Treasure! And Caring for your Knives

9 May

My in-laws moved out of their house several weeks ago, and DH and his siblings have been feverishly working to clean the place out. There’s been lots of discovery along the way–things they remembered from childhood and things no one had ever seen before that had sentimental value nonetheless.

I was on a Girl Scout encampment with my daughter last weekend, when the phone rang. DH said he’d found something I would treasure. And he was right:

That is the biggest chef’s knife I’ve ever seen. The blade alone is 12 and a half inches long. It’s marked Ed Wusthof, Germany, and has numbers stamped on the other side, with a wood handle that has the Wusthof trident carved into it. It belonged to DH’s grandfather, who was a chef at a very well-known restaurant in Washington, D.C., and while it needed a good cleaning, it was in fantastic shape–no cracks or chips anywhere.

I started asking around and discovered that a very respected knife expert has a shop about 45 minutes away from me. DH dropped the knife off last week, and I drove up to pick it back up yesterday. It is *gorgeous*.

Not bad for an antique, eh?

Near as I can tell, this is called a Lobster Knife, and was sold commercially in Europe but never imported to the U.S. DHs’ grandfather was an immigrant, so that all makes sense.

I asked the knife expert how I should care for it, now that it’s all shiny and sharp again. My real worry was that wood handle; Wusthof doesn’t make many of those anymore (my beloved set has plastic handles), because they do crack with age. I wanted to keep this one as solid as it is now. The answer both explained how it survived umteen years in a basement, and what I should do from here.

“Use it,” he said. “Hand oils are a fantastic lubricant for wood and they never evaporate.” Keep it out of the dishwasher (please oh please don’t put your good knives in there! The detergent is harsh enough to take the sharp right off of them) and use it frequently, he said, and that handle should stay beautiful for another generation. If using it isn’t an option, rubbing it down with food-grade mineral oil should help a lot.

He put a gorgeous edge on the blade of this knife, and I’ll absolutely go back to have my other knives sharpened. Once that’s done, keeping them either in a wood block or a knife safe will both protect them from chips, keep your fingers attached to your body when you rummage through drawers, and protect that edge. I haven’t yet found a 13-inch safe, but I’m still looking. In the meantime, this baby’s blade has been wrapped up in cardboard, and the knife is way up high, away from little fingers.

Other tips: Chop only on wood or plastic boards; using your knives on glass, marble, or granite is one of the fastest ways to ruin them. Wash them by hand and either air-dry or dry them well with a paper towel before putting them away in their blocks or safes, to keep them rust-free. And keep those handles in good shape by keeping harsh chemicals off of them (sanitize your knives with vinegar, not bleach, if you like the handles) and using them with wild abandon.

DH was right: this knife is a treasure, both for its history and its amazing quality. I am proud to have it in my kitchen and can’t wait to put it to use, with all the respect it’s earned.

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