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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000826.txt from 1996/04

From: "Edwin V. Lacy" <el2@-----.EDU>
Subj: Re: reed knife sharpeners: ?????
Date: Mon, 29 Apr 1996 12:40:02 -0400

On Mon, 29 Apr 1996, Bill Fogle wrote:

> Anyone have a sharpening stone for the bevelled reed knife they are happy
> with? I'm looking for recommendations before I call Weiner. What's this
> "diamond" sharpener I see here for 30-odd bucks?

As a person who has been making both oboe and bassoon reeds for over 40
years, and who also has to adjust clarinet and saxophone reeds, I have
collected dozens of different kinds of knives and nearly as many
sharpening stones. I actually went so far once as to do a little
research on the sharpening of industrial tools. (I guess I didn't have
much to do that summer!) Much of what I know about sharpening knives for
reed making I learned from Popular Mechanics Magazine!

I think that the most prevalent questionable practice used by reed makers
in sharpening their knives is the use of stones which require oil, water
or some other liquid on the surface. We all remember our grandfathers
sharpening their pocket knives with an "Arkansas oil stone." However,
this is probably not the most advantageous way to sharpen a knife for
reed making or adjusting. People who make a living sharpening industrial
tools almost invariably use dry stones. The justification for using a
liquid is that it will hold in suspension the metal filings removed from
the knife, and that will prevent them from becoming embedded in the stone.
However, the fact that they are held in suspension means that they are still
acting on the edge of the blade as it is drawn back and forth over the stone.
If you were to sharpen two knives, one each on a wet and a dry stone, and
then look at the edges under a microscope, you would see that the edge of
the one sharpened on the dry stone will have pitted areas torn out of the
extreme edge.

For many years I used a stone of the type sold under the brand name
"Carborundum." They work very well at first, but the problem is that
they eventually are worn down by the knife until they have a "cupped out"
shape, and they then give that kind of configuration to the knife.

The diamond sharpeners you referred to have diamond dust epoxyed to a
metal surface. They are perfectly flat (or at least close enough for our
purposes). There are at least three different grades of abrasiveness. I
prefer to use the middle one, which I believe is designated No. 600.

Another medium which works well is ceramic. These also tend to have a
flatter surface than carborundum, and remain so longer. However, this
type of stone is not very abrasive, and works best for final sharpening
after having put an edge on the knife with a diamond or other stone.

This topic, as well as the various methods for sharpening reed knives,
can generate a surprising amout of disagreement among woodwind players.
It is just another of those things we tend to learn something about on
the way to learning something else.

Ed Lacy
Dr. Edwin Lacy University of Evansville
Professor of Music 1800 Lincoln Avenue
Evansville, IN 47722 (812)479-2754

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