Sharpening Tools

The sharpening of your tools is something that needs to become second nature while one is working with them. If the slightest feeling of dullness occurs, a quick touch up of the edge makes, not only the cutting in hand easier and cleaner. It also prevents a really dull edge building up, which requires a lot of sharpening to put right.

The first subject is what to use to sharpen your edge tools. There are many beautiful and expensive systems on the market. However, I have always used a simple medium grit aluminium oxide oilstone in a box with a wooden block in each end so that I can use the whole face of the stone. I use nothing else for ordinary bench tools. Carving tools need a bit of finer attention and I use a fine oilstone slip as required. I then finish with a soapstone slip to polish the edge. I have also used a piece of slate for this , which also works very well .

I do not bother too much about the burr ( or wire edge) that is formed. If you keep your tools really sharp the amount of burr that is formed is minimal. It is removed by the first contact of the tool edge with the wood. As is the best of the sharp edge, by the way.

Now here is the bit where I tread on some toes and I apologise in advance for that. There are several water stone systems available and they are very efficient at removing metal from the right place and so on. However, water and steel to me spell rust. If you use an oilstone and a fairly clean rag to wipe the tool and your hands clean after use, you get the added advantage of a fine film of oil on your blade to help keep it rust free.

As for diamond systems, for ordinary woodwork shop sharpening, aluminium oxide or any similar abrasive is hard enough, even for High Speed Steel. The added advantage of ordinary stones is that as one requires one’s plane blades to be slightly curved, the stones soon get a little hollow and do this automatically. Flat diamond impregnated sheet stays flat leaving you with the problem of how to achieve a curve on your plane blade. It also requires water as lubrication which takes us back to the rust problem.


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