Tuesday, March 31, 2009
A DAY OF TRAINING WITH JIM
A Guest Post By Mike Feagins
Hello fellow sharpeners! Today I had the privilege to go on my personal hajj to a place that nurtured many of us into our burgeoning careers – Wolff Industries in Spartanburg South Carolina. The purpose of my travel was to finally learn the essentials of sharpening clipper blades on my Extreme Kut clipper machine which had sat unused in my garage for well over a year. Though I had once received fine instruction from Bobby Huffman, I neglected to follow up his tutelage with practice and so once again I found myself in the position of young grasshopper seeking wisdom.
As I stood in the Seattle terminal at 5:30am, I prayed for a safe and direct journey to sharpening knowledge and fulfillment. Unfortunately this was not how it was to be written. My resolve was to be tested many times that day, and while I had prepared my mind for the challenge of a 3 hour time zone difference, my body and soul were not prepared for the hardships of missed connecting flights, baggage issues, and grossly overpriced airport alcohol. Through these conditions I struggled mightily to keep my faith, but finally, no less than 16 hours later my resolve was rewarded and I arrived at the $29.99 per night oasis called The Spartanburg Motel 6. The Sheets were thin and the bed springs worn, but I eagerly settled in for 6 hours of rest before pushing off to my final goal.
The morning wakeup call came much too early, but great expectations and a double latte propelled me to my destination. Sitting in the parking lot of Wolff industries, I reminisced on the innumerable white wheels and pink hones I’ve purchased and how those and so many other tools from Wolff continue to be indispensable and highly profitable. With one final yawn and a last chug of coffee, I passed through the front doors and into the lobby where I found the staff exceedingly cheerful for such an early hour. I felt much anticipation for the day of learning while I waited for my guru and good buddy Jim O. to appear and lead me down the path to clipper blade nirvana. It felt great to finally see Jim, and we wasted no time getting started.
The training room at Wolff Industries is clean and well lit and the machines are familiar. I was especially pleased to see the exact Extreme Kut machine which I own sitting at the ready. Additionally there were all flavors of TAS units, the Hira-To, and just about every other device that Wolff produces just waiting for someone (like me!) to take for a spin. However those would have to wait until later in the day since my primary objective was clipper blade sharpening. I told Jim that I had watched every video that I could get my hands on prior to coming in and could most likely ace a written test. But when it came to actually sharpening the blades, my hands just would not translate the knowledge in my head into the correct motor skills. We did many blades sets over and over testing them with Oster string, a rubbing block, and fur to track my progress. Gradually through the day I made big improvements in speed, technique, and most importantly quality - ultimately reaching a respectable level of acuity that will certainly improve with practice.
Fellow sharpeners, going to see Jim was a great investment. I have had many teachers in my quest for sharpening perfection, and I give Jim my highest possible rating. Most appreciated was his teaching style which hit just the right notes of critique and latitude. There were times he sat in the background and allowed me to think my way though a problem, and other times that he literally guided my hands. In just 8 hours I feel as if I was transformed from a rube to someone that, with a little more self study, can be the standard bearer for quality sharpening in this locale. I’m proud to call him my friend and was honored to meet his children and exceedingly lovely wife, who luckily for Jim must suffer from poor eyesight and certainly nothing else. I offer my sincere thanks to Jim and Wolff Industries.