Monday, 29 January 2018

Simple Works

Hi Folks,
Thank you for being here.....

    One thing that I really find interesting is that when I teach people how to sharpen a knife, I'm talking about people who have never seen a water stone, they learn how to make a dull knife sharp enough to cut telephone book paper within the first hour.  So If you can get a good grasp of the fundamentals, the basics and then apply those you can sharpen a knife.
   Naturally, your bevels may be inconsistent in width or one side may have a slightly wider bevel than the other side but the edge itself will be sharp.

   Remember, all you need to do is bring Side A and Side B of the knife together as precisely as you can at the Apex and that level of precision will improve over time and will continue to improve over many years.  What always unfolds during a lesson is the moment of burr formation and then the process of burr removal, these are pivotal, confidence building moments that ignite peoples desire to sharpen something. Many many men have a desire to sharpen a knife but most never do or they try and fail. In last ten years I have met two knife sharpeners who do the work by hand. It is a very small world.

   If you have tried failed, try again. As long as you have at least one whetstone, a 1,000 grit stone for example and some basic understanding of what has to be done, it really is just a matter of trying until you succeed.

   You need to know of course that knife sharpening involves removing metal but in order to make a knife sharp some metal has to be removed, it is cycle. A sharp knife has a primary edge that runs in a continuous line from tip to heel, that microscopically thin strip if metal, the Apex of blade is no deformed in any way but that changes quickly with use so over time, a  period of time that cannot be measured, that metal fails and folds over and it is your job as a sharpener to remove that fatigued metal and reform the apex, bring the two sides of the knife back together. It sounds simple because it is.  You just need to practice, to build muscle memory and then eventually, that moment will come when you have successfully made the knife sharp again, you have cleaned the edge.

This is a box made from a piece of pine over 150 years old, I use to carry my water stones when I travel.

    All you need to do is form the burr on both sides, and you just need to do that once, on the first stone you use, or only stone you use. After that, everything you do is about removing the burr. You may still be removing metal but the amounts will become less and less as your skills improve. Your goal at first is to form a burr, then you will be working to make that burr as small as possible because you know you are removing metal. 

    This is but one phase of your sharpening journey, it is just the beginning but as long as understand the process and you are willing to practice you will succeed.

The purpose of this post is just to encourage you to try and keep trying if you are having difficulties. Don't try to learn of a cheap knife, get a decent chef knife and start with that. Know that when I started learning, I never even heard of a burr, I had no idea what the fundamentals were. I was simply pushing the edge of my knife over a whetstone and couldn't understand why it wasn't getting sharper. There was no Internet then, I had no one to ask but I kept at it and I suppose I got lucky and made some small improvements in the edges and that was enough to keep the spark alive.


If you have questions or things you would like me to talk about her just let me know.


Friday, 12 January 2018

My new favourite stones

     There was a time when owning a water stone as coarse as 120 grit wouldn't even enter my mind. I couldn't have imagined finding a use for one. That was due to ignorance on my part and even if I did have access to a 120 grit stone at that time I wouldn't have been skilled enough or have the knowledge to get what I could from it.

    That was ten years go and things have changed.

    I now own the Shapton Glass 120 and Shapton Pro 120.

    For the person who sharpens his/her own knives, these stones would likely not be necessary and if you do sharpen your own knives, kudos to you, not many people do that.

   For me however, a man who sharpens other peoples knives daily, these are now quite often the first stones I pick up. I like them both the same actually and I got the Glass from and the Shapton Pro 120 off of Amazon.

   Why do I like them so much?

   They do a superb job of setting the bevels and forming a burr rapidly with moderate pressure. I often follow up with an 800 grit Naniwa Professional stone and the results have really been quite good and I have become quite reliant on these stones.  Some would say that they are to coarse and you will remove to much metal needlessly and therefore reduce the life of a knife. If one were to use to much pressure, yes, but that is true with any coarse stone.  The bottom line for me is that the fatigued metal has to come off. Why not use a stone that is extremely effective at doing that and one that sets the stage for sharpening success. I have tested these stones on about 200 knives so far and I think they are fantastic.

  Again, not something the average sharpener may need if you own a 500 grit stone for example but for repairs, thinning and sharpening very dull knives, they excel.

All the best and thank you so much for being here.
Peter Nowlan