Wednesday 15 August 2012

Not the Sharpest Tool in the Box

Me that is, not the
Chef’s Choice Diamond Sharpener 110
I’m only doing this review of an electric knife sharpener because the Suburban Bushwacker asked me to when he heard I was buying one.  He’s a nice bloke and since the contractor building my house hasn’t turned up today, I have bugger all else to do.  Besides, I am getting tired with Marcia interrupting me asking for confirmation that she is fat.  For Christ’s sake, I’ve seen more meat on a butcher’s pencil.  If I agree with her and say she’s a slob, I get a kick in the pills.  If I pay her a compliment and tell her she is barking fucking mad if she thinks she is overweight, she gets strangely upset with me.  What it boils down to, of course, is that she is broody again. She is so broody, in fact, that if she sat on a golf ball it would hatch.  How old is Alexander?  Just over three years?  That means I must have serviced Marcia less than five years ago.  Given that Dominic is thirteen, clearly she hasn’t figured out for herself that I am a communist working to Ten Year Plans and just as productively.  Some women are bloody unreasonable.

To distract myself from disquieting thoughts of matrimonial duty, I dug out the electric knife sharpener my brother brought me from Germany. 

I have always believed one cannot beat a quick lashing with a decent steel (assuming one isn’t on the receiving end) but with a girlfriend who has both combusting knickers and a tendency to use my knives to saw open tin cans because she cannot be arsed to use a can opener, it’s hard to keep an edge on anything so I asked Micky to lug an electric knife sharpener all the way from Europe to Angola as well as a complete set of chef’s knives to replace the all but one of my set that have disappeared.  The one very heavy dropped forged chef’s knife I have left has chunks out of the blade as big as the Bay of Biscay and just as rough so there was no point trying to swipe that through my new toy.  The new knives had an edge on them so perfect there was no way I was going to risk putting them through the sharpener.  This is me we are talking about, if you want something ballsing up, just ask me, 100% satisfaction guaranteed (although Marcia might disagree).  What I needed was another blade.  It had to be decent steel, something worthy of this machine’s attention and then I had it.  My sword!

It is a pretty ancient piece arriving in my hands via my German Grandfather’s having seen action at the Battle of Königgrätz in 1866 with his Grandfather and is still on duty with that esteemed Gentleman’s Great Great Grandson as my last line of defence sitting quietly these last years by my desk.  With an edge as blunt as my libido, if anything deserved a good sharpening, it did.  After all, it is a blade, only longer.  Naturally, my son Dominic was all for it.

The manufacturer describes this appliance as for domestic, not commercial use.  They are quite clear about that.  That was OK then.  My sword was only ever destined for domestic use. It would be terribly inconvenient to skewer a bandit off my property requiring, as it would, considerable effort to drag his leaking corpse all the way back to my place before calling the police.  And I am too bloody old for that.

The Chef’s Choice 110 comes with three diamond grinding wheels.  I’m sorry, I have to pause here for a moment.  They’re not bloody diamonds are they?  There may be a few tiny crystals of diamond in the amalgam making up the grinding wheels but for the money this machine cost, that’s got to be it.  Anyway, let’s not be unduly pedantic, three diamond grinding wheels.  The one on the left of the machine is for serious grinding only and for that reason has a World War II fighter pilot’s cap over it to make you think twice before using it.  The other two slots on the right are for progressively sharpening and honing, all you should really need in a day to day kitchen environment.

The slots are designed so that if you lay the knife along the guides, the perfect grinding angle is guaranteed.  Knives come in all shapes and sizes but I bet the design team never considered an Eighteenth Century Sabre so I was interested to see if it could fit into the slots.  It did.

I was going to say, 'Look! Even kids can do it', but we all know when it comes to technology, kids are invariably more adept than cack handed old gits

There’s an art to this, especially if you are wielding a metre or so of fine Prussian steel.  Pull it through too fast and the blade bounces.  Press down more than gently on the blade as you guide it through and the motor gives up and groans to a halt.  Draw the blade through too slowly and the grinding wheel binds on and the motor throws in the towel again.  This is not an industrial grinder by any means.  Treat it gently, however, and it’ll purr away nibbling away at the blade, etching it with what looked to me like a reasonable edge.

One thing I did notice was that the blade became magnetized.  At least I knew the heavy shit grinder was doing something.  Last time I saw iron filings like that was in a physics lab.  No wonder the manufacturer places a plastic cover over that slot to make you think twice before using it. 


Before I started, the blade edge was dull, corroded and pitted in places.  A few passes and I could see I had something to work with, even if I could see the striations left by the rough grinder, so I moved to the next stage.  Again I had to be careful to draw it through evenly and horizontally, not easy with a blade that long and curved, one hand on the handle and the other steadying the grinder so it didn’t flip over.  The grinder comes with suckers for feet, ideal for the kitchen work surface it was designed for but I was using it on a rough wooden bench.  It is a knack easy to acquire, however, and within a few strokes I had the hang of it (Marcia would disagree, of course).


At this point Marcia pitched up with a raggedy old chef’s knife and asked me to sharpen it.  I gave it two passes either side on the rough, then a few passes either side on the sharpener and then a couple of swipes on the honer.  With a blade that short relative to a bloody great sabre, it was easy and the results very impressive especially considering that before I started, this knife of Marcia’s bore all the scars of the tins it had opened.

I went back to the sabre and passed it through the honer.  Again it bound a bit and I realized the first pass at each stage needed to be suave, a really light touch.  The weight of the blade alone was enough; all I had to do was ensure I kept it on the guide.

The question now was, would it cut the mustard?  Cutting mustard seems to be some sort of benchmark but I can cut mustard with my bare hands so I asked Dominic to nip off and ask Marcia for a hunk of steak.  Steak is expensive here so I suppose I shouldn’t have been so surprised when Dominic returned with a lump of kidney telling me that Marcia wasn’t going to allow me to experiment on good meat with a blade that once sliced through an Austrian.  Bloody irrational, it must have been cleaned a few times since then but like I say, she is broody.

After... a clean slice

Still, steak is actually quite easy to slice with even a rubbish knife.  Slippery, slimy kidney is a different kettle of, er, fish. Let’s just say kidney is slippery and slimy and harder to slice finely than steak which has a bit of, er, meat to it.

Well, a once dull and corroded blade certainly cut the mustard, I mean kidney.  I would not say I could have shaved myself with the edge (then again who would want to risk trimming off morning stubble with a sword?) but it was sharp and I was impressed.  I tracked Marcia down and asked her about the knife I had sharpened for her and she was also evidently impressed.

The whisky bottle is only there to add a sense of scale.  Honest.

So what conclusions can I draw?  For one, Chef’s knives longer than a metre are pretty awkward to handle no matter how keen the edge.  Secondly, whilst this electric knife sharpener probably could not match a good man with a steel, it comes closer than any normal person could manage coping admirably with a both historic swords and kitchen knives.  As such, it deserves a place as a ‘wise’ accessory in every domestic kitchen, well sharpened knives being safer than blunt ones of whatever quality.  One flick of a switch, a couple of swipes later and those ripe tomatoes are thin enough to lay out on any homemade pizza.  I am pleased with my new toy and it will be fine for normal domestic use which, let’s face it, is all most of us could wish for.

I suppose there is one other observation I could make: sharpening your over worked girlfriend’s knife so she can prepare dinner for you while you are wasting time and she is hot to trot really does not cut the mustard.  Actually, it’s pretty bloody suicidal.


  1. If I were you sir, I would send a letter to the manufacturers explaining in serious tones that sharpening metre-long blades is difficult, include your address and let us know how they reply. Include a photograph and ask them if they have any plans for a machine aimed at the sporting sabre market!

  2. you even make a bloody knife sharpener sound interesting!!!!
    love the old Hussar you!

  3. Sir Owl of the Wood,

    I was loathe to bore my readers with further observations and yet more free advertising for the manufacturer of a product I chose merely because it was more or less what I wanted to pay and Amazon UK were willing to ship to Germany for onward carriage on the West African packet steamer to me but I confess an albeit grudging respect for this machine.

    Granted, it did not give me the Wilkinson's Sword edge I had hoped for but I am confident it provided one more than adequate to discourage these pesky natives.

    Brother Michael was also kind enough to arrange a supply of Doctor Fearnley Whittingbottom's
    patented Mosquito and other Annoying Insect Repelling Balm so I think I have all sources of irritation covered while I drink the bottle of Bombay Sapphire London Dry Gin he was kind enough to include in the package.

  4. JG, that's my fighting one. I'll dress up properly and pose with the smart one. Just for you xx

  5. I always wondered if those knife sharpening machines were any good. I have a flint that i use, but i think i'm rather inept. My dad used to sharpen all the knives in the house, and i never really learned his technique. I'm sorry now i didn't pay more attention.

  6. Sir Cumferance, what a marvelous story. I noted the lubricant in the green bottle - was that applied before, during, after, or, all through the process?

  7. JD,

    No, it was the remains of my breakfast.

  8. Have at thee Sir, thou aren't but a mouldy-pated bat-fowling gudgeon, etcetera, etcetera, yours most sincerely, c.c. File.

    I wonder if they do a similar model like a giant pencil sharpener for pikestaffs and arrows?

    Was there, do you think, a polite queue during large battles at the blade-sharpeners wheels? Might have been a way to end battles early - nip around the back of the field and pour salt water and grit into the knife-sharpener's bearings...

  9. Owl Wood. Interesting. Perhaps you missed out on your vocation with the UN. Hardly sporting though. Such underhandedness would deprive our Lord's of their glory and their Duty Free...

  10. I have a 110 also, and I find it a bit slow. My knives are Wusthofs, with carbon steel blades, and being typically Germanic they have significant gauge. The result is that getting the initial bur can take up to a dozen or more passes.

    I tend to do about 20 on Stage 1, the same on Stage 2 and about 10 in stage three. This delivers a good degree of sharpness.

    Whatever you do, don't even walk past the thing with a Japanese knife, as it will eat the fucker. My sister's Globals were demolished by it!

  11. I feared as much

    PS Idiot Gardener - you sir have done a very bad thing

  12. IG, Wusthof's eh?

    SBW warned me the machine would not be the magic solution but to be fair, for normal domestic use it isn't bad. You will never get a razor edge but the results are adequate. The advantage of this machine is that it is easy to use meaning it will be used frquently to maintain knives acceptably sharp.

    I can imagine it would take ages to grind a top flight drop forged steel knife to a fine edge.

    SBW, you want to share with me the very bad thing IG has done?

  13. Hippo
    He allowed his Wusthof's to come into contact with such a device. Very bad man.

  14. I allowed a historical sword to come into contact with such a device, surely my crime is the greater?

    I do, however, have an edge on it I am more than satisfied with. The use of liver to test the blade was allegorical in so far as liver would be the organ I would be slicing in defence of my family and property.

    But, as you may have realised from one of my more recent posts, all your fine blades and gucci weapons are bugger all use if they aren't to hand when facing an intruder.


Please feel free to comment, good or bad. I will allow anything that isn't truly offensive to any other commentator. Me? You can slag me without mercy but try and be witty while you are about it.