Archive for June, 2010

IDRS 2010 – Oklahoma University

June 28, 2010

The 2010 International Double Reed Society (IDRS) Festival was held at Oklahoma University in Norman, OK. This was my 5th festival since starting in 2004, and it was a great week of music, fun and friends. It is also a chance for my mom and me to spend some time together since I really only travel to the US for business. She helps out at the table and has become a fixture as part of Jende Industries.

To start off the trip, we missed our flight due to the heavy traffic at Newark airport, long lines, and an even longer security line. I’m guessing arriving late with only 1 hour to spare didn’t help the situation…

We were put on standby for the next flight, but they only called my name, so I declined and we were put on another standby list. We made that flight and went out to Houston, then connected to Wills Rodgers World Airport in Oklahoma. For some reason, my suitcase for the show didn’t make the connection but our clothing suitcase did. Continental’s staff at the luggage carousel were very nice and accommodating, and I was surprised at how quickly they found and rerouted my suitcase. It was left in Houston, so it was put on the next flight later that day and was delivered to the hotel a few hours later. I wasn’t worried, but was relieved.

During the setup we ran into the usual suspects. IDRS is a small world, and many of the vendors have been part of the exhibitions forever, but it’s always nice to see a couple of new faces. The most important face, however, must be that of Norma Hooks, who is the coordinator of the exhibitions. She runs a tight ship, and I have never heard of a problem that she couldn’t fix. IDRS would fall apart without her. Her staff of volunteers were also great and helpful – a special thanks to A.J. (I didn’t get his last name) who was Norma’s right hand man, and the Student Union staff for getting me my lost box (which the postal service misrouted).

Since I am somewhat unique as a “knife guy” in a world of oboes and bassoons, my table is full of knives and sharpening stones, my book, and my demo setup. We asked for additional lighting, and someone from the student union maintenance staff (I didn’t get his name) delivered one, and naturally, the conversation turned toward knives (since he asked). I invited him to sit down and he showed me his little Every Day Carrier (EDC) which was a little 1.5” buck knife. It was dull, of course, and I started to sharpen it on the 1K Shapton Pro stone while we chatted. His eyes lit up when I was finished, and he left satisfied. 20 minutes later, he came back with 5 more guys. 🙂  Not all of them had knives, but I did a couple more, including 2 Spydercos and at least 1 SOG and it was a great way to pass some of the time until we were ready to return to the hotel.

Opening day of the exhibitions brought some immediate customers. I offer reed knife sharpening demos and services and people come and drop off their knives, check out the exhibits, see a few concerts, then come back to pick up their knives. As I sharpen their knives, there is a constant group of interested people sitting on my end of the table watching me sharpen and either listening intently or asking questions. Some people literally make a morning or afternoon out of it. This year’s official “camper” was Clyde Morris (below). He was absolutely delightful to spend time with – and he has very good sharpening technique! We talked knives, but not the usual stuff. We got into the types of steels and their qualities and potentials, the differences between the edges and longevity depending on the grain structure, integrity, and hardness – things that musicians generally don’t talk about without their eyes glazing over. We also talked about a wide variety of musical topics, including concepts of musicianship and values of today’s instrumentalists. It was a total treat.

Sometimes I get lucky and some of the more visible names stop by my table to say hello. Delmar Williams and Harold Emert  (pictured below) are two active forum and IDRS community members who stopped by. I met Delmar a few years ago, and it was great to see him again and chat for a few minutes. With Delmar, six degrees of separation are reduced to about 2. This was the first time I met Harold Emert in person, who has been playing in Brazil for the last couple of decades. I was completely surprised by his very heavy New York Jewish accent (he sounded exactly like my Uncle Sol). When I looked over and saw the name tag I did a double take because his voice sounded nothing like his posts! He ended up buying a knife and we got a good picture. 🙂

Speaking of visible – one of the most easily recognized people at the IDRS has to be Frances Colón, Principal oboist in the Puerto Rico Symphony. She is a beautiful woman (both inside and out) with such flair and pizzazz.  An extremely accomplished player, she has been an “Oboe Angel” to the more impoverished students in Puerto Rico by providing instruments, supplies and lessons for students without the means. She is now up to 19 (I think) students. For the first couple of years, Frances personally funded the entire thing from instruments to reeds to music to accessories. Her efforts have now been recognized by several foundations in Puerto Rico, and have given her some support and funding. I offered to send some of my knives to her for the kids. Her jaw dropped, tears swelled, and hugs and kisses followed.

Two days later, we had an exciting lunch meeting with Hannah Selznick – only she is the “Oboe Fairy”. Hannah is also doing what she calls “missionary” work by supplying low cost and sometimes free (mostly second hand) oboes that are fully serviced and ready to play. She also includes some basic accessories out of her own pocket. While Frances is focused on Puerto Rico, Hanna’s efforts are spanning the globe. We had a great brainstorming session, laying down some  groundwork for networking and working together to possibly form an official non-profit organization in the future that will promote oboe playing (and perhaps even more).

Again, I offered my expertise as a knife guy to supply inexpensive reed knives that are sharpened correctly and easily maintained. Frances immediately called me the “Knife Fairy”, but I don’t think it portrays the right image of me…

Below is a picture of “The 3 Fairies”

As this idea progresses, I will be making individual posts.

One last highlight was sharpening 2 wonderful knives owned by Yoshiyuki Ishikawa, the bassoon professor at the University of Colorado. These were Japanese made, and of very high standards. The first one was a hollow ground single bevel. The hollow ground side was easy, but the bevel had rounded over. This was some hard steel – about RC 63-64. I eventually took it down to the #320 Shapton Pro. When I got the bevel straightened, I noticed some chips in the edge. Ugh… It took a while, but I eventually got them out. I went from the #320 to the 1K, then the 2K, and finished with the 5K. This thing was sharp. I also used alternating scratches at each level to really make it like polishing a samurai sword. The second knife was a flat almost Scandinavian grind. This was softer steel, about RC 58, but much thicker. The original grinding on the bevels was flat, and was therefore very easy to sharpen up. I used the #320 and alternated the scratches on a 1K, which really brought out the grain of the steel and the temper line. I touched the edge up at a slightly higher angle on the 5K. It made Yoshiyuki smile. Sadly, as it was near closing time, I did not get a picture of the knives.

That was pretty much it. We went out to an excellent Thai-Fusion restaurant with Dimiter Jordanov of Le Roseau Chantant at a place called ChaTime, right down the road from the hotel. If you are ever in the OU or Norman, OK area, it is a great place to eat. I had the Thai Green curry one night, and as a tradition after a successful show I had an incredible rib-eye steak the last night. Also, a special thanks to the staff and drivers at the Norman Best Western, who carted us around and picked us up all week. I can’t wait until next year!

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East Meets West Get Together 6/2010

June 25, 2010

Ken Schwartz of Precision Sharpening flew in to New Jersey from California on Friday night. Although I have had countless hours of Skype calls, we had never met face to face until now.

We got home and jumped right in – Ken started unloading his equipment – some 15x loops, an inspection microscope with several eye pieces, and a thing that measures angles (inclinometer?). I had my 100x microscope. We didn’t do any sharpening since it was late, so we just talked theories and philosophies before heading off to bed.

Saturday started at around 7am for me. I started honing a razor on my Shapton Pros since we had discussed some of the issues I was having with my razor honing. My main concern was that I was not getting the edge of the edge with the glass stones. The harder matrix of the Pros seemed to enable me to get the edge of the edge better than the glass stones, which wear faster, causing a slight rounding at the edge. Things seemed to work better for me on the Pros in this regard.

When Ken woke up, we started seeing some of the spoils from his recent trip to Japan. He brought an Iminishi 5K and 10K, as well as a Japanese natural stone. He also brought some of his Stone Paper, which is paper smeared with stone swarf harvested during the cutting of the Shapton and Chosera Edge Pro Stones. Most importantly, he brought the most recent addition to the Shapton Edge Pro stone lineup – the 30K Pro!

We fooled around with the full size 30K Shapton Pro and created a few pieces of Stone Paper along with the new Shapton 10K Glass stone. Ken was very interested in trying the Shapton #120 and #320 stones, which have just come out.  The best worst knife we had in the house was a Cutco chef knife. Ken used the #120 and #320 Glass on that before switching over to the 1500 Pro to finish it off. (Below is a picture of use using the stone paper with a Maestro Wu cleaver.)

It was interesting to watch Ken sharpen – I use my elbows, but he uses his torso. As interesting as it was for me to watch, his rocking was making me seasick! For those of you that don’t know Ken, he is very precision oriented. He was very careful  and systematic in each stroke he made. I could tell he had visualized the path of the knife and how and where he was going to angle the knife on the stone to account for the length and curvatures – just like a golfer reads the green before a putt. Because of this, he achieved a very consistent angle from heel to tip. It was clear that Ken did waste one stroke, and progress was made even faster by the low grit Glass stones. It is obvious that his method of movement while sharpening works very well for him.

As the day wore on, we continued with my razors, pushing each stone to the limit. I tried the Japanese Natural stone Ken brought, and it was amazingly smooth and buttery for a rock. Overall, we determined that it was in the 12K-15K range. With the use of a Nagura, I’m sure that 20K+ could be squeezed out of it.

We also tried the Iminishi 5K and 10K stones. The softness of the 5K reminded me very much of the 4K Norton. It created a very nice, true 5K finish, even if slower than my Shaptons (of course!). The 10K was a surprising stone. I was sure it would be like a higher grit 5K, but it was much better. When used without paste or slurry it is a rough 10K – more of an 8K to me, but with slurry or paste, it eventually left a whopping 15-16K finish. I was quite impressed.

Then the fun really started….Keith De’Grau of Hand American stopped in with his wife. It was like Christmas and and birthday rolled into one! We had another guest over at the same time – Mike Blumenthol of Libra Technologies, who is an outstanding Chemist (amongst other things), and Keith, Ken, Mike and myself had one of the most eye-glazing conversations about the sharpening industry you could ever imagine! It was downright amazing and incredibly informative. I’ll spare you all the details….:)

While we were sharpening all day in the kitchen, my 89 year old grandfather was making the his mother’s gravy (tomato sauce) for dinner. I haven’t had this kind of old school Italian meal since my great-grandmother died about 20 years ago. Keith and his wife stayed for dinner, and we discussed a wide range of topics, drank some wine, ate some pasta, and just all around enjoyed ourselves as good friends do.

After dinner, Keith took out his briefcase and the fun continued. He showed us the Idahone glass rod, some of his new .25 micron diamond spray, and a new bench hone he had with interchangeable hones coated with different types of abrasives. I was checking the results of each one under 100x magnification, and I’ve got to tell you, there is nothing better than Hand American products (outside of Shapton stones!) We had a blast, showing off some Maestro Wu knives, using the stone paper, and Keith gets a special shout out for hitting 0.0 on the inclinomoter! We were like girls at a sleepover!

On Sunday, my Uncle, cousin  and brother came by for a quick visit, and we sharpened a couple of knives and a we had a pair of 13″ fabric shears that date back to pre-1914. They were impressed with the sharpness of things (see pictures). The rest of the time was spent taking pictures of the Edge Pro stones. We had to get out for an early morning flight, so Ken and I ended up staying up all night.

It was a great weekend, where friendships were formed and a whole lot of swarf was created. I can’t wait to do it again! 🙂

Here are more pics as a slide show!

Maestro Wu Bombshell Steel Knives Available at Chef Knives To Go!

June 18, 2010

Chef Knives To Go.com, aka CKTG, has just started offering Maestro Wu Bombshell steel cutlery!

The starting lineup includes a 7″ and 8″ bombshell steel chef knife, a 9″ Damascus bombshell steel chef knife, a 7″ Chinese style slicer, and a 10″ and 12″ bombshell Sushi/Yanagiba.  (Link to the Maestro Wu page on the CKTG website).

The story of Maestro Wu and his knives is extraordinary. The tradition of using bombshell steel begins back with Maestro Wu’s Grandfather, who during the early days of WWII started collecting shrapnel from the beaches of the island due to the shortage of good quality steel, and forged them into knives. In August 1958, Communist Mainland China attacked Democratic Taiwan and a 2 week battle ensued in which over 200,000 bombs bombarded the tiny island of Kin-Men. Taiwan successfully held the island, and a cold war which lasted almost 20 years began. During this time, China would bombard the island every other day with non-exploding propaganda shells while the inhabitants of the island safely took refuge in an elaborate system of underground and mountain shelters. Thanks to these events, the legacy of the bombshell steel knives has been secured well into the future, with new shells still being unearthed every day.