In the long list of skills grandpa knew better than us, there’s the ancient art of knife sharpening. It takes more than a honing steel and a couple swift swipes of the blade to tighten an edge: there’s grinding, stoning, rinsing, repeating and polishing. Fortunately, unless you’ve been clearing underbrush with your chef knife, it can be sharpened at home with a few small tools and the right knowledge.
Josh Donald is the co-proprietor, along with his wife Kelly Kozak, of Bernal Cutlery, which fine-tunes the steel of the best chefs in San Francisco (like Stuart Brioza of State Bird Provisions). Knife sharpening relies on feel, and Donald’s early start (with a pocket knife at the age of five) got him plenty of touches before he honed his skill. He tinkered for years before opening a shop at age 30. He advised us on the samurai way — Japanese whetstone sharpening. His primer gives an overview of whetstone sharpening, but check in with a local shop for a sharpening class on the intricacies specific to your cutlery.