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

Sunday, 6 August 2017

keeping sharp knives sharp

     As I have mentioned before, "how do I keep my knife sharp? is one of the most common questions that I get. The answer is easy but most folks won't do it.

     In fact, the majority of people don't get their knives sharpened at all, I have had people tell me that they just don't care if they are dull. Since you are reading this, you have an interest in sharpening so I will explain, what in my opinion is the best way to maintain your edge.


Steel and Ceramic Hones (NOT the best but very good)

    Through the years, cooks, butchers and homemakers have used a Steel to maintain their knives. I believe that the steel in knives was different 40 years ago so a skilled butcher did have the ability to maintain and edge with an old worn out steel Steel.  These tools are still in use of course and most older chefs will tell you that it's all they need. "Been using this steel for years, why fix something if it isn't broken"

   I am not saying that these Steels don't work, when used properly, I am saying that there is a better way to keep the edge up, better than a ceramic hone. This is particularly true of hard knives, 58+.
If you took a Fujiwara for example and ran a steel over the edge, a metal Steel, there is a very strong possibility that the metal that is fatigued and has moved from the centre of the knife would break off instead of being re-aligned.  The metal is too hard, it wont' flex.

Fujiwara and 400 grit Naniwa Chosera

     If you think of the metal that has become fatigued, the metal making the knife dull as metal being pushed back and forth by a Steel, it is just becoming more fatigued. It is being pushed back into place, if done properly by the steel but it is still weak. You are not strengthening the steel in the knife by doing this, you are at the very best, moving tired metal back into place where it will be subjected to the force of every day use again and in a short amount of time will just bend over again.


   Instead of moving fatigued metal around, why not just remove it and we can do this with a whetstone, a finishing stone. Something 4,000 grit and above. It is easy to do and is just a matter of applying trailing strokes, using light pressure to remove the metal that has done it's job. Take it away and expose the fresh steel underneath. You do this at the same angle as the knife is sharpened at or a little higher, not lower.

  I think a leather strop is even better than a Steel. The other benefit of using a whetstone to maintain the knife is that it promotes muscle memory. To me, it just makes sense to remove fatigued metal using the same products I used to sharpen a knife.

Leather strops

   The problem in a professional kitchen is that this approach takes time. It is much faster just to pull out a steel rod and use that than to stop what is being done, go over to the water stone and use it. It is too bad people just wouldn't get together and buy one 5,000 grit stone, even a 2,000 grit stone is okay, better than any other hone.

   Just my thoughts, please contact me if you have any questions or criticism about it, I am always open to discussions on sharpening.

My email

  Having said this, if you are doing something to maintain your knives, good for you, most people don't so you have that going for you, kudos to  you.

Sharpening School updated


This new lesson is all about thinning a knife. Jon Broida shot the video and I wrote the article.