Friday, 29 December 2017

What keeps me going?


Not long ago, I was asked why I am passionate about sharpening, what keeps me so interested after decades of doing it. I had to think of that for a while but the answer is pretty clear and it may surprise you.

I have tried all sorts of other things, started woodwork, playing guitar, making wine but I lost interest and no longer do anything but sharpen knives and I can honestly say that I enjoy it as much today as I did 30 years ago and I don't see any end to that feeling in my future.

It is much much more that physical act of sharpening that keeps me going, although that is exceptionally enjoyable, the feeling of satisfaction and reward and accomplishment. Achieving a skill that did not come easy to me.

    However it really comes down to something simple for me. If I know ten things about knife sharpening by hand, I also know that there are at least ten things that I have yet to learn, new elements of the skill that lie hidden in the future, this is what keeps me so driven.  I don't know what I don't know so I cannot say what I will learn tomorrow but I just know that I will learn something new and I will keep learning.

   There are old men in Japan that have been sharpening knives for 40-50 years that still see their Master Sharpener once in a while, what more could they possibly learn?

   If sharpeners at that level are still being educated, clearly my journey is far from over that  is the key, the coolest thing about freehand sharpening.  Many people won't get this, they have stopped learning because their ego's prevented them from continuing. I know several sharpeners who would never ask a question to another sharpener, I feel sorry for those poor bastards to be honest. I would be miserable if I thought that all I had left was to use the skills I currently possess and that is it.

It is exciting for me to know that at some point, if I am lucky, I will meet someone who can teach me something new, like etching knives for example, how the heck does that happen. Yes I have seen lots of videos and have a good idea but to actually perfect that little trick would be very cool to learn. 

Just thought I would share this.

Peter Nowlan

Thursday, 28 December 2017

Coarse Stones - Important?

Hi folks,

   As I have mentioned in previous posts, when I started up my business and when I did know as much as I know today, I began collecting water stones. This is in itself of course is good but my thought process at the time was flawed.
    In my mind at the time, the achievement of the sharpest knives was only possible if I had the highest grit water stones you could buy, so I began my collection aiming at stones in the 5,000 to 16,000 grit range. Coarse water stones, 120-800 grit were not even on my sharpening radar, I had one but it's importance was completely overlooked by me.

    Things have completely changed and it is only in the last eight years or so that I began to see the error of my ways and realized that these coarse stones need to come out of their cases more often.
I don't know where I went wrong, probably just ignorance on my part and a lacking of a sharpening skill that I have learns a lot after thousands of knives.


      Now keep in my mind that this is coming from someone who sharpens other peoples knives daily.  Theoretically, if you only sharpened your own knives, once they became sharp, you can keep them that way with a 1,000 grit stone. This doesn't mean a 400 or 500 grit stone, or even an 800 grit Naniwa Professional for example won't come in handy, believe me, it will, you will need it eventually.

    Now, I cannot imagine my life without all of my coarse stones, 120, 220, 320, 400, 500, 600 and the awesome 800 grit stone.  


    If you afraid of ruining your knife with a coarse stone, taking too much metal away or screwing it up, it is fear you need to conquer and you do that by using one. Yes of course, a 400 grit stone is going to remove metal faster than a 1,000 grit stone but all you need to do is monitor your pressure and use a level of pressure that is conducive to your level of comfort with the stone and the condition of the knife you are sharpening.  Common sense will guide you and tell you not to use too much pressure. The stone won't grab the knife out of your hand, I have never ruined a knife with a coarse stone.


The beauty of a coarse stone is that it sets the bevels up nicely and quickly for follow on refinement, it will raise a burr more quickly and it can also do a great job of initial burr removal and again, it is all about pressure manipulation. 

You may ask, "why do I need a coarse stone if my knife is always sharp?"

You will need to THIN your knives eventually and this is best achieved with a coarse stone. You will also need to repair nicks in edges, maybe not in your knives but the time will come again, the Shapton Glass 500 for example excels at this task.

  Now, my favourite stones are all coarse and I rarely use any stone about 8,000 grit. Once you learn to make your knives extremely sharp at 400 grit, you too will learn to love them, if you don't already.

Now they will wear out faster than your 1k and up stones of course but if you don't sharpen professionally, you will still get years out of them.

Thank you for being here.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Contacting me

I often get some very nice emails from folks who use my Contact page on my website:

my contact page

However, it is sometimes not possible to for to reply directly to the emails for some reason. I always need to cut and paste the text and your email address and start a new email.

If you do wish to contact me please use my regular email address rather than the Contact page on my site.

If I have not replied to an email, it is because I wasn't able to. (Cooper for example).

My Email


Monday, 11 December 2017

My grey areas cleared up.

    When I got very serious about sharpening and considering opening a business, I started to sharpen as many knives as I could get my hands on. I sharpened steadily, every day for about a year to prepare for receiving customers knives.

    Along my sharpening journey, certain topics came up, aspects about sharpening that I was not sure of  and I am sure that most sharpeners encounter the same issues I had. These are grey areas and I call them that because they were common potential problem areas and the internet was full of answers to all of them. It was a long time before I realized that most of the answers were just folks repeating what others had said and it was often incorrect.

   I'll give some of the areas that I still see being talked about on sharpening forums and are perhaps still giving people problems, not big problems but they can create doubt and chip away at confidence.


     The issue for me, and this is many years ago, was "do we need to form a burr on every stone?" This question came up as I read about people having difficulty detecting a burr on finer grit stones and I still see this pop up. 
      So if we just think about it and how it is formed, it becomes obvious that you only should form the burr once, (or twice depending on the way you look at it, once on each side of the knife). We remove fatigued metal or remove new metal in some cases if you just want to re-profile the blade. This action exposes new, virgin steel so why do you want to keep forming a burr which would be composed of unused steel? We don't  of course. I remember asking someone about it and they told me that it is a good idea to form a burr on each stone to ensure you are reaching the edge of the edge. You don't need to form a burr to do this, this will come with practice, you can paint the edge with a sharpie as well to make sure.

ONE BURR ONLY (both sides). Now it may and probably will happen that you do form burrs more than necessary but that is okay. It is the understanding that you should strive NOT to form additional burrs that is important.


     I also see people talking about needing high grit stones to remove the burr. 

    Burr Removal is of course essential and results in the sharpest edges, the "cleaner" the edge, the better. However, we don't need to rely on high grit stones, like 8,000 for example to make sure the burr is removed. 

   The most significant improvement in my edges came when I started using four levels of pressure on the coarse stone.

SHARP level One came after I formed a burr and then removed it by reducing the level of pressure by 50% but still using the same stone and really concentrating on removing the burr and not forming additional ones. 
Sharp Level Two came on the same stone with another reduction in pressure and this continued for me until I am stropping on the coarse stone with extremely light pressure. By this time the knife is at Sharp Level Three and my goal is Level Five.

This is achieved as I move to a medium grit stone and finally a finishing stone, 5k or 6k.  The burr is pretty much gone by the time I am finished with the coarse stone. Now I know many say you cannot get rid of the burr completely and If you looked at the edge under a Scanning Electron Microscope, yes you would see some metal that just won't detach from the mother ship. However, that is beyond our control. What we can control is our burr removal process and I never rely on finishing stones to get that done.

So Burr Formation and to a lesser extent, burr removal was one of those grey areas that are no longer grey.

Another one was where to finish a knife, especially stainless steel knives, and I mean at what grit level. I kept reading that 1k is the best finish for stainless (Euro) knives but there was never an explanation as to why. As I have mention in previous articles, it took me a few years to find that answer and it all has to do with edge retention, grinding soft metal at the secondary bevel area and it's impact on edge retention. 

However,  I have since discovered that you can finish a softer knife at 3,000 grit and a harder knife at 6,000 to 8,000 grit all with great results. There are so many other variables that impact edge retention that the difference between a 1,000 and 2,000 finish is insignificant. It is all about pressure and understanding that over sharpening is a bad thing.

I hope this helps someone out.


Monday, 27 November 2017

Keep it simple.

Hi folks,
     Sorry I have been away for a bit, just dealing with some matters here at home that took me away from my favourite thing.

     Something I have noticed, a trend that pops up is folks who are interested in sharpening, or who have started the process and are six months into it, are overcomplicating

My Sharpening Station in Wolfville, surrounded by world class cutting boards by Larch Wood.

   It is only natural for people who want to learn as much as they can about knife sharpening to scour the internet in their thirst for knowledge. A multitude of videos and sharpening forums are available with a lot of great information. However, I think it is easy to get ahead of ourselves and pick up on buzzwords and common topics and think everything is important and necessary.

    I for one am sick of the videos on IG of people slicing a tomato or newspaper or people getting to far into the weeds with discussions on scratch patterns and what is the best finish for each particular knife, thinning is another hot topic. I am not suggesting that all of these topics can eventually come into play but if we just stick to the basics, build on the foundational skills, the knives will be sharp and I mean very sharp.

    This is what I do when I pick up a knife and I do this for three to eight hours a day, every day of the week:

     First of all, I most commonly use three stones to sharpen, coarse, medium and fine and sometimes,  I use two coarse stones depending on the condition of the edge.

    I follow a pattern and this is key, establish a technique and perfect it and then just repeat it over and over. I always start on the right of the knife at the tip and move from the bottom of the stone to the top of the stone applying pressure as I push the knife away from me. When I flip the knife to the other side, I start at the heel of the knife with the blade perpendicular to the stone and pull the knife towards me applying pressure as I do that. So I am using trailing strokes.  This is just how I sharpen but it is my pattern, it works for me and I am good at it. 

(The sharpening process always follows the initial look at the knife to determine if a thinning plan or damage plan is necessary before I can sharpen it. If so, I do whatever is necessary to make the knife ready to be sharpened.)

I keep it very simple, I use BURR FORMING PRESSURE to form the burr and as soon as I have done that, I reduce to BURR REMOVAL PRESSURE and I never use the starting level of pressure again on that stone.

On the coarse stone I form the burr and then reduce pressure by fifty percent and still with the coarse stone, I commence the cleaning of the edge, the burr removal by moving from Tip to Heel, Heel to Tip on the right side and then flip and move from Heel to Tip and Tip to Heel on the left side. I then flip again, reduce the pressure by half once more and repeat and finally I use a stropping motion with feather light pressure. This is all on the coarse stone. 

(All of this is demonstrated in Lesson number Four on the Knifeplanet series)

     A common question is "when to switch stones?" The process I use makes that simple, the very easy pattern solves some common problems I once encountered. (Im not trying to take credit for inventing something here, I am simply suggesting that we can keep things simple if we develop a strategy, a sharpening pattern and stick with it)

   There has to be some checks along the way though as not all knives are the same so what we do for knife number 1 may not be enough for knife number 2. 

  When I have completed the four levels of pressure on the coarse stone, I always check the edge under a good light to see if there are any reflections. Any hints of light at all will indicate areas along the edge that I have to back to, I have not removed the burr sufficiently. Now what I used to do was not even conduct this check. I used to just move onto the medium grit stone, 1,000 for example and rely on that to remove any of the burr that is clinging onto the knife. I found that this simple light check made a world of difference. If I do see any reflections, I just go back with light to medium pressure over the edge concentrating on the area where the light was. So I use very light pressure except on that area where I increase it a little, I flip the knife back and forth and constantly check the edge under the light to see if I have successfully removed the burr as much I can possibly do so.

   By this time the knife will be very sharp and now I move onto the medium grit stone and start with medium pressure and working down to the feather light, stropping pressure. The process moves along quickly here as the lions share of work was done on the coarse stone.

  I repeat the steps above on the finishing stone. I don't need to check the edge anymore under the light, I know I have cleaned the edge sufficiently.


   All I am suggesting, if you are struggling at all with the sharpening process, to stick to the basics. Don't worry about things like thinning, etching, finger stones, KU finish, Kasumi Finish and so on, these are all things you can explore later on.  Get your knives sharp first and every time. Your confidence will soar, your edges will startle you and you will have a better understanding of the topics being discussed.

    Sharpening knives should be fun and rewarding and it will be if you build upon your basic skills.


Friday, 3 November 2017

Edge Retention - My Thoughts

Hi Folks,

     A sharpening topic that has haunted me for a decade is Edge Retention. How to not just make a customers knife sharp but how do I keep it sharp for the individual. How do I make that person happy knowing that he/she doesn't have to come and get the knives sharpened every two weeks?

It is almost impossible and I will explain why, and again, these are my thoughts on the topic:

     As a professional sharpener,  I see it as my responsibility, at the very least to sharpen every knife at an angle that is appropriate to the steel the knife is made of, i.e. soft knives: 15-20 deg per side and hard knives, 10-15 deg per side. And to finish the knife at a grit that is appropriate to the steel and if known, to what the knife is being used for.
So, soft knives can be sharpened up to 3,000 grit with good results and hard knives can be sharpened to 5,000 or 8,000 with good results.

Angle and Grit are the physical parts of my job but just as important and I really mean this,  is the Education and Expectation Management side of things.

     Most people don't  become overly concerned how I actually sharpen the knife, they don't know anything about angles and grits so they just rely on me to take care of that which is perfectly fine. I don't know anything about cars but I expect my mechanic to do what is right and not to rip me off.
I could sharpen a soft knife for example at 10 deg per side and dazzle the customer, that is until the next day when that knife is dull again.

Here is the big problem and because of it, I don't lose sleep over edge retention any  more:

Larch Wood Cutting Board store in Wolfville where I sharpen weekly.

     People often bring me knives that have never been sharpened, were never sharp to begin with or they have not had them sharpened in five years. Some of these good folks will tell me " I don't know if these knives actually need sharpening", when in fact they are in a deplorable state. I think this is because just so many people have never experienced a sharp knife, they just don't know.

   What happens then is they get the knife back, it's sharper than any knife that they have ever seen but after a few week when the edge starts to fail, or sooner because of poor knife care, they think to themselves "it doesn't stay sharp very long" when in fact they were using a dull knife for years. They get  spoiled by the truly sharp edges and for the first time, see a difference between dull and sharp.

This is where Expectation Management and Education come into play.

     The other piece of the edge retention problem is the handling and ignorance of what the primary edge of knife is and it's fragile state. I have spent what feels like an eternity putting the most retentive edge on a knife for a professional cook only to seem him destroy it with poor steeling habits. It happens a lot and for this reason alone, I gave up on trying to satisfy many young cooks who just don't care about any of this stuff.

   Now if you are sharpening your own knives and this is important to you, remember to prioritise edge retention and do what you can to improve it. My friend Jim has found, after much experimentation, that starting the sharpening process with a coarse stone, rather than a 1,000 grit stone has improved the durability of his edges. 

   There may be a few reasons for this, Jim may just be improving his sharpening skills and this is causing an improvement in this area. Also, the coarse stone work,  with proper pressure management can do a better job of removing fatigued metal and exposing fresh, stronger steel lying underneath.
It is hard to say,  but I have noticed it as well, proper water stone combination for a given knife has benefits, not just in terms of sharpness.

Edge Retention is important but there are some many factors  beyond the control of the sharpener that make it impossible to predict. When  people ask me how long the knife will stay sharp, I just tell them to have it sharpened every three months at least. Nobody can answer that question honestly expect to say that " the knife will tell you when it's dull"

Peter Nowlan



Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Sign of the Times

Hello Folks,

 After many years I finally have a sign made and it is a nice one, it's made of aluminum and I think it stands out nicely. The idea is to bring it with me when I sharpen at various locations.

A website called contacted Knifeplanet asking if I would write some basic tips about knife sharpening for their readers which I did. I don't find it difficult to write about what I love to do most in the world, not to say it is always good material but I do what I can do. People are always interested in learning to sharpen.

GearJunkie article on sharpening I wrote

     Recently I was connected with a company that makes truly world class end grain cutting boards called Larch Wood. These are exceptional products, the best that I have ever seen and used. End grain boards, especially these ones are very knife friendly, you can't beat them and it is because of the way that they are made of course. Picture a 2" x 4" being cut into four inch pieces and putting them all together with the ends facing up. It is a very fibrous and seal healing method and really kind to the edges of a knife.

I will be sharpening at Larch Wood in Wolfville NS on a weekly basis starting in Nov, you can see some knives stacking up for me. ( I went down and got these ones done, 17 in total.

     I get a lot of questions about knife sharpening from good folks all over the world and the questions are often very similar, a problem with the edge after shifting from a coarse to a medium and fine stone. Some are finding the knives getting duller during this phase of sharpening.

    I believe that there is an easy fix for this and I had a student come back with the same issue once, a degradation in edge sharpness once he hit the Shapton Pro 5,000.  I believe the culprit is pressure, applying too much out of it and here is why it happens. This is just my theory by the way but it makes sense to me.

    Many years ago now, I learnt that if I could make a knife as sharp as I possibly could on a coarse stone, that everything after that seemed to move along very smoothly and the results were always better. Get the most you can from that 400 or 500 grit stone before switching to a higher grit stone.

   Folks who are are doing that are therefore, perhaps, using to much pressure on the 1,000 and finishing stones because the work was not done on the first stone. As you all know, I use four levels of pressure when I form the burr and three levels after that, during the burr removal stage. So my first level of pressure on the coarse stone is moderate to heavy depending on the condition of the edge and the steel. Once I have formed a burr, I still use that same stone but I drop the pressure level by 50% at least and continue to decrease the level of pressure until I have completed the 4 levels.

THEN, and this is still with the coarse stone, I check the edge under a good light to look for any reflections, if there is any hint of light at all, it means I have not done my job yet, have not done all the "cleaning" of the edge on that stone so I got back and go over the edge, concentrating on the spots or spot with the reflections. I use light pressure here but I ensure, I really make sure that before I move to a 1,000 grit stone for example, there is no light. Believe me, the knife will be very sharp at this stage.

NOW I can move to the 1K and 5k stones and I never need to use heavy pressure again, it is very moderate to feather light and this simple process ensures that edges are getting sharper, not duller.

Peter Nowlan

Saturday, 30 September 2017


I have been away and busy and I've been neglecting my Blog. I have chosen to leave the Forum that I was on for the last few years, there comes a time, for me, when that is necessary and this is the time.

I hope to share more information here as I usually do.

     Flattening water stones is something that I really don't enjoy, nobody does but to make it less painful I need to find what works best and for now, I think I have it. I have tried sandpaper, various diamond plates and the Naniwa flatting stone. The Diamond plates have it as far as I am concerned, they are the best.

DMT Lapping Plate

    In the picture above is my favourite plate but I have also added a little bit of SIC Powder to the surface. This greatly improves the performance of the plate. Some people don't use a plate at all, instead they use a granite or glass surface and just use the SIC powder alone. I know that works and I will try it, what I like about that is it may be possible to keep re-using the powder as the water evaporates the powder will remain behind. Right now, I am losing the powder so I plan to get the glass plate to see if I can keep from washing it away. In any event, it is effective.

    Now Kevin Kent of Knifewear, a man that I have the utmost respect for told me that he uses the Naniwa flattening stone, the ones with the grooves in them. He said the diamond plates can "kill" the stones, meaning, they will have a negative impact on the cutting power of the stone so I will be testing that. Kevin has never steered me wrong so I take what he says very seriously.

My son brought this knife home after a deployment, he is in the army, it was a departing gift.

I used to polish knives like this using the Edge Pro Professional only, that is to say, if I was going for a mirror finish. These days however I find myself getting away from that and doing it all by hand. It is faster and more enjoyable, I do find it more difficult to achieve the same standard on both sides of the knife, that is a "precision" issue but it is okay with me. I could always do it by hand and then go to the EP to finish it off but it's not like a competition or anything. Just makes pretty pictures and folks do like it. This is a collector item, won't be used in the field.

Average knives in the shot above, 80% of the knives that I sharpen are average and some are quite difficult to do but they all provide learning opportunities. Many pro sharpeners do knives like this on a belt. I don't, I use water stones for all my knives but I do use the belt sander for repairs and if the knife is very thick, of low quality, I may start it on the belt sander to save wear and tear on the water stones.

The knife on the right is the new Miyabi Black line, it is quite beautiful. I keep reminding myself that not all great knives have to come from Japan. Look at these, and Kramer knives and Carter's as well.

All the best.

Thank you for sticking around. If there is something that you want me to talk about in my Blog please let me know in the comments.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Online Sharpening School PRESSURE

Online Sharpening School Lesson Four

In the article and video I describe and show how I use four levels of pressure to sharpen a knife, I have done this before for my Blog but I wanted to improve it.


Saturday, 16 September 2017

Thinning Thoughts

Hello All,
Thank you for visiting my Blog. I want to talk about thinning, and even over the last few months I have had a change of heart about the subject.

Restoration Project. 

Random shots, this is the DMT Lapping Plate which is quite excellent.

THINNING seems to be a buzzword around many forums and elsewhere on the Internet, it is an important skill to learn and plays a huge role in the increase of performance of a knife but I think that we have a tendency to jump into it too quickly at times. I get the feeling that people feel pressured to THIN their knives because it seems like the thing to do.

It isn't that simple, and this is just my opinion of course, as all my blog post are.  So what is thinning, what is the purpose of it?

Thinning involves the reduction in width of the knife behind the edge, from a cross sectional geometry perspective, the knife is thinned to improve slicing performance. We knock the "shoulders" of the knife down. 

We thin a knife in a variety of ways using an assortment of tools but I do it all by hand on a very coarse water stone, 180 or 220 grit and if I had a 120 grit stone I would use that. 

We don't need to talk about the method as it is all laid out nicely on Knifeplanet by Jon Broida,  accompanied by an article that I wrote.


The point of this post is to encourage folks not to feel like they have to rush into the process of thinning a knife, especially a new one. 

Many knives these days come nice and thin and don't require anything but sharpening and honing for a very long time. We don't know how long it will take for that primary edge to start moving it's way up into the blade, the thicker part of the knife, it could be years I suppose and some blades are not thick at all anyway. 

Also, for me, I think it would take a substantial increase in the width of the blade behind the edge for me to be able to feel it's impact on cutting, let's face it, that is a pretty subtle change that is happening there. 

I am not talking about older knives like a 25 year old Henckels that was probably a little to thick in the first place. I am suggesting to take a good look at the knife before thinking about thinning and not to attempt it because you think it is necessary because it is a Buzzword. By all means though, if you feel the knife can slice better by thinning it, go for it. :)

Thinning is not easy and you may scratch the blade if you are thinning at an angle that brings the blade of the knife in contact with the stones. Before thinning, consider how much of the blade you want to work on, perhaps just 1 or 2 mm behind the edge is all that is necessary and for that, you may just need to lower your sharpening angle by 3 degrees or so. You can tape the blade as well to prevent some inherent scratches.

The purpose of this post is not to discourage anyone from thinning a knife, just don't jump into it because you feel you have to because it is a common subject. Do it if the knife is telling you that it needs to be thinned. Start cautiously and watch the video on Knifeplanet first.


Friday, 1 September 2017

Before and After Masakage Kumo

This beauty came in for some repair work today, it's a Masakage Kumo Santoku.
I put this here because I get a lot of questions about repairs and how long it takes to repair and to sharpen.

   I use two different techniques to repair an edge like this. I need to remove the metal along the primary edge until basically, the holes disappear. I do this either using a 1" x 43" belt sander with trizact belts or with a very coarse stone. In this case I opted for the belt sander as I find that it is very quick and precise, as long as I go nice and slow and make sure not to get the blade hot.

After the repair is done, the edge is pretty much non-existent, it's just a flat, completely dull line. I then decide whether I need to thin the knife a little before sharpening it and in this case I did that.

After the thinning on Naniwa Chosera 400, I started to sharpen it at 12 deg per side(as close to 12 deg as I can get, I am freehanding).

It was relatively easy to sharpen as a matter of fact and I finished it on an 8,000 grit Kityama.

Total repair/sharpening time was 20 minutes.


Thursday, 31 August 2017

Most Important Tips

Hi Folks,

   As you know, I have been sharpening knives for a very long time. That in itself doesn't me a great knife sharpener, but it does mean I have had the opportunity to make a lot of mistakes and more importantly, to learn from them.   If you let it, there is so much to learn about sharpening but you just need a grasp of the fundamentals and the energy and desire to practice to get good at it.

Here are some of the most important tips that I can think of, these simple things that I do, and I am sure others do have elevated my sharpening more than any other element.

This is assuming you have a good handle on freehand sharpening, you have tried it at least and understand the basics.

TIP 1.     Achieve a balance on both sides of the knife by striving to equalize the TIME, PRESSURE and ANGLE on both sides of a symmetrical knife, 50/50. Once I started concentrating on this, the bevels became much more consistent in width. I often see knives, new knives where one bevel is wider than the other but it is supposed to be a 50/50 grind. I have done this myself.

    Working to achieve this balance is especially important when you start the process because that is the burr forming stage and you will be using more pressure at this stage than any other. This is where the inconsistency starts, for me anyway. I used to spend more time on one side of the knife to get that first burr formed, and then I would flip the knife, however, forming the burr on the other side doesn't always take as long so my timing, that balance was not there.

   To overcome this I started doing something different:
Random shots here in this article.

    In an effort to have uniformity, consistency,  I started to really concentrate on mirroring my work on both sides. So when I form the burr, when I start sharpening, I focus on spending the same amount of time and using the same level of pressure on both sides. I start sharpening and move from tip to heel and heel to tip with good burr forming pressure and I will do this back and forth down the length of the blade a few times and then feel for the burr. If it is not there I switch sides, if it is there, I switch sides. I do the same thing on the other side, the same pattern until I get a burr on both sides of the knife.

   After than, it is easy for me to duplicate my work on both sides because I created a pattern. Once the burr is formed, and I am still on the coarse stone,  I start the burr removal process. I simply move from TIP to HEEL and then from HEEL to TIP on the right side of the blade and then flip and repeat the process moving from HEEL to TIP and TIP to HEEL on the left side. I may do this twice on each side but I always do it the same number times. I then follow along using my pressure system, to finish the work on the coarse stone.

    Summary: Equalize, what you do on one side, do on the other. PAT (Pressure, Angle, Time). Naturally, it won't be exact, it doesn't have to be but it will help, it completely solved my earlier issues of inconsistent bevels.

TIP 2:     Check the edge under a good light source after you think you have formed the burr and removed it, this is on the first stone.

   When I sharpen the knife, of course I form the burr on both sides and immediately start the burr removal process by using diminishing levels of pressure, one BURR FORMING level of pressure and 3 BURR REMOVAL levels of pressure. ( COARSE STONE). After I do this, I check the edge by holding knife upside down under a good source of light. I am looking for any reflections of light coming from metal along the side of the edge that I have not successfully removed. In other words, bits, tiny bits of the burr still remain, they are clinging onto the mothership. (Now this is something that some folks don't worry about because by the end of the process, the finer stones will remove this metal anyway. However, I noticed that doing as much "cleaning" of the edge as I can, on the very first stone has resulted in the sharpest knives I've ever seen). If I do see any metal, I just go back to the sharpening process with light pressure concentrating on the areas where the light was, it could be 2mm of area to work on but that goal is to finish with a clean edge. This is the final step that I do before I move from my Coarse Stone to a Medium Stone.

Summary: A simple check that take seconds. 

TIP 3:     PRESSURE, use Burr Forming Pressure and Burr Removal Pressure that I explained recently on my Blog. 

Link is here
That final tip on pressure is for me, the biggest game changer of all.



     Successful sharpening really is all about understanding the basics and then practicing in order to gain muscle memory which in turn, leads to angle stability and incredibly sharp knives. It's not about the water stones, it's about technique, it really is.

Hope you got something from this.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017


Here are the testimonials from some Chefs that I have sharpened for. I have moved them here to reduce the length of my Website Homepage.

Hello Peter,
I want to take the time to say that it was a pleasure to meet you. I was really impressed by your technique and your passion. Thank you so much for saving my knife, I was sure it was beyond repair! I will definitely contact you again. 
Executive Chef
Normand Laprise CM CQ
Owner of Togué, Montreal.

Member - Order of Canada

Peter Nowlan from "New Edge Sharpening" is one of the most dedicated craftsmen I have ever met. His passion for putting a fine edge on a fine knife is unparalleled in Eastern Canada. I love my knives, they have been part of my professional life for decades - and I would only trust the edges on my Misonos and MACs to Pete. He truly wants you to be happy with his work. Highly Recommended.
Michael Howell
Executive Director- Devour Fest! The Food Film Fest -
Executive Chef - The Green Turtle Club -
Principal - Tempestuous Culinary -

"Every Chef cherishes their knives, but being a good cook doesn't mean you can sharpen a knife properly. It is a skill that takes years to perfect. Far worse is letting someone put a knife on an automated ruins the edge. Hand sharpening is the only way to go. Preparing food with a sharp knife is a true joy. My knives have never been sharper than they are right now, thanks Peter!"
Chef Craig Flinn
Canadian Chefs Congress 2012/Congres des Chefs de Cuisine Canadiens
Nova Scotia Committee Chair/Le president du comite de la Nouvelle-Ecosse
ECD Restaurant Inc/Fork in the Road Productions
Chives Canadian Bistro and 2 Doors Down 

"The only thing more valuable than my hands are my knives. That is why the only person who sharpens my knives is Peter Nowlan. His skill and passion for blades is remarkable. I would recommend to anyone who wants the best for there blades take them to Peter. You won't be disappointed

Jason Lynch
902-542-7177 ( w )
902-680-6272 ( c )

Hi Peter, I am amazed at the performance of my knives, thanks a lot once again, you are a true craftsman.
J.F. Dore,
Owner of great knives, Takeda, Fujiwara, Saji etc. in Montreal. (April 17)

(I was recently sent over 20 knives from a very well known restaurant in Quebec, here is what they said):
"You are amazing!! thanks a lot for your kindness, all the cooks are really happy about their knives"
Émilie P.
All the team from
Poivre Noir
Trois-Rivières, Québec
Oct 16

Fantastic job!!!! They have never been this sharp. I appreciate your passion for the job and will certainly be having you back and recommending you as well .
Executive Chef Richard
Luckett Vineyards - May 16

"As you can see from his Blog and his work, Peter is obsessed with knife sharpening. He will spend an hour or more on a knife if he thinks it needs it. He will treat a crappy old K-Mart knife with as much care, concentration, skill, and even reverence as if it were a Japanese Masakage".
Ross Patterson
The Noodle Guy
Main Street Port Williams
NS B0P 1T0
The Noodle Guy Pasta Restaurant
Port Williams, Exit 11.  

      We couldn't be happier with the work you did on our knives!! It is amazing how having tools that are that sharp can just put everyone in the kitchen in such a great mood. We had a VERRY busy night and even when we barely had time to wipe the sweat off our face, we couldn't stop talking about how sharp the knives were. Amazing work!
Chef Luke G.
The Highwayman Restaurant, Barrington Street, Halifax NS. (June 16)

"I had some shared kitchen knives that were in desperate need of some knife-love but couldn't make the time to take care of it myself.  A colleague passed me Peter's number, as they had seen his work first hand, and knew that I would not be dissapointed.  The only way to describe  Peter's passion for a true edge is  art.  I have never been more pleased with the quality and care that Peter gives each one of my knives, plus he's a great person to work with!"
-Ryan Hayes
Resto Urban Dining

Just wanted to drop you a line to tell what a great job you have done with my knives.
Because we couldn't make to Halifax last spring,
I had my German ones done  in XXXX and they did not come close to being that refined.
Needless to say you are the only person that I have ever left to sharpen my Japanese knives.
I don"t know if you changed anything but they even seem sharper than the last time you did them.
It is nice to be able to benefit from your passion of sharpening.
 Rod. Cape Breton (Apr 17)

"I call Mr. Peter Nowlan the chef’s best friend. As an Executive Chef, I believe a sharp knife is the key step to trigger good food, precision cutting can change how every ingredient cooks during the process. When I first met Mr. Nowlan, I was searching for someone who would be capable to sharpen a knife with Rockwell 66 hardness properly with good craftsmanship, a person who understood knives and in particular the importance of a sharp knife. Peter’s quality of work is an incredible work of art and he will be the only one I will trust to sharpen my knives for years to come. Sharp knives makes food cutting enjoyable, Mr. Peter Nowlan’s sharpening skills makes my work as an Executive Chef not just more enjoyable but more efficient".
Ivan Chan
Executive Chef

Hi Peter,
We are really thrilled with the job you did with the knives. Thank you so much. We weren't sure what to expect, but we are truly happy. You are a craftsman!
If you need any references, we'd be happy to pass along. We will definitely be back in the future (hopefully, without any broken bits, just dull blades).

Tara (Ontario)              

Friday, 11 August 2017

The Advantages of Pressure

Hi folks,

In this article I want to talk about the two things that changed my sharpening life, these two things helped me make knives that I sharpen sharper than they have ever been and it's pretty simple. I have talked about them both before:

     * TIME, ANGLE, PRESSURE - Equalization.


     As you know, well as some of you know, I use four levels of pressure to sharpen and I do it every single time. I call then P4, P3, P2  and P1 with the "P" standing for Pressure and the numbers simply being a scale from Heavy Pressure (P4) to Feather Light Pressure (P1)

In and effort to make this as clear as possible, because I don't want anyone to thing that the numbers indicate pounds of pressure, i.e. P4 is 4 pounds, we can simply call this:


 Also, there are a couple of important points to remember as I move along:

1. Burr Forming Pressure (P4) is the heaviest amount of pressure I use and I only use this once during the sharpening process, it is the level of pressure that I require to raise a burr and once that is done, once that burr has formed from tip to heel on both sides of the knife, I never use that level of pressure again on that same knife. 

2. Burr Forming Pressure is not a constant, defined level of pressure, it may vary for each knife. So if I pick up a knife that is very dull, like every single knife in the picture above, than I require a substantial level of pressure to form the burr, it only makes sense. However, if the knife is not too bad, dull yes,  but the edge is not deformed or in terrible condition, I will tone that level of pressure down a little. 

     My burr forming pressure needs to vary because my goal is to create a burr that is as subtle as I can make it, I don't want to blindly grind metal away by picking up every single knife and treating it the same way. So I use the appropriate level of Burr Forming Pressure to get the burr formed.

     You can experiment with this, pick up the knife and use a moderate level of pressure to see if the burr is forming in reasonable time frame, 1-3 minutes. If nothing is happening, then you can adjust the pressure. 

     The time required to form the burr using BFP (Burr Forming Pressure) will differ depending on the knife itself, whether it is soft or hard, stainless or carbon. It will depend on the stone you choose to start with, is it a 400 grit or a 1,000 grit stone.  Also, your level of skill will be a determining factor.

    The important thing to note is that these factors will play a role in how long it takes to form the burr, you can use the same initial level of pressure whether you are starting with a 400 grit stone or a 1,000 grit stone. You never want to be pressing down so hard that you lose control of the angle stability or it becomes comfortable.

     The bottom line is that you need to pick up each knife, look and feel the edge and form a sharpening plan:

*Stones to use from start to finish
*Burr Forming Pressure, how much do I need to start.

Actually, before I start any sharpening of a knife a series of plans unfolds.

Sharpening Plan

DAMAGE PLAN :         Do I need one and if so, make it happen, repair chips or the tip etc.
THINNING PLAN:        Do I need to thin the knife and if so, to what degree?
SHARPENING PLAN:  What progression of water stones do I need, what Sharpening Angle?
REFINISHING PLAN:  If the blade is scratched up, do I need to fix that, the handle?

My Sharpening Process


     If after inspecting the knife to determine my sharpening plan,  I see that the knife is very dull and it is a hard knife, (58-67). I know that  my burr forming pressure will be heavy and I will start on a coarse stone, 220-400 grit.  I also know that I will also use a 1,000, 5,000 and possibly an 8,000 grit stone depending on the knife itself.  (High quality Japanese will mean an 8K finish)

    As my sharpening begins I use heavy pressure on the 400 grit stone. I move from tip to heel and then back from heel to tip on the right side of the knife. I then feel for a burr on opposite side of the blade and if there is none, I continue this pattern until one of two things happen: The burr forms,  or,  no burr forms after 2-3 minutes.  Either way I flip the knife to either continue the burr forming process (if no burr was formed on the first attempt or, to form a burr on the opposite side (If I did form a burr).  ( The reason I flip the knife after a few minutes where no burr formed, to achieve a balance on both sides of the knife. If I were to continue grinding on one side for several minutes to form a burr and did not do the same on the other side in terms of time spent, the bevels would not be consistent). 

    Once I have successfully formed a burr on both sides of the knife, consistent in size and running from heel to tip, I then reduce pressure by roughly 50%. I NEVER use P4 or burr forming pressure again on the knife that I am working on. So BURR FORMING PRESSURE HAPPENS ONCE.

Here is where I have fine tuned the sharpening process to achieve the second most important change I made to my process.  

In an effort to achieve uniformity and consistency in bevels I follow the procedure below for the remainder of the process.


   Since I have achieved a burr, it is now time to remove it and it is important to strive to finish with an edge that is as clean as possible, free from any metal fragments that interfere with truly sharp knives.

  Continuing on the COARSE stone, the same stone I used to form a burr, I move from tip to heel and from heel to tip on the right side of the knife. I now flip the knife and move from heel to tip and tip to heel. (This is the way I sharpen, if you start at the heel on both sides of the knife that is fine).
This is P3 Pressure: Light 
(Remember, you don't want to form additional burrs here so it is a challenge with a coarse stone not to but with practice manipulation pressure this way, it will happen)

   NOW I reduce the pressure again and still on the coarse stone I again move from Tip to Heel and Heel to Tip on the right side and flip the blade and move from Heel to Tip and Tip to Heel.
This is P2 Pressure : Very Light

Now for the final stage on the coarse stone I just "strop" the knife using trailing strokes, 3 strokes per side. This is the final stage for this stone before I check the edge.
This is P1 Pressure: Feather Light


     This is another extremely important and simple act that really made a big difference for me. I hold the edge under a good light and look for any reflections on the edge. If I have not removed the burr that is normally visible to the naked eye under light, it will be revealed here. It is easy to see. If I do see any reflections, I just go back to P2 pressure, very light pressure and repeat the process and then check again under the light. I concentrate on the area of the edge where the reflections appeared. (You're holding the knife with the edge up here. This is the final check before moving on to another stone.)


    Now that the hard, critical work is done, i.e. burr formed and initial removal process complete, I switch to a medium stone, 1,000 grit.

    Now starting with P3 pressure, which again is nice and light,  I repeat the process as laid out above, moving from tip to heel and heel to tip on both sides, then I do the same with P2 pressure and finally the stropping motion (P1) and the pressure is feather light here, as light as you can get it.

    Now, I move to my finishing stone, usually a 5,000 grit stone and repeat the process and would do the same if I was going to use an 8,000 grit stone.

My final act may be stropping on bare leather.

   That is it, this all takes me about 12-15 minutes on a dull knife. Don't worry about the timing. The burr forming, P4 pressure stage can take anywhere from 1 minute to 7 or even more. It will depend on the steel, the condition of the knife, the burr forming stone you use and your skill. 

  The second important element that added to my sharpness levels and consistency, and, aesthetics was Time, Pressure and Angle and trying the best I can to equalize those on each side of the knife. (On a symmetric knife that is, 50/50 grind)

     I don't count strokes, so what I do is to work from tip to heel and heel to tip on both sides as evenly as I can. I do my best to maintain the same pressure and angle but all this takes time to learn. The knowledge that I should do this, or try to do it at least was for me, the most important thing.

    I really hope that this is all clear and that  you got something from it.

Peter Nowlan