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Del Re Knife Truck

Although I periodically sharpen my knives at home with a wet stone, I always wanted to get them professionally sharpened by one of the knife trucks that seems to mysteriously appear and then disappear (I've never been able to pin-point a predictable schedule). For years I've longingly smiled at the clanging trucks as it weaved in and out of our streets hoping one day all the variables would come together so that one day I could have my Henckels knives returned to their straight from Williams-Sonoma shininess.

And yesterday, that day finally arrived . . . While I was dusting my floors, I heard the gentle clang of the knife truck coming down my street and when I popped my head outside the window I saw the driver park the red truck a houses away (I haven’t seen the other one with the Warner Bros. cartoon characters in years). I ran outside and asked Mr. Del Re (the name is painted on the truck) what he charged and he replied, "I have to see the knives," in a low terse Italian tenor. I had to give myself a minute to decided whether or not the man was rude, or was just having a bad day (it was steamy yesterday and I’m sure his truck was a mini-sauna), or just not chatty fellow. Deciding that it was a combination of the latter two, I ran back home and grabbed the wooden knife stand that housed my three Henkel knife set (chef, boning, carving; all about 8 inches). After waiting a few minutes while he tended to a lawn mower, Mr. Del Re glanced at my knives and replied it would cost me $35. And while I didn’t know what other’s charge to sharpen knives, I got the feeling that $35 was steep although I do realize you pay a premium for instant, at-your-door service, not to mention the “quaint” factor. But $35 for 3 (8-10 inch) knives?

And now that I know other businesses charge as little as $3 a knife and as up to $1 per inch (most places also require you to leave your knives), at this point, I really should have taken my knives back home to sharpen them myself (just as my dad taught me), but because I had of all this accumulated yen to have my knives sharpened by an old fashioned grinder, I left my knives in his care while I walked to my local bank to get some cash.

Two minutes later when I returned, he was finished.

And one minute later I was back home to inspect the grinder’s work . . .

I have never had my knives professionally sharpened and I don’t know what they’re supposed to look like, but I’m sure the angle of blade should be uniform, which it was not as the end by the handle of my chef’s knife seemed to have gotten in Mr. Del Re’s way and was shaved off a wee bit too much. But aesthetics aside, I then took out a head of cabbage (I would have preferred a tomato) expecting it to feel like I was cutting into softened butter . . .

But, as in most cases when I over romanticize something, my expectations weren’t met and the romance is now over. While my knives were sharper, they weren’t much sharper.

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  1. $35 for at your door, instant service seems fair to me.

    What neighborhood was this in?

    2 Replies
    1. re: irishnyc

      Park Slope

      I was convenient. And still a chraming experience.

      1. re: ymaluv

        Chef's Choice Model 130 (not the 110 or 120). Sells for $150 bucks or so, but has the advantage of convenience plus the ability to hone an edge on just about anything. Charm, I can't afford it.

    2. I posted here a few years back about a horrible experience with a roving knife sharpener in Manhattan. A green truck. Buyer beware!

      1 Reply
      1. re: erica

        I also posted here a few years ago about having my knives pretty much ruined by one of the 2 trucks (there's a red one and a green one).

        Since the guy I had had no Italian accent and lived on Staten Island and took over from his Father I think I had the other truck.

        Bottom line: stay away from these trucks.

      2. Green truck. I showed him a small pairing knife, and my best buddy, my Global chef's knife. He said, "$18". I said, "Late". My steel works great. Has anyone taken knives to their local butcher? Sounds like a simple procedure for them.

        1 Reply
        1. re: The Vapors

          Yes I have done that. But my local butcher charged $5 per knife about 5 years ago. A friend of mine has a small device from a hardware store (I think) that he swears by..you fit the knife between two angled blades. I tried it and it seems to work very well. Can anyone imagine what I am trying to describe? It costs only a few dollars and is not electric.

        2. I have used Del Re's red truck for years and have always been happy. I recently paid $35 for 4 knives (10" chefs, 8" boning, 4 inch pairing and 4 inch Santouku). It is the green truck that people should stay away from (although I have not seen that truck in the last few years). I have also seen Del Re's truck up on the Upper East Side.

          1 Reply
          1. re: mike1213

            I subjected my knives to the Auto da Fe of Del Re once, partly for the novelty but mostly because I had dull-ass knives. Can't remember exactly what he charged me but I think it was about $5-$7 per blade. He brought a very special boning knife back from the dead for me and I'm grateful for that, but I remember thinking when I saw my chef's knife that there was an awful lot of steel missing and there'd be nothing left of the old girl after a couple more trips through his grinder.

          2. While I appreciate the charm factor as well, bottom line was that Del Re came very close to ruining my knives. I gave him four (charged $42)--two chef's knives, a boning knife, and a paring knife. He took a good 1/8" off the blade of the boning knife, and ground the paring knife and one of the chef's knives down so much that it went past where the blade originally started to bevel. On top of that, the truck shakes like a washing machine on spin cycle whenever the grinder operates. Heavy hand aside, I'm not so sure you can ever get a decent sharpening job out of a truck.

            1. There's a red truck and a green truck - one is better than the other but who can remember. I have succumbed to a great little device from Amazon for $8 that is the best best best. Three strokes and your knife cuts like butter. I was amazed and now I have a sharp knife in 3 seconds whenever needed. I love quaint but I'm no longer running down the street with a handful of knives

              1 Reply
              1. re: deepo

                The red truck (Del Re) has always done a great job for us. The green truck is a disaster -- burns the edges, weakens the steel, knife is sharp for about one onion and then is immediately as dull as a brick. Thankfully, Mr. Del Re can bring them back from the dead.

              2. Many years ago, when I was just taking baby steps in the kitchen, I bought my first - and only - good knives at Bridge Kitchenware. When I asked about a sharpening steel, the venerable Mr. Bridge himself intervened, and in his half-scolding, half-admonishing manner, gave me an instant lesson on how to keep a blade sharp, and told me that the tool I wanted was this: http://www.bridgekitchenware.com/brow....

                In a nutshell, as far as I recall (this goes back more than three decades), Mr. Bridge said that the blade of a knife is not "straight" as it looks to the eye, but actually every-so-infitesimally serrated (although he used another word). The reason it gets dull is because the serrations become uneven during use, and they must be aligned to make the knife sharp again. Actually sharpening the knife, he said, wears away the steel over time, and is something that should be done very rarely, and perhaps even never.

                I know the tool he sold me is called a sharpener on their website but back in the day he called it something else, I don't remember what. We keep it within hand's reach so we don't call it anything. We have been using this tool, and only this, on all eight of our Wusthof knives - including one that was custom-made for me - since the mid-70's, and each one is still sharp enough to neatly slice the skin of a ripe tomato.

                I don't know whether Mr. Bridge's science went against conventional knowledge or not, but I can attest that in practice, he was most certainly proven right. Another benefit of this thing - which he also pointed out back then - was that you can't put the knife in at an incorrect angle. It's incredibly simple to use and it's one of the top-5 most used objects in the kitchen, because we'll slide the knives through it before any delicate cutting. Our knives look, and work, exactly as they did when they were new.

                I paid less than $20 back in the day, but of course back then dinosaurs were roaming the earth. It's still worth every penny because it's one of those things you buy once and use just about every day, forever.

                1 Reply
                1. re: falconress

                  Thanks to the whole board for saving the Lady Sabatier from Mr. Del Ray who is parked down on Smith Street as I type.

                  Falconress--I'd like to get your magical honer but the link is broken. Would you mind putting the name of the device out here or try linking again? Thanks!

                2. Both Whisk and Brooklyn Kitchen in Williamsburg have knife sharpening services.

                  1. to falconress;
                    your device "hones' a knife. When you sharpen a knife you remove metal and create a new edge(with a oil or water stone) when you hone you realign the existing edge without (hopfully) removing any material.

                    1. btw/ as another thought crossed my mind. any person who has high quality knives, actually any knife should NOT be using ANY grinder period!! A grinder (charming factor included) takes off an enormous amount of material from a knife. But that is not the only problem a fast moving grinder creates a vast amount of heat on the knife and ruins the temper of the blade. All honing and sharpining should be done by hand (if possible)

                      btw/ if you dont or cant maintain the correct angel of the knife while working on it's edge any camping store (campmor in Paramus NJ) sells a simple device that is commonly called a "butterfly". This consists of 2 diamond rods held in place at an angle that you draw your knife through.
                      Please leave the grinders for your garden tools!!

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: michael heit

                        BTW, the Chef's Choice machine does a very good job of sharpening knives.

                        1. re: sushiman

                          I've had the same knives for forty years and I keep them sharp with one of those stones that has a rough side and a smoother side. Since they have wooden handles, every maybe five years I dip the handles into varnish and let it soak in. I took them to a sharpening truck in Brooklyn maybe 15 years ago but it really didn't do anything great for them. A steel is OK but not great--it puts a fine edge on a already fairly sharp knife. I've never used one of those gadgets.

                      2. Korin might sharpen knives.