I learned at my first restaurant job the value of a good, sharp knife. My job was to carve slabs of prime rib off a colossal roast. I had to aim for a certain size slab, which I weighed each time, all of which took place in a window where I wore an engineer’s outfit. The now defunct restaurant had a train theme.

The manager, my boss, seldom in the window, did sharpen the knives. A razor sharp blade could cut through a standing rib roast with one deft slice. A dull edge ended up making sawing motions and often a menacing laceration on my non-dominant hand.

The boss had a sharpening rig with three stones that were mounted to a spit-like bar. He would start at the coarser stone and work his way through the other two progressively finer stones. When done, he would run the edge along a knife sharpening steel, with cartoon-like finality.

As a grown up, I brought the desire for a sharp knife to my own kitchen. This required me to pick up some sharpening skills and tools. I even had a pamphlet (back when there were such things) with step-by-step how-to instructions. In spite of the studying, I was not and am still not very good at sharpening knives.

I believed in carbon steel over stainless, understanding and believing there was a keener edge to be had. These knives are very vulnerable to rust. It was my feeling that money spent on a good knife was money well spent. I tried to spread this credo amongst my family and associates. Nostalgic air travelers please note, I brought my brother a collection of knives, wrapped up in newspaper and carried onto the airplane.

On the magnet, on the wall, I have a collection of knives in various sizes. I have read that this is not the optimum way to store them. In the interest of preserving fingers, I sharpen these knives when they are not cutting to my satisfaction. My tools have been reduced to a gizmo that I scrape across the blade, removing precious metal from the edge. I have also read that this is maybe the worse way to sharpen a knife, but in the end I have a knife that obeys my commands.

Here’s what I do when all else fails and I can’t get a decent edge on a knife. I go out and buy a new one that always works best for me.

Nine fingers and counting.

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