The Little World – The Chef’s Knife

I am always fascinated with the fancy kitchen sections of the local Myers and David Jones stores. All those implements! All those pots and pans! All those knives! It makes the kitchen drawer at our place look like a scrap heap.

The fascination continues when I see professional chefs whacking away at the raw ingredients on the television cooking shows – or setting out to work on restaurant kitchens. The preparation of their knives, with the hours of sharpening and honing…It amazes me to see that much effort being put into something that very quickly becomes as blunt as it was before it all started. I used to cut meat with knives – human meat, with tiny little knives – and when I was worried about whether it was becoming dull, I just took out the blade and slotted another one in there. The chief trick was not to stick it in the nurse as I did so.

Operating theatres and professional kitchens must be on another planet, if the circumstances of the average home workshop are taken into account. If you are a modeller I would be willing to bet that you can sit at the workbench, stretch out your hand, and find:

a. An Exacto, Stanley, or Excel knife. It will have a blade that is still good for a few more cuts…even if you have been peeling the armour belt off a battleship. There will be a packet of spare blades in the tool cabinet but they will be going slightly rusty from not being used.

b. A chisel-like object. I have no idea what it started life as – a teaspoon – a ruler – a Barbie doll – whatever. It has now been sharpened to a fare-thee-well and is used as a chisel. Not well, mind…not efficiently…but it has the ideal shape to get in and horse out whatever will not yield to the Exacto knife. At some stage of the game this chisel has gone into your hand.

c. A drill that does not work. It might be an electic drill with a bad cord or a yankee drill with a bent spiral. Occasionally it is a perfectly functioning pin drill that has never actually gone through anything in its existence  – but looks so cool that you keep it.

d. Five paint brushes. One too good to use, one quite good, one acceptable, one slightly damaged, and one that is horrible.

e. A ruler with many of the markings worn off.

f. A pair of pliers that pinches the fold of skin between your thumb and fingers every damned time you use it, no matter in what position you hold it.

g. A pencil that is about 3 inches long. It never gets any shorter, no matter how much you sharpen it, and you cannot remember it ever being any longer than 3 inches. Quite possibly it was used to write the Bible.

h. The Thing. It may have been a marlin spike from a clipper ship. Or a fuel rod from a reactor. Or the last remains of the USS MAINE. Whatever it started life as, it is now the Thing, and it is used to Do Stuff. Weird stuff like drift wheels off axles or remove ear tags or evert the insides of stuffed toy Koalas for sewing. There is no way of knowing what it can do or when you will need it, so keep it close.

Of course this list says nothing about the tools we find that we absolutely need at Bunnings, nor the useless junk that other people waste their money on when they go to the same store. Or the siren call of the used-tool hawker at the markets. These mechanical schmatter merchants know us better than we know ourselves.

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