Monday, 18 August 2014

Japanese hand made knives - Steeling - Don't

Hi folks, been away for a couple of weeks, thank you for visiting my Blog and being patient.

I want to talk about steeling knives again and in particular knives that are very hard, i.e. 60 and above and these are my thoughts on it, you can disagree of course.

The majority of knives out there that we all use, Wusthof, Henckels, Grohmann are not that hard, they are around the 54-56 range which is fine and in some cases better which I will explain.

(There are a lot of varieties of Henckels and some are very hard, the higher end ones that is)

Lets take the average Henckels chef knife; I don't think I have ever seen one chipped, have a nick on the edge.  Now take a much harder knife, like hand made knife, one that has a 62-64 on the hardness scale for example,  it is very common to see the edges with little nicks in them.

The reason is that the metal, while very hard and able take a much finer sharpening angle and hold it's edge longer, is because the metal has a tendency to be brittle.   Softer knives have an edge that is more flexible, the metal that becomes fatigued doesn't break off, it just bends back and forth.

So why not steel the hard knives?

The metal at the edge of a hand made carbon knife for example is very thin, yes it is hard but it still very thin and it still gets dull and we know that a dull knife means the metal has folded over, it's fatigued and just shifted a tiny bit from centre.  Now with a softer knife, a steel can push that fatigued metal back in place, it just bends it back so to speak. However, that very hard steel on a carbon knife will not flex, it won't be pushed if you run a Steel over it, it will likely just break off so now you have a chipped edge.

So I do not recommend using a Steel on one of these knives, now a nice Ceramic "Steel" may do the trick but it is most likely going to just knock off the fatigued metal instead of realigning it.

So how do you keep a "hard" knife sharp, well the same way you should keep any knife sharp, you should hone it on a whetstone, remember you hone a sharp knife and you sharpen a dull one so you should hone the knife that has lost it's edge a little by using a fine water stone and use trailing motions, i.e. drag the knife towards you.

I will make a video of what I mean but it is very easy and it is very quick. As I have said before, think of that water stone as a rectangular Steel.

In my opinion, a ceramic is the way to go if you do Steel your European knives, MAC makes a really nice one as does Global but that one is expensive ($149.00).

You can order them online from Chef Knives to Go for 30-50 dollars too.

Ceramic hone

I still believe that unless a Steel (either steel or ceramic) is used properly it won't serve a purpose and remember it is not designed to sharpen a knife, it's purpose is to keep a sharp knife sharp, not make a dull knife sharp.

The key is to know when the Steel is not improving the edge. Picture that very thin edge and the steel along that edge becoming fatigued, how long can you just push it back into place before it just breaks off and I'm talking about any knife. It may not necessarily break off but by just pushing that tired out metal back into the right position, is it still not that tired out metal?

Hats off to folks who are meticulous with their steeling, just make sure it is done with care and not like you see chefs on TV slamming the edge of the knife against the if that makes a difference. 

This is my "Steel" :)

Not every chipped knife of course is a result of using a Steel, far from it.  This damage could of come from someone putting it in a dishwasher, edge down but in this case, it does look like Steel damage but also, maybe just a bad batch from the factory, a heat treatment issue.

In any event, this type of damage is easy to repair and once repaired, I find the edge a little stronger and less prone to chipping/ The picture below is is of the same knife and it's larger brother which also had similar damage.

Repaired Edges 

Thanks all.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

I can sharpen as well as you can.

A chef said this to me recently and to be honest, maybe he can, I have never claimed to be the best sharpener around. However, when someone tells me that they can sharpen as well as I can, I am doubtful to be honest, now if they didn't say that I would think more of the individual and regard him/her as a really good sharpener.

Anyway in response to the " I can sharpen my knives as good as you, I just don't have the time" I asked the following questions:

1. "What is your profession, a Cook?"
Ans: "Yes"

2. " What are your hobbies, what do you do in your spare time?"
Ans: "Biking, video games, just relaxing"

3. "What is the most important thing in your life?"
Ans: "My job and my health I suppose"

4. "If  you could go anywhere in the world where would it be?"
Ans: "Australia"

5. "How many hours do you sharpen in one month?"
Ans: "I sharpen my 3 knives every 3 months so about 1 hour per 3 months".

Now I asked him to repeat the questions to me.

"What is your profession"
My answer: Knife Sharpening

2. "What are your hobbies, what do you do in your spare time?"
My answer: Knife sharpening, I sharpen knives in my spare time.

3. "What is the most important thing in your life?"
My answer: Knife sharpening, ensuring people are thrilled with their knives when I sharpen them.

4. "If you could go anywhere in the world where would it be?"
My Answer: To the fish market in Japan and watch/meet master knife sharpeners.

5. "How many knives do you sharpen in one month?"
My answer: I sharpen for 3-4 hours a day

Does this make me a better knife sharpener?

Not necessarily but it's all I do, I'm consumed with it so I think when people are consumed, driven by something, they get good at it, like olympic athletes who dream of becomingOlympians when they are children, they start their journey young and nothing else seems to matter.

As I said, I've never claimed to be a better sharpener than anyone else, if you think you are THE knife sharpener, good on ya, I'm proud of you, seriously.

 Here is a picture of a very beautiful Maestro Wu hand made damascus knife that I finished with the ultra cool Kityama 8,000 grit water stone. Of all the knives I have sharpened, this is one of the very sharpest. This one belongs to Chef Bill Pratt, Proprietor of Cheese Curds and Habaneros, he is a hell of a guy and one lucky man to own this beauty.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Purchasing a new knife - Don't make this mistake.

I realize that the folks who are kind enough to read my Blog know what I am to talk about but it comes up so often that I want to mention it again.

I see this often, to me it is the most common error when the trigger is pulled on purchasing a new knife. I also know that for many folks, this is considered quite an expense, not everyone has a hundred bucks or even two or three hundred dollars lying around to get "another knife"

In many cases of course there are plenty of knives in the kitchen already but they are so dull that it's time to replenish the stock and get back that great feeling that comes the first time a new knife is used.

However, it is a cycle that will continue because people just don't have a sharpening plan. I've said it before, when you purchase a new knife, or your friends are talking about it, you/they should have a plan on how to get it sharpened and the plan has to be in place 2-3 months after the purchase.

Now a good knife seller will ask you and suggest a professional sharpening service and they should be right up front and tell you that regardless of the cost of the knife, it's going to get dull so be prepared for that and have a plan to get it back in shape.
Just a typical batch of knives. (nothing to do with the topic :) )
So many guys have talked their wives into making the 300 dollar purchase and she reluctantly agrees yet she is thrilled with the new knife......for a few weeks then the dulling process begins.

So what is a Sharpening Plan?

Before the purchase you could ask the store manager what he/she recommends to keep the knife sharp. This will surprise them because not many people ask that and the person should first and foremost recommend a professional sharpener who uses whetstones to sharpen.  Now if the seller tries to sell an electric sharpener or gadget and tells you "this is all you need" then walk away.

Nothing beats a sharpening using water stones, nothing but that doesn't mean that you can't use them yourself, I am  just saying that anything else is inferior.

At least have a plan, know that that beautiful knife is going to be dull sooner than later but it is easy to keep it like new.

I often see knives for sale and right beside the knife display are the 10 dollar gadgets, to me that is insulting your intelligence. It is also possible the the salesperson has no idea about sharpening and is just doing their job by selling what they may actually think works. There may be no deception involved  at all, just ignorance and that's OK, just be aware that those gadgets won't do the trick, they will not alleviate the frustration that comes with the dull knife, especially one that you talked your wife into getting and is now sitting in the pile with the rest of them.

Now your plan could also be picking up some of your own Japanese Water Stones and getting a lesson from a knowledgeable to me this is optimum plan.

How cool would it be to take that brand new knife and at the first hint of dulling to take out one of your new water stones and in 5 minutes get that crisp edge back. 

Trust me when I say that there are very few things in this world that will leave you feeling so rewarded and proud of yourself by sharpening your own knife. The two stones above are among the best in the world and yet both of them are cheaper that a Chef's Choice electric sharpener. 

Here is something to consider, for 75 dollars you could get a private 2-3 hour lesson from me with your new knife and your water stones and in that time you would learn not just how to keep it sharp but to get all those dull ones back to like new. I guarantee that you would be doing your friends and neighbours knives as well, you will be the most popular guy/girl on the street.

Don't forget one of these when learning.

Thanks for reading. sorry I have been absent for a bit, I thought when I retired I would have more time to do these things that I love to do but that has not been the case.

More to follow:)

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Looking Glass Edge - SPYDERCO

I have always wanted a Spyderco folder, I still don't have one but I did get one to sharpen, a really  nice one, a Spyderco Tenacious.

I decided to place, or do my best to place a Mirror finish on the bevels and I think it turned out pretty good, the knife was pretty easy to sharpen actually, I did this one at 21 degrees per side.

I used the Edge Pro Professional for the work and took it up to 15k.  The knife was exceptionally sharp after the first stone, the 220 grit EP stone. This is not due to any skill on my part, it's just the steel, the EP Pro and the perfect angle to sharpen at the led to the awesome edge on the knife.

I need to get one of these, they are pretty cool and I really enjoyed the work. It took me about an hour to get it to where I was happy with it and fortunately I was the first one to sharpen it,  after the factory edge that is.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Sharpening a Moritaka

Every now and then I get a hand made Japanese knife to sharpen, this one was sent to me from Ontario.

Personally, I don't find the majority of these knives very pretty to look at, they don't have the finished look that mass produced knives have. However, in terms of the quality and hardness of the steel they are far superior. These knives are capable of taking an extremely sharp edge and can hold that edge longer. The reason is the material, it is a carbon knife, it is 64 on the hardness scale which is very very hard, my Henckels is about 54-56 to put it in perspective.

There are drawbacks though, you need to keep these knives dry after use or they will rust, also, a steel this hard and a blade so thin has a tendency to be brittle so chipping is not an uncommon issue. This one was chipped very slightly upon arrival.

The first thing I did when I got this knife was to order my new Kityama 8,000 grit stone, I have heard so many good things about it and this was the perfect opportunity to use it.

First things first though, I had to fix the edge before I could sharpen it.

For the repair work, I chose the Shapton Glass 220 and worked the edge at a 45 degree angle, this amazing stone quickly ate away the damaged edge and in about 4 minutes the chips were gone. In the picture is the 400 Atoma Plate which I did not use.

You can see the minor chipping issues, again, common with some of these very hard knives.

As you can see the repair work is done, not that hard to do with the right stones, now I can sharpen it.

I used my favourite stones to do the work, it took me 20 minutes to get a nice edge from the 5K stone.  Then I put the knife away and waited anxiously for the Kityama to show up.

1k Naniwa Chosera

3K Naniwa Chosera

5k Naniwa Chosera

The Kityama is indeed a wonderful stone, I really enjoyed it and it took the edge of the knife to a different level, it had that great "grabby" edge that I love, all in all, a lot of fun to sharpen and quite easy actually. 

Finished product is above.
Thanks for reading

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

I want to improve my knifes performance

Friends, welcome back and thanks for being here,  it is really cool to think that people are reading what I write. Knowing this, I really do my best to make sure what I do put here is as accurate as I can possibly make it and it is based on experiences that I have.

Also key is the fact that I am not trying to sell you anything, if I say the Naniwa Chosera 1,000 is my favourite 1k stone,  I don't sell them and Chosera certainly doesn't pay to me to use them. So my preferences are based on the performance of that stone in my world of sharpening kitchen knives.

Let's talk about improving the cutting power of an average knife, the knife I own such as the Grohmann 8 inch chef or the Wusthof and Henckels 8/9 inch chef knife.

I'm not just taking about sharpening it, that's obviously going to improve it but can we make it better....heck yeah.

We need to see "sports knife"  one that comes out of the box not just sharp but truly awesome to cut with, it just makes your work in the kitchen so much better. Why can't all knives be like that?

Take a look a Tojiro DP 8.3 inch chef knife, it's ferociously sharp right out of the box and it is a dream to use, the reason is simple, there are two reasons, it has a great edge but it's the geometry of the knife that supports that edge and that combination makes it a dream to use. (It happens to be cheaper and a better steel that any of my own knives to by the way)  Yeah I sell them but I don't stock them, I just get them when folks ask for them. Believe me I wouldn't risk my reputation on a crappy knife for the 20 bucks I make on one of them.

Back to the reason it is so cool to use, it is thin, yes it's really freakin sharp but it is thin, sharp and thin are in.

We can do this to our thick knives, yes we can already get them sharp but we make them feel sharper and slice through food effortlessly by thinning the knife behind the primary edge. This is something a good sharpener should do anyway, we need to maintain the geometry of the knife as it gets older and gets sharpened regularly. If I sharpened my own knife which is 25 years old by working on the primary edge only, i.e. the cutting edge, that knife would be so thick by now it would be useless, a real chore to use, it could be very sharp but still not able to easily through protein and veggies. It would be like a wedge, I would have to use a lot of force to achieve my goal in the kitchen.

My knives when new were to thick to begin with so I thinned them immediately and this is common,  for my customers it is fine as long as the owner is warned/enlightened about the process and desired results.

To thin a knife, one needs patience and a really nice coarse stone and of course, medium and high grit stones and knowledge of the procedure.

Thinning is about angles and selecting an angle that will  remove the metal that makes the knife thick,  the area directly behind the primary edge, the secondary bevel. Basically, you want to trim the shoulders of the knife.

Now some knives are already thin, a Shun for example, that is thin enough, although I don't find that they hold an edge, they are nice and thin.

The thickening process usually just comes with time, as the knife is sharpened the primary edge is reduced, it migrates up towards the middle of the blade, it's only natural for that to happen so that is way thinning is necessary to prevent that. As I said, I think many knives are too thick to begin with.

What I do to thin a knife is to paint the shoulders of the knife, the area I want to work on and I make sure that sharpie mark extends right to the edge.

When I said it is about angles, to grind the metal in this area, I will need to lower the sharpening angle, if I just wanted to sharpen the primary edge, I would have to sharpen at 19 degrees for example but to hit that secondary bevel, I need to sharpen at a more acute angle, 15 degrees perhaps.

Remember there is Geometry Maintenance and Geometry Adjustment.

To maintain the knifes geometry, I can grind metal at 15 deg, the thinning angle and sharpen the knife at 20 deg. Or I can sharpen the knife at 15 degrees, i.e. grind away at that angle until I have hit the edge and then raise the angle to 20 degrees (factory angle).  I wouldn't have to do this all the time of course, it's just depends on how often the knife is sharpened.  This doesn't necessarily improve the cutting performance, it keeps the knife in top shape though, the way it came.

Now the other approach, the way to adjust the geometry of the knife is to choose a more acute angle and sharpen the knife at that angle until the knife is sharp and you keep it like that. It has a more tapered appearance but you have knocked down the shoulders of the knife and you will definitely see an improvement in cutting.

What you could do here is to apply a Koba, a 15 deg angle will test the steel of a soft knife so a Koba (Micro bevel) will help in this case.

I think the important thing to remember here is that you need to be aware that sharpening a knife at the factory angle over and over and over will have a negative impact on the performance. A knife is tapered, thick at the Spine and tapers down to the edge. So you have to maintain that and you can tell after a while if that knife looks different, it will look thicker and it won't sharpen the way it should.

Machines do not have a "Thin Me" setting by the way, this is one of the drawbacks of electric grinders. They are quick and easy yes which is to say that they easily change the geometry of your knife and they do it quickly and not in a good way.

This diagram which I have posted before brilliantly illustrates thickening, the thickening process is accelerated by sharpening of course, so you need to sharpen regularly but be aware that a little thinning is required.

 Now these beauties do not need thinning right away, they are hand made and ridiculously thin and will blow you away in the kitchen. However, we still need to maintain the geometry of even this fantastic pieces of art.


Thursday, 26 June 2014

Micro Bevel - KOBA

Even though I have a counter that tells me how many visitors I get to my Blog every day, I never know if that is just spammers or real people. Then I get a friendly email from a person who tells me reads my Blog. That makes this all worth it to me, even if one person is out there reading my sharpening journey journal, I will continue to add to it.

So this is for Jim.

I'm going to talk about micro bevels and what I know about them.  I've learned a lot from someone that I consider a top notch sharpener and just all around great guy, Jon Broida.

Ok... what is a micro bevel and what's it for and equally as important to discuss, do we need one on our knives?

This is an Alpaca, she wasn't interested in knife sharpening at all, she lives in Vermont.


Basically, it is a very small (micro) area of the knife that is added to the primary edge,  so if you had a micro bevel on the knife, and laid it down on the cutting board as if you were cutting, the micro bevel is what is making contact with the wood, behind the micro bevel is the primary edge, the normal cutting edge and behind that is the secondary bevel. I hope this is clear, i.e. where the actual micro bevel is. Now in the picture above it is likely on a chisel so when I explain what a micro bevel is for that will make sense.

The Japanese term for a micro bevel is a Koba so from now on let's use that term, it is cooler and just easier to type :) 

What is a Koba for:

Well the picture on my nifty new T-Shirt says it all really.  The purpose of a Koba is to give extra life (longevity) to the edge of the knife or tool. So it is a common thing for a wood worker to apply a Koba to a chisel for example, those tools have a rough go of it compared to most kitchen knives so a Koba helps.

The way it is done is pretty simple, you sharpen the knife normally and let's say you put a 20 degree angle on the kitchen knife. (20 deg is pretty standard for softer knives). All you need to do then is to raise the angle to 23-35 deg and sharpen the knife with very light passes over your highest grit stone. So you're not re-sharpening, you're just applying a very very thin (micro) edge or bevel to the knife which will add strength to the edge. 

Is it necessary on your every day knife and for the home chef, I don't really think so, you could get yourself into a routine where you re-sharpen the knife once a week on that high grit stone or whatever stone you finish your knives on,  this is the best way to keep your knife sharp. 

In Japan, where they make those beautiful, everyone wants one, hand made knives like the  Yanagiba Deba, Usuba and regular chef knives the Koba is often applied as a final stage before it is sold  to not only increase durability of the edge but to clean off any debris left by the blade smith. I'm talking any burr, wire edge, it is how they make that edge perfect in not only sharpness but it's ability to retain the edge for a longer period.

Typically we add about 3 degrees to create the bevel but I learned from the gifted one Jon that the Japanese do this at a much higher angle, 30-45 degrees and one side of the knife only. 

So again, do we need one, a Koba?

If you work in a kitchen and spend 12 hours a day with your knife as many of the great folks I have me do, then you want that knife to stay sharp for the shift. A Koba should get you through the shift. Lets say you have taken your knife to a different level by sharpening it at a much more acute angle,  15 or even 12 degrees. Perhaps it is a hard enough steel to be able to easily handle that angle but again, under heavy use that beautifully sharpened knife, the primary edge is going to be tested. So a Koba will give some relief and get one through the day. 

A Koba doesn't effect sharpness either by the way,  it strengthens the edge without any penalty to sharpness. It is quick and easy to apply but I think you need to experiment with it to see if you are getting any extra life out of the edge,

A Deba, a traditional Japanese Knife designed for cutting fish, i.e. through the bones is a knife that would benefit from a Koba. The heel area especially is subject to a lot of abuse so the Koba will obviously help there.

What about my everyday knives, the ones I sharpen 75% of the time, do I put a Koba on the I don't .  Regardless of my efforts to keep a knife sharp for as long as I can, I don't know what the owner is cutting, or how he/she is caring for the knife. Also, I think if  I sharpen a typical Henckels or Grohmann knife at 20 degrees and the person isn't going to bring it back to me for 6-12 months, the Koba is not going to make much of a difference.

Now if a Chef gives me his/her beautiful Japanese knife and I know that every 3-4 weeks I sharpen it than I will apply a Koba. 

To summarize:  to apply the Koba just raise the angle at least 5 degrees and sharpen one side of the knife, you can do both sides but only one side is necessary. Use your highest grit stone and REMEMBER to make sure that the other side of the knife is cleared of any burr raised by the application of the Koba.
I just use a very very light trailing stroke on the same stone to remove any debris, it's very quick and just takes a couple of passes. 

To summarize the summary:

Another way to look at it in reference to the steel of the knife is if you have a softer knife, 54-58 for example, like a Henckels or Wusthof,  and believe me there is nothing wrong with that level of hardness. If you do have one of these, like most people do, including myself, then one would think that a Koba would be of great benefit since the edge won' t last as long on a softer steel as it would on a  60 plus knife.  To be clear, you can apply a Koba to any of your knives, it's a 2 minute process and as I said, doesn't impact the sharpness. 

I recommend trying it out, take 2 of your knives, knives of similar hardness and put the Koba on one and see which knife lasts longer.  You need to start with two sharp knives though to make it a feasible experiment.

Now when it comes time to resharpen the knife with a Koba, you just sharpen it normally then reapply the Koba, it is such a quick process.  (So you will grind away the very small Koba on the stones and then just put it on when you are finishing up with the 3k or 5k or even 2k stone). 

I hope you find this helpful, the key is to experiment with it, the Koba can be applied and removed very easily so if you don't like it, just take it off by sharpening at your primary edge angle. 

I just wanted you to see my new bread knife, this has nothing to do with Kobas :)

The coolest serrated knife I have every seen,