Posted by johngl
It was truly a gift of Valentine’s Day love when the most glorious spousal unit came home with this Chef’sChoice 315S Diamond Electric Sharpener for Asian-Style Knives (what a mouthful).
I am not being facetious either. I fess up to having a fondness for sharp objects and a therapist might even say that cooking is just a vehicle to allow me to utilize them without looking like a hoodlum standing on a street corner flipping a butterfly knife open and closed.
I’ve even been known to sharpen knives for friends (or purchase sharpeners for them) as well as buy entire knife sets for folks who dared provide me with a dull knife whilst helping prepare a meal. Yes, it is an obsession that I have honed to perfection.
We have kitchen knives of every sort: light ones for the most glorious one and heavier ones for me. We have knifes made by illustrious companies like Wüsthof, J.A. Henckels, Messermeister, and Shun (a division of Kershaw) that push $200 each. We also have some really cheapo knives that cost about $3.50 that are made in assorted developing countries. Each serve their purpose.
Knives with names like santoku, nakiri, and yanagiba are racked right alongside your basic chef, utility, boning, and paring knives. Up until now, I had a high quality sharpener for the latter (Chef’s Choice 120), whose blades are ground at 20° but nothing for those in the former group, whose blades are ground to 15°. Further, my yanagibas are traditional which means they are only ground on one side. I’ve been sharpening these by hand for years.
But no more!
I opened the box to reveal the stylish high gloss black and red finish with Asian characters stamped on the side to lend credibility. I have no idea what they mean. The “1” and “2” on the red things lend particular significance to how stupid us Americans might be.
First, you shouldn’t use this thing facing the other direction (there are no numbers on the other side). Second, apparently us USA born morons can’t tell our right from our left. The “1” is the grinding side and the “2” is the stropping (polishing) side. This is very important.
Using this is pretty obvious. You turn it on, slide a knife into the respective slots and pull. If the knife ain’t sharp, do it some more. However, since we are such an ignorant lot, I would strongly suggest reading the clearly written instructions (which, ironically, use the words “left” and “right” instead of the numbers in most places).
In all seriousness, the instructions are very valuable especially for knives ground only on one side.
So, to take this for a test drive, most glorious handed me her santoku. It’s a very lightweight stamped-steel blade that she truly enjoys using. Following the instructions, I reground the double beveled edge with about 10 slow strokes on each side in the “1” slots. I then dropped it into the stopping slots (“2”) and lightly hit it with 2-3 quick strokes on each side.
Whilst reading through the instructions, I ran across this phrase: “shaving sharp.” As in, if the blade isn’t shaving sharp when you’re done, start over and do it right! Well, it didn’t say that exactly, but I used the quoted phrase in the spirit intended.
I finished the knife. It was sharp. But was it shaving sharp?
Present hairy forearm. Lay the blade flat on the forearm, then tilt blade up about 10°. Observe most glorious spousal unit turn her head away. Observe lawyers saying: DO NOT DO THIS AT HOME. This professional driver is on a closed course. Side affects may include bleeding and trips to the emergency room. Stitches may be necessary if you screw up. Come on folks, engage the brain and don’t be stupid.
I gave the blade a slight push. It was as though the hairs leapt off my arm and onto the blade. Yep, this baby was now shaving sharp.
For those of you a little squeamish about using this shave-test method, Chef Morimoto uses this one:
If you run a dull knife over your thumbnail, it won’t catch. However, if you try it with a shaving sharp knife, it will not only catch, you’ll be able to carve florets into your thumbnail. Again, don’t try this at home without supervision.
To be completely safe, don’t test the blade at all and just take my word for it.
And the next time you are looking for a gift for a hard-to-please spouse, give a gift of true love.