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Sharpen Your Tools


Janel

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My technique for sharpening has been another self-taught skill, which I think I must be doing right some of the time and wrong a lot of the time. There must be some carvers here who have more knowledge than I and could teach the rest of us some good sharpening habits.

 

Janel

 

:D

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I guess I'll add my two cents worth... After four years I've come to see that properly sharpened blade edges make all the difference with carving. A sharp blade cuts the wood fibers rather than tearing them and leaves its own quality of finish that abrasives have a hard time matching. This is the chief reason why I am opposed to rotary cutters- there are some router bit-type pieces which will cut, but most just grind the wood down, leaving a very tired surface. I've notice that even following a cutter with a blade can still give mixed results as I feel that the wood gets bruised 1/16-1/8" beneath its surface. If you have to take more than that thickness off, maybe you should've just used a blade to begin with :)

Also, a very sharp blade will allow you to get away with approaching the wood from a number of angles- against the grain, cross grain, etc. A dull knife will catch in any direction other than with the grain.

 

I recently ordered some man-made water stones as well as honing compound and am now learning what a sharp blade really is.

 

As carvers on a small scale with small tools (often just 1/16 of an inch) we have unique sharpening problems. Honing jigs just won't fit such small tools, leaving us to resort to shaping a bevel by hand. For my small chisels (largely of the Dockyard sort) I've learned to hold the tool in such a way on the stone that my three fingers (middle thru pinkie) glide across the stone's surface and are held in a rigid fashion ensuring the angle on the blade bevel stays the same.

 

I read somewhere once of a trick to stabilize these small tools so that a lateral rolling and rounding of the bevel doesn't happen; Take a 1/4" or 3/8" gouge and a piece of softer wood- cherry, poplar, maple and free up a sliver of wood, say 1/2" in length.- by this I mean the usual gouge waste you normally throw in the compost bin or garbage.

The slhallow 'U' shaped piece is turned over and placed on top of the chisel at the bevel where it meets the stone. Put your index finger on top of this and then hone away on the stone. I guess the idea is that the little sliver of wood will grip and stabilize the chisel while honing.

 

I've also purchased some small (1" x 2") water stones, 4000grit and found that with small gouges, it is easier to take the stone to the gouge than the other, normal, way around. Brace your tool at an angle downward against the edge of your work bench. The bench edge serves as a fulcrum/anvil; I usually have the chisel in contact with the bench about 1" from the bevel edge. The chisel is then kept rigid with the left hand. The right hand holds the stone and can move over the rounded gouge surface. I've found this is an easier way to maintain an even bevel.

 

Finally, for beginners who may be thinking of buying a motor driven sharpening wheel. In my opinion don't ; the tendency is for these devices to round off the corners of chisels. You need a perfectly square corner for exacting work.

 

Tool sharpening is just part of one's craft. I enjoy the challenge of improving my sharpening skills; the results are better carvings. I like the purity of a blade cutting through wood- something that rotary tools with their noise and sawdust can't match. ;)

 

-Doug Sanders

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post-10-1107872576_thumb.jpgpost-10-1107872585_thumb.jpgI remembered another sharpening tip that has helped me out alot. When working with small skew chisels, it will strengthen the blade tip to sharpen in a slight angle on the side of the bevel.

 

The picture here will show what I mean. I have angled the left edge of the chisel bevel inward slightly. This serves to make that point less of an acute angle, thereby strengthening the tip. This is a new chisel I've been using (1/8" skew) made by Michi of Japan. The blade is thinner metal and a little more brittle than comparable Western skews of this dimension. The handle is much longer and lighter than what I've been accustomed to, but it sort of acts as a counter balance when holding. Much like a long paintbrush handle for a very small brush head (for those of you who have dabbled in painting).

I'm told that the blade goes quite far into the handle, so if I ever sharpen down to a stump, I can just whittle away some wood to expose more blade.

 

oh- the leather part I put on for a finger grip. It's a turkshead knot made with leather lacing.

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