Sharpening the Knives

On the homestead a knife is used often and what begins sharp is quickly dulled. Knives are good for cutting tall weeds away from the laundry line, cutting through zip ties, cardboard boxes, and plastic packaging, cutting twine to secure hanging plants to the porch beams during windy days, and cutting the plastic tips off tubes of tar. All this cutting will eventually dull the blade and the way to remedy that is by sharpening. You do not throw out the knives and go buy all new ones. You get a sharpening stone. I started at home depot. I figured that was the place to be in my predicament. The staff member kindly pointed me to the right aisle and i set to reading the description and price tag on each stone. Every single stone, from the least expensive to the most, had a label on it that stated, “This product does cause cancer.” The label didn’t say “may increase risk of” or “has been known to increase risk in some cases”. The label stated that they knew for a fact that exposure to the material they used to manufacture their product caused cancer. Not one brand in the whole store said anything different. I left. I tried lowes, tractor supply co, and walmart. In all of the stores i encountered the same label that said the same thing. I was really disturbed by this. All of the knife sharpeners were made from combined materials blended together by a man in a laboratory. I started thinking; we didn’t always have laboratories. What did we do before the advancement of science? I had pretty much turned back to the pioneer days for the methods to complete most of my regular tasks. Now i turned there once again. How did we sharpen knives before sears and walmart? To find that information i had to go to google. As it turned out, people in italy were still sharpening stones in the old fashioned way. I had to order a stone all the way from italy and have it shipped to texas to find a knife sharpening stone that was just that; a real stone. I didn’t want a man-made blend with two differently graded sides. I wanted a stone from the earth that was capable of shaping a blade. Well, italy did not disappoint. One day i stopped by the post office to find a package shipped from italy. Inside was some tissue paper surrounding a small box. Inside the small box was a rectangular stone. I could hold it in my hand without worrying about the side effects. It was a good old-fashioned stone.

Now of course, there had been a place on the website where you could order the holder for the stone; a shallow wooden box that held the stone in place while you dragged the blade across it. However, they wanted a hefty sum of money for this holder and i was on a budget. I had seen some guy on youtube make his own sharpening stone holder with a board of wood, a permanent marker, and some nails, and that was exactly what i was going to do. So i did.

It wasn’t the fanciest or most beautiful holder a person ever laid eyes on but it was functional. I watched around 20 youtube videos on how to sharpen different types of knives on a stone and then i set to work. I sharpened my favorite knives last so that by the time i was working on them i had gotten the hang of it. I tested the knives against my finger after sharpening them. If they cut the skin at first touch i had succeeded and that knife was done. If i could touch the blade and come away unscathed the knife was not finished yet. It was a very empowering experience being able to control the sharpness of my knives with my own two hands. If they came out poorly there was nobody but me to blame. Before i got the hang of it i dulled a few blades before i rendered them sharp again. However, once i got the hang of it i knew i’d be able to maintain every knife in my posession and i’d never need to call on somebody to perform that task for me. This was a useful tool to have in the tiny house.

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  1. I have my dad’s old oil stones he sharpened his chisel on using oil. I learnt tonnes of construction skills with him and now continue the same with my husband. These stones have pride of place in our Attelier. Happy sharpening!

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