Old School Knife Sharpening Meet Peripatetic Knife Sharpener Julio Toruno

Published : Friday, October 12, 2018 | 9:29 AM

Julio Toruno is intimately involved with knives everyday. But he’s not a survivalist, a knife collector, nor a cutlery dealer. He doesn’t live in a remote compound, and he’s never heard of all the TV survivor actors. Toruno is a quiet man who’s found his peace through the art of knife-sharpening.

Many times a week, he sets up temporary shop from the back of his truck, mostly at farmer’s markets, and not far from Sierra Madre. “Have stone, will sharpen,” seems to be his motto.

Toruno got started with knife-sharpening because of his background in cooking. He’s worked as a prep cook, and as a cook at a private school. He knew that a sharp knife was a necessity in getting the job done.

For the last four years, Toruno has been a peripatetic knife-sharpener, driving to various locations where he sets up shop and does his trade.

When I recently approached him as he was sharpening a large kitchen knife, I could see that he was very focused, and I didn’t know at the time that he was counting his strokes. His concentration was completely on each strokes of the knife on his wet stone. I watched him evenly stroke the knife back and forth, and occasionally put some water onto the stone. I waited until he finished, after he wiped the knife clean, and set it to the side, before I began to ask questions.

The stones are mounted in a vice that Toruno made, which allows the stone to sit atop a large stainless steel rectangular pan filled with water. This makes a very neat system, so that the water he continually adds to the stone drips right into the pan.

I gave Toruno one of my carbon steel sheath knives so I could watch the process from start to finish. He mounted the coarsest wet stone onto his vice, which had a grit of 120. (The smaller the number, the coarser the grit of the stone). He tells me that he first examines my knife to see how many strokes it needs, and to see if there are any particularly bad spots on the knife. He decides to take my little Russel skinning knife through his five stages of sharpening. He lays the knife onto the wet stone, matching the angle the cutting edge to the stone. He then gives it about 70 even strokes. “The number of strokes changes as I move from stone to stone, and depending on the knife,” he explains. “The further along the process, I use less strokes, but on average it’s about 160 strokes total per side, from the coarse to the fine stone.”

When he was done with the 120 grit stone, he moved to finer grits of stones. He proceeded to stroke my knife with a 220 grit stone, then 320, then 1000, and finally the finest work was done on an 8000 grit stone.

Toruno looked at my knife’s edge carefully, and sliced through a piece of glossy paper to show how sharp he’d made it.

For a beginner just getting started in knife-sharpening, he suggests going to any woodworking store and buying a stone with a different grit on each side, such as a 500 and 1000 grit stone.

Locally, Toruno can be seen Tuesdays at the Highland Park Farmers market at Avenue 58 at Figueroa, and at the Altadena Farmers Market at Loma Alta and Lincoln. He can be reached at 626) 466-6278.

For information about Nyerges’ classes and books, he can be reached at www.SchoolofSelf-Reliance.com.

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