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,

Sunday, 22 June 2014

The Looking Glass Edge

Most knife sharpeners, most, not all,  like to challenge themselves by creating a mirror like finish on the bevels/edge of their knife/knives.

To be clear, in my opinion, one does not need to do this to have a sharp knife but it sure does look nice and for anyone with a passion for knife sharpening, it is rite of passage so to speak, it was/is for me.

I also need to make it clear that knife sharpening is not something you peak at,  there is no summit, you improve, it's a journey with an infinite number of stepping stones.

So how do I do this and keep in mind, it doesn't always turn out the way I want it.

There are some key ingredients:

High Grit Japanese Water Stones, 8,000 and higher. Now you can get a very nice looking edge from 3,000 grit stone, it depends on several things, the type of stone, your abilities and your work on the previous stones.

Patience and Discipline - You need extreme patience when doing this and you need to be in your happy place, free of distraction. The discipline I refer to is your requirement to stick with the first stone until the job is done, I will explain more on that.

Absolutely perfectly flat water stones and near perfect bevels - You must be able to hold the angle perfectly, of course an Edge Pro or Wicked Edge will help set the stage for success but you are going to be repeating motions over and over so control is a must.

The real secret to this is knowing that the first stone you use is the most important one, it sets the foundation for all subsequent work.  This is where you patience will be tested and rewarded. 

Know that if you start with a 400 grit water stone, each stone that follows is merely refining the bevels. That 400 stone will scratch the bevels so you must continue with it until those scratches have just about disappeared. You do this by repeating the motions with less and less pressure and continuously monitoring your work. A loupe will come in handy, magnification will help you spot scratches you've missed and the entire bevel must be uniform. 

This could take an hour or more, this is the key, and you may have to walk away from the work if you find yourself slipping away and thinking about  ANYTHING other than knife sharpening.

So you select and angle and stick with it so that you are grinding from the top of the bevel or Shinogi Line right down to the edge.  The picture indicates a Back Bevel so that entire area needs to be worked on. 

Now you can create a Relief Angle or Compound Bevel by working a different angles, i.e. do the secondary bevel ( identified as a back bevel in this picture) at 15 degrees for example and just work at that angle to create your mirror finish. This doesn't sharpen the knife, it creates a Relief Face, the sharpening at the primary edge is done at a different angle, 20 degrees for example. Believe me, this is going to make your knife very sharp, think of this as extreme sharpening, it's quite effective. The beauty of it is that you don't need to work at the 15 deg angle anymore for touch ups, just the primary edge (20 deg or whatever angle you sharpened at).

I didn't sharpen this knife, I just found the picture somewhere.

Lets assume all your work is at one angle, 20 degrees to make it simple. 

Once you are completely satisfied that you have finished your work with your first stone, move on to your 1,000 grit stone. Remember that if you have left some deep scratches, higher grit stones won't remove them. So you are going to be either punished for rewarded as you move up in grit.

Use a lot of water too, it helps with the polishing and move up in grit until you are happy and every stone in your arsenal has been utilized. 

You will definitely see the bevel taking on a different look when you hit the 4,000 or 5,000 grit range.  

Now it becomes a pressure test........minimum pressure here and lots of water as you move up in grit, make sure the edge of the edge is being hit, remember you want the knife to be sharp, not just beautiful. That mercury look will come eventually and by eventually I mean it could take many many attempts but until you give it a shot you won't know. 

Remember, don't fret about this, you don't need a 5,000 grit stone to make your knife sharp and a sharp knife is really what you need and that should be your priority, learn how to make it sharp first, this Looking Glass Edge stuff can come later. 

We can talk about a third angle later on too, the Micro Bevel which is applied to the Primary Edge at an even higher angle, 30 deg for example. This "Koba" is designed to enhance edge retention, basically, get you through a shift on a knife that was sharpened at a very acute angle.

Cool eh.

Also note that a highly polished edge will mean that the knife has lost it's bite, so it will slice protein like nothing else but it could slide right over a tomato, it won't dig in unless pressure is applied. However, we can get around this, we can have both.....but that is for later. 

Friday, 20 June 2014

Do you trust me with your knives?

The biggest barrier I faced by far was having folks, especially Chefs hand me their knives to sharpen for the first time.
I had to run that gauntlet many times, and I completely understand, often, a Chef would give me one knife to do, then he/she would give me the rest.  I had to take this test and pass it several times and it is a statement to the owners how important their knives are to them.

It is a little easier now though with some of that hard work and very nice testimonials from well known chefs but I still get a little push back every now and then.

Now if a individual likes to sharpen their own knife/knives, that's cool, I will always ask what the person uses and if I think I can help out in anyway I will always make the offer.

Yanagiba - Traditional Japanese Knife

The thing with me, the difference perhaps is not just the fact that I sharpen many many knives and with each knife I improve, as with all things in life. The biggest difference, what gives me the edge over a chef who sharpens their own knives is that sharpening knives is all I do, it is all I'm interested in.

Shapton Glass Water Stones
Most chefs are so freaking busy that their knife sharpening consist of a quick, erratic and completely unfocused pass over a Steel or over a whetstone of unknown brand or even grit, it's just the stone that was in the kitchen. (I hear this often)

I don't think it is a matter of money either, it is just stubbornness  sometimes which results in the individual using dull knives, in a professional kitchen which to me is absolutely absurd.

I get some folk who show me their knife and hesitate giving it to me, despite that fact that I have sharpened for some of the top chefs in Nova Scotia and perhaps beyond that, they still are reluctant yet when I see the knife, it's damage, broken tip, chipped edge, dirty and painfully dull. I wouldn't trust my knife with them to be honest.  

I don't beg for peoples knives, Im happy to do them, it really is my passion and I'm good at what I do, but if you don't want me to sharpen your knife because you think I will ruin it, that's your choice, it's the wrong choice but I understand it. Eventually, you'll find me and remember, if you don't think the job I did was up to your satisfaction, of course you won't have to pay, in fact I will give you money to get it sharpened elsewhere if that is what you want. (that has never happened by the way)

This is a Twin Cermax, one of the hardest knives in the world, it is ridiculously hard in fact and to be honest, not easy to sharpen, it will test any water stone but I beat it and as a reward for  patience and having awesome Japanese Water Stones, I get to see one of the sharpest knives I've ever had the pleasure of returning to an owner. 

So yes, you can trust me but if you don't, I still like ya :)

I appreciate you reading my blog.
Don't hesitate to ask me any questions at

Saturday, 14 June 2014

The Mother Load

Now when I get a bunch of knives like this, and these live in professional kitchen, I sharpen them all on one stone, then switch to the next stone and so on. The alternative is sharpening each knife separately but that would take a long time, longer than the method I use. This is roughly 4 hours of work to finish them all.

I used Shapton Glass, Naniwa Chosera and Nubatama Bamboo Japanese Water Stones.

Naniwa Chosera 1k, 2K, 3K and 5K (from Left to Right)

The fantastic Naniwa Chosera 3,000 stone. I love this stone.

My nifty new card

All the info is on the back 

Thank you for reading my Blog