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There’s a knack to keeping things sharp

August 10, 2012
By Karen Wils , Daily Press

ESCANABA - This column is about the sharpest tool in the shed.

As summer winds down, and the harvest season slowly creeps in, tools become very important to the folks of the U.P.

Grass needs cutting, hay needs mowing, flowers need dead-heading, and squash needs picking.

Article Photos

Karen Wils photos

Vintage photo of Dad as he sharpens the old buzz saw.

The garage or tool shed becomes a popular place. Favorite spades, rakes, axes, hedge trimmers, and cultivators fit just right into our hands.

The chain saw must be sharp and purring like a pussycat, ready to take on the windfalls and damaged trees. Even though it's still 80 degrees, firewood will feel good in the not-so-distance nights.

Tool care is important for successful jobs. From simple things like slicing homemade bread to complex things like harvesting saw logs (logs for lumber making).

In the olden days, every homestead had a good wet stone for keeping an edge on utensils and tools.

When I was a kid, it was Dad's job to sharpen all of Mom's kitchen knives. Every so often, he gathered up all the knives and scissors and took them to the basement. A little grinding and a delicate rubbing on the wet stone and they were sharp enough to split hairs.

The next day Mom often sported a Band-Aid on a fingertip. A good sharp knife sometimes works too well.

Dad's shop in the basement sharpened my things for many folks. Chains for chainsaws, blades for lawnmowers, ice skates, and saws of various kinds.

In my teen years I got into woodcarving. When a tool or chisel got too dull, all I had to do was leave it out on the workbench. The next day Dad had it sharp and shiny as can be.

Years ago each kitchen got by on only a knife or two, the paring knife and the bread knife. The butcher knife was used for processing venison, smoking a ham or cleaning fish.

An axe, a grub hoe and a shovel lasted a lifetime when well cared for.

Today, antique saw blades and circular buzz saw blades are often painted on by artists and used for decorations.

Sharpening knives and tools is becoming a lost art in our modern disposable world.

The sharpest tool in the shed is a treasure indeed. Before you peel apples or blaze a trail, make sure your tools are ready. Find the oldest knife in your pantry and the most ancient axe in your barn. Take out the old tools and fill the young ears with reminiscing of older days as you work.


Karen (Rose) Wils is a lifelong north Escanaba resident. Her folksy columns appear weekly in Lifestyles.



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