If you have to lean on your knife to cut butter, if the best blade in your drawer won’t slice a tomato, or if a dull knife made a mess of the Thanksgiving turkey then Danny is your go-to guy. Sharp knives will improve your cooking life.
You may have seen Danny with his Edgewise Kitchen portable knife sharpening setup at the Westport, New Canaan, or Fairfield farmers markets putting a new edge on blades. At this time of year, he’s indoors at the Gilbertie Herb Farm, winter home of the Westport market on Saturdays, 10:00 to 2:00.
I brought him three different types of knives that needed to be sharpened. The first was a Japanese style santoku knife (my favorite) with a thinner blade and indentations ground into the sides that help the knife pass through the cut without sticking. The second was traditional a French style chef’s knife with a thicker, stiffer blade.
After checking the edge of my Wusthof santoku, he delicately restored the tip on a motorized abrasive belt then covered the blade with painters tape to protect it from scratching.
Next it was on to his Edge Pro wet stone sharpening system set for an 18 degree edge. He sharpened with a rhythmic side to side stroke on both sides of the blade, increasing in fineness from 220 to 600 to 1000 grit stones. After a quick brush up on the leather belt, the knife cut smoothly through a sheet of newsprint
without any tearing. “Can you hear the smooth whisper of a sharp knife?” Danny asked as it split the paper.
Marsha’s favorite is a Henckels six inch chef’s knife. Against a flat surface, there was an inch long gap at the bolster (the bump just before the handle) where the blade did not touch the table. This gap, the result of poor sharpening in the past, would prevent the knife from cutting all the way through at that part of the blade. An easy fix, Danny told me.
On the grinding belt, he carefully removed some steel from the thick bolster, smoothing out the curve of the blade. After taping the knife he started at 120 grit and went up to 1000 at a 19 degree angle getting less aggressive as he went along. A final touch on the leather belt and it cut like a surgical instrument.
A sharpening steel is an essential tool to keep knives in good shape. If you looked at a sharp knife under a powerful magnifier, the smooth looking edge would seem ragged, like it had teeth. In addition, the cutting edge tends to roll with use like the edge of a well-thumbed page, creating a burr that dulls the knife. Stroking the blade over a steel at the correct angle will remove the burr and align the teeth, not sharpening, but restoring the edge. Danny recommends a diamond coated or hard ceramic steel for the best results.
The third knife I brought to be checked was a serrated utility knife that we’ve had for years. Danny explained how I could sharpen it with dowels and wet sandpaper, but concluded that it wasn’t worth the time it would take.
He went on to explain that serrated knives have a flat side and a ground side. By sliding your finger down the flat side of the blade toward the cutting edge, you can feel if there is a burr that is dulling performance. If so, pull the flat
side over a sharpening steel and the burr will be gone, greatly improving performance. I tried it with my bread knife at home with excellent results.
While Danny was working, Dave Lowrie, a market vendor of fresh and smoked seafood at The Local Catch, stopped by to pick up knives he had dropped off for sharpening. “This is my favorite knife,” he said, holding up a seven inch chef’s knife, “I bring it to Danny whenever it needs a touch up. He’s the best.”
Knives, an essential tool for any cook, are a pleasure to use when properly sharpened. If you bring your knives to Danny, they’ll cut like a dream.