Bevel width inconsistency

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Peter Nowlan
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Bevel width inconsistency

Post by Peter Nowlan »

Hi,
I thought that I would share something, a problem I had and how I fixed it. I think it’s a common issue actually and I’m not 100% sure why it happens. Perhaps someone will chime in with the answer.

Occasionally, this is a while back, I noticed that the bevel on the right side was slightly wider than on the left. So to compensate for this I really had to focus on my angle consistency. It would still happen every now and then though if I didn’t focus enough.
I’ve had brand new Japanese knives sent to me where I noticed the same thing. Fujiwara especially. The inconsistency wasn’t enough to lead to cutting issues, it’s a cosmetic concern.

The way I permanently fixed it was to train myself to sharpen with both my right and left hand. This immediately stopped the imbalance. It’s weird how it worked so well. Also, I’ve noticed that if I use both hands to get the bevels set on a coarse stone I can go back to using my dominant hand only and it will be fine. It’s like the track has been laid with my left hand and equal bevel width is the result.

I just thought I’d share how I fixed the minor issue which again is a common one I believe based on the questions I get about it. It only took me about 15 years to figure it all out. 😊

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Re: Bevel width inconsistency

Post by AlbuquerqueDan »

I've been toying with the idea of sharpening with both hands (I.e., switching hands to sharpen different sides). It feels very awkward so far. Any tips you can give on learning, or is it just practice practice practice?

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Re: Bevel width inconsistency

Post by Peter Nowlan »

For me it really was just practice. It took me about 3 months for the awkward feeling to dissipate but it will. What I did was just take one knife out of a batch that I was working on and use my left hand, and right hand on that one. Before that I practiced on my own knife and to my surprise it wasn’t as hard as I thought.
You could try doing other things like brushing your teeth with your left hand but I’m not sure that would improve the sharpening with both hands.
It’s just practice

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Jeff B
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Re: Bevel width inconsistency

Post by Jeff B »

I've tried switching hands but I seem to wobble much more with my left hand. I do need to use my left hand more just get it right and make it feel more natural. It is something that would add more versatility to my sharpening.
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Re: Bevel width inconsistency

Post by Peter Nowlan »

It has for me Jeff, added versatility. It’s made sharpening particular knives easier, especially really long blades. It’s also improved the aesthetics on knives with wide bevels and especially folders.

If I can do it you certainly can.

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Re: Bevel width inconsistency

Post by Radar53 »

I have been trying to become ambidextrous with different activities for quite a while (read decades here) after someone we knew had a stroke and lost the use of his dominant side, which was very challenging and frustrating for him. Also I came to freehand sharpening after nearly 2 decades on an EdgePro, which by it's very nature is ambidextrous, and was determined that I would learn freehand ambidextrously from the beginning.

So I would check out every little detail of how I would approach freehand with my RHS and tried to religiously duplicate this with my LHS. Think stance, foot placement, how I held the knife in my right hand, finger placement & movement etc etc. It takes a lot of observation and all of Peter Nowlan's 4 P's, and it certainly felt awkward for a while. But over time things got more comfortable.

But here's what really frightened me! When my bevels, and work towards the tips, started to show signs of improvement, it was my left hand (non-dominant) that was leading the way, shock, horror. All I can put this down to is the dominant right hand was always trying to do everything - control the angle, control the pressure, control the stroke etc, but when holding the knife in my left hand, pretty much ALL I was then concentrating on, was trying to maintain the angle.

The reason that I like knife sharpening so much is that I will still be challenged & learning up until they cart me off in a box.
Cheers Grant

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Re: Bevel width inconsistency

Post by ken123 »

Peter, this is an interesting topic. One of the first misconceptions is that somehow the Japanese have magical sharpening powers. They are good but not perfect. We, as sharpeners must learn to exceed what we have been given.

An overlapping problem is that sometimes blades - at least in some areas - can be ground very thinly, resulting in localized asymmetries. While some degree of ambidexterity is great, an analysis of the edge is paramount. You can get areas ground so thin that to regrind the edge symmetrically would result in a foil edge. It will crumble. So we have to backtrack to a more obtuse angle - one that meets the task specific needs of the knife owner. This is difficult when the blade has 'holes'. This takes patience and judgement. And of course, practice. Sometimes the results are imperfect, but rather best available. Compromise is a difficult lesson to teach.

I'm mostly ambidextrous (task specifically) so that part just comes with the territory for me. To me this is a matter of full consciousness while sharpening. Every stroke counts. If an edge is failing, each stroke to bring it back should be studied first to evolve your technique.

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Re: Bevel width inconsistency

Post by ken123 »

I would encourage people to look over Captaincaed's videos - looking at the differences in left vs right sharpening - especially the differences in angle control of left vs right. It is an excellent video to observe this.

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Re: Bevel width inconsistency

Post by jmcnelly85 »

I use my right and left hands equally as I sharpen. One way that has made it easier to do so is to orient the stone parallel with my hips as opposed to perpendicular extending from my belly button. The parallel orientation allows me to keep my elbows tucked into my body so all of the motion comes from my feet, hips, and a small touch of elbow movement. It doesn’t matter if the handle is in my right or left hand because both hands equally hold either the handle or blade at a consistent angle. Both hands equally serve as angle locks that happen to modify pressure from a small amount to as little possible.

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Re: Bevel width inconsistency

Post by Peter Nowlan »

It’s amazing what I’ve learned over the years just in this forum. Someone posts a topic and others reply and in doing so provide little tidbits of information, little gems that make us, me anyway a better sharpener.
Grant, I just did a post on IG about what keeps sharpeners motivate, what drives us. I spend 6 days a week, several hours a day sharpening, and never lose interest. It’s because it’s a living skill, we can just keep learning new things which means we can improve. I pity the poor bastards whose lifelong dream was to climb Mt Everest. Once they get to the top, what’s next.
In our world there’s a hundred Mt Everest’s and I haven’t even come close to the summit of the first one.

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Re: Bevel width inconsistency

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Peter here's a tidbit regarding what motivates us. It comes from the work of a behavioural psychologist, B F Skinner.

He had 3 groups of rats each in their own cage. Each cage had a lever. In one group, each time they pressed the lever, they got a food pellet. In another group, pressing the lever did nothing. In the third group, they would get a pellet on a random basis. The first group just randomly hit the lever (disinterest?). The ones that never got a pellet ignored the lever. But the third group hit that lever all day long. The conclusion? Intermittent reward is the strongest stimulus.

You see this watching little old ladies working slot machines all day long to hit a jack pot. You see programmers writing programs. They compile the code. Doesnt work, doesnt work, ... Works! Ah lets rewrite the program with a new feature. Doesnt work, ... Works! And the cycle continues motivating them onward.

Now look at us :) striving for that perfect edge. Sharpen, sharpen.... Dull edge. Repeat ..... Ah sharp! Can I make it sharper / prettier? New stone or compound... repeat repeat... Sharper or pretty kasumi finish... And so on ad infinitum.

We are driven to perfection/ reward in our search for more pellets. You see this with chefs, creative people who are driven within their own crafts, etc. Are we more than rats chasing pellets? Is this what motivates us? Something to contemplate in our individual journeys, adding a touch of humor to our introspection.

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Re: Bevel width inconsistency

Post by Drewski »

ken123 wrote:
Wed Oct 16, 2019 1:38 pm
Peter here's a tidbit regarding what motivates us. It comes from the work of a behavioural psychologist, B F Skinner.

He had 3 groups of rats each in their own cage. Each cage had a lever. In one group, each time they pressed the lever, they got a food pellet. In another group, pressing the lever did nothing. In the third group, they would get a pellet on a random basis. The first group just randomly hit the lever (disinterest?). The ones that never got a pellet ignored the lever. But the third group hit that lever all day long. The conclusion? Intermittent reward is the strongest stimulus.

You see this watching little old ladies working slot machines all day long to hit a jack pot. You see programmers writing programs. They compile the code. Doesnt work, doesnt work, ... Works! Ah lets rewrite the program with a new feature. Doesnt work, ... Works! And the cycle continues motivating them onward.

Now look at us :) striving for that perfect edge. Sharpen, sharpen.... Dull edge. Repeat ..... Ah sharp! Can I make it sharper / prettier? New stone or compound... repeat repeat... Sharper or pretty kasumi finish... And so on ad infinitum.

We are driven to perfection/ reward in our search for more pellets. You see this with chefs, creative people who are driven within their own crafts, etc. Are we more than rats chasing pellets? Is this what motivates us? Something to contemplate in our individual journeys, adding a touch of humor to our introspection.

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Ken
This is an interesting topic. I don't want to get too far off track, but it looks like what you are saying, Ken, is that motivation is extrinsic. Studies have shown that this is true up to a point, especially regarding the quantity of work rather than quality, and for simple mechanical tasks (which I don't think the level of sharpening we are talking about is). Long-term, quality-driven motivation, which I would say is needed for sharpening at the level we are discussing, is more often attributed to intrinsic motivation. Inside of us, we have the desire to be self directed, to get better at stuff (mastery), and to have a purpose to our work. The component of mastery here screams to me to be the reason I am motivated to become a better sharpener. Maybe we are saying the same thing though. In what I have just said, I don't see where your gambling lady fits in, but that sounds more like an addiction, which is a physical brain issue, not really a motivation.

PS I'm not trying to start a fight/argument here at all, just find the topic of motivation quite interesting and very up in the air still. What's important is that we are all motivated to improve our sharpening :)

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Re: Bevel width inconsistency

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Drewski wrote:
Wed Oct 16, 2019 3:08 pm
In what I have just said, I don't see where your gambling lady fits in, but that sounds more like an addiction......
Mr Drewski, thank-you so much for the comment above, because based on that I can now stop going to my weekly Knife Sharpeners Anonymous meetings :lol: :lol: :lol:
Cheers Grant

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Re: Bevel width inconsistency

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jmcnelly85 wrote:
Wed Oct 16, 2019 12:15 am
I use my right and left hands equally as I sharpen. One way that has made it easier to do so is to orient the stone parallel with my hips as opposed to perpendicular extending from my belly button. The parallel orientation allows me to keep my elbows tucked into my body so all of the motion comes from my feet, hips, and a small touch of elbow movement. It doesn’t matter if the handle is in my right or left hand because both hands equally hold either the handle or blade at a consistent angle. Both hands equally serve as angle locks that happen to modify pressure from a small amount to as little possible.
I find this really interesting from two perspectives (a) the body locking and (b) the stone alignment.
A) I currently use the perpendicular stone alignment, but early on in my learning journey I used to "lock" my body into position and just rock from my ankles, all in an effort to maintain angle. I would do this for a number of strokes and then try to relax a bit and follow through with trying to transfer this to consistent arm movement. I don't do so much now, but it certainly helped me at the time. Maybe I need to go back & introduce it again.

B) Parallel stone orientation & sweeping. When I started to learn freehand sharpening another forumite was doing the same. I was doing the scrubbing backwards & forwards thing and he was doing the "parallel stone & sweeping" style. Although I have seen others sharpeners use this, he really struggled to make progress, got really frustrated and dropped off the radar. So I don't know if he ever overcame those hurdles and his battle put me off trying that method. But here's the thing, on the EdgePro my much preferred method of removing burrs is using light pressure, sweeping, edge leading, strokes. Using freehand stones I have used the scrubbing action to remove burrs, but have struggled somewhat.

Of late, I have been trying light pressure, sweeping, edge leading, strokes (but with the stones perpendicular), and I'm finding it more of a "fit" for me. Nowhere near happy where I'm at with this so I'm now going to the body-locking-sweep-action to see if that improves the result and I might even have to turn my stone to parallel.

Thanks for posting
Cheers Grant

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Re: Bevel width inconsistency

Post by ken123 »

Is motivation intrinsic or extrinsic? Or asked yet another way does our goal of seeking intermittent rewards fully describe our behavior as coming from something within us? Or can our seeking of rewards simply be either all intrinsic or extrinsic or perhaps a blend of both? Can slicing up veggies be just for function alone or does the precision of a Kaiseki chef imply a desire to achieve higher skills than a burger flipper at MacDonalds? ? Does this drive for reward apply to both basic menial work as well as mastery of a craft? Can another criteria better explain this than the intrinsic nature of our selves? Perhaps there is an evolution in our motivation from meeting the basic hierarchy of needs to achieving a zen like state of consciousness in our skillset much like evolving from making basic paper airplanes to intricate origami.Perhaps this reward mechanism is simply the earliest stages of a much longer process.

There is also the question of competitiveness as seen in some competitions (eg plane blade competitions) and the influence of other people's thoughts in our study. Perhaps when I figure this out, I will try to figure out what I want to do when I grow up :)

These are all great questions to ponder. I certainly don't have the answers, but it will certainly be something I think about as time goes by and I pursue my craft.

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Re: Bevel width inconsistency

Post by ken123 »

Watch this guy. Curtis and I did several long sharpening sessions together. He is just a naturally gifted sharpener. Note several things.

No burr detection or specific removal efforts applied.
Sweeping lateral strokes.
Stone placement.
Emphasis on lack of pressure, something we have long since been advocating for many years.
Stroke counting - I rarely do this anymore.
6k King - I rarely use this stone.
Kityama 8k, films, chromium oxide ... I rarely use these as well.
Speed - he is much faster than me.
Use of gloves (private joke involved)



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Re: Bevel width inconsistency

Post by Peter Nowlan »

Goes to show you that there are many working techniques, find one and own it. I went through four different ones including the one Curtis used in a different video. I hated counting strokes.

Thanks all, this developed into an interesting topic.

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Re: Bevel width inconsistency

Post by ken123 »

I've gotten away from stroke counting too. It assumes that all is already balanced, which is seldom the case.

This is a good thread! I truly enjoy the input of fellow thinkers :)

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Re: Bevel width inconsistency

Post by Drewski »

ken123 wrote:
Wed Oct 16, 2019 5:12 pm
Watch this guy. Curtis and I did several long sharpening sessions together. He is just a naturally gifted sharpener. Note several things.

No burr detection or specific removal efforts applied.
Sweeping lateral strokes.
Stone placement.
Emphasis on lack of pressure, something we have long since been advocating for many years.
Stroke counting - I rarely do this anymore.
6k King - I rarely use this stone.
Kityama 8k, films, chromium oxide ... I rarely use these as well.
Speed - he is much faster than me.
Use of gloves (private joke involved)


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Ken
Very interesting stone placement and stroke direction. I'm a noob but I thought edge trailing strokes were supposed to be the emphasis. Curtis seems to have a focus on edge leading strokes. Does this actually matter? Also he just seems to use 1 pressure, but a varying number of strokes as the sharpening progresses. Is this accurate? And why doesn't he check for burr formation? Is it bacause he knows how much effort is needed to form a burr because he is familiar with this knife?

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Re: Bevel width inconsistency

Post by ken123 »

I think many of his strokes run parallel to the edge rather than edge leading or following. In my hands this removes any burr buildup. He tends to not build up burr this way. His stroke counting also eliminates burr too.
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