I happen to be one of those weirdos who truly enjoys chopping, dicing, and knife prep work. There is something very cathartic about taking time to lovingly prepare ingredients that nurture and sustain my loved ones. I must also confess that I have a bit of OCD and uniform cuts and slices satisfy my soul more than I would like to admit. There is only one thing that can deplete my love of cutting and it is a dull knife. There is nothing worse than a knife that wants to slip, crush, and otherwise mangle my food. For years I have happily used a $25 Victorinox Chef’s knife and used a pull-through knife sharpener with no complaints. Then I took a cooking class and discovered the joy of using a high end/high quality knife. The blade I speak of is a Wustof 6″ Classic Chef’s Knife and I swear I heard angels sing when I first used it. This particular knife perfectly fits my hand, has a nice weight to it, and cuts through food with minimal pressure. I was instantly obsessed with getting one for my very own. After many not-so-subtle hints to my husband, I finally received one for Christmas 2021.
During the first few months of owning my first fancy knife, I was in heaven. I chopped and sliced through all types of food until one day my knife just wasn’t living up to its potential anymore. I had purchased a sharpening stone but quickly realized I had no idea what I was doing. I then tried my sharpening steel, and again, no improvement. My efforts were in vain because my knife was still underperforming and I clearly needed training in the knife maintenance department. So the logical next step was to use my trusty pull-through sharpener. Not only did it NOT sharpen my blade, it left deep scratches along the sides. I could have cried. Because I was unable to bring back the sharp edge, I stopped using my knife and had lost confidence in the brand. (It’s all the knife’s fault, right?) To cope with my loss, I purchased another knife. This knife was highly rated online and a fraction of the price so I figured I had nothing to lose. The new knife was sharp and did the job, but it just didn’t sing to me like my Wustof did.
In the fall of 2022 I discovered that my local farmer’s market had a resident cutler. I decided to gather up my knives to have them sharpened while I shopped the market. The convenience of this service was not lost on me. I dropped off my knives, filled out a short form, met Erik the Blade Sharpener, and off I went to shop. About 2omin later Erik found me sitting with my kiddos having lunch. He asked me about my knives, told me what he found in terms of damage. He then talked with me at length about how to keep them honed between professional sharpening. I paid him, took my knives home and decided to give my Wustof a test run with a juicy tomato. Not only was it sharp, but it was even better than when I first purchased it. Erik had put a new edge on it and it sliced through that tomato effortlessly. I was so happy that I had to send Erik a message to thank him. And thus I began a friendship with my local sharpener.
I know it sounds hyperbolic, but Erik completely changed my mindset on knife maintenance and care. I now see him as an integral part of my maintaining my investment. I reached out to Erik to see if he would be willing to be featured on my blog to spread his wisdom to my fellow foodies, cooks, and chefs. Lucky for us, he agreed! Read on to learn more about Erik and what he can teach us.
Please introduce yourself and tell us about your personal background
My wife, Beverly, and I moved to Colorado in November 2016. We have 2 fur babies. We moved from Atlanta, where I have spent most of my life. I watched the city go from under a million to over 7 million people by the time we left the greater metro area. We realized there is more to life than making a living. We moved to Colorado to create a Life. I am a lifelong cyclist, and in 2021 I officially finished the toughest bicycle race in the world, the Race Across America. I am the 2021 Men’s overall winner and 2nd overall. I was the first American to win the men’s side since 2003, and I am the oldest winner of either the men’s or women’s overall divisions at 56. Also, I am the only person from the Springs area, with its rich Olympic and world-class athletes, to have completed the race, let alone stand on the final podium.
How did you get into knife sharpening business?
I am a second-generation sharpener. My dad, who remembers the knife guy roaming the neighborhoods as a kid, started a sharpening business in Atlanta, GA, in the mid-’80s, and I picked up the craft with him watching over my shoulder. Through the years, we built the company into one of the premier sharpening services in the metro Atlanta area, servicing upwards of 400 restaurants. We service everything from 5-star fine dining to mom and pops. We provided sharpening and repair services to some of the best foodies that Atlanta has to offer.
What have been your proudest moments in this field?
I make lives better, one blade at a time. Many times in the commercial kitchens I serviced, I would see the smiles on the chef’s/cooks’ faces as when they saw me, they knew their day just got a whole lot better. A sharpener’s reward is the joy people get from using properly sharpened blades. For people to keep using the service means a job well done. I live life on the very edge, as that is what is most important. While I have business cards, my business card is the edges that I give back to people and their joy in using their tool. Julia Child wrote the book “The Joy of Cooking.” I am here to tell people they can have the “Joy of Cutting.”
Considering how long you have been in this business, I bet you have seen some things. Please share with us the worst things you have seen people do with/to their knives.
Ah yes, what have they done? People are creatures of habit and also sometimes simplistic in their thinking. People often use a knife and think that if it cuts this, surely it will cut something that it wasn’t designed to cut. In my knife skills 101 class, before I get into the meat of the presentation, I bring out an array of standard tools that people use their knives for. An example would be a pasta scraper, as people love to use the edge of their knives to scrap what they just cut off the cutting board and into a bowl or plate. They don’t realize they are scrapping the edge of their knife.
I had one customer who had a commercial-grade food processor, and their cleaning S.O.P. was to run ice through the machine to clean it. The blade itself was brutally blunted, and upon learning how they cleaned, I remarked that ice brought down the “Titanic.” They quickly changed their cleaning. Then there is the pry bar, the screwdriver, the axe, and the wire cutter. Yes, I’ve had a customer, well more than one, cut a live electrical wire, Shocking. Needless to say, their knife was a bit smaller as I removed the burned hole in their blade. But perhaps the worst disaster was the custom 10” extra wide fully forged chef knife that was snapped in half. When I went to service the restaurant, we were supplying them with knives. I saw 2 perfect pieces of the blade, and of course, no one in the restaurant confessed to it. To make a point, I welded the knife back together. It was a perfect weld, and I told them never to do whatever they did to the knife again. And they didn’t.
People have various ways and methods of maintaining and sharpening their knives. This is where I see the most damage. The other day, I told gentlemen that sharpening is so simple that it’s hard. And what people have done in the name of sharpening is well, scary. The terms of honing and sharpening get intermixed, and many commercial and residential people have no real idea of when, how to hone, and when and how to sharpen. The two disciplines are entirely different.
In our conversations, you have mentioned that you have had the opportunity to sharpen for some celebrity chefs. As a fan girl of the Food Network, I am super curious about what types of knives they use? How do they treat their knives? Any good stories?
I’ve sharpened for several. Most want a knife that works and aren’t really caught up in the latest fad knife. They want something comfortable for them to use and easily maintained. They tend to stick to brands that have stood the test of time and avoid gimmicks. By and large, celebrity chefs have someone sharpen them. Is their time better spent sharpening or creating some fabulous meal to bring the guest in the door? One particular German chef, Gunther, was known for being a flamboyant ego-driven chef. When we first started servicing his particular restaurant, he would tell us that we could sharpen everyone else’s knives in the kitchen, but soon his knives were in the mix. I’ve had a chef fall in love with a Chinese vegetable cleaver he found at a flea market for $5.00 to another that was gifted a $3,000 custom set of knives made in Japan. Many so-called celebrity chefs aren’t really chefs. When the whole T.V. celebrity chef thing took off in the late 90s, producers would develop a theme and then find a personality to fit that theme to appeal to a particular audience. I don’t watch cooking shows anymore.
You offer classes to teach people how to care for their knives as well as provide essential safety tips. What is the typical framework & cost of these classes for anyone who may be interested? What are some of the most important things you hope your clients take away from these instructional classes?
Safety in the kitchen is paramount. Knife safety is nothing to take lightly, and I’ve seen many instances where a knife user didn’t respect their blades, and they paid a heavy price for it. Two things get people into trouble using knives—lazy fingers and distractions. There is a lack of basic education when it comes to knives. That lack of education extends from the finest culinary schools to the occasional residential user. Most consumers assume that people who cook for a living have superior knife skills and know how to care for them. Nothing could be further from the truth. If you polled the graduates of all the major culinary schools and asked them how much time was devoted to taking care of their blades, you would be shocked to know that the average student gets maybe an hour on the most essential tool in their bag. The typical Knife Skills 101 class is about presenting the basics of knife care and maintenance. I take students from the purchase of knives through all the responsibilities that come with that investment, including the honing and sharpening.
Another assumption in the system is that when people buy a knife, they go to the particular manufacturer’s website to educate themselves on the care and maintenance of their specific brand. Sadly this does not happen and it can have disastrous results. People are curious about and scared of their knives all at the same time. My Knife Skills 101 class is set up to give basic information about caring for their blades and dispel some myths and half-truths that they read about, hear about or search on Youtube, Reddit, or some other platform. I had a customer recently buy four different excellent Japanese brands of knives then he wanted to learn how to sharpen them. He brought his knives to me and had me look at them. While he said they were dull, all they really needed was a quick tune-up with a steel. One of the knives he had was a Shun chef knife. I took his knife and, with a few strokes on the honing steel, brought the knife back to shaving sharp. My customer’s eyes were as big as silver dollars in amazement at what I had done, and he also stated that none of the so-called experts on Youtube and Reddit even liked the honing steel/rod.
The difference between myself and someone who claims to be an expert online is that I have been in the commercial system for a very long time, and day in and day out, my sharpening has to withstand the rigors of what commercial chefs put their blades through. We developed a technique of using a honing steel that is repeatable and that works. This experience is what I want to convey to the students of the class so that they have a better understanding of the importance of buying good quality blades and be able to take care of them properly so that their investment lasts a lifetime. The price of the class varies depending on the number of students. Sometimes I give the information for free to help people with their knife investment.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about investing in a good set of knives?
The comedian Steve Harvey made a presentation to business people, suggesting they go out and buy a perfectly fitted suit. This perfect suit makes the business person more presentable and comfortable. They have a feeling of confidence wearing that perfect fitted suit and will work harder and smarter so that they can buy more of those fitted suits. I suggest people do the same with their knives. While buying a “set” of knives is easy, I’m against it. Sets cater to the masses, not the individual. Knives are as individual as people, and the most critical aspect of the knife-buying process is how well that knife feels in your hand. A knife is an extension of the person using it. If you are uncomfortable using the knife if it is too heavy. Too lite, too big/too small, balanced/not balanced people will not use it. Just today, I had a gentleman drop by for some sharpening, and he told me about a Cutco knife he bought that ended up being too big and too heavy for either him or his wife. What a waste of money and time. The convenience of the knife block set gives way to unique individual users and how they intend to use the knife. Intention, Budget, Size, Shape, Color, Country of Origin Left vs. Right, Aesthetically pleasing or a workhorse, how the particular knife fits in your hand, and who will use the knives the most in the house. These are things to look for when buying a knife. Notice I didn’t say one thing about a particular brand.
There are many ways that people can utilize your services. Please tell our readers all the ways we can locate you and get our knives sharpened.
There are many ways to contact me, as I have customers of many backgrounds and demographics. Below are links to my website, email, and socials. I also plan to utilize Youtube this year as it is the number 2 search engine. People can also find me at the Backyard Market in Black Forest during the summer months on Saturdays, and I am at the Parker Farmer’s Market on Sundays. New this year will be a market in downtown Colorado Springs at the Well. An exciting new market that has much potential for the foodie world. Follow my socials for more information on that.
Many people don’t realize how affordable it is to have their knives professionally sharpened. Please include your current price list for those thinking about your services.
I think it’s important for our readers to know that you don’t only sharpen knives. Please share other types of blades that you sharpen and any other services you offer.
Knives of all shapes and sizes are something everyone has. Something else that everyone has area serrated knives. These are knives just the same, and a unique technique is used to sharpen them. Scissors. How many different types of scissors are there? Currently, I’m up to over 30 different industries of scissors. From general household scissors to those high-end beauty shears to medical scissors. The list of different types of scissors is vast, but they all need to be sharpened. Hunting knives, pocket knives, Ulu’s all sorts of Lawn and Garden tools, from mower blades to grafting knives and everything in between. Chisels and a host of woodworking tools that have edges. Chainsaw blades. Blades for the Floral industry. Culinary, Groomer, Salon, Medical, Garden, and so on.
I consult on everything from the choice of the knife to the choice of storage. I instruct on what not to do with knives and the consequences of those bad choices. I repair damaged blades, and I can even change the shape of a blade.
Information about knives and how to take care of them properly is something I’ve learned through years of working with some of the finest chefs and restaurants. That information is invaluable to the everyday busy homeowner.
People have grown accustomed to using dull blades. While there was a time not long ago when you had a neighborhood sharpener or a place people could take their knives, scissors, and other assorted to that they trusted to take care of their sharpening needs, those days seem to be gone. I’m here to say that, at least in my neck of the woods, people can have good tools and a relationship with an experienced professional sharpener.
Life isn’t dull, and Your knives shouldn’t be either.
Erik “the Blade” Sharpener, making lives better, one blade at a time.
“Feel the Difference.”
As you can see, knife ownership is multifaceted. It begins with an informed purchase and considers storage, safety, proper usage, care, and maintenance. You don’t need to spend $$$ on a knife to have a great cutting experience. It is more important to find a knife that fits your hand and feels good while using it. And all knives, even cheap ones, can be sharpened. In fact, the biggest lesson I learned from Erik, that our knives talk to us. They tell us when they need to honed and when they need a trip to “The Blade.” You just have to learn to listen. I learned so much from Erik and his knife skills class. I suggest that my local readers gather some friends, bring their knives, and schedule a class today!