Thursday, 16 October 2014

Counting Strokes - Recommended?

Hello folks,

When I teach knife sharpening, a common question is if it is a good idea to count the strokes to ensure and even grind on both sides of the knife.

Over the years I have changed my view on this but now I have  rock solid opinion, this is my opinion. not count your strokes and here is why:

random shot to add coolness to my Blog Post.

Knife sharpening by hand is a process that can induce a zen like environment, if you are focused, free of distractions and in the zone, you will truly enjoy what is a very rewarding sensation. There is a synergy that develops between the stones and  your edges and you. Get in the moment, concentrate on the edge and let the scenario unfold and you will not only walk away with a sharp knife but you'll experience an extremely rewarding sensation. This is a scene that plays over and over in my world and you'll hunger for it. 

If you count your strokes, you have a tendency to automate a traditional process that should NOT be automatic.  You need to learn to use your senses to know when to flip the knife, when to switch stones and when to stop. If you rely on a counting system, you will miss something, you will rob yourself of the sensation I described above....besides that, it's freaking boring to count. 

Now this does not mean that you can't develop a rhythm, you need to find something that stimulates consistency and if a counting to 4 and then moving to another section and counting to 4 works, that is fine but the key is not to use that count/rhythm as a measurement to begin or end  a step in the process.  Instead, use your touch to feel the edge, to feel the burr and to feel the edge to make sure the burr is removed. Use you sight to look at the grind, is it even on both sides? 
Is the burr formed from the tip to the heel? 

I hope I am making sense and remember this is my opinion, if you are getting your knives sharp and you have a counting system, than use it, it works for you and that's what is important.

This is just the way that I feel about the topic, it doesn't mean I am right and everyone who counts is wrong. 

Try it both ways and see how it goes, that's what I did and this is something I have come to realize recently,  I only ever counted strokes for a month or so...I did not like it for the reasons I mentioned above. 

Did I tell you about the time I sharpened knives in the pool?

Grohmann belonging to Executive Chef Craig Flinn

Thanks for being here friends.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Angle Assistance

I'm going to give you a little help in determining how far you need to lift the spine of your knife off the stone to reach a desired angle, the math (sine) works, trust me.

Lets say you have a 2 inch wide knife, measured at the heel, always measure it at the heel to make this math work.

Ok now you want a 15 degree angle on the edge, that is 15 deg per side of course.

You take the width of the heel which in this case is 2 inches and  divide it by four.

So 2 which is the width of the knife divided by 4 is .5.

To get a 15 deg angle you raise the spine by 1/2 inch.

You can make a 1/2 guide from stacked quarters until it reaches .5 inch or the better way is to get a wine cork, so pull the cork, drink the wine and cut the cork at 1/2 inch and there you have a little guide.

What if you have a big knife, and it is 3inches wide at the heel and you want a 20 degree angle.
In this case, for a 20 deg angle measure  3 by 3 so the height to raise the spine is 1 inch.

If you want a: (Width is the width of knife at the heel)

20 deg angle divide the width by 3

15 deg angle divide the width by 4

12 deg angle divide the width by 5

These are the common angles and a two inch wide heel is a common width for many knives.

I got this info from a very good book called An Edge in the Kitchen by Chad Ward, I just thought I would share it.


Sunday, 5 October 2014

The ultimate axe - cleaver of orcs.

Gransfors Brux 

Today I received a very very cool axe to sharpen. I had not heard of these before but I have looked into it since.  This is a Gransfors Brux carving axe, it is a single beveled axe and absolutely beautiful.

They are made in Sweden and from what I have read, probably in the top 5 axes  made, but I'm guessing at that. It comes with a fantastic edge when new. This one had a bad chip in it and wasn't as sharp as it should be. It took me 90 minutes to get to a level where I was able to shave arm hair with it (thats gross eh, I cleaned the axe after though).

This is finished on the 8k Kityama

As I received it, notice the nick.

I painted the edge before sharpening it with a Sharpie

Naniwa Chosera 3K finish

Gransfors Brux carving axe

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

I'm afraid you will ruin my knife.

You may ruin the knife.

If you looked at my website and read my Blog you would know that the thought of me ruining a knife is absurd. I've never damaged a knife, even when I was learning years and years ago. The water stones are not harmful to the edge of the knife, the process involves abrading fatigued metal away and then bringing the two sides of the knife, the two planes together perfectly at the Apex by holding the knife correctly against the water stone. To damage a knife, other than dropping it on a cement floor, I would have to drive the edge with great force into the stone and damage that as well. (My water stones are precious to me) I know what I am doing, if you don't trust me with your knives that is fine, use them dull or take them to a friend you trust. You should know what to ask me if you are worried and I certainly understand the apprehension. Ask me how I sharpen them and what I use and ask me if it is possible that I could ruin your expensive knife. I don't mind the questions, what I mind is people using dull knives because they don't think anyone is capable of sharpening them properly. ( I told you I was passionate about knife sharpening didn't I?)

I just posted this on my website and thought I would share it here.

I remember a man and his wife coming into the Paderno store with a bunch of Global knives they had at home and they noticed my sharpening advertisement there. The awesome manager told them about me and how I sharpen (I was there at the time) but I could tell that guy was not letting me touch his knives. So now he just uses them dull, unless of course he sent them away to someone else.

Now that I think about it, not letting me or sharpen his knives even after hearing good things about me and how I do the actual sharpening, it is sign of ignorance on that individuals part. That person should know, but doesn't that sharpening his knives by hand on water stones, is the answer to his dullness issues, he's sharp challenged. 

However, in his defence, perhaps the salesperson who sold the knives to him told him that the best way sharpen them was only using Global products so in that case, that's cool, I understand the thought process, it is wrong but not the individuals fault, that is the sales persons fault.

I think it is really cool when people ask me how I sharpen the knives and about the process, I love talking about it.

Having really Japanese Water Stones doesn't make me a good knife sharpener.


Seriously though, if you know some who loves their knife so much that they just cannot bare the though of having someone else sharpen it, I have a plan for that person.

I will sharpen one of my own knives in front of the person, they can see what I do and I can explain the process.  I can guarantee that I probably love that knife more than he or she does. 

Remember, this is an obsession,  the thought of damaging a knife just doesn't register in my mind, I'm not worried about it. I don't think you could even damage your knife by sharpening it to be honest. 

Do you folks know that I have had over 10,000 people visit my Blog. GEEBUS that is cool. 
Thank you so much for being here.

A very grateful man.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Why don't I sharpen other things?

Hey folks,

I am often asked if I sharpen:

Lawn mower blades;
Pet grooming shears;
Ice augers;

I've forgotten some things but for the most part the answer is "no" and I hate telling people that.

(I do sharpen scissors now and have done a few pairs of salon shears with good results by the way)

I see myself as a kitchen knife specialist though and it took me years and years to build up the confidence to be able to sharpen knives to a level where I feel comfortable to charge people for my skills because I believe that I can more than satisfy their sharpening needs .  So even though I can sharpen a lawn mower blade (it's not that hard), I don't enjoy it and I am not 100% confident in the final result. My passion is knife sharpening, passion leads to success (along with Practice, Persistence and Patience). If I can make it the sharpest lawn mower blade that the person has ever seen than I'm not comfortable with doing it.

I don't want to do a lawn mower blade and do a half assed job on it and then have the owner think I am just a mediocre sharpener.  In my business, word of mouth is absolutely crucial, it is what I have relied on for 3 years now. I have been blessed with favourable comments and recommendations,  I do not want to jeopardize that by just making a lawn mower blade a little better.

I tell people if they are absolutely stuck I will do them but I don't charge them.

Speaking of word of of the things I appreciate most is feedback, and it doesn't come often. I know people are pleased and I also know that people would be quick to let me know if they were not. I think that the majority of folks just don't consider taking the extra few minutes to let me know about their level of satisfaction. 

When that does happen, it brightens my day, it's freaking awesome in fact.  I'm not asking for much, just a quick email to say "thanks Peter, I'm happy" that would be enough.

Thanks for reading my Blog, that is very cool and nice of you.

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.