Burr On Burr Off & Burr On again

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Peter Nowlan
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Burr On Burr Off & Burr On again

Post by Peter Nowlan » Mon Jun 10, 2019 8:50 am

Hey folks,
Recently I made a big adjustment to my sharpening technique, I took a slightly different path than the one I’ve been following for the last 10 years. It’s more of a change in my mindset than a physical one.

I’ve firmly believed that burr Formation should occur on the first stone used and should only occur once. Meaning, with subsequent stones, 1k and 5k for example, I believed that it was wrong to form a burr. I now know that this is flawed thinking, I was wrong.

My thinking was: form initial burr and any more active burr forming just meant unnecessary metal removal so that’s how I engrained the thought in my head and sharpened about 25k knives with this in mind.

Recently a fella that I respect as a sharpener told me that he forms one initial or Primary Burr on the coarse stone but then forms additional burrs on every stone that follows. My initial thought was to Unfriend him, who the f##k would do that. However, being a man with zero Ego and a thirst for knowledge, I looked into it. What if this actually is a good idea and in doing so it confirms that I’m reaching the edge of the edge every time as an individual who used to be on this forum told me. ? ( I unfriended him too )

Long story short, I’ve come to understand that the metal loss is quite insignificant. This new process ( new for me) has actually made me a better sharpener because it’s teaching me to create tiny, still detectable, almost micro burrs. So I form the Primary Burr on the coarse stone because I always start on a coarse stone. Then I start the removal process my decreasing pressure very substantially. Then, on the 1k stone I start with a new mindset, form the micro burr first then continue.

As I said, this is a mindset change because in fact I was forming burrs all the time but I wasn’t feeling for one. I guess it’s inevitable, even a reduced level of pressure on a 1k stones results in a tiny burr. I do the same on my finishing stones now. It has been a very minor adjustment for me but it’s exciting. Now I know my 8k or new 9k finish is actually an 8k or 9k edge.

The thing I’ve noted though is that either way works, the last 25,000 knives were still sharp and the difference now is not substantial but in some weird way it’s comforting to do this.

I’m just sharing info here, not suggesting anything new and in fact, the more folks I’ve talked to about it prove to me that this is just new to me. This new way of thinking.

Peter the Student of Sharpening

Cutuu
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Re: Burr On Burr Off & Burr On again

Post by Cutuu » Mon Jun 10, 2019 9:12 am

That was very burring.

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Altadan
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Re: Burr On Burr Off & Burr On again

Post by Altadan » Mon Jun 10, 2019 10:17 am

So,
if your method involves four levels of pressure, and you start on a coarse stone and go through all four of them until the burr is removed while still on the coarse, what then?
Where do you start when you move to your next stone, and the one after that? Do you go back up to the heaviest pressure (was it P4?) and work your way down again?

I didn't find this too burring, but rather interesting :)

gladius
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Re: Burr On Burr Off & Burr On again

Post by gladius » Mon Jun 10, 2019 10:56 am

So what has really changed?

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Re: Burr On Burr Off & Burr On again

Post by Peter Nowlan » Mon Jun 10, 2019 11:53 am

Gladius, the change is in my thought process, I thought that anyone who did this was doing things incorrectly, I was wrong. The physical change is me actually checking to make sure I am forming burrs on the stones that follow the Primary Burr Stone. (PBS)

Altadan, yes still 4 levels of pressure.
P4 Pressure is whatever level of pressure is required to form that first burr, it obviously takes the longest. Once I’ve done that I reduce the pressure and go through the 3 additional levels of light to feather light pressure to commence the burr removal stage. This is the only time I use 4 levels of pressure, on that first stone.

Now I conduct the light test to see if I can see any hint of light at all by inspecting the Apex very carefully. It can be hard to spot and is usually only present in knives other than carbon. It’s just a simple check that I do in my efforts to clean the edge. Once I see no light I move on to the next stone.

Now I use 3 levels of pressure. The first level is enough to form that tiny burr and it isn’t much at all. This hasn’t really changed, I’m not using more pressure than I use to because it all happens quickly.

I repeat this with every stone and finish the process by stropping mostly on bare leather.

To clarify, the adjusting made is making sure I’m forming small burrs in every stone, feeling for them. I never used to feel for a burr after the coarse stone because in my mind I was thinking there wasn’t one when in fact there very likely always has been.

Just thinking out loud here, I’ve never been afraid to tell folks about my sharpening mistakes.

The bottom line is the knives are pretty sharp, I’m going be good at this sooner or later 😊

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Re: Burr On Burr Off & Burr On again

Post by mauichef » Mon Jun 10, 2019 12:18 pm

That is really interesting Peter.
I have been using your method since I discovered it and it resolved all of the sharpening issues I used to have.
My abilities and confidence almost immediately grew to a point that I was no longer intimidated by the process and more importantly, had a reference for how long on the stones I should keep a knife and the pressure....that was the key!

Strangely enough I always felt for a burr on the stones...all of them.
I did not realize that you were not doing that!
I was not sharpening to form one...just monitoring the formation.

I was quite amazed sometimes at how quickly one formed on even a 3k stone.

I'm so happy that this is the way it should be :D

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Re: Burr On Burr Off & Burr On again

Post by Peter Nowlan » Mon Jun 10, 2019 1:22 pm

Well there you go, you’re always one step ahead of me 👍

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Re: Burr On Burr Off & Burr On again

Post by Cigarguy » Mon Jun 10, 2019 1:34 pm

There are many roads to Rome.

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Re: Burr On Burr Off & Burr On again

Post by mauichef » Mon Jun 10, 2019 1:49 pm

Peter Nowlan wrote:
Mon Jun 10, 2019 1:22 pm
Well there you go, you’re always one step ahead of me 👍
Not at all mate. I thought this is what you were teaching so I just followed. No credit deserved here.

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Re: Burr On Burr Off & Burr On again

Post by Cutuu » Mon Jun 10, 2019 2:49 pm

Altadan wrote:
Mon Jun 10, 2019 10:17 am
So,
if your method involves four levels of pressure, and you start on a coarse stone and go through all four of them until the burr is removed while still on the coarse, what then?
Where do you start when you move to your next stone, and the one after that? Do you go back up to the heaviest pressure (was it P4?) and work your way down again?

I didn't find this too burring, but rather interesting :)
I was just being silly. I found it quite interesting, thanks Peter.

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Re: Burr On Burr Off & Burr On again

Post by gladius » Mon Jun 10, 2019 3:00 pm

Peter Nowlan wrote:
Mon Jun 10, 2019 11:53 am
The physical change is me actually checking to make sure I am forming burrs on the stones that follow the Primary Burr Stone. (PBS) ... Now I conduct the light test to see if I can see any hint of light at all by inspecting the Apex very carefully. It can be hard to spot and is usually only present in knives other than carbon. It’s just a simple check that I do in my efforts to clean the edge. Once I see no light I move on to the next stone. ... To clarify, the adjusting made is making sure I’m forming small burrs in every stone, feeling for them. I never used to feel for a burr after the coarse stone because in my mind I was thinking there wasn’t one when in fact there very likely always has been.
---
Interesting Peter. I do not create burrs intentionally but sneak up on the edge (apex). I do feel the edge (three finger test) often though for uniform sharpness. Also some stones produce very little if any burr such as Awasedo Tennen Toishi (Japanese Natural Stones). I have never formed a burr on Belgian Coticules - not sure I even could.

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Re: Burr On Burr Off & Burr On again

Post by Thin Man » Mon Jun 10, 2019 3:18 pm

Thanks for the sharpening update, Peter. Your technique has been invaluable to me.

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Re: Burr On Burr Off & Burr On again

Post by Bensbites » Mon Jun 10, 2019 6:26 pm

Thank you for posting this. I have definitely found it easier to form a burr and remove it on higher grit stones than most people have advised... for example, a burr on a sp2k, then burr on an aizu, and this way I knew I had an aizu edge there. I feel less badly now.

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Re: Burr On Burr Off & Burr On again

Post by Radar53 » Mon Jun 10, 2019 7:40 pm

Hi Peter, I read this with a lot interest on your blog.

I have always considered that sharpening, where you try and grind one plane on a blade to intersect with another plane, is a mechanical process that (i) removes metal and (ii) forms a burr. Here my thinking is that even when you get to finer grits, a burr is still formed, but it becomes progressively smaller & smaller and hence more difficult to feel.

So I sharpen following the processes you have so eloquently outlined many times, but I have always assumed that if I get to the edge-of-the-edge, I will form a burr. I generally can't detect this over about 5k, but assume that it's still there.

I know there are a few sharpeners on this forum who can feel the point just before they start to form a burr ~ unfortunately I am not one of them.

That being the case I use this process. I get and form a burr on the first stone, and using your P4 to P1 pressures aim to get the edge really sharp and take the burr off. Moving onto finer stones just simply refines the edge that's already established and here I would be using mainly just your P1 pressure and occasionally P2 if required.

I find that getting the finer burrs fully removed can be a bit difficult at times as it seems to only move from side to side. So I generally do the final tidy-up / removal by stropping on newsprint and follow that up with stropping on a series of bare leather strops.

I'm really interested to hear what other people do.
Cheers Grant

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Re: Burr On Burr Off & Burr On again

Post by Jeff B » Mon Jun 10, 2019 9:48 pm

My logic has always told me that once you form a burr and have an apex, that when you remove more steel with each stone that it has to form a burr. How can you form an apex and then remove more steel without forming a burr? It is just smaller with each stone because you're removing less steel each time. That's been my thinking anyway if any of that even makes sense.

As an early sharpener I was told by some of the elders on here at that time that you can form a burr on a strop if you're not careful.
Last edited by Jeff B on Tue Jun 11, 2019 1:09 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Burr On Burr Off & Burr On again

Post by lsboogy » Mon Jun 10, 2019 10:04 pm

I've tried the no burr method you preached for so long Peter, and I just assumed I was not good enough to do it properly. But your techniques have helped me immensely. I might even sit down and sharpen a knife tonight as a zen before bed. Have an 8K stone in the soaker right now

I go until I can get a burr on every stone, and I can feel even a small burr on an 8K stone using a fingertip and light pressure. As I get older, I have also found a 10x loupe to help.

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Re: Burr On Burr Off & Burr On again

Post by Peter Nowlan » Tue Jun 11, 2019 6:35 am

Jeff you’re absolutely right, it was that logic I was missing. I’d been told not to form subsequent burrs by some so I thought that’s what I was doing. If I didn’t feel for them they weren’t there right 😊
Nothing much has changed for me other than the realization that the metal loss, which was always there anyway is a drop in the ocean and nothing to worry about anymore.

I hope I haven’t confused anyone here, I, just talking about my own personal sharpening experiences.

As for the ability to detect burrs, when I teach sharpening, the students always have a hard time feeling their first burr, it just comes with time.

I feel better about my sharpening process now, this is an area that haunted me for years because I knew other sharpeners have been forming burrs on each stone purposely all the time. I was as well but had fooled myself into thinking I wasn’t, therefore I was saving steel while all those fools were wasting it.

I love being wrong sometimes.

Thanks for all the replies.

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Re: Burr On Burr Off & Burr On again

Post by Altadan » Tue Jun 11, 2019 9:28 am

Cutuu wrote:
Mon Jun 10, 2019 2:49 pm
Altadan wrote:
Mon Jun 10, 2019 10:17 am
So,
if your method involves four levels of pressure, and you start on a coarse stone and go through all four of them until the burr is removed while still on the coarse, what then?
Where do you start when you move to your next stone, and the one after that? Do you go back up to the heaviest pressure (was it P4?) and work your way down again?

I didn't find this too burring, but rather interesting :)
I was just being silly. I found it quite interesting, thanks Peter.
I had no doubt in my mind, Ramon :P

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