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How many times have you gone to slice a tomato, only to have it go mush beneath you? How often do you attempt to slice bread and tell yourself it's time to invest in new kitchen hardware?

Sharpening knives is not an art. It's simple to learn, easy to perform, and can put new life back into your old tools!

There are two basic ways to sharpen kitchen knives:

A "steel" is a metal rod that has been specially designed for sharpening kitchen knives. Steels effectively sharpen almost all types of metals and work well with all different types of knives. To sharpen your kitchen knives using a steel:

1. Hold the steel in one hand.
2. Hold the knife by its handle in your other hand.
3. Place the knife on the underside of the steel, just below the steel's handle.
4. Holding the knife at a slight angle, clench the steel tightly and draw the knife blade down the length of the steel.
5. Repeat this process several times or until the entire cutting surface of the knife has been drawn across the steel on both sides of the blade.

Using a commercial knife sharpener usually involves drawing a knife blade through a mechanical device, where it is sharpened internally. This process works best with heavy metals, large straight-edge blades and paring knives. This form of knife sharpening is not recommended for fine knives.

Camping, hunting and fishing knives can all be brought back to life with a little work, too. Outside of heavily serrated blades, which are best replaced, all outdoor knives can be sharpened by using:

A sharpening stone is flat stone that can be used wet or dry. Because the stone size is usually small, it's easy to toss in a tackle box or with camping equipment.

1. Place sharpening stone on flat surface.
2. Hold knife by its handle, placing the blade at a slight angle to the stone.
3. Draw the knife toward you and across the stone.
4. Repeat process on the other side of blade.

Outdoor knives can also be sharpened with a steel. This process works best with large fishing and hunting knives.

Sharpening stones are quick, efficient and relatively cheap. Fine or soft metals are best sharpened wet. Place a few drops of oil on the sharpening stone before using for a smooth, even texture.

When using a sharpening stone, be careful to apply even pressure with every stroke. Use an equal number of strokes on each side of the blade, too.

It's difficult to sharpen super cheap, flimsy aluminum knives. Stainless steel blades and aluminum do not respond well to sharpening. Dispose of these for safety reasons and replace.

Knives which have suffered damage are difficult and dangerous to sharp. Never place a chipped knife inside a mechanical knife sharpener.

Kitchen knives can safely be sharpened 2-3 times a year, or as needed. Never over sharpen.

Outdoor knives can be sharpened as needed. Because most outdoor equipment is made of thinner metal (for easier, lighter traveling), care should be taken to replace broken or chipped blades.

Bring new life back to dull, dry wooden kitchen knife handles by rubbing mineral oil on them once a month. The oil will be absorbed and you won't even know it's there!