A well-made knife can last a lifetime, but only if properly maintained. The three most important elements of knife maintenance are proper cleaning, regular sharpening, and proper storage.
Keeping your knives clean, dry and in a proper knife block will prevent your knife from getting rusty, damaged, and will help prevent the blade becoming dull.
When the blade becomes dull, then it is necessary to sharpen, or hone the blade. This article will help you determine the sharpness of a knife, thus helping you to know when a honing of the blade is necessary.
Not all Knives are Equal
Before getting into the steps of testing a knife’s sharpness, it is important to realize that different knives serve different functions.
If you have an axe blade, you would hardly use the same test to determine its sharpness as you would that of a tomato knife.
Even though the following tests will determine the sharpness of any blade, it still makes sense to use a test that best reflects the regular use of the blade. Also, remember the rule- safety first. No matter the knife, no matter the test, always BE CAREFUL.
Test 1- Regular Use
The most effective test is perhaps the most obvious one – the regular use test.
As you are using your knife for its regular function, ask yourself, is the knife performing well? Does it cut smoothly and evenly, without hesitation or extra effort? If the answer is yes, then your blade is sharp enough.
If however, your knife requires extra passes to cut through an item, or it leaves rough edges and fraying, then the chances are that the blade is dull and needs honing.
Test 2- The Paper Test
The second test is probably the most recognizable test – the paper test.
Doubtlessly you have seen this test used on infomercials selling knives that can cut through a can without becoming dull. After cutting the can, the host takes a sheet of paper, holds it in the air, and slices it effortlessly with the knife.
This test will prove that a knife is at its sharpest, as any dullness in the blade will cause the paper to simply crumple under the blade. This test is a bit ‘showy’ in my opinion, and it is also somewhat dangerous.
If you choose to do this test, make sure you hold the paper above where you place the knife, and angle the blade away from your hand, thus preventing any chance of the blade hitting your hand.
Test 3- The Shaving Test
This is another test I am sure most people have seen, probably on the same can-cutting infomercial.
In this test, you take the knife and run it along your arm, in a shaving motion – NOT in a cutting motion, to see if the blade removes arm hair.
If arm hair is removed, then the blade is ‘razor sharp’.
If not, then some honing may be in order.
All in all, one test should suffice – the regular use test.
Any test that places a blade against your skin is, in my opinion, unnecessarily risky.
Why put a cutting tool against your body?
You wouldn’t touch a stove to decide if it’s hot enough to cook meat, so why touch a knife to decide if it’s sharp enough to cut meat? A dull knife doesn’t cut well, and you will notice this during your day-to-day use.
No elaborate tests needed. Just use common sense and simple observation, and you will know whether your knife is sharp or not. Be smart, and be safe.