Recently I had the opportunity to meet Dave and attend his basic 1 on 1 class that he offers. Overall I feel the experience was excellent and went above and beyond my expectations. Below I'll provide an account of the training, opinion on services provided, and recommendations. However the short of the long is that I highly recommend this class, especially for the new sharpener and Japanese knife enthusiast.
Stone maintenance, demonstration and practice
Asymmetry in Japanese knifes
Sharpening Technique and Theory
Sharpening demonstration and practice
Deburring & Stropping demonstration and practice
So that those reading this understand where I am coming from, my background was and is that of a beginner. I had used a King 1k waterstone at home twice on a Henkel Santoku. Training prior to the class included watching YouTube videos of various channels, mostly those on this forum, especially those of Jon's at JKI, SaltyDog, Murray Carter, Theory, and 3 of Dave @ DR Sharpening from a demo. In addition, I had read Chad's article on edges, various forum posts, and other articles on the internet.
I also live in Columbus Ohio, which is about 8 hours from Dave's location. Therefore my cost and evaluation of value was not only based on the price of the class, but also on my total cost of attending which included gas, lodging, and a shopping trip for my wife.
Class Experience Summary
After traveling on a Friday, I started class with Dave promptly at 10AM Saturday. To the class I brought two knifes, the aforementioned Henkel and a 210mm Yoshihiro Wa-Gyuto that I purchased from JKI based on Jon's recommendation. The Yoshihiro had not been sharpened outside of the factory and the Henkel had been sharpened twice by myself.
Class began with what I will categorize with sharpening theory and technique, then leading into asymmetry. Dave brought out a white board to illustrate the concepts, he was very clear and well spoken. He was able to explain these subjects to me in a way that made sense, while not talking down to me or using too much jargon. As a trainer in my previous and current roles, this is a very important part of training and I was satisfied and impressed with his ability to explain foreign concepts with clarity.
Next we began to speak about stones. I was taught how and why to care for the stones in a particular manner and was provided a demonstration on flattening water stones. I was then able to use my King 1k stone and assorted diamond plates, (mostly the Atoma), to practice. Feedback was provided and I noticed increased proficiency via his feedback and practice. I was satisfied with this feedback and corrections and left this part of the training feeling confident that I could reproduce these results at home.
Lastly we began the sharpening, he provided demonstration on a knife he owned and then I proceeded to sharpen my Yoshihiro, (note, we did not sharpen the Henkel nor did I care to do so). This is where my personnel experience with the class dipped and later rose considerably.
Provided with my background, I attempted to sharpen with the knife perpendicular to the stone. To summarize, I was not very good at this whatsoever. Near this point, we were coming close to the 4 hour window of time allotted for the class. However I had previously been told that it was okay to run over, as he wanted to ensure I had the basics down before leaving. This was a dip for me in experience as I was becoming self-conscious, because I knew I was not doing well. This was not in any way a result of Dave's training or lack thereof, simply put, I was wobbling like a 1 legged drunkard without a cane.
Later to Dave's credit, this is where things really took off for me. Dave continued to provide coaching and was able to assist me with setting a bevel on the knife using the belt sander. While I continued to struggle, Dave encouraged me to try different sharpening techniques. Upon his suggestion to try the way Jon at JKI sharpens, which I can only describe as the traditional Japanese way, (see JKI YouTube videos), I started to do very well. What ended up working for me is a hybrid, where I sharpen in the traditional manner with my right hand and then switch hands to approach the knife to the stones the same way with my left hand. Therefore on each side of the knife I was placing the edge at an angle instead of flipping the knife to sharpen it perpendicular to the stone with my right hand.
After establishing what technique worked for me, which I should emphasize took some time, I started doing very well. I progressed from a Gesshin 400, to my King 1k, and lastly Rika 5k stone, producing even bevels. Although I did have a mistake near the heel, albeit minor, what I accomplished with my sharpening was largely positive. Within this process, I learned how to deburr and strop, using a felt block, felt pad, and leather.
At the close of my sharpening practice, Dave took some extra time to help me refine the edge. I was very happy that he did so, as one of my goals was to leave this class with a very sharp knife. An issue that arose was deburring and the SKD 11 steel was proving, (at least for me), to be difficult to deburr. After Dave deburred the knife on the felt pads, he took it to the belts a final time to help refine and deburr the edge.
All said and done, I had spent the better part of 6 hours with Dave. I greatly appreciate Dave's commitment to ensuring I had a good experience, learned the material, and left with a sharp knife. I would normally not expect someone providing training to allow their class to run over for so long, especially without charging extra. If he had told me after a half hour of running over that we were done, I would have been disappointed, but understood; time is money and those two hours could have been spent on other projects or with his family, (this training was on the Saturday before Easter). So I cannot emphasis enough how happy I was that no time constraints were placed on me as the customer. In fact, it was I who was watching the clock since my wife was patiently waiting for me in the car to finish.
As part of my experience I decided to make a purchase for the stropping kit. I should say that during the training, in no way was Dave trying to sell me anything. However I had planned on making a purchase onsite to expand my sharpening tools, (of which consisted of 1 stone and stone base & holder). This purchase was a great way to end the training and expand my toys, err, tools for sharpening.
Overall I highly recommend this class for the new or novice sharpener. Dave is a great guy, very easy to talk too and is a wealth of knowledge. Considering the overall price, I feel this was good value for the money. I believe someone with a bit more proficiency than I had would benefit even more. I fully intend on taking another class with him after I have practiced sharpening.
Who this class isn't for is someone who's probably at an advanced level. Those individuals I believe would have a good time, but this instruction was for someone new to sharpening.
What I felt I got out of his class was the ability to sharpen any knife and in doing so, ensure that as I make future purchases, (I'm looking at you Dave for a Nakiri!), that I'll be able to take care of them properly. That's not to say I could properly sharpen a knife as well as an advanced sharpener, however I have the foundation now to become an advanced sharpener through continued practice. As I get better, my knife inventory will as well and I don't have to worry about ruining expensive knifes with improper technique.
If you've gotten this far and you're someone who's in a similar boat as I was, I recommend that you spend the money to learn how to properly sharpen and take care of your knifes and stones. It was a worthwhile investment and a fun adventure.