By Helmut W. Sakschek
One of the subjects that never ceases to amaze me is how many early 20th century custom knife makers are practically unknown today. The author of Van Adestine Knives has self-published (limited to 100 copies in the first printing) a compact history of one of those makers from his own part of Wisconsin. R.A. Van Adestine’s shop started hand forging knives sometime in the late 19th century with his son taking over the business in the 20th century. The business seems to have faded out of the picture by the early 1960’s.
There are several interesting points that can be made about the Van Adestine knives. First, they were made as a side business by a blacksmith, something a well-known cutlery expert claims never happened. Second, they were forged from worn-out files, yet another controversial subject. Third, they utilized a cast aluminum handle frame with handle inserts much like those found on Ruana knives. And possibly the most interesting bit of trivia is that either Bill Scagle copied the Van Adestine combat knife or the Wisconsin maker copied him. The Van Adestine family feels it was the latter and offers fairly convincing proof.
The once famous Chicago outdoor store, Von Lengerke & Antoine (part of Abercrombie & Fitch), sold the Van Adestine knives through their mail-order catalog so these rare blades can turn up about anywhere. They are certainly collectables worth keeping an eye open for.
Soft cover, 135 pages, $27.95
P.O. Box 3, Neenah, WI 54957
The ART OF KNIFE SHARPENING BASICS, Volume 1
By Dave Martell
The star of this DVD, Dave Martell, runs a knife-sharpening service in Lehigh County, PA. While his bread and butter may be the every day work knives of commercial kitchens, his real passion seems to be honing the traditional Japanese cooking blades. The first in what will be a series of instructional DVDs covers the use of waterstones to hone both double- and single-bevel knives to a polished razor edge.
I found it interesting how much emphasis Martell places on flattening his waterstones before each use. While I flatten my own, it is more like every fifth or sixth use. He gives excellent advice on how to go about this task and I personally learned a few new facts about why it must be done.
It should be understood that you need to really be into having the sharpest possible edge on your knives—and be willing to spend some serious time at it—to fully appreciate this DVD. Martell works his blades through several, ever finer waterstone stages before he is satisfied with a knife. I’ve been told this kind of edge is desirable for slicing sushi but there is another school of thought that feels a toothier grind is better for normal food prep work. Of course, there is no reason you cannot stop the process at whatever point you personally find adequate.
I would have to rate this as the best DVD yet on using waterstones to sharpen Asian-style knives.
DVD, 2 disk set for a total of 2 hours, $45
D&R Sharpening Solutions
789 Delong Rd., Dept. TK
Alburits, PA 18011; 610-845-1017