Our interview with Dan Bertarelli, from Bertarelli Cutlery.
1. Hi Dan, tell us more about yourself. how did you start sharpening knives?
I started working for my Dad and uncles the Monday after I graduated high school in 2002. Most of my days In the early years were spent on the high volume side of the business. Machine holo-grinding, repairing and reshaping edges on the large grinding wheel, and machine edging.
After 5 years of learning the ropes I started focusing on hand sharpening.
2. Can you share your sharpening method with the readers of KnifePlanet?
The standard tools to sharpen pretty much any high quality knife would be:
- Stone holder: something adjustable to fit different lengths of stones. Should be tall enough to keep your hands from touching you table.
- Rough Stone: 200-400 grit. My stone of choice at this time is sold by Kikuichi it’s a large brick size blue stone.
- Medium Stone: 1000 grit. Naniwa Chosera Green
- Fine Stone: 3000-8000. This would be where personal preference really comes into play. I usually have more of this range of stone in my arsenal then any other. It’s almost natural to think, well if it’s this sharp after 3k then it’s gonna be crazy sharp after 5k, and atom splitting sharp after 8k. Wait they make a 16k and oh my god 30k. Any thing over 8k is silly and showing off when it comes to knives. Knowing what steel you are working with is key when it comes to finishing. German blades I’ll finish with a Belgium “Blue” Coticule. Harder Japanese steel can handle a higher tighter edge so I’ll use a Shapton 8k after a 4K or 5k.
- Strop: I’m not a big fan of hanging strops. I have always had a problem keeping them tight. A loose strop can roll your edge. Also I never feel the constancy in my stroke when I use them. Newspaper over a flat medium works great. Right now I’m using Kangaroo mounted on a piece of wood. It stays flat and that’s the important part. Kangaroo leather is super strong and takes abuse well but I can’t speak for certain that it helps produce a finer edge.
- Stone Flattener: definitely the most overlooked tool in the arsenal. Your World might be round but a knife sharpeners World is Flat. DMT lapping plate is my choice at this time. Shapton makes the best one but even I can’t justify the price.
If you gave 10 very good professional sharpeners these exact same tools. Handed each of them the same dull blade. Had them sharpen the blade you would most certainly get 10 different results. We are not soulless robots, angles will be non symmetrical. Stokes will be off. Maybe you had one to many coffees or your shoes are to tight. Teaching someone what my hands are feeling is nearly impossible. It can only be learned through years of practice, trail and error and experimentation.
3. Do you strop your knives? Why?
4. Do you test your knives to check if they’re sharp? How?
I’m not a huge fan of slicing paper. I see it all the time and I’m sure it’s just a pet-peeve. Kitchen Knives are used to cut proteins, vegetables, things of
that nature. My goal shouldn’t be making this Chef’s knife the worlds best paper slicer. While I’m on test pet peeve’s I guess another one I don’t like is the shave test. My grandpa used to say to customers who would inspect his work by trying to shave their arm in front of him. “if you want to shave, buy a razor. This is a knife.” If it shaves arm hair or slices paper, sure it’s sharp. But for how long? Knives are tools and the blade maker has put lots of work in his craft and knows the task his knife is supposed to perform.
5. What water stone is the most important for you?
6. How do you flatten stones? How often do you do it?
7. How important are sharpening angles?
8. Sharpening on cheap knives: yes or no? Is it a good idea for a beginner?
9. Are you still improving your technique?