What is your Zen? You know, it’s a certain activity that you find peaceful and relaxing. It's something that we can partake in and not really put much deep thought into . It’s an activity that helps to clear your mind and gets you re-centered mentally again. For some, it could be playing sports such as basketball, running, or bicycling. For others it could be doing work outside of the home such as gardening, planting and caring for flowers, or mowing. Or perhaps you’re more creative and like to express it through art, sewing, or cooking. Or maybe you enjoy playing a musical instrument. And for those of us who love knives, perhaps the activity of sharpening is a way to find your Zen.
Exactly what is it about the activity of sharpening that those of us who love to do it - what is it that we find appealing? We all have many varied reasons for liking it. For some, it’s the opportunity to just sit after going all day (and probably, some of the evening too especially if you have kids or dogs...or both!)For others it’s a chance to relax with a beverage and your favorite TV shows or movie. Myself, I find sharpening very satisfying on many levels. The biggest take-away for me is the ability to take a functional tool and renew it with minimal investment of time and effort. Same could be said for remodeling a house or kitchen/bathroom or even restoring a vintage automobile. But, these tasks require a significant investment of time, effort, and money as well - with the biggest factor being time. You can spend weeks or even years restoring such. Sure, once you are done there is a tremendous feeling of accomplishment as well as satisfaction but these two come with a price of challenges along the way such as finding the time and energy to do such as well as hitting roadblocks and having to drop back and punt (maybe several times!) and so forth. With sharpening you can spend a few minutes working on a knife and once you are finished, you have a razor sharp tool that is ready to see more action in the kitchen, garage, or on the hunt.
Knife Sharpening on a 2 X 72 " grinder in the Spartan Blades shop
I really don’t watch any TV or movies due to my other side hustles that require my time and energy as well as partaking in some outdoor activities that I enjoy. When I sharpen I usually do so at my sharpening workbench I have set up in my garage. Usually I take a non-alcoholic beverage with me down to the garage and turn on my music and work on knives. Even after a busy day on the day job, it’s still an activity that I enjoy doing because it allows my mind to relax. My day job requires me to multitask pretty much all the time. At any given point in time I have a few things going on that require my time and attention to forward on and eventually complete. I tend to use the visual of a plate spinner, with all the plates spinning on the sticks, and I am running around to various plates and spinning them up more so they can keep going. With sharpening, this is one activity that forces me to focus on one thing and one thing only, which is very refreshing. Focus is important because if you are not, then chances are high that you might either cut yourself or not do as good a job on the knife as you usually can. Even if I have a day at work where everything I touch just falls apart, and nothing seems to have gone right the whole day long; I can return home and after supper, go downstairs to work on a knife or two and immediately my outlook changes, because that is accomplishment in just a short period of time. It easily erases what happened to me earlier in the day. Restores my sense of accomplishment.
Another reason why sharpening is a good way to find your Zen. It could also be the motions that you perform to do the actual sharpening work. If you like to sharpen on a stone, then that repeating pushing motion of the blade across the surface of the stone as well as the sound the blade makes when it is passed across the stone. It’s the intense focus on the sharpening coupled with the aural aspect of it that pulls you right on into the zone. Nothing else matters at that point, it’s just you and the knife...and you working on the knife. If you choose to sharpen using a motorized sharpener like I use. The ones with flexible abrasive belts. There’s a certain sound the blade makes as you pass it across the rapidly rotating belt. Sort of like a white noise that has a relaxing effect on my brain. It transports me into that zone! Still, with the modern sharpening equipment that I use on a regular basis, there is still something about doing knives on a bench stone that still has its attraction. Again, it’s the intense focus thing that I was mentioning earlier.
So, for those of you who love to sharpen your own knives, is sharpening a way that helps you to find your Zen? With the way the world and society is currently, heck - with the way 2020 has been - it’s all the more important to discover an activity that helps us to relax and clear our heads. Mental health is very important. We look after our bodies by exercising and going to the doctor. We look after our vehicles by taking them to the mechanic for oil changes and new tires. We look after our homes by cleaning and fixing leaks and bad appliances. We look after our kids and pets to ensure they are happy and healthy. First and foremost, we need to look after ourselves mentally as well as physically. Finding your Zen through sharpening is a true gift.