Thursday, 18 September 2014

Start a Plan

For those of you who I sharpen for or for anyone interested in obtaining my services, why not start a Sharpening Plan.

The purpose of the plan is to help you keep your knives sharp, if you are going to take the time and care to have them sharpened, why not keep them that way?

It is pretty simple, you tell me which plan you would like to follow and I will keep you informed as to when you should bring the knives in again.

The Plan starts with the least aggressive and least effective means to have your knives sharpened using any type of schedule to the most aggressive/effective plan.

PLAN:                    SHARPENING SCHEDULE:

BRONZE                                ANNUAL

SILVER                                  EVERY SIX MONTHS

GOLD                                    EVERY FOUR MONTHS

PLATINUM                           EVERY THREE MONTHS

EXECUTIVE                         MONTHLY

Choosing the Executive Plan would include a 15% discount.

Your plan should be based around your sharpening needs, if used daily, a sharpened/new knife will be dull in three months, still usable of course but it will not feel the same as it did when freshly sharpened.

The edge retention period of course depends a lot on the knife itself, the Steel, the harder the steel the longer it can hold it's edge but even the hardest knives, (61+) get dull in a few months.

If I were starting out, I would choose the Gold plan and see how it works for you. We could set it up that I contact you a week out and you go from there. Contact could be a simple email reminder, I don't plan on calling anyone and hassling them, its' up to you.

Paderno in Bayer's Lake is going to have a Sharpening Plan in place, I'm developing it. All stores that sell good knives should have one, at the very least they should be mentioning one, not just pushing you out the door with the fancy knife. HOWEVER, in their defence, I do know that it could come across as just another money grab when they start talking about a Sharpening Plan but he Plan is free, it is simply to remind you that your knives are dull, get them in for a sharpening.

Ask me about it next time. I'm always open to suggestions as well.

If I had an individual who selected a Gold plan for example, I would throw some free sharpening in there, I would reward individuals who take care of their knives.

Peter Nowlan
902 225 0579

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Japanese knives - is it worth it?

First of all, when I speak of Japanese knives I am not referring to Shun or Global, yes they are made in Japan, they are mass produced and are good quality, there are better knives of course, much better. The higher end Henckels and Wusthof now are very nice knives and then there is the MAC brand which is awesome.
The Japanese knives I refer to are the ones that are hand made in Japan and carry names like Masakage and Moritaka and there are many many more. These knives all come in various levels of quality as well but generally speaking, these are the Japanese knives I am talking about.

Is it worth it to go online and purchase a Moritaka or Masakage, will you really see a difference?

Moritaka  Gyuto
If you are looking for the pinnacle in slicing performance, the ultimate edge with regard to sharpness, you will not be disappointed.  However, this come with a price and to avoid any surprises you need to educate yourself prior to making a purchase.

hand made knife chipped. 

These knives a so good mainly due to the steel used, (full carbon in some and blend of carbon and other alloys), and the quality of workmanship behind the forging of the knife. These are made by men who are truly masters, they are the kings of knives and edges and it is privilege to own such a knife.  The techniques used make the difference, these knives are made from chunks of molten steel and hammered and forged into what we covet as knife owners.

What makes them so cool besides the fact that someone made them and besides the fact that owning one is like owing a work of art, what really makes them shine is the extreme edges they capable of taking and holding.

Again though.....there is a price.

Since they are very very hard, they are prone to chipping if not handled properly, you need to be aware of it and not twist the knife while it is embedded in something hard.  If you respect the edge it will reward you with a cutting experience like no other.  (damage like the edge nicked above is easy to repair though, it doesn't mean the knife is no longer any good, far from it)

Also, since the content of carbon in the knife is very high the blades will rust if left to air dry. So don't do that, use them and dry them and be aware that even with the utmost care the blade itself will change in appearance and form a Patina which most chefs like, in fact they love it.

This is a knife though, it isn't a decoration, use it and don't fret about little scratches here and there.

What makes the knife so incredibly effective is the fact that it it extremely thin so slicing is greatly enhanced by the geometry of the blade but also, since the steel at the edge is so hard,  it can be sharpened at a ridiculously acute angle, 10-12 degrees per side. (Your Grohmann is sharpened at approx 20 deg per side and maybe a little more)

So should you buy one of these knives?

Unless you have a plan to keep it sharp, DON'T BOTHER.

In my opinion letting one of these knives get dull is a discredit to the maker.

The really cool thing about them is that they are easy to sharpen, now the single bevel knives do require a special technique but otherwise, they sharpen quickly and take an absolutely astonishingly sharp edge.

When you buy a new care you know that it needs an oil change in a few months so when you a new knife, any knife you know or should know and should have been made aware upon purchase that you need to get it sharpened.  The thing about knives is that, unlike  car, you (I) can keep the knife as sharp and even sharper than it was new, in 20 years from now that knife can still be made to slice like a dream. You just need to plan for that and that's where I come in or you for that matter.

Chef's who own these knives are sharpen them themselves are aware that they own something special, you can too, it's just a matter of keeping it special.

Don't neglect your edges, it is easy and inexpensive to keep them in pristine condition.

I'm consumed with this stuff, let me take care of these things for you.


Monday, 15 September 2014

Why Me - why let me sharpen your knives?

You have many options available to help you own a sharp knife, the first one being the purchase of a new knife and we all now how great that new knife feels, it is a feeling that ignites us, we just prepare food better with a sharp knife, it just feels so awesome.

As I state in my Sharpening Philosophy, Sharpening Philosoply , that sensations vanishes quickly, those knives, regardless of price,  soon become dull, the process of dulling starts on day one and with that comes a  reduction in sharpness, that sensation dissipates and in a couple of months, that knife is just another knife that is not pleasant to use. In fact, it is a source of irritation because you spent good money on that knife and it is no different that all the other dull ones you own.

Everyone experiences this, but it doesn't have to be that way.
So why choose me, what makes me a better knife sharpener than your husband or the guy down the street who has a nifty grinder in his shed or one of those expensive electric knife sharpeners or anyone for that matter?

Nothing in life is easy,  to become good at something one needs to devote time and and be passionate about his/her goal. My goal in life is to create the sharpest knives my customers have every seen and used.  You cannot make your dull knives sharp again by just taking it to the "fast food" sharpening service, at the very best, it will be a quick (and I mean very quick) release from that frustration associated with a dull knife and if you're lucky,  the knife won't be scratched or come back worse than it was.

All I care about is sharpening knives, it has been something in my life for almost forty years and in terms of being passionate about it, I doubt I have any equals in that department, I have 7th degree black belt in passion for sharpening knives.  Now just because I have been sharpening knives for 38 years doesn't mean I am a good knife sharpener, you could spend 3 hours with a qualified instructor and start your own knife sharpening journey . However, what that time means is that I've had the opportunity to learn from many mistakes, had unforgettable experiences with some gifted sharpening mentors and have spent countless hours of practice sharpening thousands of knives.

The fact that I use some of best Japanese Water Stones in the world doesn't make me a good sharpener either, what makes me a good sharpener is my passion and love of the process of sharpening a knife, simply put, I understand what needs to happen.  It is difficult to express just how rewarding it is for me  to take a very dull knife and in a very short time give it new life and make it sharper that it was when new. This happens daily, it is pretty cool and utterly satisfying.

Got try other methods, go to someone else, most of customers have but now, those awesome people are my regular customers and for many,  I have seen their knives 5-10 times over the last couple of years.
I'm also a very approachable individual, I like talking about what I do and I'm good at breaking down the barriers put up by stubborn husbands who tell you that I can sharpen just as good as he can, and save us the money".
All you can do is give me a shot, give me one knife, if you are not thrilled with the edge when I am done, I will buy you a new knife.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

What makes me a good knife sharpener?

I am often reminded by people who drop off knives of their encounters with those mobile sharpeners, the guys who picked up your knives, took them out to their van and then brought them back sharpened.  
What makes me think my method of sharpening is any better than those guys or why should I think that I can make your knives sharper than you have ever seen them before?

Is it just hype on my part because I want your business or is it something I truly believe.........yes it is something I truly believe.

I don't think I even need to talk about methods to explain myself, I am quite sure that anyone interested in sharpening understands/believes that the ultimate edge, the pinnacle of sharpness is achieved only by using whetstones. Now having a water stone is just a start, a good one, technique and ability to form that precise joining of two sides of knife joining at the apex is truly what defines the exact edge so to speak. That doesn't come easy and it takes a lot of practise and focus.

You can still get a knife screaming sharp of course without reaching the point of perfecting the edge, I don't know if anyone can actually do that with every single knife every time, I am sure that there are masters in Japan who can. Hell yeah :)

Remember the movie 300 where the guy tells Leonidas that he didn't bring as many warriors as he did and then Leonidas asked some of the other leaders soldiers what they did for a living and one was a Potter, one a Baker and so on. Then Leonidas asked his soldier what they did and they all said "fight" so their focus in life was directed solely on fighting, it's they thought about and cared about and it made them the ultimate badasses.

All I care about is knife sharpening.

Lets take McDonald's vs a fine dining restaurant like The Press Gang or daMaurizio just to name a couple, there are more yes like Chives Bistro but lets use The Press Gang for my purpose here.

You can eat at McDonald's and get satisfied, the meal is prepared by a 17 year old who doesn't really care about the customer, he/she is repeating a process taught to them that delivers the same product over and over about a billion times all over the world. The person behind the wheel has no invested interested in the food, they are just working to make a dollar and good for them, we need these places of course. This is not to criticise McDonald's, I am trying to compare fast food (fast sharpening) to
fine dining (precise sharpening)

Now at the Press Gang the Chef is perhaps plating a meal that he/she created and is extremely interested in what I think of the meal and his/her focus is on that meal, it has to be perfect or as best as he/she can do or they will lose business. This is a profession for that Chef, it's not a part time job to make some extra bucks.

I am not interested in anything but knife sharpening, hell even when I go on vacation I take my water stones and find a knife to sharpen for free. I'm driven and even though I know that in many cases my knives will be the sharpest knives the individual has used, I still fret about every knife, I still worry that the end product will not live up to the owners expectations and this is a process I put myself through every single day over and over.

It's awesome :)

So does this make me a better sharpener than the cook who sometimes gets around to sharpening their knife at the end of a shift or the guy who has a few oil stones in the shed and uses them on his knife once a year. Does it make me a better sharpener that professional sharpeners who use a machine to do the work?

(Now I do know of some folks who sharpen using belts and have the same passion that I do and they excel at sharpening)

What I am saying is that I sharpen well because it is something I am extremely passionate about and I  spend much of my time trying to improve upon my skills, discovering what creates a longer lasting edge, what grit cuts meat or oily fish better than others.

At the end of the day, I don't care if someone is a better sharpener than I am, I really don't, gees there very like many of them out there, I just care about what I do and I know that it is much more than just a means to make money, it is more than a hobby.

"You see I did bring more warriors than you did "

Until next time.

Friday, 12 September 2014

How long will my knife stay sharp?

This is probably the most common question, or "how often should I get them sharpened"?

I purchased a Shun about 5 years ago and distinctly remember reading the little instruction booklet which indicated the knife would stay sharp for 1 year.  I have since given that knife away, no knife will stay sharp for a year, unless it is put away in a drawer and even then,  unused knives seem to lose their edge for some reason.

In experience, people get their knives sharpened by me once a year which means that for 2-3 months their knife (knives) are sharp and then they used them dull for 9 months. (Not all customers of course, many have a regular routine)

When I sharpen a knife, the edge is very fine, even with hard steel that edge is an extremely narrow strip of steel that will fail over time and there are just too many factors involved to say what the time frame is. Now I just say 3 months but in fact, the dulling process starts on day one.

Understanding that for most people, a 3-4 month sharpening rotation is the ideal situation, why not have a Sharpening Plan/Guide in place, like you do for you car, a book that tells you when you should get the oil changed.

I'm currently working on such a Guide in conjunction with Paderno and the Guide will be started with the purchase of a knife which includes a free first sharpening. Anyone can pick up the Guide, which is a sharpening schedule (free) it just have the first sharpening for free.

(I will try to put one up here so anyone can use it).

For the average home chef, an 8 week sharpening rotation is ideal but 12 weeks is fine too, I don't think it should go beyond that though, the idea is to have sharp knives all the time. If what you are cutting and cutting with makes the knife dull in 3 weeks than perhaps a monthly rotation is best.  For Paderno customers, the schedule is designed to reward folks who stick to it with regular free sharpening.  It will be up to the customers to use the Schedule and tweak it so it keeps their knife sharp.

Sharpening Schedule 
Gold Plan is a 3 month rotation
Platinum Plan is a 2 month rotation
Executive Plan is a 1 month rotation. 

A lot of people don't want to spend the money on a monthly or 3 monthly sharpening, so a 6 month rotation should be used, as long as they know that the knife will be dull after 3 months.

(When I say dull, I mean it is definitely not as sharp as the day purchased or sharpened by me but in many cases the knife is still slicing and not tearing the food.)

There is no penalty of course for not following the plan, it's a guide, the purpose of the guide is to answer the question: "How often should I get my knives sharpened?"

The easiest way to answer that question is not with a time period but a test, if your tomato is being compressed by the knife before it breaks the skin, it's time.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Sushi Restaurants and knives

I don't have any friends who are interested in knife sharpening, I have lots of folks that I share stories with on a Forum and I learn a lot there but there is not one person I know personally that I can sit down and discuss scratch patterns with.......can you imagine that? (I do have a lot of friends interested in having sharp knives though)

So when the Sushi Restaurants started opening up here in Halifax and surrounding areas I made a point of going to visit  with the goal of striking up a conversation with a Japanese Chef/knife sharpener and we would go over how he sharpens his the one pictured above.

For those who do not know, this is a traditional Japanese knife,it is sharpened on one side only, so this single bevel knife is treasured by sushi chefs, and most other kitchen knife fanatics due to the insanely sharp edge it is capable of taking and holding. Now the process of sharpening it is different that other knives but with time and practice, one is rewarded with a superb slicing instrument, it's just very cool.

I saw the one pictured below in a store in NYC for $3,500, these are hand made knives.


So back to my goal......after a year it has yet to happen, I have not found a single Yanagiba that was sharpened properly, in fact I never found a chef who knew it was called a Yanagiba. I do not mean to criticize anyone, heck at least they have one, I don't....yet.  I think it is a case of them just not being taught, they know how to cook Sushi very well and that alone is something to be proud of, it is quite an accomplishment but the actual sharpening process is done like any other knife, they don't follow the technique required to bring a Yanagiba to it's full potential.

Efforts on my part to show them or anything like that have gone to waste, I have yet to meet any Sushi Chef who would give up his knife to me, I can't blame them of course, this is often the only knife that they have and as long as they can keep it relatively sharp they are happy. They can sharpen a knife, they have the skills just not the same degree of passion/obsession that I have about sharpening I guess. Basically, they are too freaking busy. 

So if you are a Sushi Chef and have one of these knives and you sharpen it, good for you, seriously but if you ever want to just sit down and discuss sharpening, I'm a phone call away.....assuming you are in the local area of course. I will sharpen your knife in front of you for free if you like. 

Thanks folks
902 225 0579

My Email

My cool's free to visit.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

I please people daily - So can you.

Hello friends,
A conversation my wife had with a lady has sparked this one.

The person went out and bought a new set of knives when her older set became too dull to use.

This is a pretty easy solution to dull knives, in fact, why not just buy a one new 10 dollar knife and use it for a few months and then chuck it away and buy another new one, would you not always have a sharp knife to use?

I"ll tell you why that in my opinion that is a ridiculous plan:

Because that is the lazy way out and it's wasteful and indicative of a "Just throw it away and get a new one" attitude that some of us have.

 That 10 dollar new knife is not actually sharp in the first place, if you think it is sharp, then you have not experienced a knife sharpened on Japanese Water Stones and I'm not saying it has to be sharpened by me, you could do that.  In fact, that 100 dollar knife you buy new is often not that sharp, yes of course it will do the trick but please remember that it was likely mass produced and sharpened by a machine on a machine. You can do better than that folks, seriously. (Yes there are some really out of the box sharp knives available, like MAC....those are nice)

Now the knife in the picture above has a wonderful edge out of the box and it's expensive, about $300.00 or you could get the $3,500 knife in this picture below:

The problem with these knives, although very beautiful and an absolute thrill to use when sharpened; is that they get dull.  They actually dull more quickly than less expensive knives and how the hell does that happen you ask?

If you had a set of knives in a block and then picked up one of these beauties, which knife do you think you would grab when you need to cut some food up. In fact, I guarantee that when you first got one of these knives you would be looking for anything to slice up because it just feels so cool to cut when them.  So it would get dull more quickly because it would be used more. Yes it can hold it's edge longer but "longer" is is not really a definitive period of time is it? Basically you would end up with very expensive dull knives. You think you get frustrated when your 10 dollar knife is dull, imagine a 500 dollar knife dull, one that you drove your wife nuts over to purchase and she finally gave in believing your line: "The days of using a dull knife will be over honey.....I'm doing this for you"

This brings up another irritating point....the person who sold the knife should have said:
"Congratulations on your purchase, do you have a sharpening plan, if not I can help you with that?"

Now having said that, I have witnessed an individual who purchased such a knife and who was asked this question and that individual walked out of the store thinking the salesperson was an idiot, why the f--ck do I need a sharpening plan when I just purchased the best knife  in your store is what that poor man was thinking. 

Knives get dull, regardless of the cost, some just get dull more quickly than others, it depends on  so many things:

*What is being cut;
* Cutting Board;
* How is it stored (Magnetic strip on the wall is best);
* Where is it being used, at home or a professional kitchen.

Look at the ridiculously fine and razor sharp edge on the knife in the picture, how long do you think that edge will hold in a kitchen? Yes it is freaking sharp but the edge will fail. Now that edge is very fine but believe me, all edges fail and the problem I have is that people are reluctant to learn how to re-establish that non-elusive edge that thrills them. The cool thing about edges is that you get it back over and over again for many many years. 

People world wide are robbing themselves of the joy of knife sharpening and it really just blows me away because everyone loves a sharp knife. However, we are always looking for the easy way out. If a 16 year old salesperson (no offence to teens by  the way) tells you that the Gadget hanging up on the hook by the knives for sale is guaranteed to work, why do we believe that, is that individual a knife sharpener, has he used that gadget, does he have a freaking clue what he is talking about? Did the Manager of the store take that young person aside and say:

 "Ok, now I've done a lot of research on this gadget, I want you to become familiar with it, become comfortable with using it and if you think it does a good job of sharpening a knife then you can feel confident in telling people so"

Or do you think the Manager said something along these lines: " We need to get these things off the shelves, they are not selling well, so try to push them to folks who buy knives"? 

So whose fault is it if you purchase a gadget (one of about 1,000) because it was recommended?

IT IS YOUR FAULT......because you/me (People as a  whole) are too lazy to do the research and discover the best way to sharpen a knife and talk to someone you trust about it.  I believe that most folks know that the worlds finest knives and sharpeners are Japanese ( This is generally speaking, there are some equally good knives made in the US by geniuses like Bob Kramer, Murray Carter and Jay Fisher) (Mr. Carter became brilliant at is his trade in Japan by the way :)  )

So if you can picture a little old Japanese man, hunched over his prize water stones sharpening a knife and repeating a process that his father taught him 40 years ago...can you imagine that individual using a gadget or anything you plug in to a socket to do the job?

This is a picture of a dream knife hand made in Japan and owned by a brilliant Chef, Chef Dewar who was kind enough to allow me to sharpen it, a privilege that believe me, I did not take for granted.  Now can you imagine running that through a gadget?.....geebus. 

Now here is the other piece of the pie that folks are not enjoying and it is equally as big as the waste of money portion the slice of:  "Just buy a new one". 

Folks are missing out on the joy,  the achievement of Zen by not learning to sharpen a knife.  I have sharpened a few thousand knives in the past few years and I am not exaggerating when I say that I get an amazing sense of peace and satisfaction with each and every knife I sharpen. 

Recently I got a call from a nice man named Doug who took the time out of his busy day to tell me how pleased he was with the five knives that I sharpened for him.  DOUG, I need to thank you for giving me those five knives to sharpen, seriously. 

So what about the folks who just don't have an interest in sharpening their own knives? That is extremely common and perfectly OK.  What I am suggesting is not to take the easy road, buy the knife and upon purchase learn how to get it sharpened. If the salesperson tries to sell you a sharpener other than a water stone,  remind him/her that you are interested in a quality sharpening, not the steel eating machines and gadgets......tell em Peter Nowlan told you you want them hand sharpened. 
Now one of a few scenarios are possible here:

1. "Certainly, I agree, there is nothing better than whetstones used by a skilled sharpener to achieve a truly sharp edge, let me point you in the right direction" (this is the dream response)

2. " This knife won't get dull for about a year or two, I wouldn't worry about it now, you can always bring it back then and pick up this "V-Sharpener with Micro Abrasive Wheels" when it goes on sale.

3. I'll get the Manager, I don't know what you mean?
(Now there are some Managers who know their stuff, I know one in particular, Malcolm, that man knows knives, believe what he tells you)

So before you buy the knife, just Google "Knife Sharpening in Halifax" for example and see what pops up, give the place a call and ask them how they sharpen knives.  In my area, there are only a couple, literally two, places that sharpen knives on water stones, but easy to find.

OH about the title, yes it has nothing to do with the post does it?
It's still true though, I have seen the faces of many many ladies that got to use a sharp knife for the first time in a very long time, I see this a lot.

I will continue to repeat this:  if you can learn to sharpen a knife, that is, you live in an area where this is possible, I encourage you to seek me out. For an absolutely ridiculously low fee, of about 75 dollars, you will walk away with a skill that will not only ease stress by having sharp knives, it is a skill that can be passed down to others.  If it takes 50 minutes to get that skill across that's cool, if it takes 2 hours that is fine too.  At the worst, you will learn to keep your knives sharp just by honing them on a whetstone, if the sharpening thing just doesn't grab you.  (After 10 min if you know it is not something you will grasp, then no problem, at least you tried and all it would cost you is the gas money to get to the studio). Basically, for less than the cost of a knife or block of knives I can change your life and upon doing so, you will look at food in a different way, you'll live longer because you won't be stressed out about having to use a dull knife all the time ( you already know that a dull knife can alter the flavour of food).

The key to sharp knife happiness is at your fingertips

Imagine how cool that dream knife will be if you know you can keep it sharp.......imagine how much easier it would be to talk your wife into buying that dream knife with her knowing you can sharpen will be king, believe me.

Twin Cermax......OhYeah.

 Now I will warn you that if you follow my advice and become skilled at keeping your knives sharp, sharper than when purchased and you talk about sharpening and water stones at parties.....other people may not share your enthusiasm, you're going to find yourself in a world of your own.....basically where I am right now. 

It's so cool that you read this and yes that is one truly sharp edge on the exquisite knife in the picture above. 

Peter Nowlan