Thursday, 18 December 2014

Stropping - Been there Done that.

I'm still sharpening at a steady pace but I like to keep my Blog up to date as much as I can.  Now I haven't done any Christmas shopping or anything like that but this is something I really enjoy.

One of the knives sent to me was damaged, I am really getting a lot of these, I don't think folks have a really good idea about these Japanese Knives, i.e. how to handle them. I think they hear and read that these are THE knives to have but are soon disappointed when they chip them. It's a cost that they will learn the hard way I guess. I don't think I would buy one myself, now I would pick up a
Misono UX 10.  Again, this is coming from someone who has an obsession with water stones and sharpening, not knives. I just see a lot of them, over 500 in the last 3 weeks.

I gave up using a leather strop a long time ago, I found that they were easily cut and they always felt dirty, gritty to me. Now I know they can be kept sterile by placing them in a bag or something but I don't have the time for that. I did all the Kangaroo leather, nano cloth stuff with magical sprays but I'm completely over that stuff.

Now what I do find very effective is to strop on a ultra fine stone, and I use the Sigma Power Select II 13,000 grit. I also strop in between grits so when I am finished using the coarse stone, I dip the blade in water to rinse off any debris and then I use very light, and I mean light, trailing strokes on the 13k stone that is also wet.  I just do about 5 passes and I do find it improves the edge, it just gives it a little pop. I strive for a very clean edge, not polished per say just very clean.

Now the Naniwa Atoshi 2k green brick does leave a fantastic polish, that stone is amazing.

This is my setup, I have my coarse stone and any other stones I use on the right, in the Suehiro sharpening pond which I love and that is my Sigma 13k stone on the right, my stropping stone and the Atoma 140 plate in the middle which I use solely for flattening, in fact I spend half day now flattening the "sharpening stones" which are the 400, 1k, 2k and anything else I feel like using but I often stop at the 2k stage and then finish it off on the 13k Stropper. :)

I love the stropping stone, it is easy to keep pristine, it doesn't get nicks in it and it works, I don't care what other people say, it works for me........gees Murray Carter uses newspaper to strop. (which is also cool and effective by the way)

Some more pat myself on the back before and after shots.

There is one water stone in particular that has been on my wish list for 4 years, it is expensive, about $300.00 but it is one of those things that I have always wanted. I am sure that I have looked at it online 400 times and dreamed of owning it

A few days ago, a knock came to my door and the UPS guy delivers a package.
This is what was inside:


Naniwa Chosera 10,000

Needless to say I was absolutely shocked that someone would send me this as a gift, a gift that is folks, someone I did work for sent it to me, he knew how much I loved it. Came wrapped in silk.


I haven't used it but I do have a new Murray Carter knife coming my way, not mine but I may get a chance to use it on that.

NOW if you have a leather strop, go for it, I love them, I have a nice one and I am not saying they are not worth the trouble. For me, a guy who sharpens 40 knives a day, I just find the finishing stone easier. You use whatever works for you, that is the most important thing, if it is a piece of newspaper, that is cool, if it balsa that works too. 

Take care and Merry Christmas.


Thursday, 11 December 2014

Konosuke Mirror Knives and some thoughts on Japanese knives

Hello folks, thanks for sticking around as I find myself swamped with knives to sharpen, a ridiculously good thing.
Like Geddy Lee said, "Things that I once dreamed of, have become reality"

This is a mirror knife by Konosuke, the reflection is of the Kityama 8,000 grit stone I finished the knife on.  I think it is a cool picture and a very nice knife.

Over the last 2.5 weeks I have sharpened over 500 knives and many were Japanese (not talking Global or Shun or MAC).

There is a repeating pattern, almost every Japanese hand made knife I got was damaged in some way. I think we all know that those wonderfully hard knives that take an astonishing edge come with a price. Unless handled carefully they will chip.  I think some Chefs who use them do so at first without realizing that they can't be handled in the same fashion as a Henckels or Wusthof.  No cutting butternut squash, especially with one of the knives pictured here.
While beautiful and truly sharp, they are somewhat fragile, they are very light, so much so that it may throw some folks off who own them.

However, it was an honour to sharpen them and I truly appreciate the Executive Chef trusting me with his whole set of these wonders.

Now back to knives and damage, I rarely, if ever see a European knife like a Henckels with any damage unless it is a broken tip. No nicks in the edge.

Globals and Shun also often come to me with nicks in the edge and I don't know if it is a "Knife" Issue or an  "Owner Issue". Clearly there are many obvious cases of neglect but not always.
Just a little twist of the blade while it is stuck in something semi frozen or very touch is enough to take a piece out of the knife. Not so with Grohmann and similar steels like Henckels, the steel is softer and has a little flex.

Now it is easy to repair for me but this doesn't make it any easier on the owner who has paid a lot of money for his/her knife.

I am not completely bought up on the whole Japanese knife thing myself, I don't like the handles, I find the fit and finish less than perfect but that is understandable, people, gifted people often, are making this knives by hand so if it is not absolutely perfect, it is not a big deal. The blade is the most important thing and that is going to be a killer for sure.

If I could have any knife though, I would go for a Bob Kramer.

Here is another shot of the Mirror knife. I did this on 3 stones, all Shapton Glass, 1k, 2k and 16K.
Believe it or not, it produces an absolutely awesome edge. I was in NYC when I was first introduced to the Shapton Glass, 500, 1k and 16K finish and it blew me away. I ran out of 500 stones, have gone through 5 of them so I just went to the 1k instead.

Thank you for being here, I really mean it.

Peter Nowlan

Friday, 5 December 2014

Burr Formation SO IMPORTANT

Hello Sharpeners,

I just realised that I am getting 50 people a day looking at my Blog, I don't know if that is 5 people interested in knife sharpening and 45 spammers or people who are bored but I'll happily take the five folks I know are reading due to emails.

As my obsession grew, and I think the real ignition point was about five years ago, I went at things the wrong way. I focused on getting the best high grit stones I could gather and patted myself on the back for having a 15K Shapton Pro and longed for his big brother the 30K.

If you starting out and want to be an awesome sharpener know this:

1. You won't be an awesome sharpener at first, you need to brace yourself and understand that all you need to do is make the knife a little less dull. If that takes 6 months that is OK, it won't happen with one knife, it will with 100 knives if you are playing your cards right.

2. Concentrate on gather three decent stones, forget anything above 5k for now, that can come later,
a 10k stone isn't going to make your knife sharp if you are not getting it sharp off of your 400, 220, 500 or 320.

3. Fixate on technique, get that down and use the sharpie a lot , on the same knife to keep yourself on target.  Whatever works for you, whatever is improving the edge is the style you can adopt and make your own. I use pressure on my trailing strokes only, I changed a year ago from edge leading pressure but either works.  I started doing the knife in sections but I changed that up as you can see on my video. Section sharpening works though, get comfortable and confidence, build layers of confidence by becoming better.

4. Don't count, instead, find a rhythm, counting tends to automate the process and can lead to you flipping sides or stones too early. Listen and feel and look at the edge instead of just counting to 40 and then switching sides.  Not to mention, that is so freaking boring, I tried it and I hated it.
It is OK to have a rhythm count like 1-4 then slide your fingers along the edge or if you are on the Edge Pro just slide the stone but don't sweat that. You will get a feel for it after awhile.


I probably asked 20 people 20 times whether or not you need to form a Burr with every stone and I did not get an answer that I liked, nothing that made sense to me. (Except from a couple of folks that I really admire, but that came later)

The burr is the fatigued metal that has made the knife dull, it is what is left of the primary edge so your sharpening, your abrasive action of the stone on the steel is moving that debris from one side of the knife to the other, to the opposite side of side you are working on.

If you do this on both sides of the blade, and this is the most important aspect of sharpening success, so if you have done this, if you have removed the bad stuff and exposed the fresh strong steel underneath. WHY do you need to do that again.

You don't, you just need to make sure that if subsequent burrs do form, and they will, that you remove them. I hope I am making sense here.

I was told that you need to form additional burrs to ensure you are hitting the edge, I don't agree with that, I agree of course that you need to hit the edge of the edge but forming a burr again and again is just a waste of metal. You'll know that you are on target and sharpening the edge of the edge because the knife is getting sharper, you'll see the scratch marks change, start to smooth out.

You can use the sharpie to keep yourself on target so the burr formation is crucial on the first stone only.

Burr removal is crucial on every subsequent stone or at the end of the process.

I"ll talk about burr removal soon.....I have over 100 knives left to sharpen and more coming.

(With ref to Ceramic knives, you won't form a burr on those, I hate em :) )

Coarse Stone edge but clean, no burr there.


Thursday, 4 December 2014

Coarse Stones - The Pressure is on


As I continue to sharpen 10 hours a day which is about 40 knives or so I again come to realize just how important the coarse water stone is.

Naniwa Chosera 400

Now the Chosera 400 here is definitely my favourite stone in the coarse range and one of my all time favourites.

With this one stone and with a variance in pressure I ( and you) can change a knife from being dull, very very dull to extremely sharp, just this one stone. The key to a successful edge and I mean an edge that will startle you is the coarse stone.

Here is what I do:

If sharpening pressure is measure on a scale from 1 to 5 with 5 being the most pressure, I use this measurement constantly. If the knife is exceptionally dull, as most are....let me clarify this.

In my opinion if a knife is not extremely sharp it is dull, there are just a lot of different levels of dullness and many of those levels represent knives that are still fully acceptable to use. For example, a new knife, Out of the Box Dull, let's face it some are just not that sharp when new but it can still be used of course. Then there are the knives that are so dull a child could play with it.

So if I am starting a knife that is really dull I will use level 5 pressure on the coarse stone. The stone and me are working together, I am not letting the stone do all the work, not until the burr is formed.
So max pressure to get that burr formed on both sides. After that, and still on the 400, I reduce the pressure until eventually I am at level 1 pressure (weight of the blade only).

If I am spending 15 minutes on a knife, 10 of that is on this stone. I make the knife as sharp as possible and my last strokes are stropping/trailing strokes with absolutely no pressure.  THINK of this stone as three stones in one. The first one at max pressure does all the heavy lifting with your help and it is using all of that 400 coarse goodness. The next stage, after burr formation is with level 3 or 2 pressure only and it is a refinement and burr removal stage, it is getting that edge sharper and sharper and finally the last stage is just a stropping motion with zero pressure..

I absolutely love the stone and it critical to my sharpening regime.

Again the key is patience and variances in pressure on the stone, don't move to another one until that knife has a terrific edge, in fact, it's and edge you would be happy to use in the kitchen, we just want to polish it a little bit more.

I often jump to the 2k Naniwa Atoshi from this stone, the results are always awesome.

Here are some pictures of recent work.

Spyderco Delica in VG 10

Not sure of the brand but amazing knife.

Before and After tip . I ruined his screwdrivers. 

Monday, 1 December 2014

I haven't forgotten you.

I am still a little overwhelmed by the amount of knives I have to sharpen since the article last week.

I am now averaging 45 a day by hand which represents about 10 hours of work. I don't get them finished but I'm too tired and I refuse to take any shortcuts.

People have usually gone with dull knives for years so another week won't make a difference.

I had a very beautiful knife shipped to me from Montreal today to repair and sharpen.

To be honest I don't know the brand name yet but I do know that it is very expensive, well over a thousand dollars. The edge is quite something, the picture above is the knife on the stones I used to sharpen it. I used the amazing Naniwa Chosera 400, on the left to repair the edge which was nicked and to reset the bevels. All went nice and smoothly after that with a finish on the Kityama 8k pictured on the right.

It goes to show you though, it does not matter what you spend on a knife, it will still get dull and often, in the case of these high end Japanese knives, which are brittle, it can be chipped if not handled carefully. There is not much forgiveness in the edge if it comes in contact with something hard and there is a little twist applied.

One does not simply sharpen a hand made Japanese knife.

This is a tree I saw in Scottsdale with green bark.

Take care friends and bear with me, I have 80 knives to sharpen, I will be back with pictures and stories.

Thanks for sticking around.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Newspaper Article - Stairway to Sharpening Heaven

Article about yours truly

Friends, since the article in the paper, for which I will be eternally grateful, my business has quintupled at least.
I've gone from 2-4 hours a day to 10-12 hours of sharpening, and that doesn't get all the knives done, that is when my concentration falters and my back gives out.

So please bear with me as I ride the wave, I am sure it will die down in a week or so but in the meantime, I have 90 knives to take care of with more inbound.

I am lucky man, I've said it before.

I TRULY appreciate you reading my Blog, it means so much to me.


Friday, 21 November 2014

Chamfer the Sides of EP Stones

chamfer is a beveled edge connecting two surfaces. If the surfaces are at right angles, the chamfer will typically be symmetrical at 45 degrees.

I spoke briefly about chamfering the sides of my EP stones and I said I do not think that it is critical to do so.
However, if you do have something handy to use, it certainly does not hurt and it is easy and quick.  Also, in my opinion, it just doesn't protect the knife, i.e. a sharp sided stone could damage the edge, but it also protects the stones. Some of my stones have developed tiny nicks along the edge that is rapidly repaired by the process of Chamfering.

If you click on the pictures you can get closer shots.....I suppose you all knew that :)

This is what I use to chamfer the sides and also, more importantly to flatten my stones, it is critical component of my sharpening setup, especially useful for full sized stones. This Atoma, the best in the world from what I have heard is about 120 dollars Cdn but for most sharpeners, it will last a lifetime. I am on my 2nd one now. 

For EP sized stones, I set the Atoma plate down as shown and simply hold the stones at a 45 deg angle and run it back and forth, approx 5-10 times with gentle pressure will do the trick. Don't sweat the angle too much, as long as you are making he flat, sharp edge a little less severe.

EP 1k on Top and Shapton Pro 1.5 K below, unchamfered.

As you can see here in the pic which is not to bad considering I used my phone which happens to be the awesome LG G2 with a 13 MP camera :)

You can see the little nicks along the side from normal wear and tear which not makes be believe that chamfering is pretty useful in keeping the stones protected from chipping.  In fact as I finished taking the shots I realize that it is very important to chamfer the sides if only to protect the sharp and severe edges from chipping. I must be more careful when handling my stones, this comes from quickly putting them away.

I just run the stone at this angle back and forth lengthwise over the plate about 8 times. It is not necessary to press down hard. 

I think the pictures say it all, I just run the stone over the plate at a 45 deg angle at minimum pressure and it only takes  minute to do the whole stone. You'll need to repeat the process as you flatten the stones but it is easy and quick.

You can still see a couple of little nicks in my 1k stone on top but those are easily removed by just making a few more passes. 

I find the Atoma plate, the 140 and 400 to be absolutely amazing products, they excel at sharpening as well. I have the 140 in the EP sized as well but I wore it out, it lasted 2 years though and that is pretty good considering how often I used it.

Thanks for being here, I have over 11,000 folks now who have visited my Blog. Yes I suppose half of those are people who got lost on the Internet but it keeps me motivated.

Thank you Jim for suggesting this topic, I learned from it myself.

I went from thinking Chamfering the sides isn't that important to knowing now that it is, it protects both the edge of the knife and the sides of the stones.



Shun Nakiri above and a stone sculpture I saw in Scottsdale below.