Rise, Dead Edges! Rise! The Glass "Steel"

Discussion in 'Cooking Knife Reviews' started by phaedrus, Dec 31, 2009.

  1. phaedrus

    phaedrus

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    I want to take moment to discuss the glass "steel." I put it in quotations because the common term for what I call a hone is a "steel". While it's not necessarily common knowledge, a hone might be made of any number of materials. The most common is the ribbed steel. It's included in 98% of the block sets in America...and that's tragic. The ribbed steel is worse than useless- it damages your edges. If you trust your good friend Phaedrus you'll throw yours away. Do it right now. I'll wait.

    Um, some of you didn't do it. You're skeptical, and that's okay. Let me make my case for the Death of the Ribbed Steel Steel and explain why a new paradigm is in order.

    More to come...
     
  2. gonefishin

    gonefishin

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    Ok Phaedrus, you've got me. I believe I'll sit down and wait until the others get here.

    dan
     
  3. phaedrus

    phaedrus

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    Sorry for the cheap theatrics, but I have something on my mind that I have to get out. But I have to get up tomorrow and rock out the biggest restaurant day of the year. This is no mere tease, though- I will elaborate very soon.;)
     
  4. boar_d_laze

    boar_d_laze

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    Phaedrus,

    Definitely looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

    BDL
     
  5. phaedrus

    phaedrus

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    Awww, nuts! I had a big post crafted to submit and somehow it was lost/the window was closed before it posted. Crap!:laser: As the hour is late I'll have to attempt to recapture my train of thought after work tomorrow...:mad:
     
  6. boar_d_laze

    boar_d_laze

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    Hate it when that happens. Hurry up though, there's only so long you can maintain the excitement. We don't want the borosilicate to wilt.

    BDL
     
  7. phaedrus

    phaedrus

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    I sort of lost my head of steam, so I'll have to give you my abbreviated thoughts. Most of us here probably know that the term "sharpening steel" is a misnomer; steels "hone" or "true" and edge, they don't sharpen. At least they're not designed to. Unfortunately this distinction is lost on a good many cooks, both home & pro alike. This misunderstanding of the role of a hone is probably based on the fact that most people don't really understand sharpening to begin with, and they're inundated with daily examples of good people using hones badly. After all, Gordon Ramsey is a real chef- he must really know knives, right? Yeah, like a rodeo clown knows enough genetics to clone a bull.

    Case in point: A couple years ago I lent a line cook a sharp (by German standards) Wusthof. He ran his finger along the edge and grabbed a steel & began flailing furiously. At first I was too stunned to move but when I regained my equilibrium I snatched the knife & put it back in my role. I told him, "It's not your d*ck, don't whack it!" Thinking back, why did he try to "sharpen it" before even ascertaining if it needed it? Why salt your food before you taste? Partly I think he was unaccustomed to dealing with a polished edge. People who whack it are used to that toothy, burr'ed up edge.

    Fast forward to the present day. I do fair bit of sharpening for the staff where I work, both for line cooks and the EC. Slowly they're beginning to understand a bit about knives, but the toughest notion to disabuse them of is their incessant compulsion to beat their edges on a coarse steel rod.

    Here's the best method I've come up with. I take a knife that I know was sharp at one point, usually because I sharpened it for them on stones. I have them feel the edge, and use the knife for actual cutting. When we both agree that it's not sharp, at least by the standard that they're beginning to recognize, I demonstrate how I steel with a hone. It happens that I like a glass hone but a smooth steel will work well, as will a ceramic (taking care to get a pretty fine one). First, I lay a damp towel down on the board. Then, holding my hone handle-up in my left hand I plant the point of the rod firmly into the cloth. I very lightly run the blade along the hone heel-to-tip, just kissing it. Easy does it, and less is more. Oh, did I mention you go lightly? Don't get too obsessed about the angle- you want it just every so slightly higher than the angle of the edge. Going slowly & lightly will prevent you from rolling the edge over the other way. One very important point: Stop at 3 or 4 licks per side. You can't sharpen on a hone, and to paraphrase Gunny from Heartbreak Ridge, more than 3 strokes is pleasure. If you haven't straightened the edge with a few licks on each side you won't do it with 20- it's dull.

    In most cases, the knife will now shave again. While glass hones are somewhat in vogue (at the risk of overstating just what constitutes a trend) for J-knives, they will work on Germans provided they're not overused and you refrain from whacking them first on a file/ribbed steel. Of course, the slight amount of sharpening that a fine ceramic does is beneficial to many knives, so long proper technique is employed.

    Alas, not everyone is grasping this point. I sharpened a Messermeister for a guy I work with, and it stayed sharp longer than I though it would given the hard use. But sadly once the FOtS edge was gone I saw him "whacking it off" on a coarse steel. He even remarked that he needed a coarser one because he wasn't able to get a burr with it...[sigh]

    Guess you can't win 'em all.