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Posted: Wed Mar 08, 2017 8:45 am
by Peter Nowlan

Recently I had a unique opportunity to sharpen a few knives and send them to a fella who is capable of scrutinizing, evaluating and providing very constructive criticism.
It was very important to me, what if I am making mistakes that I can't see and if I was doing that, I would continue to do that? I wasn't worried about the knives being sharp but as well all know, just getting them sharp is often the easy part.

I was given a few knives, one with a very good portion of the tip missing, one just really dull and a dull Yanagiba, chipped. All hand made Japanese, Masakage and I don't know what the Yanagiba was, it was very old.

In this situation, when the critique was delivered, it could have gone two ways, assuming it wasn't a "great, everything is great, I can't find any faults" type of critique which I did not want . I could have been defensive and thus, wasted the opportunity or just let them have their way with me. My ego did not get in the way at all and I encouraged them to be completely honest, otherwise, as I said, whats the use?

Thinning the knives was one area that the folks said they would have done a little differently and I agreed on that. In fact, now that I think about it, I don't know if I thinned the Masakage Yuki at all, this is about 200 knives ago but this is what got me thinking of the Thinning subject.

The other thing was the tip area, nice and sharp but it would not push cut at the very front of the knife, slicing the thin paper was nice and push cutting the paper was nice except for the very tip areas.

So when I heard this, my confidence levels immediately soared because I knew then that these are areas I can easily fix and know how to. In fact, I'll spend the next five years working on these areas to make sure I perfect them. It was all very cool for me.

The man looking at my knives is friends with Shibata San, has sharpened with him and others like him, he has seen world class edges so I knew this opportunity was not one to pass. I know we have all seen edges of this calibre as well but this fella is someone I trusted to give me a good and brutally honest review.

Just sharing, as I have always said, this is a journey and if I ever thought my journey had come to an end, i.e. learning, I would be absolutely miserable. I think my sharpening journey will end in about 20 years if I am lucky, due to age, not skill, so I have that much time to continue and also to visit and meet certain people who share my passion.

Re: Critique

Posted: Sat Mar 11, 2017 8:43 pm
by orezeno
There is so much to learn. Were you focused on Japanese knives only, or knife sharpening in general? And, how did you go about getting this to happen for you? I would love that opportunity to do the same here in the states.

Re: Critique

Posted: Sun Mar 12, 2017 6:49 am
by Peter Nowlan
In the States you have CKTG. In Canada we CKTG as well, but we Knifewear and a few other spots. Over the past few years I do my part to promote certain businesses, it's no big deal. Just a matter of steering people in the right direction so CKTG and Knifewear are common places to talk about. I was given the opportunity by the President of the company no doubt to ensure that I was able to sharpen knives to their standard. I'm not quite sure to what end and I don't care. I jumped at the opportunity and I didn't mention the positive things here.

The only thing stopping people from continuing to learn in my opinion is Ego and my ego has never got in my way.

Re: Critique

Posted: Sun Mar 12, 2017 11:06 am
by orezeno
When it comes to criticism I agree with you. My primary career is in an industry where one must defend one's design decisions in front of a review audience. It is highly confrontational. Sensitive egos have a tough time.

Given a desire to learn, I think the main impediments are time, a willingness to persist, and a willingness to take on new experience. As I get older, and continue to find fascination in things, decisions about how to use my time take the highest priority, but also limit how far I can go in any one endeavor.

Re: Critique

Posted: Mon Mar 13, 2017 6:38 am
by Peter Nowlan
Well said Greg. When we start sharpening, it's all about getting the knife sharp. Over time, years perhaps, that becomes the easy part. We can choose to sharpen the knives and not delve into things like thinning, polished edges, edge retention, strops etc. Or we can persist to leave no stone unturned and we soon learn that that there seems to be no end to the stones. We are lucky people to have this yearning. The Calling as my friend puts it.