OTHER KNIFESHARPENING DEVICES
Yes, there are many sharpening tools available. Toruno was shown this selection and said that any of these are fine—if you know how to use them and you find them to your liking. However, when shown the small, black Gerber Pocket Sharpener, Toruno said, “I wouldn’t have anything to do with that one.”
Traditional steels such as these are used by butchers to maintain a keen edge on their knives:
EZE-LAP’S Model M diamond knife—a sharpening rod with a leather storage pouch. It’s portable and easy to use ... but it must be used carefully.
EZE-LAP’S Model S diamond knife—the sharpening rod is less expensive and smaller than the Model M. It is good for a broad assortment of knives.
The Speedy Sharp carbide-edge sharpener—an inexpensive, portable sharpener that is good for many applications.
Shrade’s Old Timer Honesteel—a bar design used for finer and less-abrasive work than the diamond rods. It comes with a protective leather sheath.
Gerber’s Pocket Knife Sharpener—intended for quick touch-ups in the field. It employs internal sharpening rods for both coarse and fine work.
particular recommendations. He sharpens whatever you bring him. But he does point out that you can often find an excellent functional knife at a yard sale or thrift store.
Sure, you can spend hundreds of dollars on a single knife, and if you’re happy with that knife, fine! But all too often, when collectors spend hundreds on a knife, they tend not to use it. Why? Precisely because they spent hundreds of dollars on it, and they don’t want to mess it up.
“I know lots of chefs who go to yard sales and find excellent knives,” Toruno pointed out. “If you know what to look for, you can often pick up a great knife that the homeowner no longer wants or needs.”
We talked about thick, heavy knives that are popular in the so-called “survival” world; knives that could typically hold up to severe use.
“However,” Toruno explained, “it’s a misconception that a knife with a thinner spine is of lesser quality. It all depends how you plan to use that knife. In the culinary world, a knife with a thinner spine is definitely preferred.”
He added that you should not use your knife as an axe ... if you need an axe, you should buy one.
On the other hand, Toruno said that one of the most versatile cutting tools is the machete.
“In Nicaragua, I’ve seen guys who use the machete for everything. Of course, that comes with practice. I suggest you buy and use the knife you are most comfortable with for your needs.”
Toruno saw the versatility of the machete when he lived in Nicaragua for a short while (from 1992 to 1999), trying to make a living as an organic farmer. But it didn’t work out for various reasons, so he came back to the United States.
In terms of a stainless versus a carbon-steel knife (a carbon-steel knife is often thought of as “old fashioned” and made with metal that can corrode easily), Toruno says that “a carbon-steel blade definitely holds and keeps its edge better than a stainless knife.” But he quickly adds that he’s mostly dealing with stainless steel knives, which dominate the culinary world.
A full tang is best, of course. The tang is the section of the knife that goes into the handle, and so the best knives have metal the full length and width of the handle.
HE POINTED OUT THAT IN SOME CIRCUMSTANCES, HE MIGHT MAKE SOME VARIATION TO [THE] RULE IF THE KNIFE EDGE IS DAMAGED OR IF A SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT ANGLE WOULD IMPROVE THE KNIFE. “I HAVE TO EVALUATE EACH KNIFE INDIVIDUALLY.”
Left to right: A Butcher steel; Eze-lap sharpener models “M” and “S”; a Speedy Sharp; Shrade’s Honesteel; and a small Gerber sharpener are among those the author discussed with Julio Toruno.
Right: A knife’s size doesn’t matter to lio Toruno. Shown here is a small ustom knife he just nished sharpening.