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Sharper edge

The Rogue Valley’s growing reputation in culinary circles includes a new line of high-end knife sharpeners.

Work Sharp Culinary is Darex’s first product launch in a decade. It builds on the Ashland company’s reputation for sharpening systems geared for hand tools and industrial drill bits. Work Sharp Culinary expands Darex’s reach from the yard, garage and wood shop into the home kitchen.

“Every house in the United States has knives, and most of them are dull,” said Chris Loeffler, Darex marketing strategist.

And while plenty of people wield knives every day, many of them do not know how to sharpen a blade without damaging it. Using abrasive belt technology, Work Sharp Culinary takes the guesswork out of knife sharpening with preset angles but also allows the aficionado to customize angles of fine-quality knives, said Loeffler, adding that customers who would pay more than $100 for a knife also should own a sharpening system.

“A $200 Shun that’s dull is still dull,” he said. “You invested in that edge, so we’ll let you keep that edge.”

Selling Japanese and German cutlery, Constance Jesser confirms that every high-end knife has sharpening specifications that should be followed. Work Sharp Culinary sharpeners wowed the chef when she saw a March demonstration at the International Home & Housewares Show in Chicago. In just two minutes, said Loeffler, the flagship E5 sharpener accomplishes a task that would take about 30 minutes by hand. Work Sharp Culinary can handle any type of knife, even $10 ceramic cutlery from big-box stores.

“It’s brilliant what they’re doing, and they’re right here in Ashland,” said Jesser.

Deciding to stock the sharpeners at her Ashland gourmet cookware and food store, The Culinarium, Jesser said she’s distributing coupons to coincide with Work Sharp Culinary’s online preorder period through the end of August. Purchases can be made at www.worksharpculinary.com. The sharpeners will show up on shelves of Williams-Sonoma stores starting Sept. 1, said Loeffler.

The automated, one-touch E5 with adjustable guides retails for a suggested $199.99. Also electric, the E3 provides professional-grade sharpening with just slightly less convenience for about $129.99. For $49.99, Darex sells its M3, a manual, diamond-grit sharpening rod.

All three systems come with a companion ceramic honing rod intended for use between sharpening, which the average cook would do about once a month, said Loeffler. Owners of a Work Sharp Culinary system, however, likely would find themselves sharpening knives for family and friends, perhaps throwing “sharpening parties,” said Loeffler.

“We’re not selling knife sharpeners, we’re selling the experience at the end of it.”

Darex has hosted food-focused events to showcase Work Sharp Culinary. A yakitori cookoff, complete with the company’s purchase of a Japanese-made grill, is the brainchild of company CEO Matthew Bernard, said Loeffler. Work Sharp Culinary’s manufacturer also engendered a “cleaner, more white-glove approach,” he added.

“It’s a prestige thing,” said Loeffler. “This is just the beginning.”

Dozens of new jobs arose from the development and production of Work Sharp Culinary, said Loeffler. Darex recently completed a remodel that approximately doubled the size of its East Hersey Street facility to accommodate all four of its brands: Darex Industrial, Drill Doctor, Work Sharp and Work Sharp Culinary.

Family-owned for four generations, Darex has enjoyed recognition as one of the state’s top places to work, based on employee satisfaction surveys. Founded in 1973, Darex employs about 150 people.

— Reach freelance writer Sarah Lemon at thewholedish@gmail.com.