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Article

Professional Knife-Sharpening Service

Fine Cooking Issue 85

Consult the yellow pages or the Internet to find a professional sharpening service in your area. You might also inquire at cookware and cutlery shops or at good hardware stores. Or if you’re willing to pack up your knives, you can send them off to be sharpened. Many professional services charge about $1 per inch of blade, while others may have set prices, such as $3 for paring knives, or $8 for 8- to 10-inch chef’s knives; serrated blades or very badly damaged knives may cost extra.

What the experts say

Before you entrust a sharpener with your knives, ask questions and start developing a relationship. Look for a reputable, experienced knife sharpener who will inform you about his equipment and methods (see “Finding a pro,” below).

Our experience

What’s not to love? Once you know and trust your sharpener, simply drop off a dull knife, wait a couple of days, and pick up a sharp one. The most exertion you’ll experience is pulling out your wallet.
Pros: As easy and fully hands-off a sharpening method as you can come by; minimizes the chances of premature blade wear if done properly.
Cons: You have to spend a couple of days without your knives while they are out being sharpened; can be costly over time.

Is it right for you?

If you’re a hands-off type who would rather call a professional than attempt a project yourself, wrap up  those knives and send them out.

Finding a Sharpening Pro

It’s not a good idea to turn over your knives to just anyone who offers sharpening services. Ask around for recommendations: your friends, a cook at your favorite restaurant, or a local cutlery retailer. Or post an inquiry for “reputable knife sharpener” on your favorite cooking-related blog, Web forum or e-group.

When you find a likely candidate, ask a few questions:

  1. Do they use stones or machines to sharpen? The use of a stone suggests the person might be a real knife enthusiast.
  2. If they use a machine, is it fully automated, or does it require a human attendant? The latter may be preferable, because knives can easily be oversharpened on a sharpening wheel.
  3. Do they sharpen all knives the same way, or can they adjust their methods for different blades?
  4. Can they duplicate the factory edge? Sharpen serrated or specialty knives? Correct damaged blades without removing too much metal?
  5. Will they show you a knife they have sharpened? If so, take a careful look. Does the edge appear to be evenly sharp from the heel to the tip? For knives with bolsters, the cutting edge and the bottom edge of the bolster should be flush. There should be no evidence of a notch near the bolster.

Last, take a look around. You’ll be better off at a store that sells quality cutlery than at a place that sharpens lawnmower blades.

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