Philip Brewer's Writing Progress


Sunday, 01 September 2002

I sharped knives today.

Certain activities--polishing shoes, weeding gardens, sweeping floors--are good for the soul. Sharpening knives falls into that category. They're all simple, repetitive activities that make something better. They all require some small amount of skill to do well, but not so much that you can't learn to do it in 15 minutes.

I like to sharpen knives. People don't realize that sharpening knives is easy, as easy as sweeping the floor or polishing shoes. All you're doing when you sharpen a knife is grinding away a bit of the metal of the blade. It doesn't really matter if you push the blade forward or pull it back. It doesn't really matter if you alternate sides or do it several times on one side and then several times on the other. The only thing that really makes a differences is holding the blade at a constant angle to the stone--if the blade rocks back and forth while you're sharpening it, you'll end up with a rounded edge rather than a sharp one.

One way to do it is to move the blade as if you were trying to shave a thin layer off the sharpening stone. That's what I do; I find the mental image helps me keep the knife at a constant angle. But if you prefer to draw the blade back rather than pushing it forward, that works just as well.


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