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  • Writer's pictureKate

Activity of the day: Tool sharpening using only household items

We've been doing a lot of activities that need knives, scissors or gardening equipment such as hoes.

Using anything with a blade is easier and safer if the blade is properly sharpened and maintained as the tool can then be used with much less force and much better control. Also, it's just not fun cooking, pruning, weeding or carving with a blunt blade. It hurts your hands, it's slow and it's frustrating. Sharp blades make jobs easy and fun- you can concentrate on getting what you want out of the job (small pieces of vegetables, an amazingly whittled toy) rather than fighting your tool just to make it work at all.

Helpfully, keeping tools sharp is a really simple thing to do - though if they're really blunt, getting them sharp in the first place can take a long time.

If you have a whetstone or set of sharpening tools, that's great. But they're not essential: You can sharpen knives using anything hard and rough. Something everyone is likely to have to hand is the underside rim of a mug or plate- the cheaper and rougher the china, the better- and some tough fabric like old denim or leather to strop the blade afterwards. In fact, I've found that using an upside down mug sharpens my kitchen knives more quickly and better than using my actual sharpening steel!

There are loads of videos on YouTube which will help you through the sharpening process if you're unfamiliar with it- I'm not recommending any particular one as I've not found one that isn't really annoying- but the principles work- just search "sharpen knife with plate" or "sharpen knife with cup".

A couple of useful hints are:

While sharpening, make sure you're pointing the blade AWAY from yourself - this may mean switching the hand you're sharpening with. This is especially important when using a cup as the fast curve of the surface could lead to slips. Hold your sharpening stone (mug/plate/whatever) securely, again to avoid accidents.

Hold the blade at an angle of about 20 degrees to the sharpening stone you're using (the knife will let you know the angle it wants) and pull it steadily down to the end of the blade. Don't go too fast- you don't want to heat the blade up.

"Whet" means "sharpen"- nothing to do with water- but you can use water to keep the blade and sharpening stone cool and to carry away the metal filings you'll be creating.

Strop the blade on a piece of old fabric or leather to remove any last tiny jagged bits, and test the sharpness by holding up a piece of paper and cutting into it. A sharp knife will cut the paper easily. DO NOT check knife sharpness using your fingers!!

If the knife is as sharp as you like, you can get back to the job you were trying to do when you found the knife wasn't sharp enough for you- otherwise, keep sharpening until you're happy with the blade!

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