East Meets West Get Together 6/2010

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!

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