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Living On the Edge at Area Farmers’ Markets

Patti Small with On the Edge Knife Sharpening offered her thoughts on how NOT to care for your knives.

Patti Small grew tired of the glitz and glamour of the movie business about three years ago. She worked in the reasonably lucrative field of movie business accounting.

“I couldn’t stand it,” Small said.

So she opted for happiness rather than money and took up a hobby that she hopes will someday become “something real” that can support her.

Small operates On the Edge Knife Sharpening, a business that allows her to travel to farmers’ markets throughout the area hand sharpening everything from kitchen knives to dog grooming shears.

The 3-year-old business allows Small to work with her hands – a goal she had when she left the movie business – and spend time getting to know the customers and vendors who frequent the farmers' markets she attends – a favorite part of her job.

On Wednesday, she spent a few hours at Russell’s Garden Center for the Summer Farmers’ Market in Wayland. With her whet stone and various other implements nearby, Small offered several tips for how NOT to treat your knives.

  • Don’t put them in the dishwasher.

  • “Storage is a big deal.” Small said that many knife blocks now feature horizontal slots for the knives, but if you still have an older block with vertical slots, put the knives in the slots sharpened edge up so you don’t rake the blade edge over the wood every time you drop it in.

  • Don’t cut on plastic. In spite of common belief, Small said, bacteria lives in plastic, too. She recommends bamboo cutting boards. It’s true that they can also collect bacteria, but she marks one for meat and one for vegetables. And, since bamboo is highly renewable, she said you can replace the boards more often without feeling guilty about the trees cut down to produce new boards.

  • Don’t cut on glass, countertops or ceramic plates. Those surfaces quickly dull knives.

How long a knife stays sharp is entirely dependent on how often it is used, what it is used to cut, what kind of knife it is and how it’s stored, Small explained. She said she has some customers who tell her that knives she sharpened two years ago are still sharp, but she has other customers who have regular appointments every six months.

As for the steel that often comes with a set of knives, Small said it does nothing to actually sharpen knives if their edges are already dull. It serves only to realign the blade. That said, if a person uses the steel regularly, Small said a sharp knife will stay sharp longer.

Small also cautioned that dull knives are not safer than sharp knives, in spite of the popular opinion she often hears. Even dull knives can cut skin, Small said, and the added pressure needed to cut with a dull knife means that when a dull knife does hit skin, it does so with more force than a sharp knife would.

Small will be at various farmers’ markets throughout the rest of the summer, including another trip to the SoWa Open Market on Aug. 21. Click here to see Small's full farmers' market schedule.

Lee August 12, 2011 at 11:33 AM
The first knife I had you sharpen in May is still very sharp. I will see you at Copley on Tuesday August 16th with another one. Lee

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