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Sep 17, 2011 04:35 PM

A knife, a bowl, and a Chinese grandparent...

I've been reading the many CH posts on knife sharpening so I know there are a few knife experts out there. When I read the posts about ceramic rods, it reminded me of my younger days, where a Chinese grandparent (mine or otherwise) can bee seen, knife in one hand, turning over various bowls in the cabinets, looking for the unglazed bottom rim, then taking a few swipes of the knife across the bottom of the bowl. I remember turning over some bowls at a few households looking for tell-tale scuff marks.

So I want to know, has anyone else observed this ritual? does this really work? If so, why spend $20 for a ceramic rod, or worse a few hundred $$ for a name-brand ceramic rod? Wouldn't we all have a serviceable bowl in our cabinet? Or do I still need to continue my search for a new knife sharpening option? Thx all.

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  1. "So I want to know, has anyone else observed this ritual?"

    Yes, though not from my parents.

    "does this really work?"

    Most definitely works. It does not produce the most refined edge, but it works to sharpen a dull knife. It is all relative. Will a medium sandpaper smoothen your wood piece? If the wood piece has only been sanded with a rough sandpaper, then yes. If the wood piece has been polished with a fine sandpaper, then no, the medium sandpaper will only scratch it -- make it worse.

    "If so, why spend $20 for a ceramic rod, or worse a few hundred $$ for a name-brand ceramic rod?"

    I hope my previous example has answered your question. Basically, it is all relative. A ceramic rod is probably smoother, but most importantly, it is more homogeneous/uniform. Why buy a high definition LCD TV, when a cathode ray tube also televises your favorite show? When buy a smart phone, when a regular cell phone works?

    "Or do I still need to continue my search for a new knife sharpening option?"

    It is entirely a personal need or personal preference. I will say that it strongly depends on the type of knives you have. It really makes no sense to buy a high grade waterstone to sharpen some Henckels International or Farberware knives. On the other hands, if you have some >$200 Japanese hard steel knife, then there is no reason to be cheap about the sharpening stone because you are wasting the expensive high quality knives.

    P.S.: Green (Mung) bean buns are better than red bean buns.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

      "P.S.: Green (Mung) bean buns are better than red bean buns."
      Ouch! I can't believe you went there. That cut deep...

      My knives are a mixed bag - the cleaver is Henckels, Otherwise wusthof and shun so i need something free-form. Worried about getting the angle right though. Definitely don't have a $200 knife.

      1. re: redbeanbun


        By the way, have you used a carbon steel Chinese cleaver before? Some people like stainless steel knives because they are easier to take care. Other like carbon steel knives because they take on sharper edge (in general). The CCK (Chan Chi Kee) Chinese knives are something to look into. Relatively inexpensive, but good quality.

        Practice help, but if you want a relatively inexpensive gadget for knife maintenance, then Spderco Sharpmaker is something to think about.

        Cowboyardee wrote a nice quick summary of various knife sharpening tools:

        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

          thanks CK. You're ever helpful. I actually started out looking for an easy-to-use, easy-store sharpener for someone with one of those wedding-gift henckels sets but then predictably drifted over to my own self interest before completing the first task.

          I read thru a LOT of chowhound posts on knife sharpening but i don't remember seeing the one you linked. it might have all just blended together though i can't imagine how I could have missed this one - it's the perfect dummy's guide.

          the cleaver was a gift and dulls easily but i assumed it's because of what i use it for compared to the other knives. i think that one of the CCK light-weight ones might make a great gift for mom.
          thanks again!

    2. Once I caught my dad sharpening one of my knife on the bottom of a bowl. But that was only because he was totally frustrated by the exceedingly dull knives, and there was no whetstone around.

      He went out an bought a whetstone from a chinese supermarket the next day.

      Now I wait for his annual visits to sharpen my knives. I have a cheap sharpener from Daiso that I run over dull blades in between his visits.