The Kamloops Food Policy Council has been hosting a variety of educational activities related to food. Our most recent offering was a knife-sharpening workshop.

Learn how to sharpen your knives . . . it sounds simple enough – right? A few pointers on getting the angle right – some brushing up on your technique. As I discovered, there’s a bit more to it than that . . .

First of all, I found out the steel rod thing I’ve been using at home isn’t even meant for sharpening – it’s just for removing tiny burrs on the blade between sharpenings. You need a stone for real sharpening (of which there are many choices – diamond stone, water stone, oil stone, ceramic stone), any of which can be called a whetstone because they are used for sharpening, or “whetting” as it was once known. To add to the confusion, a water stone is sometimes called a wet stone, which of course, sounds just like whetstone.

Before you can start sharpening your knives, there is a lot to learn about the different kinds of stones, the various grits they come in, and how to use each one. Unless you have an extremely steady hand, you should also have knife guide which helps you maintain the correct angle while you’re sharpening. If you fail to do that, you may end up doing more harm than good! There is a lot to learn about knives, too. Some are stamped – some are forged. There are bolsters and dimples and micro-bevels – at first the new vocabulary is a bit intimidating, but as with any new skill, it’s a necessary part of the learning, and with new language comes understanding.

As the organizer, I didn’t have the chance for much hands-on practice with knives, but I have to say I learned a lot, and it feels good to know I could have a conversation about knife sharpening and actually know what I’m talking about. With my new-found knowledge and a few tools, I am also confident I could go home and do a pretty good job on some of those dull knives I’ve got around.

I hope we can offer knife sharpening workshops at regular intervals. It’s such a basic, important skill that can make our lives easier, boost our self-sufficiency, and save us money! Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, and they all went home with at least one sharp knife and all their fingers, so I’d say it was a great success.

Hats off to our facilitator, Lawrence, who is so generous with his time and energy, and eager to share his expertise!