It's been 50 years since Povinelli sharpening trucks roamed Buffalo's residential streets looking for dull knives to hone.
These days the home cooks drive out to 3810 Union Road in Cheektowaga, where Povinelli Cutlery, run by fourth-generation sharpener Paul Povinelli, will put a fine edge to your blade for $2. They also sell used knives and cookware, and fix mixers and other equipment, but sharpening is their specialty.
In business since 1890, Povinelli Cutlery trucks now serve institutions, roaming from Syracuse to Niagara Falls to Erie, Pa., serving the knife needs of more than 2,000 restaurants, schools and other institutional kitchens.
If you eat out in Western New York, there's a decent chance a Povinelli knife shaped your meal.
Wickedly sharp knives intimidate some cooks. Why do you say a sharp knife is safer?
"When you have a dull knife, you have to put a lot more pressure on it. So when it does slip, it's going to really go hard into your finger or whatever. A sharp knife just slides through. Either way, you have to watch what you're doing."
Ever bleed at work? What happened?
"It was carelessness, actually. You don't pay attention and you'll cut yourself. I was reaching into a box and the knife was sticking out. Four stitches, nothing major."
When you see TV ads for knives that "never need to be sharpened," what goes through your head?
"I wouldn't be in business if that were true. It's a gimmick."
What do amateurs not understand about knives?
"You've got to protect that edge. You can't just throw it in a drawer with the other utensils. You don't want it banging against the other utensils, that's not going to help.
How do you keep that sharpness?
"People who say they can't keep the knife sharp need to learn how to use a steel the proper way. It's a lost art."
You're supposed to sort of pretend you're whittling it with the blade?
"You hold the blade at a 16 degree angle to the steel. Use the whole steel and the whole knife. Drag that knife heel to tip, nice and light, the whole length. Do both sides. You're straightening out that edge, because it's such a fine point it'll roll over eventually."
"You don't want to cut on a hard surface. These glass cutting boards, they're terrible, because it's like cutting on cement. The knife's going to lose. You want a board that gives, like a wood cutting board or nylon plastic cutting board, so the knife wins."