They are one of those kitchen tools that get used every single day - so what do you do when something goes wrong? Here are some frequently asked questions regarding caring for and sharpening your knives. We'll cover sharpening in more detail in upcoming blogs.
"I’ve got a chip out of my kitchen knife – can it be fixed?"
There’s no way that the chip can be filled in again but the blade can be ground back to smooth out the damage. It’s far easier than you might imagine to remove small nicks and chips from the edge of a knife. A rough whetstone is the best tool for the job as this will quickly remove material from the knife edge and get rid of any chips.
Work the knife on one side until the chip is half gone, and then continue working on the other side until the chip had vanished. This will keep the edge of your knife nicely symmetrical for even cutting. Finish by honing your knife on a smooth whetstone and you’re back in business! If you think that mastering a whetstone is going to be too difficult, then most electric sharpeners are quite capable of grinding small chips away. We think that the extra control that you get when using a whetstone makes all the effort worthwhile however.
"I’ve dropped a couple of my knives, the tip broke off one and it’s bent on the other; what can I do?"
Unfortunately the guarantee on your knives is very unlikely to cover this kind of damage but by using a whetstone or electric sharpening machine you should be able to grind a new point onto the broken knife quite easily. If you’re using an electric sharpening machine for this job be careful not to let the knife heat up too much. Overheating changes the temper of the steel making it softer and less capable of staying sharp.
If you’re very careful you may be able to bend the tip of your knife back into shape. Do this by pressing it very gently against a hard flat surface. Be extremely careful, knives are made of hard steel that is more likely to break than bend. You don’t want the tip to fly off and hurt anyone.
"The handle has cracked – Why?"
There are a number of reasons why handles crack. Many kinds of plastic become brittle as they age. If your knife is quite elderly this might be the reason for it cracking. In some cases the rivets holding the handle in place are too tight. This stresses the plastic and can cause cracks to appear. Leaving your knife in somewhere very cold or in strong direct sunlight can make the handles crack. The most common cause of cracked handles however, is dishwasher damage.
In some cases a cracked knife handle can be categorised as a defect in materials or workmanship. This is covered by the sale of goods act and almost always by the guarantee on the knife, depending on its age, and the length of the manufacturers guarantee period. Bring the knife back to the store and we can advise you on the best course of action.
"Will the dishwasher harm my kitchen knives?"
Most knives will come to no serious harm from being washed in a dishwasher once in a while. Continued dishwashing may result in corrosion spots, damage to aluminium rivets and dulling of the cutting edge. Knives with wooden handles should never be put into the dishwasher. A combination of the water, heat and chemicals will ruin the finish of the handles and is very likely to make them crack - dishwashers are very aggressive, so we would recommend that you hand wash your knives to keep them in the best possible condition.
"What’s the best way to keep my kitchen knives safe from children?"
Keeping your knives in a locked kitchen drawer is by far the best way to keep them out of the reach of little fingers. Invest in a wooden knife holder to fit into your drawer. This will protect your knives from damage in the drawer, and you can fit a child-safe draw lock if required for extra security. If you still want to have your knives out on show and easy to hand a magnetic knife rail can be attached high up on a wall out of reach of the children.
"Is there any way that I can sharpen my serrated knives?"
Serrated knives are not intended to be resharpened. Some draw through sharpeners will bring a serrated knife back to life a little by realigning the points of the serrations but this is not a long term solution. Blunt serrated knives should really be replaced.
"How long will a sharpening steel last?"
A good steel should last for around 8 - 10 years. Steels can benefit from being thoroughly cleaned with a scouring pad and detergent from time to time. This will remove traces of metal from the grooves in the steel and make it work better. Take care to dry your steel properly after washing to prevent rust spots and don’t ever attempt to clean it using the dishwasher.
"How should I dispose of my old kitchen knives?"
The only safe and legal way to dispose of old or unwanted knives is to surrender them to the police.