Saturday, 25 June 2016

The Cost of doing Business


     Choosing a price for knife sharpening, for me was actually quite difficult and I think that is common thing for folks starting a business. I have adjusted it a few times but have since settled on a price.
     How do I do this:

     The first thing I did was look around at sharpening services in other parts of North America to get a ball park idea.  I can guarantee that my fees are either on par or less and in some cases quite significantly less. I was told by a person, knowledgeable about these things, not to undersell myself. I have been told that a few times and now I don't.
     I am quite proud of what I can do with a knife and the $10.00 fee per knife is quite quite reasonable considering what the return is.

     Also, one of the things that bothers me about some places is that they seem place an emphasis on the finishing stones grit to determine the cost, i.e. a 5,000 grit finish is less than a 10,000 or 12,000 grit finish. This gives the impression to knife owners that if I want the knife sharper I should get it taken all the way to 10k and pay a little more.

 Years ago I fell into this myself and had different edges at different costs, I long ago stopped that since becoming better educated on the effects of sharpening certain knives at different grits.

This method of calculating cost is not suitable in my opinion. 

     Now if you want a knife, any knife sharpened and finished at 16,000 grit just to see what it is like than I will do that but there is no increase in my cost.  If I finish your knife at 1k or 16k the cost is $10.00 for any knife under 8 inches.

    Choosing the finishing grit must be decided upon by knife being sharpened, not because I want to make people think I got it sharper because I went up to the roof in terms of grits.  The fact of the matter is, and I didn't always know this, but increased refinement of many knives can have a negative impact on edge retention. So a 1,000 grit finish is the best finish for so many knives, stainless knives. This in no way means the knife is less sharp, I spend a lot of time working on the knife with a coarse stone to make it sharp and varying pressure to get the edge I need, or rather, the edge you need.

    Don't be lured into thinking that a 10,000 grit edge is the best for my knife. It may be, if it is a Japanese knife with a high carbon content than yes, it can handle a higher level of refinement, it will beg for it :)

     If the cost of knife sharpening is the most important factor in choosing the sharpening service than I think people need to look around, I don't think they will find anyone that charges less anyway but the point is, if all a person cares about is how much it costs, then I may not be the best guy for that person.  Now if the person is worried about the knife and really concerned about how it will be when returned and how it is sharpened, I am definitely the right man:)


Did I thank you for being here?



Thursday, 23 June 2016

Under Pressure Video

     Folks this short video is designed to accompany the article I wrote on the importance of pressure and how you manipulation of pressure on each water stone has the potential to improve your edges.
    This is something I do, it is nothing strange, no trick, it is simply a matter of spending an extra couple of minutes on your stones to ensure your final edge is as clean as you can possibly make it.

     Bottom Line is to create a burr on both sides of the knife on your first stone and then focus on removing that burr (cleaning the edge) on each stone.


Wednesday, 22 June 2016

New news

     So it went down today, unfolded as I had hoped it would but it was nerve wracking nonetheless.

      All during interview with Ron from Global News I kept thinking that I needed to thank people for bringing me their knives. I think I did manage to do that and to specifically mention some Executive Chefs that have taken me under their wings.  As I mentioned in the interview.....I think I did anyway, it is bit of blur now" I told the reporter that even though these Chefs are capable of sharpening their own knives, out of respect they allow me to do it. Chefs are very busy people, some are owners of restaurants with a big staff and a staggering work load. They appreciate sharp knives but usually just don't have the time to do them. Of course they are happy with my work, otherwise I am sure the News thing would not have happened. This type of thing is a once in a lifetime opportunity, it took me many years to get this stage and I am just lucky, that's part of it.

     Just sharing here, I'm over myself now.


Exciting Day

Hello friends,

Big day today for me possibly, the Global News contacted me, the reporter that I have seen on TV for many many times said he was fascinated and needs to come and talk to me so today is that day unless something changes. It will be on TV later, this evening I think.

Anyway, enough of that.

   Repairs: When I started sharpening seriously and opened my business it was all about sharpness, all I was worried about was making people happy for the money they spent. After a short amount of time I realized that that was the easy part.  As you all know, most knives are different and I get them in all sorts of condition. The best ones to sharpen, besides the hand made Japanese knives are newer knives that have not been sharpened beyond the factory edge. The worst are the ones that have been subjected to Steel abuse and they require much work.

     Then it was the broken knives that came, I was admittedly unprepared for the onslaught of damaged knives, chipped, minor and gaping wound chips, broken tips and and damage as a result of a grinder. Now the good thing about this is that anything I did was an improvement but it certainly added a new dimension to my sharpening routine, a new challenge. In order to become confident with repairs I simply broke a lot of my own knives and went to town on them figuring out the best way to fix them. I purchased a 1 X 42 inch belt sander and some Trizact belts and used that for major work. I never have used it to sharpen a knife, just for the ugly stuff. I use it to get started then move on to my beloved stones.

    You can see above that this was a major repair, in my books anyway and I did use the belt sander for a lot of this. Yes it can certainly be repaired using a coarse stone but I am not going to spend an hour scraping the life out of my beautiful coarse stones for a $30.00 knife. Besides, I think I can actually do a better job with the BS, I work from the spine mostly. I thought of this a lot before I went to work. If I removed metal from the edge and worked upwards towards the spine, the metal at the "new" tip would be very thick, nice and strong but very thick and may look weird. (I did this before on purpose because I knew the knife was going to be abused). So for this particular blade I worked from the spine down to the tip. This way you don't lose any real estate either, more than necessary that is, the owner already lost some but that's not my fault.

    This was a difficult one because the knife is a Henckels Twin Cermax and it is extremely hard, one of the hardest in the world at 66. I used stones for this repair and to minimize the impact on the primary edge, I simply rounded off the heel, seemed to make the most sense to me. I am sure anyone would figure that one out. ( I mean rather than remove metal along the edge until that chip disappeared, yes the knife would retain it's original shape but it would lose a substantial amount of metal from that precious edge.

That's all for now, thanks for looking.

Here are some random but recent pictures.


You know I appreciate  you being here.



Thursday, 16 June 2016

Under Pressure

    A while back I started doing something a little different in my sharpening process and that small change resulted in much improved edges, for me anyway.

    I have long been a huge advocate of manipulating pressure to really work the stones and get the edge clean and over time I understood that my spending more time with each stone and especially the coarse stone enhanced the "cleaning" process of the edge, the removal of all metal, as close to that as I can get anyway.

The article was posted on Knifeplanet so I can only provide the link here. I noticed a couple of typos in it so I apologize for that but if you can get through it, it may work for you as well. It is easy and adds no time to the process. Even if it does, no big deal right.

This works for me

Thank you for looking and reading.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Something Old - Something New


    It's not all about sharpening knives, yes that is the most important thing in my life but what about making knives and making handles?

     At this stage of my life, I don't think I have the time or energy to learn to make a knife and besides, there are so many incredible knives out there, if I can't make one like that, i.e. something incredible, I don't want to make one. I truly admire the skills of folks who do though and you don't have to be certified Bladesmith to make nice knives. People who make knives have a passion for it and a certain skill that I don't have but I have some really cool knives out there that folks just made.
    I met an nice man recently that not only makes the knife but the handle and the sheath too and all very nicely done.

    When I got the knife that blade was black including the bevels/edge, there was no real edge to it but the knife is so thin that I knew it would take a very sharp edge. The handle is made from old cutlery and the steel is from the 1800's. I was lucky enough to be able to sharpen Chris's knife and I hope he is pleased.

     I get to see all sorts of knives in all sorts of condition and I hear the same comment over and over: "I don't know if this knife is worth sharpening" and in each and every case I have sharpened it. I can understand people who have spent $12.00 on a knife and hesitate about spending $10.00 to get it sharp. However, what is the option? They can continue to use it dull, or they can throw it away and get another $12.00 knife that really wasn't that sharp to begin with and it is quite wasteful.
OR they can have it sharpened and see what a really sharp knife feels like and enjoy it again.  I admire anyone who brings me a knife to sharpen because for every single person that does that, I am sure that there are one hundred who don't, who never use sharp knives.

    Some people have been bringing me the same knife for a years and they will never know how much I appreciate that.  I had a young cook from a local restaurant, a really nice one too that told me recently he had the opportunity to get his knives done for free by the friend or father ( I can't recall) of one of the cooks and most of his peers took him up on that. However, this fella did not, instead he stayed loyal to me and brought me his knives for the 3rd or 4th time.  (Naturally I didn't charge him) but that stuff means a lot to me.

    So if you have brought me knives to sharpen, please know that I don't take that for granted.

Just some random before and after shots. I get this type of stuff do deal with very often. It is very satisfying work.

   Some of you may know that I have written some articles for Knifeplanet. I have just submitted a new article about the biggest change to my sharpening technique, something small that has had a huge impact on the sharpness of my edges. If it is published I will share the link to the article and if it is not published soon I will just place the article here.
    It is mostly about pressure and my timing for switching from one stone to another.

Thanks so much for being here and reading my Blog articles. Every now and then I get a nice email from someone telling me they enjoy it and that really motivates me to keep at it.

Take Care
Peter Nowlan

Monday, 30 May 2016

How long does it take to sharpen a knife?


     I am often asked how long it takes to sharpen a knife. Most folks have no idea of how the process works which is totally understandable.

     It takes me about 15 minutes from start to finish, this includes a quick inspection of the edge for nick, straightness and to choose the stone combination.  This is the case for most dull knives that are just dull. Repairs add some time naturally.

     The timings only become a factor when I am not sharpening at home. If I am on site at a restaurant for example, I always ask for a spot that is out of the way, a place I won't feel rushed. The Chefs and Cooks I sharpen for on site are all fantastic, they appreciate what I do and once they see how I do it, any pressure about "getting the knives done quickly" is my fault, pressure I place on myself.


     When I first started sharpening as a profession I was taking longer on the knives and that's okay.
Don't think of the 15 minutes as a deadline, if it takes you 45 minutes that's awesome.

     The majority of the time is spent on the first stone, and in almost every case I start with a 400 Naniwa Chosera or 500 Shapton Glass. The Atoma 400 is great but it is expenisive and I wear them out fast so I just use my Atoma for flattening. (It's excepetional for that)

Atoma 400, Chosera 400, Shapton Glass 500, Shapton Pro 320, Naniwa Traditional 220 (Pink) and
Nubatama Bamboo 150

   Patience is really tested at the burr forming stage, this is where the most important piece of the process happens so be patient here. I would say that on average I spend about 3-6 minutes forming a burr. Naturally this can vary, I have spent 15 min at this stage but as I said, it is the key stage and burr formation on both sides is where sharpness begins.

    Once the burr is formed, you just need to remove it with your finer stones and if you are only using one stone, a 1k for example, just manipulate pressure, keep lightening up on the pressure until the burr is gone. Now you could finish off on a leather strop to do that as well, remember, a clean edge is your ultimate goal, clean as in in free of any metal debris.

Again, it takes ME about 15 minutes, if it takes you 5 minutes or 45 minutes that's cool.

Thanks for reading this :)

I sharpened at a restaurant recently, this is the owners awesome knife.