Blades are a pretty hot topic in the culinary world, one which I couldn't pass up without a friendly trackback over to Get Your Grill On. Ty Hillin posted a short article on knife care, but seemed to miss some of the more important aspects of blade care.
Hone Your Skills
When you use a blade on a daily basis, it gradually goes out of "true." That is, if you were to look at the blade with a microscope head on, you would see that the edge gets pushed to one side or the other. The only way to true your blade again is to hone it using a honing steel. Most knife block sets come equipped with one, or you can buy one for fairly cheap. This one from Amazon (aff) is a nice example.
To hone your blade, rest the honing steel on a counter top, or better yet, your cutting board. Stand it straight up on its tip. Then rest the blade on one side of the steel at an angle of 23 degrees (see graphic). With a medium amount of pressure, arc your blade down and towards you 8 to 10 times. Now switch sides of the steel, and repeat the process. Each time you switch, cut the number of strokes in half until you reach one. Wipe the blade down with a cloth before using. No one likes metal shavings in their food.
Stay Sharp, Look Alive
While regular honing of your blades can keep them true, over time, the blade become dull and unsharp. Taking the blade again to a microscope, you would see the edge flattened sort of like a pancake.. And no amount of honing can bring it back to sharp. That's why you need to take your blades to a professional sharpener. Do not take them Bubba, the guy down the street with a leather strap and a can of beer. Also, do not use those so-called sharpeners that can opener manufacturers place on the back of can openers. That will tear your blade up beyond all repair.
Next to Godliness
You must keep your blades clean in order for them to last. If you have those nice wooden handle blades like me, then you must keep them oiled as well. A clean blade is a happy blade, and a meal free of salmonella is a great experience. Hillin suggests that you do not wash your knives in the dishwasher, citing the fact that the rivets might expand, causing the handles to loosen. This is accurate, especially if you have wooden handles. The water and heat of a dishwasher can ruin the wood.
However, if you have a blade that is forged from a single piece of steel like this Furi East/West Knife, then riveted handles are not to worry about. Really, if there is anything to worry about with putting blades in a dishwasher, it must be the heat causing the metal to expand. When the metal of the blade expands and contracts, this causes dulling of the blade. Best to just wash all blades in the sink with hot soapy water, then dry immediately.
Board to Death
Never ever ever ever using glass cutting boards. I don't even know why they are made. All they do is nick and dull your blades. Best to use wooden or plastic boards. Personally, wooden butcher block cutting boards are my favorite. I feel I get a good grip with the blade when I'm cutting. Plus, they look nicer. Plastic is better for cutting meat, but both will give you enough grip and enough give to keep you comfortable enough when slicing.