The Cutting Edge

The official blog of Knife Depot

Category: Knife Learning (page 2 of 3)

Why Knives Make the Best Father’s Day Gifts

A novelty necktie. A “World’s Greatest Dad” mug. An apron for barbecuing.

If you’re a dad, chances are you’ve unwrapped a present on Father’s Day to find one of the above items and had to force a smile and say “thanks” with as much sincerity as you could muster.

If you’re a child and you gave one of these items, you have no excuses.

Father’s Day should be a time when you give or receive something that’s functional yet touching. Something that’s long-lasting but useful. And yes, this mystical gift that’s all of these things does exist: the knife.

Here are a few reasons why.

Knives are useful.

The absolute worst part of a gift like a novelty necktie is that it’ll never get used. Maybe on some off chance the office will have a crazy tie day, but even then the tie will already be lost in the garage somewhere.

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Personalized Knives for Groomsmen

Personalized-knives
Nearly 40% of all weddings take place in between May and August, which means it’s time to get your tuxedo dry-cleaned because you’re probably headed to a wedding in the next few weeks.

If you’re the one getting married, chances are you’ve had to put one of your brothers or buddies up to the task of being a groomsmen. It’s safe to say they’d much rather be out hunting or watching a basketball game than getting fit for a tux or going to rehearsals.

That’s why it’s always nice to thank them with a gift. Whereas the traditional gift is a fancy pocket watch or expensive cufflinks, these items will just collect dust over the years because they’re either too expensive to use or the opportunity to use them never comes up again.

That’s why you should steer clear of those gifts and get your groomsmen pocket knives. Here’s why.

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Knife Steel App a Must-Have for Knife Nuts

steel appThere aren’t many useful smartphone apps out there that pertain to knives—in fact, there aren’t more than a handful.

There’s a great app called Kitchen Knife Skills that shows you how to expertly cut difficult foods like avocados, but other than that there’s not much for the knife fanatics. That is, except for the absolutely amazing Knife Steel Composition Chart.

We recommended this app back when it came out in 2012, but we thought it’d be wise to come back to the app because it’s definitely a must-have for any collector, custom knifemaker or knife knut.

mzl.lqaukcai.320x480-75The app is a knife steel composition and name cross-reference database for all types of alloys used in knife blades. According to the description, the app features about 5,600 alloy names and more than 930 compositions, which covers pretty much anything you could ever want to look for. Some of the things you won’t find are proprietary steels, which are classified. For those who like to get deep down and dirty, there is a composition comparison that has a bar graph with three different options that show the mass percentage, molar masses and atomic count per 1,000 atoms.

If I lost you there, chances are you probably won’t use that part of the app too much, but the app could be a great resource if you’re trying to learn more about the steel composition of the blades in your collection. One of the most useful things in the app is the “Notes” section of each steel type that gives a brief description of the steel—like where you’ll commonly find the steel and some of the characteristics of it.

Another really useful resource is found not in the app, but on zknives, the website of the creator of the app. The chemical elements effects on steel portion of the site gives a nice breakdown of what effects each element has on the steel. For example, the section says that Molybdenum prevents brittleness and improves machinability and resistance to corrosion. This helps put some of the steel compositions found in the app into perspective. The website in general has a lot of great resources, so we also recommend checking out zknives.

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Survival Knife Tips: A Crash Course with Survival Expert Creek Stewart

This is the second of a two-part series from survival expert Creek Stewart. In addition to doing a Q and A with Creek on survival knives, we’ll also be giving away a  BlackBird SK5 — Creeks’ survival knife of choice – to one lucky reader and two copies of Creek’s new book.  Scroll to the bottom of the article to learn how to enter.  You can learn more about Creek’s survival school in our post from yesterday.

KD: So, what’s your survival knife of choice?

CS: I carry the Blackbird SK5.  It’s made by Ontario Knife Company and designed by Paul Scheiter.

KD:  Why this knife?

CS:   The core of my courses and what I do, especially with primitive skills, revolves around using a knife.  So there’s a lot of reasons why I use this knife.  First, for my my primary survival I want something simple. I don’t want a movie prop.  I don’t want something that’s off of Alien or Predator with big spikes on the back like you might see in Mad Max.  I just want something that has everything you need and nothing you don’t. That’s what this knife has.

KD:  What characteristics do you look for in a survival knife?

CS:  For a core survival knife, it has to be a fixed blade. Whenever there’s a hinge, there’s a weak spot. I don’t care how you look at it.  Even the best made folding knives aren’t going to compete with a fixed blade knife. And full tang– it’s got to be full tang.  I’ve seen partial tang and rat tail knives break under similar conditions that I use my knife.

KD: How can someone determine if a knife is full tang

CS:  A lot of times you can see the metal sandwiched between the scales, but if you can’t, see if the scales are removable. Lots of times rat tail tangs will have a button at the bottom, where you can see where they’ve pinched the bottom of the rat tail. Worse case scenario, call or email the manufacturer.

KD:  What about the pommel?

CS:   I like a flat, solid pommel. It’s kind of like a little hammer and you can use it to pound in stakes.  I also like a flat grind so I can strike my ferro rod with my knife.  That’s important to me.

KD:  What about size?  What’s the ideal range.

CS:  My sweet spot is about a 10-inch knife with a 5-inch blade.  That’s  small enough to do detailed stuff, like feather sets or carving fishing gorges, but it’s also big enough to baton through a tree with a diameter of 24 inches if I had to.  So size definitely matters — too big is too much and too little isn’t enough.  I’ve spent thousands of hours in the field using a knife the way it’s supposed to be used and I’ve been doing it long enough where I can say that I’ve made all the mistakes. I’ve bought the big boys and I’ve tried to get away with the little knives — the little neck knives — and there’s kind of a middle ground that I think is best.

KD:  What other knives do you carry when you’re in the woods?

CS:  I always carry a back up blade.  So on my EDC kit I carry a leatherman — the MUT — and typically a  little Victorinox or a folder like a little thumb-assisted Spyderco, but I always carry a backup, because you never know.  Even though there’s nothing I could do to break or destroy this knife, I could lose it.

KD:  What about price?  How much does the Blackbird run for and how much should somebody expect to pay for a good survival knife?

CS: This knife goes for about $120, which I think is a pretty fair price for a knife that you would expect to last a lifetime and maybe even pass on one day.  That’s the way I look at knives, I don’t look at them like a disposable tool. When I buy a knife, I expect to keep it.  I’d rather spend $100 on a really good knife, then buy five $20 knives, because you never know when a cheap knife is going to break.

KD:  What are some of pitfalls of buying a cheap knife?

CS: There becomes a point when the price is a reflection on the materials.  You can only make a knife so cheap without cutting corners somewhere, maybe it’s in the metal, maybe it’s going to corrode fast.  Look, you get what you pay for.  I don’t mind spending money on two things:  food and knives.

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Serrated Blade Sharpening Guide

Gerber Hinderer Rescue

Gerber Hinderer Rescue

We’ve talked a lot on this blog about sharpening straight-edged knives, but we haven’t focused much on serrated blades. While we always encourage those with serrated knives to get them sharpened professionally or by the manufacturer, it is possible to sharpen one yourself. You just have to know what you’re doing.

For a straight-edged blade, you would take a sharpening stone and simply run the knife across it, but doing that with a serrated knife will only grind off the serrations. This might give the blade a specious and temporary feeling of sharpness, but it’s very bad for the blade and you should avoid it at all cost.

Instead, you will need a sharpening rod—either made from steel or ceramic. The size you get is really important, but it also depends on the size of the serrations. If you’re using a large cooking knife with wide serrations, opt for something like the DMT Ceramic Steel. For most pocket knives with small serrations, go for the DMT Diafold Serrated Sharpener. This works with made types of small serrations because the rod tapers down at the end, so it fits various sizes.

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Knife Depot’s Gift-Buying Guide

Knife Depot's Knife Gift Ideas

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Keys to Carving the Perfect Pumpkin


Halloween is synonymous with costumes and dark festivities. However, no tradition tests your creativity and knife-wielding skills more than carving a jack o’lantern. If you’re looking to carve the perfect jack o’lantern either to scare your neighbors or enter our pumpkin carving contest, here are a few important tips.

Pick the right pumpkin

The first step is actually picking a healthy pumpkin from the patch. In order to pick the right shape, you can go about it two ways. You can go in with a design already planned, so you can get a pumpkin that fits your plan. For example, if you want to carve a screeching cat, you might want a taller one. Or you could simply go in without a plan and pick the most uniform pumpkin with no scratches or bruises. You also want to make sure that the skin is firm.

Select a unique design

This one is entirely up to you, but you should be fully aware of your limitations and avoid something too ambitious for your skill level. You can create your own on a piece of paper or scour the Internet for inspiration.

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5 Features to Avoid on a Survival Knife

A survival knife is a piece of equipment that can literally save your life if all else fails. This tool can be used for hunting, building shelter, cleaning fish and even self-defense.

And for those looking to pick up a solid, all-around survival knife, the choices are plenty. While many of the survival knives being sold today are great quality tools, not all of them are perfectly designed for survival situations. So if you’re trying to buy the best knife for surviving in dire circumstances, these are the five features you don’t want on your survival knife.

Folding mechanism

The last feature you want on a survival knife is the ability to fold. A folder, while much more convenient, is also much more likely to break when used in survival situations. You want a knife that does not have moving parts or bits that can be easily broken. Even if it does have a lock, extreme pressure will sometimes break a knife. Instead, opt for a fixed-blade knife.

Serrations

Serrated and partially serrated knives are all the rage these days. While there are plenty of good uses for serrations on certain knives, a fully serrated blade is a bad way to go. Serrations are mainly good for cutting rope, among a few other specialized activities. Everything you will be doing in the wilderness would require a plain edge. Also, serrated blades are impossible to sharpen on the fly, so if your blade dulls while you’re trying to survive, you’ll be out of luck. Instead, go for the plain-edged blade.

Gut hook

It might make sense to try to pack all the features into your survival knife like a gut hook. Wrong. You want a simple blade that will not make doing some of the important tasks, like slicing things, more difficult. You would likely rarely if never need a gut hook in survival situations.

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How to Protect Your Knife From the Heat

July was the hottest recorded month in U.S. history, and with climate change seemingly past the point of no return, it will likely only get hotter.

For knife enthusiasts out there, excessive heat has always been an enemy of temperamental steels. So, to help you take care of your knife in the heat, here are some great ways to protect your knife from warping.

Avoid direct sunlight

This one is definitely common sense, but it’s absolutely vital to never leave your knife in direct sunlight. While most steels will not be damaged due to exposure from the sun, many handle materials will lose their shape and strength.

Keep knives out of cars

Temperatures inside sealed vehicles in direct sunlight can soar upwards of 135 degrees, so always take your knives out of your car. A great way to remember to do this is to put your knives inside a toolbox and simply take it out and put it in your garage when you’re parked for the day.

Keep special handle materials indoors on hot days

Whether you have a custom knife with an ivory handle or a standard factory knife with a wood handle, it’s important to keep your knives with sensitive handle materials indoors. Even exposure to the sun for a few hours while you’re using it could dry out some handle material.

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How to Display Your Knife Collections

So, you just bought a highly collectible KA-BAR at an auction and you’re eager to show it off. While you could probably carry the knife and pull it out when it casually comes up in conversation, it’s not the safest thing to do with a collectible knife. Fortunately, there are a variety of display options for knives.

Whether you’re interested in displaying a collection of knives you have stored under your bed or have one knife you want to put on your mantle, here are some tips for how to display your collection of knives.

Arrange your knife collection

The first thing you should do is gather all your knives together and organize them. Some will be the knives you use as your EDC and others will be knives strictly for display. Consider excluding your EDC so you don’t have to keep disturbing the collection. Once you have the knives you want to display, organize them. This is a matter of preference, but some of the ways to organize knives are by brand, year, size or style.

Choose your display case

There are a number of display cases out there specifically designed to showcase your knife collection. For example, there are presentation boxes, shadow boxes and other types of display cases. Again, the type you select is all a matter of preference. It also depends on how many knives you’re planning on putting in it. Some presentation boxes only have enough room for a single knife.

Lock ’em up

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App gives chart for knife steel compositions

Most people’s smartphones are full of silly games like Doodle Jump or Angry Birds, but a new app brings back the functionality and reference that made smartphones such revolutionary items: the Knife Steel Composition Chart app.

OK, that might be a bit of an overstatement, but the app is definitely a must-have for those knife nuts out there. The app offers an easy reference for information about steel. Not only does it give you information about the composition of steel, but it gives some notes about the qualities and properties of the steel.

Here’s the description of the app from the iTunes store page:

Knife Steel Composition and name cross-reference database. Includes popular, high end and exotic alloys used in knife blades. About 4700 alloy names, over 900 compositions. Alloy names for 17 different international standards, proprietary names and their equivalents. Easy alloy composition comparison with bar graph in 3 modes: mass percentage, molar masses and atomic count per 1000 atoms.

S30V real name is CPM S30V. All Crucible CPM steels used in knives are in the database, including their aliases.

The app is available on iPhones and Android. It’s worth a download to learn more about the steel of knives you have or a knife you’re potentially buying from the store. Check out the links below to download the app.

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How to Care For Knives with Wooden Handles

Whether you have a custom knife with a handle made from desert ironwood or a set store-bought steak knives, caring for knives with wooden handles requires more care than steel handles.

Since wood is a natural material, it’s susceptible to rotting, splintering and other issues if not taken care of properly. There are also two major types of wooden handles you should pay attention to: those that are stabilized and those that are not.

Stabilized wooden handles have all of the pores, holes and extra space filled in with resin to make the wood waterproof and generally less likely to warp. The knives that haven’t been treated can swell and crack with exposure to too much water. However, knives that aren’t stabilized tend to retain more of the natural wood feel and look.

Despite the differences, here are some tips you should remember when caring for knives with wooden handles.

Do not put the knife in a dishwasher

Putting a knife with a wooden handle—even if it’s a steak knife—in the dishwasher is a death sentence. Exposing the knife to so much abuse, moisture and temperature changes will cause the knife to shrink and/or swell, meaning your knife will get blemishes and other unpleasant traits.

Do not soak the knife

If there’s grime stuck on a knife, don’t even consider soaking it in water. Wooden handles can become water damaged.

Avoid prolonged exposure to direct sunlight

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Anatomy of a Knife: 10 Key terms every knife enthusiast should know

When describing the basic parts of a knife, the terms seem pretty simple. You have the blade and the handle. It’s when you start talking to knife experts that terms like quillon and choil made you feel completely uneducated. So, whether you’re interested in talking to some of the big boys in the knife industry or simply want to learn more about knives, these are some key terms every knife lover should know.

Tip or Point: We’ll start at the, well… tip. This is the very top of the blade, which is also known as the point. The tip is a part of the knife that has various styles and designs. For example, some points are Tanto points, clip points, spear points and many more. If you want more details on the full range of blade shapes and variations at the tip, I encourage you check out Jay Fisher’s educational post.

Spine: The spine is the widest part of the actual blade and is also known as the back.

Edge: This is the thinnest part of the knife and, therefore, the sharpest. The edge is also sometimes designated the cutting edge to distinguish it from false edges, which are unsharpened. Generally, when someone mentions the edge, they mean the cutting edge.

Grind: The part of the knife between the spine and the cutting edge is known as the grind.

Ricasso: When your blade thickens before going into the handle, it’s called the ricasso. It’s that unsharpened part of your edge between the grind and the handle.

Bolster: Knives with bolsters sometimes have two: a front bolster and a rear bolster. These reinforce the knife in critical areas. It’s the thick part of the knife blade that transitions into the handle. It’s usually smooth and found typically on forged knives.

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How to identify an old knife

So, you picked up an awesome knife for $3 at a yard sale or your grandfather gave you his favorite blade and now you’re curious about what type of knife it is and what it’s worth. If you’re looking for an easy way to identify what type of knife you have, here are good places to start.

Find any identifying marks or symbols

The first, and most obvious, place to start is with the knife itself. Look for any sort of symbols, initials or identifying marks. Certain symbols or scratches in the handle or steel of the blade are usually calling cards of certain knifemakers or brands. Sometimes a simple Google search on whatever is on the knife is enough to identify the brand or maker.

Narrow down any possibilities by analyzing the construction

If there aren’t any intentional identifiers on the blade, it’s still possible to narrow down the possibilities of where, when and who it came from by simply looking at the qualities of the knife. For example, if you have a knife with a specific type of lock, you can usually narrow the date it was manufactured with a little research. You could also narrow down where it was made by looking at its style and influence.

Post your picture on websites

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How to make a spear from a survival knife and channel your inner Fred Flintstone

We’ve all been there before: lost in the deep recesses of the woods, with nothing more than a trusty survival knife and an insatiable desire to build a badass spear.  Whether you’re looking to pick up a new survival skill or simply channel your inner Fred Flintstone and impress some friends, spears are not only handy, they’re also downright cool.

Here’s the blow-by-blow on how you can build a spear from a survival knife.  Check out our tips and let us know what you think.

Find a good stick

First, you’ll need to look for a sapling or a stick that’s approximately five feet long.  It’s crucial that your stick is strong, so spend a few moments slashing and waving it around to ensure it’s comfortable and durable.  If you think you found a winner, then chose the flatter side of the stick for the back and the other for the point.

Cut and Shave

Now that you’ve got your wood, hold it downwards at a 45° angle and place your knife approximately 4 inches from the back of the stick. Proceed to shave the stick down at a 45° angle and rotate the stick in your hand so that all edges are sharp and even.  Continue this process until the stick forms a sharp point.

Harden in Fire

Now, you want to place your spear point over the hot coals of fire, rotating it for a few minutes.  This will dry out the wood, making your spear sharper.

Create the Shelf

Find another sapling between 3 and 5 feet.  You will need to cut off the ends to ensure that the stick is flat.  Press your knife on the stick with the whole blade point over the edge and make a mark on on the stick where the blade handle ends with your knife.

Add the Knife

Split the stick in half lengthwise down to the point you made at the end of the knife handle.  From here, use a knife to cut off half of the stick to create the shelf.  Now, lay the knife in the shelf, with the handle on top and the blade sticking out the end of the stick.  Lastly, lash the knife with rope, cord, twine or any other material available and unleash your most primal scream.

Check out the video below for a cool visual tutorial?  Got a better version?  Let us know in the comment section below.

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How to Channel Your Inner Ninja

A ninja is the ultimate fighter. He is stealthier than a tiger hunting his prey. He can camouflage as though he is invisible. Most importantly, he can finish off his enemy with one fell swoop from his blade of choice.

If you’re reading this,  it’s unlikely you’re much of a ninja, but more likely you’re a big-time knife fan sitting on the couch.  No worries.  Here are a few ways you can channel your inner ninja.

Throwing Star
When the Samurai sword fails, a ninja has his handy throwing stars to rely upon.  Ninjas don’t use these as primary weapons. They are meant to distract the enemy, while a more dangerous weapon is used for fighting. These little guys aren’t just shaped like stars, and they are always concealed. So be careful – you may not know when you’ve encountered a throwing star until a sword is coming close behind!

Of course, you can use throwing  stars for recreation,  as tossing them into targets makes a great hobby.

Throwing Knife

Throwing knives are the less common version of a throwing star. Even though they have just two blades, instead of four, throwing knives are a badass way to get into top-flight ninja shape.  Buy a set of throwing stars and blow away onlookers at your next BBQ

Sword
The sword is the most important weapon a ninja can carry. The typical ninja sword used in movies and depicted in books is short and heavy – more of a blade than a sword. It is perfect for ninja combat. Historically, there is actually no proof that this standard ninja sword existed.  However, experts agree that it would look like this because ninjas would have carried an easier-to-wield version of the standard samurai sword and this modern image fits that need.

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How to fight effectively with a tactical knife

The post is part of our Rambo Knife promotion, in which we’re giving away a limited edition Rambo knife and more.  Check out our kick off post for details.

Knife fighting is a primal, dangerous and beneficial skill to have. Not only does it help you connect with your tactical knife in new ways, but it also gives you some respect. In this post, we’ll be looking at some of the very basics of tactical knife fighting. With our usual warning, we urge you to be safe and don’t try any of this around another person. So, if you’re interested in fighting effectively with a tactical knife, here are some of the basic elements.

1. Get to know your knife

The first step before you do anything should be to become familiar with your knife. Learn its weight, shape and texture before engaging in any training. By knowing your knife’s quirks and intricacies, it will never surprise you in a real fighting situation.

2. Learn the grips

How you hold your knife is probably the most important thing to know when learning knife fighting because without a firm grip, you could drop the knife and find yourself in deep trouble. Unfortunately, there is no one universal way you’re supposed to hold your knife, so that’s why it’s important to get to know your knife. Some knives feel more natural in certain grip positions.

The grips can be separated into three broad categories: forward grip, reverse grip and unusual knife grips. Within each of these categories are a number of variations, including the hammer, saber and Filipino grips. According to a booklet on U.S. Marine Corps knife fighting tactics, the hammer grip is preferred over all others because it enables a variety of tactics. For a detailed description of each grip, check out Jay Fisher’s site.

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Developing Kitchen Knife Skills: How to Cut a Chili Pepper

No longer are chili peppers limited to spicy Mexican and Tex-Mex dishes. The small, green peppers can be found in everything from steak marinades to mashed potatoes. If you don’t know how to handle them, you are keeping yourself from trying great new recipes. Plus, you miss out on an easy way to add some pizazz to basic dishes of your own.

If you have avoided hot peppers in the past, however, we understand. Knowing how much spice the peppers have can be intimidating if you don’t know how to cut them properly. To help you avoid burning your skin or mouth and to introduce you to the world of cutting chilies, we got back with Kathy Maister, who helped us out on the How to Slice an Onion post. Ms. Maister’s site StartCooking.com is a great resource for busy people who are just learning to cook.

Grab your paring knife

Remember when we told you that Ms. Maister had three knives she couldn’t live without? Those were her paring knife, serrated knife, and chef’s knife (she commented on the onion article emphasizing that these must be “sharp!”). If you were wondering why the tiny paring knife is a necessity for the kitchen, here is your answer. Cutting any small pepper is the perfect use for a paring knife. The short, pointed blade makes it easy to deftly cut and seed a pepper.

Be careful!

Peppers get their spiciness from oils that are primarily in the seeds and ribs. When you cut into a pepper, you run the risk of getting these oils on your hands. Because of this, many people wear kitchen gloves while handling peppers. Gloves are not necessary, but, if you choose not to wear them, be mindful of your hands. Try to avoid contact with the ribs or seeds and clean up well when you finish cutting.

Cut the pepper in half

Cut the pepper in half with your paring knife. You can now see the whitish colored ribs inside the pepper.

Seed the pepper

By taking out the seeds and ribs, you are removing most of the pepper’s heat. There are two ways to go about seeding. When using a paring knife, hold the stem of a pepper half and slide the knife underneath the rib. Moving away from the stem end, slide the knife down the sides, popping out the rib and seeds. If any seeds are left behind, scrape them out with the blade’s backside. Ms. Maister says you could also seed the pepper with a spoon or melon baller – just scoop out the insides!

Slice the pepper lengthwise

Once you’ve seeded the pepper, you can chop it. Cut strips going lengthwise on the pepper half. Space the strips according to the size you want. If you are chopping, make larger spaces, but if you are mincing, the slices should be closer together.

Slice the pepper across

Now, slice the pepper in the opposite direction. Space your slices just as you did in the last step. Repeat with the other side. You should now be left with a chopped, diced or minced pepper that is ready to be tossed into your dish!

Clean up

The pepper’s oils can linger on your skin and underneath your fingernails for many hours. If you didn’t wear gloves, make sure you wash your hands with water AND soap after you finish handling the pepper. Even after a good scrubbing, Ms. Maister says you should avoid touching your mouth, nose or eyes just to be safe. The oils would hurt badly if they started to burn you here!

Know your peppers

Since so many hot peppers can be easily confused, it’s good to know what different ones look like and how spicy they are. Ms. Maister has a great list of peppers with their pictures and heat index on her site.

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Developing Culinary Knife Skills: How to Dice an Onion

There are a few basic skills that are necessities in the kitchen. If you’re a home cook in training, you’ll have to master these or always be faced with stumbling blocks when you cook. Don’t get too intimidated, though; many of these culinary steps have to do with cutting, dicing, or chopping staple ingredients. And if you’re a Knife Depot fan, it’s probably safe to assume you know a bit about knives. This means it shouldn’t take too much to make sure you’re comfortable putting away your Bowie knife and sharpening your kitchen knives.

To help you in this learning process, we reached out to Kathy Maister, the woman behind StartCooking.com. Her website is a wonderful guide for learning the basics of cooking and picking up some easy, tasty recipes. We asked Ms. Maister about one of the most basic skills: dicing onions. Diced onions are a regular part of recipes, but many people are unsure how to tackle the root veggie. Here are Ms. Maister’s tips on choosing the right knife for the job, dicing onions, and cleaning up after the job.

Choosing your knife

There are three knives Ms. Maister couldn’t live without: a chef’s knife, a serrated knife, and a paring knife. That said, she also recommends you dice the onion using whatever knife with which you feel the most comfortable. If you’re choosing from her trio of knives, the chef’s knife has the length and strength needed to help you get through a big onion. So as long as you aren’t worried to use the big knife, it’s a great choice!

Cut off the stem end

Take a look at your onion. There are obviously two ends: the root and the stem. To identify which is which, look for the stringy roots hanging out of the skin; that’s the root end. The stem end protrudes and is usually covered in skin. Cut about half an inch off the stem end.

Cut the onion in half

Stand the onion upright on its now-flat end. Cut it vertically in half from the root to the bottom.

Peel the onion

The uncertainty of how to hold an onion while cutting is what makes onion dicing a daunting task for so many people. On her website, Ms. Maister shares a really easy trick for using the onion’s skin as a holder. It changes the way you peel the onion, so read the steps first. However, if you don’t share in the conundrum of how to hold an onion, go ahead and peel it. With the cuts you have made, the skin should peel off easily. Frequently, the top layer of the onion will also come off – this is fine.

Make slices towards the root

Point the knife blade towards the root end and make vertical slices to within ½” of the root. Ms. Maister uses ¼” spaces between cuts for chopped onions as a size guideline. Since diced is the middle ground between chopped and minced, make your cuts only slightly less spaced out than ¼”.

Make horizontal slices

If you used Ms. Maister’s trick for making a holder out of the skin (like we did), this is when you’ll be holding it. Otherwise, hold the onion by the root end and make sure you keep your knuckles in to avoid nicking yourself with the knife. Now, cut parallel to the root, slicing all the way through the onion. Keep your slices spread out the same distance as you did in the last step.

Repeat and voila!

Repeat these steps with the other onion half. Because of the natural rings, you now have easily diced onions!

Washing your knives

Ms. Maister recommends that you wash your knives by hand. Use a soapy sponge and always keep the blade pointed away from you.

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How to swallow a sword (and not die)

There are many useful things you can do with a blade. For example you can cut tomatoes with a knife, use an axe to chop wood, skin a deer with a blade or put a sword down your throat. OK, so maybe the last example isn’t that useful, but it’s definitely cool.

After researching the story I posted earlier this week about renowned sword swallower Chayne Hultgren getting arrested, I became curious about how someone actually discovers this skill.Do they one day trip and fall head first, mouth open onto a sword and voila?

That didn’t seem too likely, so I took to the Internet and found that like juggling knives or throwing knives, it just takes a little practice.

Before continuing, I strongly advise you not to try this at home, especially with a real sword. This is not necessarily a how-to article, but rather a how-it’s-done article. Do not try this at home.

There’s nothing really magical about swallowing a sword, but it does take a lot of physical discipline and patience. For some, it takes years and hours of practicing before finally being able to swallow a sword. The Sword Swallowers Association International (SSAI) says it takes anywhere from three to seven years to learn.

The first and most basic thing you have to learn is to control your gag reflex. If you’re new and try to put a sword down your throat, you will gag and cut yourself for sure. That’s why you have to take it slow and practice with smaller objects. You have to invoke your gag reflex over and over until you become inured to the act. When you do active your gag reflex, be prepared for a world of discomfort and vomit.

Then, a performer must learn how to relax the muscles that are involuntary for everyone else. These muscles control the opening of the esophagus, which is where the sword enters your throat. You have to tilt your head all the back, relax your esophageal sphincter and guide the sword (or if you’re still just learning, another object) down your larynx.

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