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Testing the Sharpness of Edges Electronically

Updated on March 31, 2016

Testing the sharpness of an edge in your kitchen

Electronic Sharpness Testing

If you've ever taken your good kitchen cutlery knives back to the big box store you purchased them from for sharpening they likely used one of the electric sharpeners they sell to sharpen your knives. Often, the sales clerk or other employee who sharpened your knives will demonstrate the keenness of your new edges by slicing up some paper for you. So how sharp does an edge have to be to slice paper? Not very. Slicing up strips of paper is as much or more about an individual's paper slicing technique as it is about edge sharpness. Edges that measure 150 on the BESS (Brubacher Edge Sharpness Scale) and edges that measure 450 on the BESS will both slice paper up into thin strips and most kitchen professionals wouldn't be caught dead with a knife that was as dull as 450. Then, of course, we have the tomato slicers, the arm hair shavers and my personal favorite...the hanging hair test. I'm not suggesting that all these, and a half dozen other anecdotal measures of sharpness, have no value but I am suggesting that they have little value. The visual evidence presented by a freshly sliced tomato cannot tell you whether the tomato skin was severed cleanly by an extremely smooth and keen edge or torn apart by a ragged one studded with hundreds or thousands of tiny shards of metal that were created by your last edge sharpening experience. New and inexpensive instrumentation designed specifically for home kitchen use can tell the difference.

Are You Tearing or........................ Slicing Foods With Your Edges?

How They work

The models of sharpness testers available for home use today are extremely easy to operate and are quite compact. They measure the sharpness of edges in very much the same way you do, albeit with extreme accuracy, by gauging the amount of pressure required to sever something. When you have to practically stand on a knife in order to get it to cut through a simple foodstuff you know that the edge is dull. In the same manner, today's home sharpness testing instrumentation measures the amount of pressure, expressed in grams, required for your knife to sever a self-contained and standardized test media. Better yet, the display output number of these instruments is your BESS score. Once you know your BESS score you will know exactly how your edges compare to say, the sharpness of a brand new knife edge or even that of a razor blade. Does the manufacturer of your knife sharpener claim that your edges will be razor sharp? With the new edge sharpness testers available today you can test the veracity of those claims and then make adjustments in your sharpening techniques and equipment to achieve truly sharp and durable edges. This is not just pie in the sky. With simple, proper and inexpensive equipment and techniques you can have knives in your kitchen that are not only sharp but stay sharp!

This new form of sharpness testing instrumentation takes the guesswork out of creating sharp and healthy edges for your kitchen knives and as a result, makes obtaining sharp edges so much easier. We may not think much about instrumentation but we use it many times each day. The thermostat that controls the heating and cooling of our homes, the temperature control on our oven and the thermometer we take our kid's temperature with, instrumentation makes our lives easier and safer.


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