Sunday, 23 April 2017

Dream Knife Sharpening

Hi there,
Every now and then I get some truly exceptional Japanese knives in to sharpen including some sent from a great Chef in Montreal. Its' quite exciting actually and I really set aside the time to work on these so that I am completely undisturbed, which is what I do most of the  time anyway.

   As some know, Takeda San sharpens his Takeda knives differently than anyone else, he uses a hand held water stone that is attached to a wooden handle, so a coarse stone, 400 grit on one side and a 1200 grit stone on the other. I have one of these and have used it several times to sharpen Takeda knives. It is pretty cool actually and Takeda San produced a pretty good video demonstrating the process so it is just a matter of trying to mimic his actions, once  you have the tools of course.



You basically just hold the stone in your hand and remove the sharpie marks, no need to worry about angles or burrs and believe me, it works. Back and Forth and Back and Forth as Takeda San illustrates in his video.

However, the stone tops out at 1200 grit (the brown side) so I figured I would just hold the regular sized stones that I have in my hand to see if I could further refine the bevels and edge.






I was thrilled with the results actually and I followed up with a Chosera 5k and Kityama 8k. 



video

I did the other knives all by hand and they are quite something. Takeda, Fujiwara and Saji complete with Mammoth Tooth handle.





Fujiwara on a Naniwa Chosera 400








I'm a lucky man. These knives will blow your cooking mind.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Let's start something fresh.

Me on left about to embark on the Japanese ship KASHIMA with my Admiral and a Japanese officer from their Embassy.
(He is saying "Hey Peter, I hear you sharpen knives" and the Admiral on the right is saying "c'mon fellas, keep it together, focus"?)

    Greetings friends,

    It dawned on me recently that although I love writing on my Blog, I never really planned it out, it has always consisted of articles that just popped up in my head, which I suppose is a good way to do it.  However, I get several nice emails or comments on IG from folks who say they follow my Blog and that inspires me. So if people are actually coming here hoping to learn something, it is incumbent upon me to teach them (you), in a methodical manner, not just haphazard stuff.

     Having said that, there will always be just haphazard stuff but I have an idea:

    What if I were to create a series of articles that have a flow, a beginning a middle and and end and all sharpening related of course, getting started, then in the groove and finally some advanced aspects of the process.  The purpose would be, for anyone interested, how to get started, very very basics and up to the patting yourself on the back level which you can do in the first section as well.

    I would also like to accompany each article with a video which makes sense.


    Let's start now:


A NEW BEGINNING
Sharpening BASICS

      I need to emphasize that this is just how Peter Nowlan, (me) sharpens knives, I completely understand that you may have several sharpening blogs that you visit and other sharpeners and that is cool, I'm just doing my part, if you learn just one thing from me, than I'm not wasting my time.



   First and foremost, keep it simple. You will see, with today's easy access to You Tube etc, a vast number of experts telling us how to sharpen a knife. That's fine, that doesn't bother me at all. What does bother me are folks who try to sell us stuff that we don't need and also everyone now seems to have a video of themselves performing some type of slicing miracle on a tomato. Now I don't think any of that is bad, it isn't, it's just people making a living and other people showing what they can do, they're proud of it. What I don't like is that a lot of folks, novices for sure can get overwhelmed and confused and think that they need everything they see and hear about and also, unless they can slice the top off a tomato without holding the tomato, they may as well go back to the drawing board.

    I want to set you all straight on that through my articles but remember this:





    Our Forefathers, our Fathers and Grandfathers sharpening knives on stones like the ones in the picture above. I saw my father do this and I was absolutely amazed at how sharp his chisel became. So if they could use this old and kinda ugly stones, these simple whetstones than we can certainly get started with some very basic items.  Nothing stopping you from going out and getting everything you want of course but if you are hesitant and wondering if you NEED more than you think you do, you don't. You need some basic items with which, with Passion, Practise, Patience and Persistence, you can get your knives sharper than new and well beyond that.


    I will finish this article with a list of things that I personally think you should have to start your journey but it starts with a mental approach, something free:

   PASSION: You don't need a lot, you don't need to be obsessed like me, I have the sharpening sickness, you don't need to be there but you do need to want to learn for sure. If you sharpen a knife just because it has to get sharp for your job but there is no feeling attached to the process than that's okay, you're a casual sharpener. It's like me mowing the lawn, I don't have any attachment to the lawnmower, I just want the grass to be shorter but I still do a good job, it's just not something that I think about until I am doing it.

     A good sharpener and that is what you want to be,  will develop an emotional attachment to the water stones and the knives and will be drawn to the unlimited source of satisfaction and reward that is attached to the art of sharpening knives.  The sensation which is available after just one successful knife sharpening session is like a gift that you give yourself and that gift motivates you and fills you with pride and a sense of worth. You are making dull knives sharp, you and others need sharp knives, you are doing something that others cant.  This emotional feedback grows and with that, another layer of passion develops and just as importantly, another layer of confidence. Your Sharpening Journey has begun, it is exciting. The synergy developed by your desire to improve and the sensation of sharpening a knife on a water stone soon grows in importance. There is no limit here folks, it is like a waterfall, you can just draw whatever amount of water you want for as long as you want.   This is how good sharpeners become great sharpeners and with some expectation management and the four P's (Passion, Practise, Patience and Persistence) your journey will be as fulfilling as mine and you'll learn that it isn't a race, the standards to reach are yours to set, if your happy with your work then you're moving forward on your journey. 



BASIC:





   

Naniwa 220 grit stone flattener.


Obviously I am freehand sharpener so this is all geared towards using Japanese Water Stones to sharpen. If you use an oil stone than this applies too of course, I don't use them so just be aware of that please.

You need at least one whetstone,  and if that is all you plan on starting with, I highly recommend a 1,000 grit stone just as the Naniwa Professional 1, 000, an exceptional stone. However, I am not one for name brands as such but I do believe that you need to start with a good quality stone. Since the prices are all in the same range more or less, nothing outrageous I mean you do have a lot to choose from. So King, Naniwa, Shapton, Suehiro, Nubatama all good. Basically, anything from Chef Knives to Go, Pauls Finest, The Cooks Edge in PEI, Knifewear, and Finejapaneskitchenknives and of course Fendrihans are all going to be fine.  (DON'T worry about Natural water stones just yet, that is much further down the road and will always be an option not a necessity)


You need something to contain the water, the sharpie and definitely a means to keep the stones flat and I will do a video on all of this.  You need some good micro fibre towels as well.

The the other thing I forgot to put in the picture is a LOUPE, a small, handheld magnifier with an LED light. Mine is 15X and was less than $20.00. It is great for having a very close look at your edges and to gain an appreciation of the different scratch patterns that different grits create on the bevels of the knives being sharpened. More importantly, it allows you to see your mistakes, if you are not reaching the edge of the edge as you sharpen, this will be a visual clue to that and therefore you can correct that.




The more knives you can practise on the better of course and DO NOT go out and buy a $2.00 knife and choose that to start with, it will lead to failure, frustration and put an end to your journey, possibly. Start with a decent knife, you won't ruin it, I never have even in my village idiot stage of sharpening 40 years ago:)



Remember, you don't need a bunch of stones to get started, just one, I know, you won't be quite as cool as I am but that will come down the road, it took me decades to be cool :)

Leather Strop


A leather strop is something that I DO recommend but you can wait for a bit to get one because you need to know how to use one and why you are using one. I use one every time I sharpen but I didn't always.  SO keep it in mind please.


That is all for now, I will shoot a video and continue along this line.  I hope that at least one person out there will get something useful from my articles.

Peter









Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Sharpening is more than just Sharpening

Hi folks,
I was away, thank you for waiting:)


     I've said this before but when I started my business, I thought that sharpening the knives would be the challenge. It was at first, making sure that customers knives were returned as sharp as I could possibly make them.  (Actually, getting customers was the first challenge but I got lucky there.)

    Now of course, it goes without saying that the sharpening is no longer my main concern, I am not worried that I'll be able to get the knives sharp, I can do that, it's the easy part.  This is not to say that I don't take this as seriously as I did before, I take it very seriously, it's just not difficult for me, in most cases.

     Nowadays, one of the most important part of my business is educating knife owners, trying to get them to enjoy their knives and keep enjoying them. Many people bring me a knife or two or ten that have never been sharpened beyond the factory edge. The most common question I get from them when I return their freshly sharpened knives is: "How often should I get them sharpened"?



     I used to really hate that question, do I lie and say "once a year should be enough", or do I lie again and say " you need to bring them to me once every 3 weeks" ? No of course I don't lie.

    This is where the education part comes into play. I tell them that it is impossible for me to say when their knives will no longer be sharp.  It will be up to them to decide at which point they are no longer satisfied with the level of sharpness. That could be 2 months it could be 6.  I tell them what my responsibility is, i.e. sharpen at an appropriate angle for the particular knife (15-20 deg per side for 90% of knives in the world) and that I finish the knife at an appropriate grit to enhance edge retention. Of course I make the knife as sharp as I possibly can, and repair any damage, thin if necessary, all the good stuff.

    The owners responsibility is to help preserve the edge for as long as they can but they need to be educated about that, all the basics, no glass cutting board and simple things like that.  It all comes down to expectation management. Many think that because they have gone and spent $15.00 to get their $30.00 knife sharpened that it should be good for another 5 years so again, managing expectations, enlightening them about steel, types, hardness and how these factors all play a role.




     I offer the simplest and most effective solution, just adopt a Sharpening Plan, bring the knives to me once every three months, I offer a discount and get them all re-sharpened, two months is better depending on the knives and the environment that the knives are used in.

    This educational piece has become one of the most important elements of my business. I am honest and right up front when they ask the question and even if they don't ask it. Naturally I suggest a maintenance regime and ceramic hone but most ignore that to be honest.


That's all I have on that subject.


The knife in the picture directly above is a Shun with a serrated portion at the tip area which is followed by a single bevelled middle portion followed by another serrated portion to the heel. I cannot  imagine the use of this knife and what Shun was thinking in terms of sharpening it. 

    However, old dogs have old tricks and I found some solutions.  I could use the Edge Pro which makes it a breeze. I can't sharpen it by my normal technique because I would be working on the serrated portions and the non-serrated portions at the same time and I would end up wearing the points off of the serrations. I could hold the knife perpendicular to the stone but that is not my normal technique. 
  
   So the other method is to work on the single bevel area first using the Takeda hand held stone, get that all nice and sharp and THEN do the serrated portions. Easy Peasy.




But still, what was Shun thinking?

I'll be back soon folks, thank you for sticking around.

Peter Nowlan



Friday, 31 March 2017

Video - Demonstrating the importance of coarse water stones.


     Folks this one is all about coarse stones and why I think that they are so important. A lot of novice sharpeners seem reluctant to use them but they shouldn't be. There is no danger unless the individual is careless and lacks common sense.

    People are smart, especially sharpeners:)

Peter Nowlan
New Edge Sharpening
Halifax Nova Scotia

Saturday, 25 March 2017

I'm Flattened

As you know, I am all about keeping my water stones flat and I completely disagree with those who say it's okay to let them dish a little. To me it is just being lazy.

My hunt for the perfect flattener ended when I found the Atoma plates, it is the supreme water stone flattener............until NOW.


Behold,
The DMT Dia-Flat Lapping Plate.

     This thing is very big, 4' by 10" (100 x 255 mm) and it is absolutely flat. Now it is expensive, it cost me almost $300.00 Canadian dollars with the tax. However, thus far, about 10 stones in, it is absolutely fantastic.

     I have heard of folks using these for several years and still being fine to use. I do love the Atoma plates but in my experience, I wore them out quickly, so at 140.00 a pop that was getting to be expensive but again, they are fantastic as well.

     There is a ton of less expensive alternatives out there so feel free to explore them. In my world however, where I flatten every day, I need something fantastic and so far, on day one, my flattening dreams have come true.


I'll update this once in a while to see if it is still as good after several months.

Peter

Friday, 24 March 2017

The Sharpening Journey, what does that mean?



We often hear the term "Sharpening Journey" when we refer to someones hobby/past time/profession in regards to knife sharpening but what does it actually mean?  First of all, it probably means something different to everybody.

   This is what it means to me:



    At some point, all men have the urge, The Calling, to sharpen a knife and this is something I have written about for Knifeplanet. I believe this because over the years, I cannot count how many men have told me that they used to sharpen or they saw their father or Grandfather sharpen. ( I know women sharpen as well of course but let's face it, not as much as men. I never had one person tell me they saw their Grandmother out in the shed sharpening her chisels")


    My Sharpening Journey is an evolutionary odyssey, a continuous series of sessions of learning, facing challenges, experiencing rewards, feeling pride, anxiety, pressure and absolute bliss.  



     I do not see and end to my journey, because I can't imagine, I can't see a point in my future where I stop learning. So my journey is not really about sharpening knives as much as it is becoming a better knife sharpener than I am today.

    It is series of stepping stones, I know that there will be more stones to step on but I don't always know what I will learn on that particular stone.  In other words, I see each stepping stone as a lesson and although there are my stones in my wake, there are more that lie ahead even though I may not know what I will learn.

    For example, the latest thing I learned was all about thinning knives.  When my journey started, decades ago, thinning was something I had not heard of so until I got to the stage where I had to learn about it, it wasn't something I was too concerned about.


    The continuance of my journey depends on a few things.

1.      My desire to learn and my ability to drop my ego and accept the fact that someone who started sharpening a year ago who works for Mr. Kent at Knifewear for example, may be able to teach me something. This is very very easy for me, I've been like this for as long as I can remember,  able to absorb information from anyone willing to give it.

2.     My ability to find a teacher skilled in the lessons that each stepping stone has to offer.  Again, I have been very lucky, I eagerly seek out who I see as gifted sharpeners and willingly accept what they have to offer, Jon Broida and Kevin Kent stand out as do others.



Beautiful hand made Saya (let me know if you would like one made for you)


     So when does the journey begin: 

 I think that this depends on how you react to the process, how you feel about it. If I pick up a knife and a water stone and try it out for 15 minutes and put it away, that is not a sharpening journey. However, If after 15 minutes I know that it is something I want to do again and at some point, I do this, then the Sharpening Journey begins the moment I pick up that stone again.

When does it end:

    Sadly, for some people, ego places a barrier that prevents them  travelling forward. Some people think that they can't learn more so in my mind, their journey has ended. It doesn't mean that they are not skilled sharpeners or anything. Now, there are people in the sharpening world, Masters who probably don't have much to learn but I just don't see those people as thinking that way, this is how they get to be Masters.

    For me, I can see it ending when I am too old to sharpen anymore but even then, I can pass along what I have learned to whoever wants to take over my business. 


     My journey is also a series of goals, things I want to do before it is too late. This is simply meeting some of the folks that have helped me along the way, and also to meet people that I greatly admire in Japan, Master Sharpeners.


(A Master Sharpener, as far as I am concerned is a person who followed a program, at some point he/she was an apprentice who learned from a Master).


To summarize.


A sharpening journey is for me a cascade of learning points, a place where I can do what I love to do at my own pace and a place where I know that I will continue to improve because there will always be someone who can teach me something. I have a mindset that allows that.


Well if you have read this far......I am grateful and surprised:)




All the best
Peter



Friday, 17 March 2017

Knife Sharpening, Starting out on the right foot.



I know that there are  many videos out there about how to sharpen a knife, too many in fact. So why make another, what is different about mine.

In my video, I just strive to make the fundamentals as clear as possible and I also talk about the mental aspect of knife sharpening. There is much more to the art than just dragging a knife over a water stone. There is a wealth of collateral benefits that can be taken in as well, besides ending up with a sharp knife of course.

Thank you
Peter