Thursday, 30 April 2015

I'm Back

I just got home from an all inclusive in the Dominican Republic, literally just walked in the door 15 min ago and came right to my Blog.
Being at one of these resorts provides you with a lot of opportunities to just think, among other things but I really had a lot of time to think about my Blog and how I could improve it. I think folks enjoy videos a lot, regardless of the fact that they may not look professional and believe me, I'm working on that.

There was a professional Videographer there and he gave me some ideas about my videos, he was using his camera and mostly a GO PRO for the week.  However, he did tell me that an iPhone 6 does some great video as well and that is what I used the last time.

I really thought a lot about knife edge maintenance and how to shoot a video on that so that will be coming up soon.

Please have a little more patience as I get my next video put together.

Sharpening thought provoking fluid.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Knife Edge Maintenance

I am going to do another video on what I consider the best way to maintain your knife, there are a few and I'll go over them.

It's all fine and dandy to get your knives sharpened but how do we keep them sharp other than bringing them back once a month.?

I am sure most know this but you need to understand what is making the knife dull, this knowledge will help you appreciate what is required to rectify that and restore the edge.

The edge of a knife when sharpened or honed is a beautiful thing, the Apex, the edge of the edge, the sharp part is subjected to force, it's doing the work so that edge fails. Even though it may be composed of very hard steel, it can only take so much. If you are just cutting lettuce and being very careful that the edge doesn't impact the cutting board (that is not an easy thing to do), naturally the edge is not getting hit as hard as others. Most folks use the chef knife to cut everything and despite best efforts the edge is going to take a hit. It folds over, it crumbles so to speak and that is what makes it dull. Now it can happen slowly, little parts of the edge at a time but eventually, the entire edge is out of alignment. This is not an indication of abuse or anything, it is normal.

I have had very expensive knives in my hands that were just terribly dull so don't think you can avoid the problem by going out and buying a 500 dollar knife. In fact, that knife will probably get duller quicker because it will used more than others.

How do we fix it:

1. Have it resharpened, that fatigued metal has to go and it just takes a little while and the knife can me made razor sharp over and over and over.

2. Use a Hone like the ceramic hone in the picture, I prefer ceramic hones but a good steel hone will suffice and the Black MAC I have heard is an excellent Hone. When used properly as in the picture below it has the ability to push that fatigued metal back into place and thereby giving it some more life, more time before the metal has to be removed.

(My problem with this method is that it is only a short fix, that steel or ceramic is pushing fatigued metal back and forth. Now if is removing that fatigued metal that is good but still, it is not sharpening the knife, it is maintaining it. The issues arise when people continue this process for too long and stubbornly believe that they are sharpening the knife)

3. The best way to maintain a knife edge is on a water stone, a 1,000 - 5,000 grit stone, think of it as a  rectangular steel. This method takes a little skill but is easily done and effective as it removes that fatigued metal instead of just pushing it around.

This is the video I will work on and it is just a matter of using some light trailing strokes on a very frequent scale. Every day that could be done and I guarantee that edge will stay sharp longer than any other maintenance method.


Friday, 10 April 2015

Linder knives

I have not seen these knives before but luckily the owner contacted me and before I knew it i was in my happy place again.  Awesome knives out of Solingen Germany, the one on the bottom is composed of the super steel M390. Now these had been subjected to another sharpening service prior to me getting them, on that uses grinders, although very expensive grinders, the owner was not happy.

I hope he will be now.

I sharpened them on the Edge Pro with stones ranging from 400 to 15,000 grit. For the one on the bottom, the part that is now polished was all scratched up so I had to create a Relief on the blade at 17 degrees to cover up the ugliness. I sharpened the edge at 23 deg to give it strength.

Very nice knives, the handle on one even has a little spot for some glow stick liquid in case you drop it at night, you can see the glowing through the little bubble. Cool idea.


Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Japanese Knives revisited - disappointment

First of all, I am not disappointed in Japanese knives, I am with the owners.

This applies to the folks that I run into only, not everyone of course but there is a  pattern and to be honest it really pisses me off.

I am aware of people who have these beautiful knives that do have a lot to offer to their owner. These people are proud of them, they are eager to display them and show them off but they let them get dull.
Then, they let them STAY dull and that is what I just don't understand.

They do the research, search online and spend good money on a hand made Japanese knife and in a month it is no better than a 50 dollar Henckels that is sharp, seriously.  I actually find it offensive to the makers of the knife.

These knives are very easy to sharpen too, that is the strange thing about them. Just yesterday I ran into someone who owns a knife that I can only dream of having and it was dull. I know what he spent on the knife and it just blows me away.

Either learn to sharpen it or give me the freaking knife to take care of. I think cooks are becoming lazy in terms of their care for their knives, they see the Steel as the answer and mistakenly believe that that is all they need to do. It makes them feel good about themselves, they got that sharpening crap out of the way.

I have a lot of respect for cooks and chefs, they work so hard and it is often the case that they just don't have the time.

Sharpening their knives should be part of their daily chores, set aside 3 minutes before the shift, take out that 2k stone from soaking and use some trailing strokes on the edge to maintain it. Then have it sharpened every now and then, you hone then your sharpen, hone -sharpen -hone-sharpen.

I just don't get it.

Having said that, some of this goes back to the fact that knife owners don't trust folks like me to touch their knives.

Now if I was in their shoes, and a guy came in with a business card and said "I sharpen knives" and knowing I had a dull knife with no idea how to sharpen it. I would at the very least check the person out, ask around, does he have a website, any testimonials?

And Yes......that is a glass of Scotch in the picture above, Ardbeg, my fav.


You folks make my day,,,,,,,,,every day.
Thank you.

Extremely respectfully
Peter Nowlan

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Slow Motion Sharpening Video

Folks, this is a little different and the purpose is to just try to help anyone interested in seeing how I sharpen, again. I think it helps a little being in slo motion.

The purpose of the video was to explain Burr Formation but the audio didn't work.

I will make another video on the Burr as I mentioned it being one of my grey areas in terms of knife sharpening.

If you watched this, thank you.


More to follow soon.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

More grey area

This is a big one for me: Steeling.

Picture from the book An Edge In the Kitchen. (Awesome book)

Now the way the steel is being used in the picture above is NOT the way most cooks do it at work. They use the ol Gordon Ramsay style, the way you see them do it on cooking shows on TV.
My issue is this:

Let's say I have sharpened a knife and after 15 minutes the edge is nice and clean and the bevels are set at 20 degrees and the knife is ready to go to work, it's very sharp.

Now the cook picks up that same knife and slaps the steel against the edge, in a way that from the COOKS perspective is keeping the edge in line and maintaining that sharp edge because that is what has been drilled into them.
From MY perspective the edge is being knocked off, it is making the knife duller.

I have run some tests in various kitchens where I sharpened the knives using my coarse stone regiment, very strong edge and with a 2k finish. I then gave the knives to the busy cooks and asked them NOT to steel them.  In every case, after a few weeks, the knives that were not Steeled were much sharper than the ones that were, the edge retention improved in the ones that I only maintained on water stones.

Now test of course is not entirely conclusive, what is the cooks used the method in the illustration and what if they used a ceramic hone?

Ceramic Hone (steel)

Also, I am not chef so I don't really have the qualifications to say that steeling doesn't work do I?

I just have a hard time "picturing" it make an improvement, I always considered the Steel as a means to get the knife through a shift, not to keep it sharp for months. I have heard a cook tell me that once I sharpen it, he can keep it sharp for a year. Now maybe what he considers sharp is different than what I consider sharp. I am a bit an edge snob in reality.

Good topic eh?

thanks for reading

Sunday, 29 March 2015

The Edge of Retention

Ready for Flattening

As a sharpener for other peoples knives, my challenge is not getting the knives sharp, it is keeping them sharp. In fact, that is an all consuming issue as I strive to keep people from having to return more than 3 times a year for sharpening. Of course, there are people who see it as an annual event, i.e. getting their knives sharpened professionally.
Hats off to them, the majority sadly enough do it once in a lifetime if at all.

The real issue is doing restaurant knives, the "house knives" which are inexpensive and often abused knives. When I say abused, I just mean that often, the people using them don't own them so they are not prone to caring for them the way we do our own personal knives.

SO how do I keep those sharp in a professional kitchen for a month at least?

Well after years of experimenting and reading I have what I think is my best solution but the bottom line there is no magic trick to keep them sharp for more than a few months.

The problem I am having is this:

I turn in ten razor sharp knives to a restaurant. I don't see what happens after that but I know that they are steeled with poor steels using poor steeling habits. Steeling in fact for me is a bit of an issue. I spend a lot of time working on a precisely formed edge, as precise as I can make it with my hands. Years of working on this has enabled me to get a nice edge but I just don't see how slamming that edge against a steel is going to do anything but destroy it.

My biggest issue therefore with restaurant knives is that despite my best efforts. it is possible that the edges I turn in on day one are gone on day two.  (I have given up trying to talk to people about steeling and I am almost to the point where I give up restaurant house knives)

Back to edge retention:

Imanishi 220

I am finding that a nice strong clean edge built on a foundation of coarse stones is not only allowing to get the knives sharper than I have ever seen but I am finding that they are staying sharp longer.

Here is what I do. (Remember that I am starting with knives that have gone dull, the edge has failed and metal has to go)

(I will explain how this could help you too though later)

I strive to get the job done, i.e. from dull to very sharp with three stones consisting of 2 coarse and one medium stone.

I use a 400 and I make sure that the knife is sharp, as I have stated in previous posts, I spend the majority of time on this first stone and I get the job done with variances in pressure. By the time I am finished, and I am using weight of the blade pressure with the 400, the knife is sharp enough to be handed back and put on the line. Patience is key here and having a stone that you enjoy using will help a lot. (The stone in the picture above, the 220 Imanishi is not one that I enjoy, so I don' t use it, I have decided to sell it. I have to like I use so I use another 220 when I need one, the Naniwa)

The Chosera 400 is one that  I love. 

Now after the 400, I could go right to the 2k Naniwa Atoshi or  Chosera 2k and finish there. However what I do next is take out my Naniwa Professional 600 and repeat the process. Now it doesn't take long, the edge is already set, there is nothing to fix just a little more CR (Coarse Refinement) and again I use the Moderate/Light/Zero pressure pattern that I like.

NOW the edge is awesomely sharp and strong and now I finish on the Green Brick of Ecstasy and again I use the same pressure pattern but this is a quick job. I finish with trailing strokes (stropping) and that is it.  The edge is polished but there are still lots of teeth there and most importantly the edge is strong, able to handle some abuse for 4 weeks or one day dependant on the steeling.
I would prefer that the steels stay hidden and the edge fail naturally, not assisted by someone who thinks he/she is helping.

So the key is a nice strong edge and and edge that fails on it's own time.

NOW, how the heck does this help the average sharpener the guy/girl who sharpens their own knives only. Why do you need a coarse stone if you are going to be keeping your knives sharp with your beloved 1,000 grit stone?

If you use your 1k stone often enough I suppose you don't need a coarse stone. However, what if you had a 600 or even 800 grit stone to supplement your 1k. Would that not help build a stronger edge and save some wear and tear on your 1k stone?

What if you just let the edge go a little longer than normal and think " I wish I had something just a little coarser". Or what if you get a little nick in the edge.

In my opinion, it couldn't hurt  but if you are on a budget the 1k is good enough if you are vigilant, if you keep an eye your edges and keep them sharp and that means working on them weekly. Now by working on them I just mean some light trailing strokes, stropping them for a minute or two to keep that edge nice and clean. Get rid of any metal the succumbed to the pressure and got tired out and decided to roll over. Do it a favour and remove it with that stone.

Clean edges are key.

If you have a higher grit stone, the Suehiro 5k for example, that is fine to use as well, perhaps you could use that as your HONE, to keep your knives pristine. Then, every now and then use the 1k to get a little deeper into that edge.
I always think of a knife edge as a "V" formed by thousands of layers of steel. My job is to peel off the outer layer and expose the new layer underneath. The top one did it's job, it's time to discard it.

Dull knife owners don't do this, they just keep punishing their knives and  their food.

I really hope you go something from this. Know that these tidbits are founded on actual experiments with monitored results. The idea comes to life then I get the cooks involved or anyone else for that matter.

As I started off this post, making it sharp is the easy part, keeping it that way is not so easy but it's enjoyable trying to solve the riddle of edge retention.