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Knife sharpening @ Nob Hill . . . DON'T!!!

Nob Hill and sister Raley's and Bel Air markets offer free knife sharpening. Drop off up to three knives per visit at the meat counter and they're ready for pick up within 24 hours. I inquired about the service in Salinas and learned that the butchers sharpen the knives in-house.

Sounded safe to me, so I decided to try it with one of my mom's paring knives, a 4" Henckels. The lady in the meat department said she could do it right away if I wanted to wait. I did a little shopping and returned to pick up the knife, swathed in a cardboard scabbard and a lot of plastic wrap.

When I got it home and unwrapped it, I could help but SCREAM with shock just to look at it. The blade had been ground down significantly losing the original honed cutting edge. Now it has a chiseled edge bevel and the blade is much narrower than before. Wish I'd measured it before taking it in as this difference was immediately noticeable to me and my mother, who said, "what happened? it's so skinny!" Also, the point has been blunted and there's an ugly gash in the knife's bolster from the crude grinding. This was a hack job all the way around.

This fine knife is ruined. I'm glad I did a test run with a less expensive blade first. Live and learn.

Edited to add: This all happened on Monday, and my words are far more measured today than if I had posted then. Here's the photo of the damage -

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  1. Holy crap...looks like they let the blind apprentice practice sharpening skills on that knife...

    1 Reply
    1. re: ricepad

      Going in, I thought to myself, how bad could it be? Worse than I could have imagined. I've never seen a knife damaged this badly before.

      I have two of these Henckels paring knives in my own kitchen. I think I owe it to my parents to swap one out for my experiment with free sharpening gone bad. Then I'll have a constant reminder in my own house of this folly.

    2. I had a very nice knife sharpened at another grocery store once, and they also ruined it. I took it to the manager and he replaced the knife with a brand new Henckel. (The original wasn't Henckel.)

      They owe you a new knife, or at the very least, a gift card worth the value of the one they ruined. Talk to the service manager!

      4 Replies
      1. re: mudster

        Was it a free or paid service? Guess I'm a little reluctant since I didn't pay for the sharpening, but I should at least let the manager know what a terrible job they did.

        1. re: Melanie Wong

          By all means, let the manager know. S/he needs to know just as surely as if the baker was using his navel to shape cookies.

          1. re: ricepad

            I sent an email, and I'll keep y'all posted on the response.

            1. re: Melanie Wong

              My condolences, Melanie. That photo is clear-as-day evidence! Let us know if you get a response...

      2. I don't know if they are still available, but I got my dad one of the knife sharpening tools that used to be sold through the old CH boards -- really liked it. Reminds me that I need to take my blades over to my parent's the next time I go. I think they were called Morty's knife sharpener or something like that.

        1. Oh My God - when I was Twenty-Something I brought my Henkels to a sharpener. They came out Serrated!

          Only bring your knives to a well respected sharpener.

          You can't get back what they took off! Supermarkets probably can't do it

            1. re: LBeff

              To add insult to injury, the knife isn't very sharp. And when I tried to slice an onion with it, the roughly ground bevel on the edge catches and pulls. It's horrid.

              Here's a link to the pointer I posted on the SF Bay Area board, as Nob Hill's service area extends to the San Jose area. More comments there.

            2. I'm sorry but I don't see what's so wrong despite all the fuss and condolences. It was a free service if I understand right, and it looks from the photo as if the edge was ground down, which shouldn't in itself ruin the knife. Many kitchen knives look more or less like the photo after some years and grinding. If you have had them for so long. If necessary it can be touched up if there are rough edges as described. I am not challenging the conclusion but can you say more about the problem?

              Quote: "I got my dad one of the knife sharpening tools that used to be sold through the old CH boards"

              Yes we talked about this even 20 years ago on the existing Bay Area food discussion site -- you might remember Brian Reid and his diamond strips. If not, I can remind you. The language was most evocative. (These were not products sold online though, they were only recommendations.) It seemed then that the problems were solved, for the consumer. What gives?

              4 Replies
              1. re: eatzalot

                Yes, it's true that I did not pay anything for this "service" and in my note to the management of Nob Hill, I did not ask for any compensation. I did give them due notice that their employees were damaging customer property. I guess where I'm coming from is that the first tenet should be "do no harm" if one is offering to help, free or not. As someone else noted, some people don't know the difference but I believe that the readers of this site do care about this. I wanted to share my bad experience to save their precious knives from a similar fate.

                This knife came out duller and rougher than it went in and in the process lost its tip and nearly an 1/8" off the width of the blade. There was no need to grind a thick bevel on the cutting edge and take off so much meat. In doing so, this knife is no longer functional as a slicer or to pierce as it used to be. It had been maintained with a honed cutting edge that was equal on both sides of the blade. Now with this bevel, it's no longer balanced and its use for paring is diminished as well.

                1. re: Melanie Wong

                  In regard to Malanie's reply, Nob Hill offers sharpening to develop customer loyalty and repeat business. The fact is that they offer knife sharpening!! They should not be absolved of their responsibility to provide what they promise. That would imply a professionally sharpened knife.

                  Melanie is owed compensation to replace the knife which they "Butchered"

                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                    I see, thanks for explaining. (I was going from the photo earlier.) Let me add my condolences too.

                    There are some good pro knife sharpeners in the region. Some of them are freelancers who travel around by van, and call on the professional kitchens on a regular schedule. If you are a customer of a favorite local restaurant or cafeteria, and you know someone in the kitchen, they might be willing to hold your knives for service when the sharpener visits.

                    1. re: eatzalot

                      Those "professional services" can just as easily be hacks using grinders. I worked in a restaurant which used a weekly service, and saw the "finished" knives shown off by serviceman--ghastly! scratched and ground too a fare-thee-well.

                      I felt sorry that the prep cooks had to use tools of such low caliber till I saw one cook opening a gallon can of olives with his knife because the can opener was broken. As hubby says, "Take care of your tools and they'll take care of you."

                      Course, the executive chef used his own knives and took them home every day. Suspect he sharpened his own knives with a stone.

                2. I had the same experience at the knife sharpening place next to Jackson's hardware in San Rafael; ground blade, gouge in the handle. Worse, I paid for it! I still mourn that knife...

                  1. I would have been forwarned by the word "free" -As always, you should assume that" You get what you PAY for" - accent on PAY

                    1. Wow, that's shame what they did to the knife.
                      I've got a buddy who's a machinist and he says the Henckels Twin Select knife sharpener does as a good of a job of sharpening as he can do in his shop:

                      1. Lesson learned too late, but investing in a good stone and learning basic knife sharpening is the best way to go. I have all but entirely given up quick, hand-held knife sharpeners with ground diamond bits or anything. There are good stones available at Suko Hardware in Japantown and the guys there will offer great advice on which ones to use on which type of steel.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Carrie 218

                          One of the awful things about this is that my father kept a stone and patiently sharpened my mom's knives. She mostly uses carbon steel cleavers for just about everything. Cooking for them in recent months, I'd been using this particular knife quite a bit, thought it needed a touch up, and let myself be sucked in by this free offer.

                        2. Can a bread knife be sharpened??? My Henkel's dull...

                          ps: I use the Raley's sharpening service - never have had a problem, except that the never seem that sharp!

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: nancyhudson

                            Yes it is possible, I am a professional knife sharpener in the Sacto area, and I sharpen serrated knives very often.

                          2. Ouch! So sorry. I had a similar experience with a guy, in the requisite van, at the Farmer's Market. Since then I have taken my knives to Raley's in Napa and they have done a good job. Except once they actually didn't touch them, just wrapped them up in the plastic...... I guess it comes down to it is as important to know and trust your knife sharpener as it is to know and trust your butcher or fish monger or produce person. I keep saying I've got to learn to sharpen them myself.

                            1. I owe a post on the follow-up. After emailing Raley/Nob Hill's customer service, the manager of the Salinas Nob Hill contacted me. He said that I would be reimbursed for a replacement knife and apologized. He also said that he had a meeting with the meat department staff who do the knife sharpening so that this doesn't happen again to another customer.

                              I ordered the same make and model that I had before from Amazon, and the new stuff is not the same quality. I returned it and went knife shopping in person to hold and heft the knife myself. I wound up with a Victorinox 3.5" parer purchased in Carmel for $38.40.

                              New Victorinox parer -

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: Melanie Wong

                                Thanks for the follow-up, Melanie! Your new paring knife looks very nice.

                                1. re: Carb Lover

                                  Until I had to replace it, I didn't realize that I'd been using the Henckels mostly as a slicer, rather than for paring. So, utility along those lines was important to me and the Victorinox fit the bill.

                                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                                    so where in San Diego can one take knives for secure sharpening? We have one of the small electric types that was supposedly the best on Consumer Reports, but I think it's not the same.

                                    1. re: abacal

                                      Henry's in University Heights offers free sharpening on Fridays. However, I have not been brave enough to risk it myself.

                                      1. re: Joseph

                                        Sur la Table does free knife sharpening. You can just walk in but I like to call in advance to make sure someone who knows how to do it correctly is working that day. There is no substitute for regular knife maintenance though - you need to use the round sticklike thing (what is that thing called anyway?) after each use and wash of your knives at home to keep them maintained.

                                        Sur la Table does that funny cute thing where they toss a piece of paper in the air and slice through it after they do your knives. Also you can stand there and watch them while they do it and talk to them about it which is nice for the control freaks (like me) who don't want to risk damage.

                                        I go to SLT in the Carlsbad Forum Shops.

                              2. I sharpen my own knives, I get satisfaction by doing things for myself. I would never leave a knife for someone else to sharpen. It isn't that hard people....

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: MattInNJ

                                  Which tool(s) do you use, Matt?

                                  1. re: drucie

                                    A hand me down tri-stone sharpening system.

                                    1. re: MattInNJ

                                      I've heard mixed reviews on those - that they work great, but some say the kind sold for at-home use are too small (short) to easily do knives over 6" long. I'd be afraid of slicing my arm off but then again I'm somewhat klutzy. The one thing I've always heard is never buy anything electric for knives.

                                      1. re: drucie

                                        I agree, never buy an electric. My father taught me how to sharpen tools and such when I was young. This certainly falls under the category "practice makes perfect". Gotta get out there and try, if you don't then you will never know :-)