Tarnished Sabatier Knives

…How can I restore them? I have two Sabatier kitchen knives with high-carbon steel blades. After 20 years and not the best care, they are highly tarnished. Is there a way to clean them up? I’ve tried Tarnex, and sticking them in an onion, to no avail.

Hand polishing with a Scotchbrite pad will usually remove the tarnish, but it will do this by buffing the metal surface and may leave polishing scratches. If you have a cloth buffing wheel and jewelers rouge (super fine polishing compound) you can probably re-buff the surface to a satin finish as long as you don’t overheat the metal of the blade with the wheel which may discolor the blade and affect its temper if improperly buffed.

Tarnished? How so? Are they gray-black and smooth, or red and rough? Possibly, you have some very fine and desirable knives in your possession. Give us some more information–in detailed erotica style (please)–sizes, colors, shapes, and textures. I suspect these knives will clean up nicely, and would like to hear a little bit more about them.

On a side note - dooubt this will help - there are some nifty little devices that use ultrasound to clear away and clean things. Ya put the dirty thing in a large glass of water (you wanna clean your glasses, or your dentures, or perhaps your silverware or jewelry) put in one of these devices and it will vibrate very very quickly. It will lift the black right off tarnished silver - right in between the cracks. Since it’s hard to clean in the tiny cracks of silverware and such, it has become “good-looking” to have the silver “accented” by black. A contrast sort of thing. Whatever.

If you don’t mind spending a lot of time, there’s nothing better than a little common metal polish and a whole lot of elbow grease. You’ll have to resharpen the blade afterward.

The knives–one a paring knife, one slightly longer and just a little wider–were indeed grey-black, yet not as smooth as Shoshana had imagined they should be. Pensively, she thought back on her life with the Sabatiers. She had acquired them in 1983, attracted to their high carbon steel and its promise of a fine, slick, razor-sharp edge. Together, they cost almost $100, almost all the money her great-aunt had given her “for something nice”–with a wink–when she graduated from college. She’d imagined honing them, oiling them, slicing wafer-thin strips of translucent, gleaming, birefringent raw chicken…

But she had done none of these things. Oh, now and then she had sharpened them, but not as she had dreamed. Instead, she had been reduced to rolling them on a small, cylindrical sharpening wheel just moments before dinner guests arrived, muttering as the wheel scribed circular whorls on the edge of the once-lusterous blade, “Come on, baby, that’s right, take an edge, you know you want to.” The knives took an edge, all right, and held it tenaciously. Yet over time, Shoshana had grown complacent and lax. After a roommate left the knives soaking in a dishpan of filthy water overnight, she yielded to the temptation to wash the knives in the dishwasher. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, she thought darkly, buffing red rust-spots off the knives before putting them away. She no longer oiled them, though they had looked so sleek, so dangerous, so desirable in the days when she took the time to treat them right. But her roommate complained, variously, of oil in the knife drawer (“the tetanus drawer,” as he called it so disparagingly) and in the knife block. She was young, then, and he was gay and upper middle class, so she did as he said, even though in her heart of hearts, she knew, she knew…

Flash forward. The flats of the blades have a grainy texture. The tang extending into the firm, black, handle is also tarnished, but it is a handsome, elegant, silky grey. And dull–her knives are dull! Just last week she had begged her father-in-law, “Please, sir, won’t you sharpen my knives on Christmas Day?” And he had agreed. Privately, she wondered if he would sharpen them up the way she’d always dreamed, aligning all the electrons or doing those mysterious man-things that made her friends’ knives almost frighteningly sharp.

But packing the knives with the gifts and goyishe holiday trappings, she was troubled, even ashamed. What will he think of me, * she wondered, absently stroking the blade with her thumb, seeing my knives so obviously ill-used? It is as if my whole immoral knife-owning history is writ large upon these sad, sturdy blades!*

She buried her face in her hands and wept. They were my knives, she sobbed, and I done them wrong.