refresh an axe's edge after you've filed it.
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The blade rocks and pivots on the curve at the tip, and the straight run of the blade minces one way, then at right angles, as fine as desirable.
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Hold the knife almost like a fencing foil and control it with your thumb and index finger on either side of the blade. Its elegant proportions and balance make even a large knife responsive and quick.
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The strong, straight back gathers and slides cut material aside or into bowls. Such an admirable, functional, beautiful tool!
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The onion is laid on the flat base made by the side slice and is cut horizontally four or five times.
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Using the bunched fingernails as guides for the blade, the onion is sliced at any desired thickness, moving the fingernails back each time for quick cutting. The onion is diced. Elapsed time: 30 seconds. Your personal results may vary.
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A French cook's knife dices an onion: the stalk top is cut off and four or five shallow slits are made down to the root end. The knife's tip flicks out one section of peel and the rest are folded out and twisted off with one turn. The root, where most of the bitter oils that attack your eyes reside, is left, but a slice is taken from the side.
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The knife's thin tip makes four or five vertical cuts. 
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The paring knife is a specialized tool, and not a GP do-all. It is short and thin for peeling and trimming.
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A sandwich knife is indispensable aboard ship or at a big-time lunch feed. It spreads, squooges, and cuts with a flexible spatula blade.
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The oyster knife goes in tip-first with its semi-sharp elliptical blade, then is turned to open those doors.
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The clam-knife's short, strong, semi-sharp blade is insinuated between the shell lips to cut the adductor muscles and open the vault.
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Similarly, the filet knife's narrow, pointed blade deals with a fish's bones, but has a thinner blade.
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The butcher's steak knife looks like a scimitar. It is long, strong, and curved.
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The boning knife has a study, narrow pointed blade for working meat from intricate bone structure.
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The carving knife is long for a long, gentle cut. It is fairly straight so as to gauge the depth of your cut.
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