Archive for June, 2012

2012 Operation O.B.O.E and Bocal Majority Summer Camps – Austin, Texas

June 30, 2012

The second leg of my trip took me to Austin, Texas where the beautiful Chicago summer lake weather turned to hot and sunny Texas summer weather. I was scheduled to give some reed knife sharpening seminars to the budding oboe and bassoonists of the Bocal Majority and Operation O.B.O.E. Summer Camps, which are run by Bassoonist Jennifer Auerbach and her amazing admin team and student helpers/workers.

Jesse Woolery, who is the assistant director of the camp, and a band director at Denton High School in Denton Texas, met me at the airport and we immediately became the best of friends! This trip really needed to stop getting better already!

We headed over to the camp at Pflugerville high school, where I met up with Jennifer and the gang, and barged in on Martin Schuring’s reed making class to say hello. More on him later…

In the meantime, I received a phone call from Extended Stay America – the hotel where I was scheduled to stay – saying that they had overbooked the hotel, and they moved me to another hotel and were going to comp me 1 night! YEAH, BABY! And if things just couldn’t go any better, I even got a very nicely discounted rate for the second night!! Thank you for the great customer service, Extended Stay America!

The camp ended for the day, and we all headed out to eat at Kerby Lane. Their guacamole dip with melted cheese was just satanicly decadent. I ended up ordering the grilled chicken sandwich with a mashed potato side. As many of you may know, Martin Schuring is the current president of the IDRS, and with the 2012 conference in Oxford, Ohio only a week away, we ended up having a really nice, in-depth discussion some of the current IDRS issues. It is safe to say we all left fully satisfied after the great meal and a great conversation!

Tuesday was my seminar day. We got there a little early, and the door wasn’t open yet, so we ended up playing catch for a few minutes. 🙂

Oboists and Bassoonists Playing Catch

Since there are different age and level groups at these oboe and bassoon camps, we started with the beginner reed makers who were mostly middle school age and were making their first reeds ever this week. This was a new challenge for me, too, since my seminars usually cater to more experienced double reeders and reed makers. So instead of the usual knife sharpening demo, the seminar revolved around the introduction to the reed knife and its role in the whole reed making and adjusting process. We also passed around a few different knives of varying levels of “sharp”, and began to calibrate the students to the differences in feedback and results between a sharper knife and a duller knife. This worked out really well, and it was a great reminder that I can always learn something from my own seminars.

Just after lunch, Jesse conducted the more advanced ensemble, and I sat in for a bit. It was a little weird, actually. There are usually only 1-2 oboes and/or bassoons in an ensemble, but to see and hear 1st, 2nd and 3rd oboe and bassoon parts with multiple players on each part was a new experience for me – especially when one of the students is Martin Schuring!

Ensemble Rehearsal

 

The afternoon seminar was for the high school level students, who had more reed making skills overall, and knew about the importance/requirement of a reed knife. So this was familiar waters for me. We grouped the bassoon and oboe students together, and enjoyed a lengthy, in depth reed knife sharpening demo. After the initial demo had concluded, students had the choice to break off into their reed making groups, or stick around for more sharpening. Those who stuck around got their knives sharpened and questions answered. A nice treat was one bassoonist’s reed knife that was a beautiful single bevel knife made in Japan. It was very well made from laminated steel, and it was an absolute dream to sharpen. Even though my technique for sharpening that knife was not the usual method prescribed in my reed knife sharpening book, I was more than happy to get a little geeky on the student and produce a more aesthetic (yet every bit as sharp)  finish that was more the style of a Japanese sword polisher off my Shapton Pro stones.

As I was sharpening, it was really great to see Martin interact with the students. This man receives the utmost levels of respect in the double reed world, and I can totally see why. He was having a great time with the kids, patiently and informatively answering every question thrown at him, and making fun little jokes while enthusiastically encouraging them through the trials and errors of beginner reed making. All the students were relaxed and felt completely at home. I easily could see why there were about 50 participants in this week’s camp alone!

One interesting moment came when one Martin mentioned a reed knife at the table needing a little TLC. I naturally said that we can just happen to do that today… This knife was an older Herder, but the stabilizer on the shoulder was much lower than the rest of the blade. I didn’t want to ruin my stones too much over this (we’re actually talking a lot of time to fix this issue on just the stones) so I took Ashley, one of the assistants in the camp (who showed great interest and improvement in her own sharpening since I had met her a couple years ago at Michigan University) and gave her the “graduate” level sharpening class, which took place under the hot Texas sun on the curb just outside the music room. Yes, I literally took the knife and got medieval on it – scraping away the height of the shoulder to bring it up to level with the rest of the blade. Ashley even gave it a try. With the knife somewhat evened out (more of a band aid, really), I proceeded to sharpen it up, much to the satisfaction of everyone.

After the day died down and I cleaned up, we went to Tino’s Greek Café, where the food was plentiful and oh so tasty! I had a Gyro platter with beef, rice and vegetables along with a nice lemon chicken soup. The conversation centered on bassoon, which is an interesting change from all the oboe talk I’m more accustomed to.

I said goodbye to Jennifer, and thanked her for such a wonderful experience. I told her just how impressed I was with everything they were doing, and that I would love to come back again next year. On my way back to the hotel, Jesse and I had some more great conversation, and after a sound sleep, headed out to the airport, where I started getting ready for our sharpening party in New Jersey.

2012 Oboe Summer Session at Northwestern University

June 28, 2012

It was only about a week since the whirlwind Blade show in Atlanta, and I was already on the road again – this time for a couple of Reed Knife Sharpening Seminars. The first one was at Northwestern University’s Summer Session for Oboe, hosted by Robert Morgan (who is also the purveyor of Chicago Reed Company, and inventor of the W.R.I.S.T.). The second, which is written up in another post, was at one of the Bocal Majority and Operation O.B.O.E. Camps in Austin, Texas, hosted by Jennifer Auerbach.

Once again, the travel Gods were on my side – although I think they were cutting it close! A typhoon had just passed through Taiwan and Hong Kong hours before I was scheduled to leave. The plane was a little late getting into Hong Kong, and I literally had to run across from one wing of the airport to the other, and my fate rested in whether or not my suitcase would make it to the plane in time. Luckily it made it with only minutes to spare!

I arrived to lovely summer weather in Chicago and headed to the Evanston campus of Northwestern University, which is a beautiful campus on the lake loaded with a wonderful variety of architecture. I made my way to the Music Admin Building and quickly found the exhibit room, where I bumped into a few familiar faces, including Shawna Lake of Oboe Chicago,  Heidi Brann of HB Reeds, and  Carlos Coelho of Carlos Oboe . In fact, we were the only exhibitors, as this was a more intimate setting with about 20 attendees for the 3 day camp.

After lunch, while Carlos gave a class on basic oboe care and maintenance, I was able to catch up with Heidi and Shawna, who I haven’t seen since last year’s IDRS conference. We had a stimulating discussion that covered a lot of the “business talk” that we don’t normally get to do at the conferences, with each of us throwing out ideas for the others. Of course, we talked while I sharpened up Heidi’s Jende Reed Knife. 😀

When it came time to sharpen Shawna’s Jende Reed Knife, I had my work cut out for me… Somehow the bevel had grown into a 50+ degree angle on the back side. The good news was the front face of the knife was very much intact. It took a little effort, but I finally got that bevel back under control, and sharpened up to a brand new 15K edge.

After the exhibits shut down for the day, Robert took me back to his lovely 1920’s two-family style home where he and his wife treated me to BBQ Seattle Salmon, BBQ vegetables, fried sweet potatoes, and some nice white wine. It was delectable! But before we could relax too much, we headed back to the university to attend John Henes’s first of two Alexander Technique classes.

John worked with the students one by one, having them play as he made them aware of what their bodies were doing while they played. With a few simple changes in body stature or distribution of their weight, the sound quality and volume of each student noticeably improved. It was every bit as informative to simply watch and listen to John work his magic with the Alexander Technique as it would be to participate, and it is really a must-do for people from all walks of life.

Saturday started off with a meticulously fresh brewed cup of coffee (great food is the standard in the Morgan home!) as Robert and I discussed some ideas for reed knives over a breakfast of eggs, muffins and fresh fruit with Greek yogurt. Afterward, Robert’s wonderful wife Sandy – an accomplished flutist and amazing cook – took me downtown to the farmer’s market. There was also an arts and crafts festival taking place that was taking up several blocks of downtown Evanston. It was still a little early, but as we walked through the street toward the market, we stumbled upon the very knowledgeable Ms. Rachel, who was setting up a stand called Poetic Earth, which specializes in amazing leather bags and leather bound journals that must be seen (and smelled!) to be believed. They tan their own hides using environmentally-friendly methods and engrave and emboss them by hand – some with amazingly intricate designs.  They also make their own journal paper from cotton. I bought a small leather bound pocket journal, and I already feel more important!

Rachel from Poetic Earth

We got to the farmer’s market, and the first thing I saw was Joseph Schmidt of To The Point Onsite Sharpening Service busy sharpening one of the plenty of knives he needed to sharpen. I slowly circled while I observed him in action, and then struck up a friendly conversation with him. It was clear he knew what he was doing, starting with his water cooled Tormek and finishing with his paper wheel setup. While I’m not a huge fan of the paper wheels myself (but that’s another issue, entirely), there was no question that Joseph was getting excellent results and was well trained on the system. His overall technique of sharpening left me feeling all warm inside that the Evanston farmer’s market was truly in good hands!

Joseph Schmidt of To The Point Sharpening

After a few minutes of me invading Joseph’s personal space to check out his equipment, I caught back up with Sandy as she continued making her rounds, buying all kinds of amazingly fresh vegetables and fruits – much of which would show up in that night’s dinner – and we headed over to the university (that was why I was there, don’t forget!).

As I arrived at the exhibit area and started preparing for my reed knife sharpening seminar, Shawna’s table was abuzz with people trying out her extensive, yet personalized selection of oboes and English horns. She really took the time and focused all her attention on each person who was playing, and had a genuine interest in finding that perfect instrumental match for her customers. Heidi was hard at work making her reeds – which are catching on with oboists like wildfire – with a huge smile, thanks to a freshly sharpened knife. I remember meeting Heidi a couple of years ago at her first IDRS convention as an exhibitor, and she has really grown her business since then. People like Shawna and Heidi really make our little double reed society such a wonderful place!

Just after lunch, double reed repairman extraordinaire Paul Kober arrived. Paul has been a repairman for over 20 years, and has apprenticed at both Howarth of London (in Worthing) and with Fox. Oboe Chicago uses his services exclusively – that’s how good he is! He set up and quickly started tackling some oboes.

FINALLY, it was time for my seminar! We decided to move it into the exhibit area, where everyone crammed into the room. People know I usually take one or two reed knives from the group to demonstrate my sharpening methods, so they were all waiting with eager eyes and reed knives in hand.

Reed Knife Sharpening Seminar

I gave my seminar, complete with a hollow ground and a single bevel knife demonstration, a power point slide show, and even live microscope pictures. Much to my surprise, no one seemed to glaze over, and I only cracked one bad joke about bacon – although there were a few references to Shawna’s reed knife in there, too…

Afterward, Robert, Shawna and I went back home for dinner, which was BBQ white sea bass with some kind of amazing sauce Sandy conjured up, sautéed mushrooms, string beans, and scallions, as well as a fresh tomato, cucumber, basil and  mozzarella salad. Rosé and red wines were flowing, as was the wonderful dinner conversation that strengthened our tight bonds even more.

Once again, before we could get too comfortable, we needed to head out to catch the second of John Henes’s Alexander Technique class, which was a continuation of the previous evening’s class, thus giving John the chance to work with all the attendees. He’s truly a knowledgeable and gifted man and it was really a learning experience for all of us.

Sunday morning started off with another perfectly crafted cup of coffee, and Sandy whipped up a mouthwatering spinach and mushroom frittata, topped with some parmesan cheese. We also had a mixed bowl of the fresh blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, peaches and cantaloupe from the farmer’s market. I was truly being spoiled!

After saying my goodbyes to Sandy, Robert and I headed out to the university where he was scheduled to give his reed making class. I still had some sharpening to do, so I headed to the exhibit area to get some work done.

The rest of the day was pretty quiet. Heidi, Shawna, Paul and I were able to talk shop, and we naturally conspired how to take over the double reed world 😀

As if this leg of the trip couldn’t get any better, I went to meet and stay with Chuck, a friend from the Keeping Sharp Forum. Chuck is also quite the foodie, and the knifie, and even straight razorie guy!

We got to his beautiful home in the Chicago suburbs, and walked into the very homely aroma of beef stew that was simmering on the stove. We quickly got down to business – vodka tonics and we started to prepare the vegetables for the evening’s meal. Chuck and I split up the veggies, and chose from several very well sharpened knives. When Chuck says he’s got a zoo at his house, he isn’t lying – there were children appearing and disappearing everywhere.

Chuck made the guacamole dip and started the BBQ, which would cook up 3 flank steaks that were doused in marinade. Next up were the margaritas, which made me feel like I was back in Mexico! Dinner ended up being steak fajitas with sautéed onions and peppers, guacamole, sour cream, and some cheese. I did indulge, and probably had a fajita or two too many…

After dinner, we headed down to the man-cave to do some serious sharpening. I brought Chuck back his Robeson razors, one of which needed to be honed up again, so we hooked up the microscope and started honing away on his Chosera Edge Pro stones. We simultaneously played with a couple of kitchen knives on the Kalamazoo, too! Midway through the fun, Jake, Chuck’s son (aka, the Marine), showed up with a friend and showed off a couple of guns from Chuck’s collection.  As most of us on the forum know, Jake recently safely returned from an 8month tour at a FOB in Afghanistan. It was a pleasure to finally meet him, shake his hand, and to thank him face to face. (There is no intended political comment here, just an honest appreciation for someone who risked his life for his country)

L-R: Jake, Friend, and Chuck

After Chuck successfully honed up his Robeson (it was now 1am!) he headed off to bed, while Jake showed me some pictures of his experience in Afghanistan. We ended up talking up a storm about all kinds of good things until 3:30am.

7am arrived pretty fast… I woke up to the smell of some freshly brewed coffee, and Chuck made an amazing frittata (what is it with the frittatas?) with peppers, onions and some cottage cheese, and a side of spicy sausage. I was beginning to wonder if I was on a knife sharpening tour or a gastronomical tour!

All too quickly, it was time to start heading out to the airport. Chuck and I had a wonderful knife-free conversation, discussing such “ordinary” things as education and parenting, showing how our hobbies can make friends out of us all.

Next up is the Operation O.B.O.E.  and the Bocal Majority’s Sharpening seminar.

😀

2012 BLADE Show

June 12, 2012

The Blade Show 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia started off great! For some reason, the travel gods were favorable. On my 14 hour flight from Hong Kong, the middle seat in a row of 3 was empty and I received a free upgrade on my rental car!

I flew in on Thursday and first met up with Ken Schwartz and some of his family, and while enjoying the finer aspects of the Kao-Liang Liquor I brought and some Green Label Johnny Walker Scotch, we had one of the most intellectually stimulating conversations that ranged from knives to liquor, to salt, to bread, to music, to physics and ended with quantum mechanics.

I had a feeling that this was going to be a great blade show!!!

On Friday morning, Ken and I headed over to the Blade show and met up with Mark Reich (aka YTriech) for breakfast and it was just like old times! We saw some of Mark’s knives he had been working on, and we were blown away by the level of diversity in the blade styles as well as the handle materials and shapes. Mark said he wanted to explore and develop his own style more, but judging by the work I saw, he’s definitely developed some mad skills and the true characteristic of his knives has already begun to emerge.

After breakfast, we headed over to the show, where we met up with Clay and Kay from Wicked Edge as well as Ron, Mike and Carla from KME Sharpeners. The convention hall was organized much better this year – it was more open and less compartmentalized than last year’s show. There were LOTS of tables and vendor booths, and the place was a beehive of activity with everyone setting up and getting to see old friends.

I spent the day with Clay and Kay over at the Wicked Edge booth. Clay unveiled some of the improvements to the WEPS, which included paddles with built-in inclinometers. He also brought a more precise arm with a universal bearing joint that had no play and amazingly smooth action that was coupled with a mechanism for fine tuning the angles that literally blew me away.  I really liked the Wicked Edge before, yet somehow Clay made me like it even more! I can’t wait to get these modifications for my WEPS!

As promised, I brought my Shapton and Chosera Wicked Edge stones, and set up. When the doors to the show opened to the public, it was a mad house. The Wicked Edge booth swarmed with people trying to get in, and of course, the knife sharpening began. It was great to see Clay sharpening from the corner of my eye – he really is a talented sharpener, and everyone commented on how much they loved their Wicked Edge.

One knife after the other was handed up to us for sharpening I kept hearing CPM145, S30V, and S90V. While Clay focused on the using WEPS stock Diamond and Ceramic stones, I treated people to the awesome refining power of the WEPS Chosera 800 and 2K (due to the sheer number of people in the booth, I just did not have the time to take knives up to the 10K level.)

One knife in particular that I had fun with was a beautiful knife made by Nicholas Sass. While a lot of the knife makers I talk to generally don’t spend as much time sharpening their knives as they do making them, It was refreshing to hear just how adamant Sass is about his knives being sharp. It took a little effort to reprofile the hardened 440C (I think), but once he saw the resulting 2K Chosera WEPS stone edge, he was all smiles – He even came back with his girlfriend’s knife a little later! 😀

After an afternoon of non-stop sharpening on the WEPS, Clay, Kay, Ken and I hit the hotel bar for a drink – but not before Clay and Kay took a swig of the Kao Liang Liquor I had brought them J . We had a wonderful discussion about the future of the WEPS, and I can tell you that there are a whole lot of great innovations in the works!

On Saturday, I was eager to spend some time at the KME Sharpener booth. At last year’s BLADE show, I was really impressed with the quality of the KME, because they took all the faulty aspects of other guided rod sharpening systems and fixed them. In other words, there is no play AT ALL in the rod when sharpening, making the edge angle super precise. Another great feature is that the knife clamp rotates, which means you don’t need to worry about changing the position of the knife as you progress through the grits, and you don’t need to switch hands or be ambidextrous when you flip the blade over.

To be honest, I was so impressed with the KME last year, that I bugged them for a whole year to add the Chosera stones to their already versatile stone lineup, which includes DMT Diamonds, aluminum and silicone oxide stones and hard, black and translucent Arkansas stones. Ron finally caved in, and the Choseras for the KME finally made their debut!

When I got to the KME booth, Ron already had a few people gathered around him as he patiently demonstrated his sharpener and walked them through the sharpening process step by step on the KME. It was great to see Ron taking such care of his customers, and with his reading glasses nestled halfway down his nose, he had a rather grandfatherly feel to him (even though he’s not that old). While I already knew that Ron was deep down the sharpening rabbit hole, I could easily see in person just how much loves to sharpen, and how much he cares that others sharpen well, too.

Mike, Ron’s brother, was happy with the result of the Choseras, and we started playing around with some ideas of progressions. While he left off at the translucent Arkansas and progressed on the 2K, 5K, and 10K Choseras, I proceeded to sharpen his EDC from the ground up, first using the DMT Extra coarse, and then doing a full, 8 stone progression on the Choseras up to 10K.

As people filled up the booth, a ceramic knife came along for sharpening. Ceramic knives require the use of diamonds since they are very hard and abrade rather slowly. Since The KME uses 1×4” DMT diamond plates, I was eager to take up the challenge.

There were chips in the edge that needed to get removed, and after a few minutes, the chips were brought down, and I progressed through the rest of the DMT diamond plates. The customer was happy, and the KME was successful, as usual!

Ron, Mike and Carla had their crowd under control (I was actually getting in the way!) so I snuck out of the KME booth to spend some time walking around with Ken to see the exhibits. There were lots of knife makers, all showing off great work, and we stopped by a bunch of tables and booths including Stephen Fowler, and Travis Wuertz.

As usual, time flew by, and before we knew it, it was time to start shutting things down for the day. Ken and I packed up and said our goodbyes to Kay and Clay before heading out to dinner with Ron, Mike and Carla. Mark, and Ron’s old friend Kelly (who was at the booth with them all day) came out to have dinner with us at the Longhorn Steakhouse, and we had the best of times over a great meal. Mike was more than impressed with the 10K Chosera edge I put on his EDC earlier. After dinner we parted ways, but not before they agreed to come out to my next sharpening party (which is the 30th of June).

After Dinner, Mark, Ken and I went back to the hotel and spent the next few hours contemplating how to take over the knife world, and I gave Mark a few straight razor blades that needed new scales. He (we) got really excited about some of the materials for the scales that he was going to try. We ended well after midnight, and after a group photo, Ken and I went back home to get what seemed like only a few minutes sleep before heading out to the airport.

It was truly a great BLADE show!