Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Conversation with Mr. Jay Leeper, Outdoorsman, Wood Carver, Blade Sharpener, and RV Camper Builder

01 Jay photo

Last Tuesday I had the opportunity to chat with one of those interesting South Carolinians CarolinaConsidered introduces from time to time. Mr. Jay Leeper describes himself here first as an outdoorsman. Then as a wood carver and blade sharpener.

02 Jay at sanderWell. He certainly is all of that. But as you’ll see in a moment, there’s much more to know about Jay Leeper and his many talents. Click here to hear the first part of the our conversation. [Click the arrow on the player below, adjust volume, and wait for a moment; I’m using a different server for these audio files. You also can download them to your computer with the link below the player if you wish.]

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Speaking of wood carving, though, have a look at this! Click on the photo for a larger view. It’s just one of the many creations Jay casually showed me as we stood chatting under the blue tarp in front of his workshop/toolshed. Here he describes how it was made.

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Made with a set of sharpened screwdrivers?! Oh my. When I expressed polite skepticism, Jay rummaged around a while and brought them out. A set of six or seven of those tiny screw drivers jewelers are said to use. Each with its business end ground into a razor-sharp carving blade. Jay doesn’t believe in throwing away anything that might some day be useful!

Of course, Jay also has at least one of every tool imaginable for woodwork. And metal work as well, as we’ll see in a moment.

04 folderAfter looking at a few more wood carving projects, I asked Jay if he would put a proper edge on my beloved BenchMade carry knife. He looked it over, and was kind enough not to laugh at my own sharpening efforts.

05 using a belt sanderListen to his comments here about sharpening blades. It’s as much art as skill, I would say. And note that he works with every sort of blade, from the tiny screwdriver transformations described above to large lawnmower blades. They all offer a challenge that Jay enjoys.

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Jay makes it all look so simple as he applies the steps of his sharpening method. And he does it quickly. Only two or three minutes for the whole process here.

06 diamond sharpenerI’ve spent countless hours trying to sharpen the very knife Jay is treating. Even, I’m embarrassed to admit, using – or misusing – some of the specialized tools he employs.

07 ceramic rodTo no avail. This isn’t as easy as Jay makes it appear! When he was done, my beloved BenchMade had an edge that was “scary-sharp,” as they say. And one that will stay sharp for a while.

Here’s a short video I made of the first portion of Jay’s demonstration of his sharpening techniques. Have a look:

Jay has allowed me to include a phone number here where he can be reached during normal business hours. It’s 803-413-0093. Give him a call if you have something to be sharpened. You’ll also get to meet one of South Carolina’s interesting people. And perhaps even get to watch him work. It’s a treat!

Speaking of treats, after my BenchMade was properly sharpened, Jay took me over to see his “RV.” A travel trailer he built, virtually from the ground up.

Well, he did start with a small utility trailer as the foundation. But the rest is all his. Built from blueprints. Listen as he describes the creation process.

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These plans, and more detailed information about this style of caravan, can be found at: http://www.amvardo.com/caravan/

And, if you’re not quite up to building your own caravan, or RV, then just pick up a copy of Timothy Lemke’s book, “The New Gypsy Caravan.” Click that link for the Amazon.com listing.

As Jay and I sat inside his caravan, he explained more of its features. Have a listen.

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There really is much more room inside than you might expect. That’s a view of the bed and the front windows. Not a square inch of wasted space.

Thanks again, Jay, for your generous contribution of time to CarolinaConsidered, and for rescuing my beloved BenchMade carry knife. I’ll certainly be back when it needs sharpening again. The opportunity to see your custom-built Caravan RV was an unexpected treat.

Stay tuned to CarolinaConsidered for more of South Carolina’s interesting people and places.

1 comment:

  1. Growing up with him was a real treat as well. He is extremely well knowledged in just about anything to do with the outdoors and always has a story ready for a good old fashioned camp fire. It is really nice to see him get the recognition he is so deserving of.