Keeping Knives Sharp

We marvel at the sharpness of a new kitchen knife:

Look how it slices through an onion so fast there’s no time for tears! Look how fast it juliennes a zucchini and how precise the cuts are! Look how quickly it reduces a pile of parsley to a fine mince! Look how—whoops! Just cut my finger.

The problem with sharp knives is that we are not used to having them in our own homes. We buy a knife, are thrilled with it, and then use it and use it and use it, rarely if ever stopping to hone or sharpen it. Which is too bad, really, since it is similar to, oh, never getting an oil change for your car or never updating software. Everything just slooooooooows down.

The finely crafted Japanese knives that are now all the rage come with another set of problems—okay, challenges. We are told that their blades are thinner, honed to a sharper edge than Western knives, and therefore need a special tool and/or special skills to sharpen them. When I bought my MAC knives at Bernal Cutlery in San Francisco’s Bernal Heights neighborhood, I had also bought a medium grit polishing stone. Later I learned that these would eventually become uneven with use and would themselves need polishing. See what I mean about complicated?!

Imagine then my delight and surprise when I went to a MAC knife demonstration by Brian Arimoto, sales manager for MAC Knife Inc., at Cookhouse San Francisco. He told us that he used the Fiskars RollSharp knife sharpener on his knife collection and then proceeded to whiz through a bang-up presentation of precision cutting. All of which looked like great fun and required, as you might imagine, very sharp knives. The decorative cuts were practical and fun for entertaining since you could pretend you were Jacques Pépin (or Brian) as you carved apples and carrots into birds and such and used the results to decorate hors d’oeuvres trays.

But I don’t remember any of that. What I did retain was the name Fiskars and went to Amazon and bought one. the package states: “ceramic wheel sharpens and polishes edge.” And I’ve had good luck with it. I also have an AccuSharp for my other knives as well as an AccuSharp tool sharpener for my garden tools. (In the interest of full disclosure, I also own a Chef’s Choice electric sharpener.) And, because there is nothing like a professional to restore knives to their original sharpness, I take my knives back to Bernal Cutlery occasionally. Instead of my hiking out to their neighborhood, they bring their skills to mine, setting up a booth outside Bi-Rite once a month. They go to other neighborhoods and farmers’ markets as well. Check their website for their schedule.


Since Penni helped me with my kitchen, I never look in my (now organized) cupboards without thinking of her and thanking her for making my cooking life easier.

-Marilyn Day

About Penni

Over 30 years as a food and wine professional, writer, and editor.

Cookbook author including:
'The Tra Vigne Cookbook' for Michael Chiarello,
'The Basque Kitchen' for Gerald Hirigoyen
and 'BurgerBar' for Hubert Keller.

Contact Penni Wisner