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Free knife sharpening - don't do it!

In case anyone in the SF Bay Area is tempted to try Nob Hill's free sharpening service in the south bay, here's my sad tale on the California board.

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

Earthly remains of what had been a fine knife -

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  1. Thanks for the warning! There's a Nob Hill opening a few blocks from my house in a couple of weeks, and I might have been tempted.

    Anything else pro or can to say about Nob Hill markets? I don't think I've ever shopped in one.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Ruth Lafler

      Here in Salinas, Nob Hill and Albertson's are within a couple blocks of the local, Star Market. They represent the middle, bottom, and top tier respectively. My parents' grocery dollars are probably split equally between Nob Hill and Star, and then we go to Albertson's when they have branded stuff marked down as loss leaders. Nob Hill is bright and clean, has fast and courteous checkers, helpful staff in the aisles, and the produce is good quality and well-marked. The baggers wheel your cart out to the lot and unload into your car. Yet, I liked the store more when it was independently owned before the buy-out by Raley's. Star is a smaller store, but has much variety in the things I want to buy in less square footage.

      1. re: Melanie Wong

        Thanks, Melanie! I avoid chain supermarkets, but this new Nob Hill is likely to become my default (for things I can't buy at specialty grocers, farmers markets, etc., or after hours emergencies), since it's only four blocks from my house.

    2. I had my knives sharpened *once* years ago, and had the same experience. I actually had a couple of them come back with a *concave* cutting edge! Just try chopping something with a knife that doesn't meet the board. And this was at a cutlery store! We then invested in an electric knife sharpener, "Chef's Choice", I believe it's called. It does a fine job without grinding my knives down into a rapier.

      Thanks for the warning.

      1 Reply
      1. re: teela brown

        i've heard good things about the chef's choice electric sharpener. if i had space for a gadget that would be it.

        that pic really does look awful. they need to stop offering the "free" service if it's going to wreck their goodwill with their customers. then again, i wonder if most customers even understand how bad that hack job is.

      2. You might keep in mind that the quality of the knife steel is paramount. In this age of global outsourcing, a name brand of world-class reputation may sell inferior knives that do not hold an edge. Henckles, Sabatier,Wusthof all have economy brands made in Asia, and often of inferior quality. Usually, you get what you pay for. I cannot stress the importance to a serious cook to get the best cutlery you can afford...it should be a lifetime investment.

        3 Replies
        1. re: OldTimer

          This knife is from Henckels top line and handcarried back from Solingen. I'm just glad I didn't sacrifice some of my dad's carbon steel blades.

          1. re: Melanie Wong

            If you are interested in carbon steel knives, check Japan Woodworker in Alameda. They have a web site.

            1. re: OldTimer

              Nob Hill's replacing my knife. I ordered the same model number from the Four Star series from Amazon, and when the package arrived yesterday, I couldn't believe that it was from the same company. The spine is barely polished and has rough spots, the molded handle is not as full in the hand, it feels less weighty, the cutting edge of the blade has a couple dings in it, and the blade looks crooked in the handle to me. I'm sending it back. I'm going to have to go to a cutlery shop, hold the products in my own hand, and find something else that would be of equal quality to my old Henckels.

        2. For cutlery maintenance there is nothing like Columbus Cutlery on Columbus in North Beach. Hang out there for a while and you will meet every great chef in San Francisco. I prefer softer steel knives like older Sabatier knives. I find the softer steel gets a better edge from my steel. I use my steel often and have my knives refinished at Columbus every 6-12 months.

          2 Replies
          1. re: drcuisine

            I also get my knives sharpened at least 1x per year at Columbus Cutlery and I use a honing steel religiously after each use. Columbus Cutlery is great.

            1. re: drcuisine

              I agree about Columbus Cutlery, but have been wondering about the knife shop on Polk Street across from the Culinary Academy...anyone have any experience with their knife sharpening service?...it's close to my office, so a lot more convenient...

            2. There was free knife sharpening at Chef's Warehouse (in SSF) a few months ago. I took a few knives there, nothing expensive but then again, most of my knives are verry old Chicago Cutlery. Anyway, the gal was from Henckles, IIRC, and seemed very knowledgable (about all brands of knives, not just her own) and careful. There was a long line of people w/their knives. Many of the people had expensive knives. No complaints about the end result, and I'd go there again, assuming it was the same person.

              1. A reputable knife sharpener is as indispensable to cutlery as a good mechanic is to a car, or a tailor is to trousers. Every Wednesday my local hardware shop (White Oak Hardware in San Carlos) has a mobile sharpening unit stop by with their "diamond dust encrusted 7-wheel system" (or what have you) proprietary grinding rig. My german steel is given the best treatment in the business, and for months afterwards my blades are falling through potatoes and peppers with nothing more than gravity's help.

                I almost brought a few knives in to Nob Hill once - thanks for the warning!

                1. We had our collection sharpened at the place next to Bi-Rite Creamery, sorry I forget the name. The guy there is a little rough around the edges, no pun intended but he did a very good job. This place was recommend to me by a trustworthy source, we would not leave our collection of knives just anywhere.

                  Sorry Melanie that really sucks.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Lori SF

                    That's Jivano's. He does a great job for me. I highly recommend him, as well.


                  2. My secret is buying the all-metal knives at the asian store on 3rd ave in san mateo (across from sushi sam's). They are $3 to $5 and cut better than all of my top knives combines. Cutting raw fish & meat is a breeze. No one ever believes me until I buy them one and then they say it's the best knife they've ever owned. After 3 years mine still cuts incredibly well. I'll never sharpen it...I'll just go buy a new one!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: FoodieRN

                      wow love it great tip. I always look the knives the sushi chefs are using and most of the time they look nondescript!

                    2. I've had my knives sharpened for the last 2 years at the shop on Polk near the Culinary Acadamy and they do a fine job - also they're very knowledgeable if you're looking to buy a knife. Not the lowest prices around but they have a great selection and really know their stuff.

                      1. Anyone ever use Perfect Edge Cutlery in San Mateo? I have two Henckels stainless steel knives that could use professional sharpening.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Larry Stein

                          If that's the one near the Prince of Wales pub, then yeah, I think they do my knives with their truck and portable unit. Incredible work. Much better than new.

                          1. re: orezscu

                            Perfect Edge is on 16th & Palm, Prince of Wales (old name) is on 25th and Palm.

                          2. re: Larry Stein

                            I brought three knives the other day to perfect edge for sharpening - a chef's knife, boning knife, and santoku. They came back very sharp and I was quite satisfied.

                          3. The guy who does it in his truck at the Ferry building farmers market in SF is very good. A bit pricey but very nicely done.

                            1. Wow! thanks for the warning. Where would one learn how to sharpen knives at home?

                              1. There's this old German guy at the Menlo Park farmer's market who does an excellent job for about $8. He uses a whetstone and a variety of other polished stones--no machines or such--and he works on any blade (including lawn and medical equipment).

                                Highly recommended. I had his card for a while, if people are interested I can go find it and post.

                                1 Reply
                                1. That looks like a terrible job in the picture. I'm sure by now someone has brought in a prized knife and had it ruined.

                                  1. Good knives will have a hardened edge for longevity, the remaining metal relatively soft for strength.

                                    Grinding the edge of a knife can be poor practice, obviously. I prefer a sharpening stone.

                                    Sharpening's an infrequent thing as generally we're looking to straighten the edge back to sharpness, which is honing, something that's done often in the kitchen.

                                    Putting an edge on your knives is much easier to do at home, and convenient, with quality sharpening & honing stones. But....the offer looks so good....live 'n' learn.

                                    5 Replies
                                    1. re: Waterboy

                                      Stay away from the cutlery shop on telegraph near pizzaolo & bakesale betty- not a good job for knife sharpening.

                                      1. re: 510jeff

                                        . . . plus surly service couple years ago.

                                        Actually he did me a favor because I searched around and found Hida Tool & Hardware, 1333 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley -- across from REI. Gracious staff, knowledgeable, very reasonable rates. I've taken our knives there including a serrated bread knife and scissors there -- all with good results


                                        1. re: Stephanie Wong

                                          Hida's also a great place to get whetstones if you're thinking of sharpening your own (and anyone, even a small child, can do a better job than whoever destroyed the
                                          knife that started this thread). Tiny place. Check out the ferociously expensive Japanese chisels and planes while you're there.

                                          1. re: Stephanie Wong

                                            I sharpen my own knives using Japanese mudstones, but I've bought woodworking tools (and my mudstones) from Hida and talked with the staff. If I were going to trust my knives to anyone, it would be them.

                                            1. re: Stephanie Wong

                                              I can attest to the quality of the chisels as I bought my son a set a few years ago from Hida. Of course I need to delay retiring as a consequence, but good steel is a joy.

                                        2. get yourself the Hunter Honer and you won't waste money on those sharpening services. I've had this $20 jig for years and sharpened all kinds of knives, machete, scissors....
                                          www.hunterhoner.com Invented by a guy in Fairfield.

                                          1. I also had a sad experience with grocery store sharpening - I agree-DONT DO IT!
                                            Grocery stores use a machine, not following the true angle and removing too much metal. Edge doesn't last too long.
                                            Now I only use California Cutlery Mobile Sharpening Service 510.525.6700
                                            They come to homes and businesses throughout the SF Bay, their work is superb - all done by hand with no harsh grinders.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: QueenMe

                                              Machinery is not the issue. Many professional sharpeners use belt and/or wheel grinders, and that's fine if they know what they're doing. The key is "professional". Do you really think you'll get professional quality work at a grocery store or some place like Sur la Table that makes 99.9% of it's money on retail sales? What you'll get is is a knife sharpened by a sales clerk.