Most of us have watched a meat cutter in a butcher shop or grocery store “steel” his knife before making a cut for the display case. What you probably didn’t see was how he really honed his knives. As has been pointed out many times in the past, a “butcher’s steel” doesn’t actually sharpen a blade, it simply maintains an edge that is already relatively keen. Eventually, every knife requires resharpening on some kind of abrasive hone to stay functional. Many modern meat cutters send their knives out to a commercial sharpening service, but there was a time when all real butchers did their own honing on a benchstone. And if you went into the back of their shops, you almost always found the same system sitting on a bench there—the Norton 3-Way Multi-Oil Stone Cradle.

My own first encounter with the Norton Cradle was in a college forestry lab course many years ago. Using a sharp pocketknife to take a thin sample of wood for identification was an essential part of the class. The Norton benchstone system assured all of our knives were properly honed for the job. Later, I ran into Norton Cradles in many of the custom knife shops I visited. A final honing on the Cradle was the last step in producing scores of the finest handmade knives.

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