Knife Skills…

onions.jpgMy next few post are  inspired by the famous Chef Jacques  Pepin. My local PBS station is running his cooking show series based upon his book  Complete Technique and portions of the demos are available on his website.I delight in watching someone dice an onion, perfectly, with precision and ease in under a minute!  Admittedly he has over fifty years of culinary experience under his apron. Most of what he has to say about knives and cutting skills are readily translatable to working with polymer clay.

  • Buy the very best knives/ cutting tools available
  • Select the right blade for what you intend on doing
  • Know how to sharpen your blades and do so often
  • Learn how to hold your blade correctly and slice in the right direction
  • Hone your cutting skills
  • Store your cutting tools safely and securely
  • Practice in the event You are invited to the Polymer Clay Olympics

In my studio I have several different types of cutting blades

These eight blades are the ones I use most often

  • Thomas Scientific Tissue blade
  • 6″ super flexible blade= when I need larger sweeping cuts beyond the tissue blade
  • waffle blade= for cutting rick rack and “wavy gravy” mokume
  • 9″ stiff blade= for sutting large sheets of clay for book covers and collages
  • Wusthof Cheese blade = for cutting one Pound bricks of clay with the least hand strain
  • Custom bent tissue blades= for cutting deep curves with repeatable accuracy
  • Exacto angle blade= for under cutting templates
  • Surgeon’s scapel= for cutting small edges

If I had to pick one blade it would be a tissue blade. In 1990 Nan Roche discovered these blades while working in her laboratory at NIH. This blade was originally designed to fit into a machine that Pathologists used to cut very thin, clean tissue samples. That cutting device has long been discontinued and legend has it the the tissue blade remains as one of the best selling items in their catalogue. These blades are VERY sharp, tarnish easily form skin oils and are relatively expensive ($2.50-$5.00 each). There are-

  • very flexible
  • can be re-sharpened
  • make the cleanest cuts

Caution: There are several blades on the market that are the same size and feature the same distinctive notch at the top- while they are aesthetically more pleasing as they are made of aluminum and don’t corrode, they are not a sharp. The analogy I would use is Heinkel Chef Knife vs. Ginzoo Knife.

They can be ordered from blades.jpg


1 Response to “Knife Skills…”

  1. 1 Rhet October 9, 2007 at 1:55 pm

    I keep some sandpaper for sharpening my blades near my clay tools; it’s something I learned from carving wood. In fact, the biggest frustration I have with the otherwise amazing carrot peeler techniques is that I can’t figure out how to sharpen that blade! I can _see_ notches in it, and I know it’s affecting the slices I make….

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Thanks for visiting my blog where you'll find my latest news, class details, and new tips and tricks. You'll find more information about my work at my website. Come back often.


October 2007
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