OLD SCHOOL, NEW EDGES

KNIFE SHARP­ENER JULIO TORUNO GIVES NEW LIFE TO WORN BLADES.

American Survival Guide - - CONTENTS - By Christo­pher Ny­erges

Knife sharp­ener Julio Toruno gives new life to worn blades.

Julio Toruno is in­ti­mately in­volved with knives ev­ery day. But he’s not a sur­vival­ist, a knife col­lec­tor or a cut­lery dealer. He doesn’t live in a re­mote com­pound, and he’s never heard of all the TV sur­vival show ac­tors. He has no in­ter­est in Alone, Naked and Afraid or Sur­vivor. Toruno is a quiet man who’s found his peace through the an­cient art of knife-sharp­en­ing. He’s a peri­patetic knife sharp­ener; “have stone, will sharpen” seems to be his motto. He reguarly sets up shop from the back of his truck at farm­ers mar­kets and other South­ern Cal­i­for­nia enues and sharp­ens scis­sors, knives and any edged tools his cus­tomers and fol­low­ers bring.

LIFE­TIME CON­NEC­TION TO KNIVES

His in­tel­lec­tual lin­eage comes not from the “big knife” en­thu­si­asts such as “Rambo, but from the culi­nary world, where a sharp knife is a minute-by-minute ne­ces­sity. Most of the meth­ods Toruno uti­lizes com from the long Ja­panese tra­di­tion of knife-mak­ing and sharp­en­ing.

Toruno worked as a cook in a pri­vate school and also as a prep cook in a restau­rant. Be­cause of his work in the culi­nary field, he knew a sharp knife was a ne­ces­sity in get­ting the job done.

Ad­di­tion­ally, his fa­ther had a wood shop in Nicaragua. He made chairs, fur­ni­ture and any­thing wood that the cus­tomer wanted. Toruno saw that his fa­ther had to have sharp knives and tools to con­vert rough wood into fin­ished prod­ucts.

For the last four years, Toruno has driven to var­i­ous lo­ca­tions where peo­ple min­gle. He sets up shop and prac­tices his trade.

IT’S ALL IN THE DE­TAILS

When I re­cently ap­proached him (while he was sharp­en­ing a large kitchen knife), I could see he was very fo­cused; I didn’t know at the

me that he was count­ing his strokes. His con­cen­tra­tion was com­pletely on each stroke of the nife on his whet­stone. I watched him evenly stroke the knife back and forth and oc­ca­sion­ally ut some water onto the stone. His strokes were con­sis­tent and even, like a metronome. I aited un­til he fin­ished—af­ter he wiped the knife clean and set it to the side—be­fore I be­gan o ask ques­tions.

Toruno showed me his Tormek ma­chine, a water-cooled sharp­en­ing sys­tem he uses mostly or scis­sors. “That’s the best on the mar­ket,” he told me, “and when I be­gan my busi­ness, I sed it a lot.” He still uses it for sharp­en­ing scis­sors, but most of the time when sharp­en­ing nives these days, he uses flat Ja­panese water stones. His usual pro­ce­dure is to take each knife hrough a sim­i­lar process us­ing five dif­fer­ent grits of stone.

Toruno cus­tom-built a mount for his stones. It is a vice that fits into a rec­tan­gu­lar stain­less teel pan and stays there via fric­tion. With a quick-re­lease spring, he can change out each tone as nec­es­sary when he does the sharp­en­ing. The pan is filled with water, be­cause the ater he con­tin­u­ally adds to the stones drips right into the pan, mak­ing this a very neat and or­table sys­tem.

I gave Toruno one of my car­bon-steel sheath knives so I could watch the process from start to nish. He mounted the coars­est whet­stone (it had a grit of 120. The smaller the num­ber, the oarser the grit of the stone) onto his vice. He ex­plained that he would first ex­am­ine my knife o see how many strokes it needed and to see if there were any par­tic­u­larly bad spots on the dge. He de­cided to take my lit­tle Rus­sell skin­ning knife through his five stages of sharp­en­ing. He placed the knife onto the stone, match­ing the an­gle of the cut­ting edge to the stone. He hen gave it about 70 even strokes.

ULIO TORUNO IS IN­TI­MATELY IN­VOLVED WITH KNIVES EV­ERY DAY. BUT HE’S NOT A SUR­VIVAL­IST, A KNIFE COL­LEC­TOR OR A CUT­LERY DEALER.

“The num­ber of strokes changes as I move from stone to stone and de­pend­ing on the knife,” Toruno ex­plained. “The fur­ther along in the process, the less strokes I use; but on av­er­age, it’s about 160 strokes to­tal per side, from the coarse to the fine stone. I ap­ply pres­sure in the for­ward and back­ward mo­tio just like Ja­panese knife sharp­en­ers do.”

He used to ap­ply pres­sure in only one di­rec­tion but found that the Ja­panese way is more ef­fi­cient.

When he was done with the 120-grit stone, h moved to stones of finer grit. He pro­ceeded to stroke my knife with a 220-grit stone, then 32 and 1,000. Fi­nally, the finest work was done on an 8,000-grit stone.

He doesn’t con­cern him­self with the de­gree of an­gle of the knife, per se; he sim­ply matche

MOST OF THE METH­ODS TORUNO UTI­LIZES COME FROM THE LONG JA­PANESE TRA­DI­TION OF KNIFE-MAK­ING AND SHARP­EN­ING.

the knife to the stone and does his work.

In knife-sharp­en­ing lit­er­a­ture, one of­ten reads about the “cor­rect” an­gle for sharp­en­ing knives I asked Toruno about how he de­ter­mines the cor­rect an­gle when sharp­en­ing.

He smiled broadly, and I felt as if I’d asked a stupid ques­tion. “I look at the knife, and I sharpen it based on how it was made. I sim­ply lay the cut­ting edge onto my stone and sharpen it based on how­ever it was man­u­fac­tured in the first place.”

He pointed out that in some cir­cum­stances, he might make some vari­a­tion to this rule if the knife edge is dam­aged or if a slightly dif­fer­ent an­gle would im­prove the knife. “I have to eval­u­ate each knife in­di­vid­u­ally.”

Toruno looked at my knife’s edge care­fully and sliced through a piece of glossy pa­per to show how sharp he’d made it.

He ex­plained that dur­ing his 70 or so strokes per stone, he works the blade sec­tion by sec­tion, and he makes a point to be cer­tain to sharpen the up­per part of the knife, be­cause that can some­times be missed.

“I AP­PLY PRES­SURE IN THE FOR­WARD AND BACK­WARD MO­TION, JUST LIKE JA­PANESE KNIFE SHARP­EN­ERS DO.”

HON­ING HINTS

For a be­gin­ner just get­ting started in knife sharp­en­ing, he sug­gests go­ing to any wood­work­ing store and buy­ing a stone with a dif­fer­ent grit on each side, such as a 500and 1,000-grit stone.

I asked Toruno about other sys­tems of knife sharp­en­ers, such as Eze-lap di­a­mond knife-sharp­en­ing rods, ce­ramic rods and even elec­tric wheels (see the side­bar on the fac­ing page).

“I don’t know about the other sys­tems that other peo­ple use,” Toruno said. “I just know how to get a sharp knife us­ing this method. I’m 'old school,' and per­haps I’m overly com­pli­cated by tak­ing each knife through five stages of sharp­en­ing. Yes, some­times, you can get away with three stages, but per­haps I’m a per­fec­tion­ist so I usu­ally pre­fer all five stages.”

LET’S TALK KNIVES

Be­cause there is such a vast va­ri­ety of avail­able knives, Toruno doesn’t have any

Above: Knife sharp­ener Julio Toruno can of­ten be found work­ing at out­door mar­kets in the Los An­ge­les area.

Be­low: Toruno is busy at work restor­ing the edge on a cus­tomer’s knife.

Left: The Tormek water-cooled sharp­en­ing sys­tem. Toruno used this m chine a lot when he be­gan his busi­ness . and still uses it toda

Be­low: Julio Torun is shown with a Cold Steel Bush­man he ju fin­ished sharp­en­ing.

Right: Be­fore he be­gins his work, Toruno ex­am­ines a kitchen knife to de­cide how to bring its edge back.

Far, right: One of the keys to Toruno’s ef­fec­tive­ness is that he con­cen­trates in­tently on his work.

The se­quence of stones Toruno uses for al­most ev­ery nife he sharp­ens

A view of some freshly sharp­ened knives that are be­ing held un­til their own­ers re­turn for them

Julio Toruno uses this ma­chine most of­ten for sharp­en­ing scis­sors.

Toruno dis­cusses the ben­e­fits and ef­fi­ciency of his ormek sharp­en­ing sys­tem.

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