27 Mar 2011

A Generation Without Skills

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Sharpening a knife

Anne Merritt complacently describes a list of skills which today’s millenials are apparently content to go without. Her list includes using a standard transmission (no real sports cars for you, kiddies!), cooking anything from scratch (no real food either), building anything, fixing anything, penmanship, and even sharpening a knife.

Compare the late Robert A. Heinlein‘s opinion of minimal masculine competence.


A man should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

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SHARPENING A KNIFE

The best method is to use a flat stone. Ideally, to do a really excellent job on a very dull knife, you want three stones: in order of coarseness, a coarse carborundum, a soft Washita stone, and a hard black Arkansas stone, but you can pick up a flat rock off the ground and use it if you have nothing better.

Wet the stone. A light machine oil is best, but water, even spit, will do.

Take your knife and pretend that you are trying to cut a thin slice off the stone, cutting away from you. Do one side and then the other. The angle you want is quite effectively approximated by pretending to be cutting a thin slice off the stone.

Obviously, if you have coarser and finer stones, you start with the coarse and end with the finer stone. Hard black Arkansas
stones are expensive, but you can produce the finest finished edges with one of those.

High-end custom knife makers, like Randall, commonly supply small medium India whetstone in a pouch outside the sheath. One little India stone of that sort is basically adequate.

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