Tradecraft takes Scout readers into the workshops, kitchens, and toolkits of Vancouver’s most talented crafts-people. From trusty pencils and custom-built machines to good luck charms and bespoke chef’s knives, this new column aims to get to the bottom of every creative attachment. No laptops or cellphones allowed!
Today we hear from chef Douglas Chang, who is opening the specialty knife store Ai & Om at 129 East Pender St. in Chinatown. We eagerly anticipate its imminent opening, if only because we haven’t seen inside since we toured the raw space a few months ago, and we’re really excited to see what Bestie and Torafuku designers Scott & Scott have done to it.
Even when Douglas was cooking on the line and leading kitchen brigades (most recently Sai Woo across the street) Douglas kept a side business in hand-sharpening knives for his peers. It’s a craft he takes as seriously as it should be, and we’re fascinated by the devotion he shows to it. In detailing his most important tools, we feel like we’re given a window into his process…
1. | “Pencil — I use it to mark my stones so that when I flatten it it’ll show me if I’m truly flat. Not only do I mark my stones with it, but I also use it to write down different techniques, failures, successes, new ideas and things to try in my notebook.”
2. | “Lapping plate — This is maintenance for my stones. It makes sure that I’m sharpening on a flat surface and that I’m able to keep a consistent angle. This specific one is a diamond plate made out of diamond dust. I really like it because its super versatile. It’s coarse enough to reshape knives or to act as a really abrasive stone. But, because it’s really rugged and guaranteed perfectly flat, I can trust it to not dish, wear down or lose its’ ability to flatten my stones.”
3. | “Stones — They’re the abrasive surface on which I reshape, repair, reset, sharpen and polish knives, razors, shears or any edged instruments. Without the right stones, it’s impossible to get a perfect finish on them. I have synthetic and natural stones in my collection for different purposes. For sharpening knives, synthetics are good enough, but for really nice or special knives, such as honyaki, I use Japanese natural stones to bring out their beauty. Nature is truly the master and the best stones are a gift from her. What makes them stand out is their cutting power, edge retention on the blade and the ability to bring out different qualities in the steel.”