|Me that is, not the
Chef’s Choice Diamond Sharpener 110
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
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.