Saturday, 29 August 2015

Lesson - What to expect.


You're sick of your knife being dull and wondering what to do about it.
MOST IMPORTANTLY, you feel the urge to sharpen your own knives. That is the real key, the fact that is dull and you'd have to pay someone to change that is relevant of course but you just want to learn.

I applaud anyone who takes a knife sharpening lesson, it is a demonstration of commitment to the desire to learn.

I promise you that if you learn to sharpen your own knives from a person who uses Japanese Water Stones, and you practice, you will be able to sharpen your kitchen knives and make them as sharp or as in most cases sharper, much sharper.

You don't need a lot to get started actually, here is what you MUST have:

*desire to learn;
*good sense of humour:
*ability to follow direction:
That is about it if you want a lesson from me. Otherwise you may need a water stone(s) and a knife.

Here is what I suggest, after starting with the items above:

1. Japanese Water Stones, three in coarse/medium/fine grits. If three is not an option, then the coarse/medium stones and if only one stone the medium (1k) stone.

1. Stone Holder

That's really all you need, determination, ability to follow the instructor and really focus on technique is crucial.

The sharpie in the picture is good to have and it's use would be explained.

My lesson takes 2-3 hours and that time flies by and this is how it unfolds:

We start by talking about what makes knives dull in the first place, I don't mean what we do to cause the edge to feel dull but what is actually taking place with the edge of the knife, metal fatigue etc.
I talk about primary edge and secondary bevel and what the process of sharpening involves, what we are trying to achieve. I try to visualize that as I sharpen, i.e. bring the two sides of the knives together perfectly at the Apex of the blade (the primary edge).

I have a setup where I can sharpen beside the student so if he/she didn't bring any stones I have two 1,000 grit stones setup and I provide a demo in slow time and I continue to sharpen slowly beside the student so that he/she has a reference.  I only do private lessons at my home so it is great, I can stop and monitor the work, check angles etc. and just talk about the entire process.

It is important to manage expectations and understand that it will take awhile before your knives are really sharp, i.e. sharper than new. Having said that, you won't leave until you are satisfied that you are on the right track and that the knives or knife you brought with you is sharper than when you came.

Technique is so important, you need to establish a technique that you can repeat over and over, one that is comfortable and one that works. I show the technique I use of course, it is up to you to develop your own which can of course be the one I show you, a very common and effective technique.

Now I stand when I sharpen so no sitting and no distractions either, you need to be able to work in an area that you can focus on what you doing, not having the TV on in the background or something similar.

I also go over the importance of coarse water stones and we do some damage control on a knife with nicks in the edge.

Of course we discuss Burr Formation and Burr Removal and angles and how to hold the knife and sharpening the tip. Maintenance is another element of knife sharpening and I show you how to use the stone to do that rather than with a Steel.

It is actually a lot of fun and the 2-3 hours flies by. I really like it when the student gets back to me with questions or pictures of their work or where to purchase sharpening accessories.

I think one of the areas I will improve on is the sharpening setup, how to set your place up to sharpen. I take it for granted that all you really need is a stone, a holder and some water and  you are good to go.
After seeing my setup however people are keen to duplicate something so I will work on that. The Stone Holders I have are quite expensive but you can buy one from Lee Valley for 20 dollars.

I also invite students to come back in a month or so to see how they are doing and in case they have any questions that may have developed, I don't charge for this.

Now if you run into something like this, I don't use my coarse stones to repair something this bad.
Now the coarse stones will do the trick with patience and elbow grease and I have done it many many times. However for the sake of time, I use a belt sander with trizact belts to quickly and very uniformly work the edge so that I can get to the "bottom" of those holes and then I switch to the water stones to reset the bevels and sharpen the knife.

Basically, all you need is the water stone, a 1k stone if you only have one and a holder for it.
Now some folks just have their stone sitting on a piece of 2X4 over a container of water.  They place a cloth under the stone to prevent it from slipping and this works as well. Don't get hung up (yet) on brands of stones and all the nifty accessories you can get like ponds and Shapton holders.

Learn the basics, learn to make your knife sharp and have a setup which allows that. Then as your skill improves, and it will, you can decide how your own sharpening journey will unfold.

You need to love the process though, don't be afraid to walk away from a knife if it is frustrating you.

Thanks for reading this.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Professional Sharpening - My biggest challenge.

Hi there,

When I first decided to open my business many years ago, the process of sharpening a knife was of supreme importance, I suspected at that time that it would always be my biggest challenge.

That was then, this is now and I can confirm that the process of sharpening the knife, taking it from the dullest state possible to the sharpest condition that I am capable remains supremely important.

It is not my biggest challenge however.

Even catastrophic damage like this dishwasher damage is not my biggest it is not easy but it doesn't keep me up at night. (I am not kidding when I say that the damage to the Global pictured above is the direct result of the knife being placed in a dishwasher)

The Ulu, while forcing me to use a slightly different technique is not too difficult, we all face obstacles that we figure out a way to overcome, it happens daily in our lives.

My problem is convincing people that their knives, once I sharpen them,  will become dull again.  It is especially frustrating with some restaurant knives where I sharpen them and they get well used and see some abuse and the users of the knives are surprised that they get dull again in a couple weeks or so.

I cannot stress the point of adopting a sharpening plan enough. Whether it is learning to sharpen them yourself or having them professionally sharpened, it is the key to "staying sharp" happiness.

The funny thing about knives is that regardless of the price/quality of the knife, dullness is just around the corner but the really cool thing is that it is very easy to avoid. Get the knife sharpened and keep it that way by either adopting a good maintenance/resharpen regime or just have it resharpened every 6-8 weeks.  It is real shame when people purchase an expensive knife, $200.00 plus and they use it dull.  Chefs should never have to prepare food with anything less than a razor sharp knife. I know it is easy for me to say that because Chefs are incredibly busy, it is stressful life, regardless, getting sharp and staying sharp should be part of their life. I know it is with many.

So the process of knife sharpening is not my challenge, it is something that I truly enjoy and I am very confident with.  It just won't stay sharp forever and if someone ever tells you that they have completely solved the edge retention riddle and can promise eternal sharpness......well  you know what to do.

Fujiwara (left), Carter and Takeda

Now the edge retention in knives like the three beauties here will be vastly different than your average Henckels or Grohmann. However, even these amazing knives get dull, and funny enough, people who own these knives love to use them so they get a lot of action which leads to them becoming dull again. Easy and quick to get back to life though, from dull to beautiful happens quickly.

I realized I forgot to insert the After shot of the Global that was damaged by the dishwasher pictured above. Here it is, just for kicks. I did the repair work on a 320 grit Shapton Pro stone, it took me about 45 minutes in total to repair, reset the bevels and sharpen the knife.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Dream Knives and the stones to go with them.

Hey folks,
I've been away so I am sorry for not keeping up.

I have had the opportunity to have some amazing knives in my home to sell to folks, I had 10 in total and they all went without me even leaving the house, no door to door stuff which I would never do.

People that I sharpen for trust me and if I say the knife is good, there are no questions about that. Besides, I don't make a cent from them, I just did it as a favour to someone.

I am not permitted to show all of them as requested but I can honestly say that they are the nicest knives I have ever seen.

The Kotetsu above is a Bunka and it is exquisite, the maker of this knives at is clearly gifted. He is a pretty nice fella too, I have contacted him on IG and told him how beautiful his knives are. I can't believe how thin it is.

The other knives were Fujiwara and Takeda.  The Fujiwara is undoubtedly the sharpest knife I have ever felt, it is sharpened at 11. 5-12 deg and is quite stunning.

Most of the knives were gobbled up by Chefs in the area.

Now.....Water Stones:

Being in Canada, it is a pain to purchase Water Stones from Chef Knives to Go, Mark Richmond has a huge collection but the cost of shipping, customs and the terrible state of our dollar right now makes that choice difficult.

Now I can go to Paul's Finest of course which I very often do and buy one of my favourite brands, the Naniwa Chosera's but is nice to have a bit of a selection and my other favourites are Shapton Glass and Shapton Professional.

I have been using Shapton Pro stones for many years, I love them, the 5k stone is superb, the edge it will produce is sharper than most people have ever seen. However, they are only available in the States......up until now that is.

One of the drop off spots for my customers is a beautiful little Japanese store called The Ikebana Shop. The owners are fabulous and I asked him about bringing in some water stones, if at all possible and I named a couple of my favourite brands, well actually I just named the Shapton Pro but I never thought he would pull it off.

320/1,000/5,000 Shapton Pro

I now have access to one of my favourite brands of water stones and I will sell some on behalf of the owners to my students.

The 320 and 5k above are mine, I got them the day they arrived.

The 3 stone combo pictured above is the perfect combination. Shapton Pro has many other stones as well, the 220, 1.5k, 8K and 15K (I may be missing one or two). I have them all in Edge Pro size but now I finally have them in full size as well. So I am very happy,

I think the Ikebana Shop is the only place in Canada, the Maritimes at least that carries these.

The other good spot of course to purchase awesome knives and stones is Knifewear, I really like what   Kevin Kent has done. He has brought some amazing products to Canada for us to enjoy and I have heard that it is a treat to be in one of his stores.

Thanks for being here friends.


Saturday, 25 July 2015

Japanese Natural Stones

Yesterday I had the opportunity to sharpen some very nice hand made Japanese knives (Takeda) on the stones pictured here. (The bottom of the stones is what you see, the sharpening side of all of these stones are in pristine, perfectly flat and smooth condition)

So was it everything I had hoped it would be, were the knives even sharper than before?

It takes some time to get used to using these stones, I only had an hour or so but there is definitely a different feel and different result. They do not polish like the Shapton Pro 5k for example but the "natural stone polish" is very pleasing to the eye. Over time of course as my experience would grow with these I would see different results but the finish is still a little different, not in a bad way though, in a good way.

It didn't escape me that I was using natural stones from caves in certain parts of Japan and that in itself is very cool. They smell differently, they make a different sound and are very heavy.

The edges on the Takeda knives I did were absolutely amazing,  were they sharper than I am used to?

They felt different, a different sharp but yes I think they were a little sharper but nothing very obvious, it was not a "I can't believe the difference" moment, it just felt a little different.

So now I have to pick up some of these fantastic stones and learn how to get the best from them and that will be a very exciting educational period for me.

The sharpening journey never ends.


Tuesday, 21 July 2015

How long will a knife stay sharp?


This is the most common question I get, or

 "How often should I get my knives sharpened"?

The quick answer is "OFTEN"

Here is a problem that I have noticed:

Folks are good enough to bring me their knife/knives for sharpening, they have had enough and finally find me.  The folks often have been using their knives dull for years and in many cases, never really experienced what I call a sharp knife because as we know, not all knives are as sharp as we would like them when purchased. After all, they are often mass produced and run quickly through a grinder of some type, albeit, a pretty expensive grinder at the factory that can produce a decent edge.

I sharpen the knife and it becomes sharper than any knife the good folks have seen, this is inevitable if the sharpest knife they have seen is a $30.00 knife they picked up at their favourite hardware store or Costco.

The knife is sharp is what I am saying and in time, a month or two as the edge starts to fail, as the force applied to the primary edge through normal causes the fatigued metal to roll over, the knife is once again dull, or the dulling cycle is in full force. So people are now surprised that it got dull so fast, even though it could be 4 months. The knife feels dull compared to the way it felt when I gave it back to them. Even though they used a dull knife for many years before that. It's a strange problem, and all I can tell people is to just get the knife sharpened often.

I can't tell them that it is dull because it is 30-60 dollar knife with poor steel quality and despite my best efforts, it will not hold an edge. Yes I could put a 25 deg angle on the knife but that would rob performance and they wouldn't be happy.

This is just one of the things a sharpener deals with, it is something that in all honesty makes me a better sharpener as I search for solutions to the issue, the big one...EDGE RETENTION.

Thanks for reading this.

Friday, 17 July 2015

My favourite sharpening stuff

Hey folks, thanks for being here.

Over the past 10 years or so I have really taken a huge interest in Japanese Water Stones. (I don't use Japanese Natural Stones yet, that will come in time as I get more hand made Japanese knives to sharpen)

I have some favourites of course, these are the stones I use on a daily basis:

Naniwa Chosera:

My favourite stones

I have used these for many years and because I am in Canada I purchase them from Paul's Finest. I love them, the 1,000 grit stone is absolutely superb but they are all great, I also have the 10,000 grit Naniwa Chosera. I don't it very often, most knives that I sharpen don't require a level of refinement that high. IN FACT, in reality, no knives do.  This doesn't meant you can't use of course, there is a difference between what the edge needs and what you want to do with it.

Shapton Professional
Chef Knives to Go

There is only one place in NS that I know of where you can purchase these, i.e. buy them off the shelf and that is because I asked the fantastic owners of the beautiful little Japanese shop called The Ikebana Shop to stock some.  The 5k stone here is my favourite 5k water stone. It will produce an edge that most people have never experienced.

(Now if you live in the United States, you don't need to look any further than Chef Knives to Go, Mark Richmond, the owner is absolutely wonderful to deal with, he has a collection of water stones and knives that I can only dream of having. All the stones that I use are available at his site and I have ordered from him many times, never a problem.)

5K Shapton Pro


This is another fantastic line of stones and I can highly recommend them. Some folks are turned off by the feel of them but you will get over that quickly. They do the job on all steels, and I have relied on them for years.

I get mine from Mark at times but because of the shipping cost, customs and exchange rate, it is just better for me to deal with a Canadian shop so I use Fendrihans for my Shapton Glass.  Now I really like dealing with Mark but he understands.

In the link, you will notice that the Shapton Pond is Sold Out.......that is because I bought the last one :)  (sorry)

There is one particular stone, a 2,000 grit stone that I use and I think it is my favourite stone of all, even more than my Chosera 400, 1,000, or Shapton Pro 5k.  

The Naniwa Aotoshi 2,000 or Green Brick of Joy.

Green Brick of Joy

Just get this one from Mark at Chef Knives to Go. The stone is huge and delivers and edge that will startle you. Polished yet not over refined at all and better that most factory edges, oh yes.
I love this stone, I bought mine in Phoenix but if you are in the States, don't hesitate to pull the trigger on this fantastic water stone.

My favourite 6,000 grit stone is the 

Favourite 6K

My Favourite 8K is the:

8K favourite

Another cool spot in Canada to purchase Japanese Water Stones and knives of course, dream knives, is Knifewear. 
Kevin Kent, the owner has done much to highlight the beauty and importance of hand made Japanese knives to Canada and he should be commended for that. 

He and his staff are great folks, easy to deal with and they know there stuff, believe me.


Thanks for being here

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Tip Sharpening Video

I made this short video with the goal of providing some assistance to anyone out there who may be experience difficulty sharpening the tip of a knife. It does take some practice but for me, there are only a couple of things that are a must:

1. When reaching the tip area of your knife and could be the actual tip and the inch of metal that flows out from the tip, the pointy end.
RAISE YOUR ELBOW so that it is parallel to the ground and when doing the back of the knife raise your elbow but tuck it in to your body.

2. RAISE YOUR ANGLE  slightly, I do this and I find it helps, just a few degrees but be sure to drop back down to the "sharpening angle" when moving back down the knife towards the heel.

When I mention 45 degrees in the video, that is NOT my sharpening angle obviously, it is angle of the knife against the stone, if the knife was lying flat on the stone basically but I am quite sure folks realize that.

Thanks to a few folks who truly are outstanding knife sharpeners and are eager to share information.
Jon Broida is a gifted sharpener who owns Japanese Knife Imports and in my opinion his sharpening videos are the best that have been made, definitely the best I have seen and be sure to watch the LECTURE portions of the videos.
Awesome videos on everything about sharpening by Jon Broida

Corey Dunlap at the Phoenix Knife House. In fact, Corey is the only other sharpener that I have actually met and talked to (harassed) besides the Master Sharpener I met in New York but there was a language barrier there. The Phoenix Knife House is pretty cool, besides the vast array of dream knives there, you get to see folks like Corey the head sharpener actually sharpening, it's right up front in the store, it's a unique experience.

Thanks to my friend Jeff who asked me to make the video, much appreciated.

Very Respectfully
Peter Nowlan
New Edge Sharpening
NS Canada