Basic Sharpening Kits to help you Get Woodworking 2015!

•February 11, 2015 • Leave a Comment

GWW15

 

Hey, it’s that time of year again! Time to Get Woodworking! If you or anyone you know has been wanting, waiting, wishing about woodworking, it’s time to step off the curb and join the parade. This week will see plenty of entries from woodworking bloggers and enthusiasts that will try to make the leap a little easier for you or that hesitant someone.

My contribution will be an excerpt from my book, The Perfect Edge, the Ultimate Guide to Sharpening for WoodworkersAs sharpening is a basic woodworking skill, one you really can’t ignore if you want to do good work, I bring you the section called “Basic Kits” starting on page 95:

BASIC KITS

To sharpen anything, you need, at the very least, something to abrade the thing you want to sharpen. That may sound simple but things get complicated from there. For chisels and plane irons the abrasive needs to be flat. And, you need more than one grit-size. Already more complicated. Here are some thoughts about basic sharpening kits.

First, and I’ve said this more than once elsewhere, technique is more important than tools. If you understand the sharpening process — what is required to create a perfect edge — you can use almost any sharpening system with reasonable results. The following applies mostly to chisels and plane irons — flat blades with straight edges — because they seem to need the most attention in a typical furniture shop. More esoteric tools will need specialized gear mentioned in their respective chapters.

To assemble your sharpening kit I recommend an incremental approach, beginning with the least amount of investment. It’s not that I don’t want you to spend money, but I would hate to have you waste any buying stuff you won’t use. Just like anything, there are many ways to sharpen and what works for one woodworker may annoy another. And, different disciplines need different sharpening gear. For instance, if you have no need to sharpen a saw, you’ll have little need for a saw set in your sharpening kit.

Scary Sharp basics

Scary Sharp basics.

SCARY SHARP
The simplest sharpening kit (often dubbed the Scary Sharp System) is a piece of ¼” thick plate glass (or some other flat tile) and some abrasive honing film (high-grade sandpaper.) I’ve used the basic silicon carbide wet-or-dry sandpaper from the hardware store with good results but it wears out very quickly. The honing films currently available are a superior product for sharpening and are available in a large assortment of grit sizes. I tend to go through the coarsest grits most quickly so I buy more sheets of those when I stock up.  The glass I use is large enough that I can apply two strips of honing film on each  side: 80µ, 15µ, 5µ and 1µ, but you can use two pieces of glass with abrasive on each side if you prefer (they’re a bit easier to store). The self-stick, PSA-backed (Pressure Sensitive Adhesive) option is handy but you can use a spray adhesive such as 3M’s “Super 77”. That’s all you really need for basic freehand honing of chisels, plane irons, etc. Some other things that come in handy (a square, a marker and scribe) you already have in your shop.

Scary Sharp with more accessories added.

Scary Sharp with more accessories added.

If you are unsure of your technique, a honing guide can help. Honing guides are often useful and sometimes required for getting a perfect edge on an angle-critical tool like a plane iron. As your experience increases, you’ll find yourself gathering some accessories to make things easier and more comfortable. A non-slip mat to keep the glass plate from sliding around, good lighting, a magnifier of some kind (some swing-arm lamps have a large lens in them). Sharpening is messy so I use disposable gloves so I don’t have to scrub my fingers.

A sharpening area can help keep the rest of your shop — and your work — clean. It also makes the routine of sharpening simple, so you’ll be less inclined put it off. Also, a clean and ready sharpening area encourages you to put in the time that it takes to become good at sharpening. A dedicated area can be built to the right height for your own ergonomic comfort and efficiency (usually lower than bench height) and can include storage space for all the gizmos and doodads you’ll collect as you slide farther down sharpening’s slippery slope.

STONES
Many woodworkers use honing film exclusively for sharpening. They swear by it, but if you get tired of buying honing film (the downside of honing film, by the  way, is that it gets dull with use and needs to be replaced) you may want to invest in some stones to replace the honing-film system. With stones, you refresh the abrasive surface time and again by flattening it instead of replacing it. Your experience with honing films should give you an idea of what grit-sizes you prefer and you can use that knowledge to shop for stones that approximate those grits.

Stones demand some sort of storage. The type of waterstone that can be soaked full-time needs at the very least a food-storage container, or a fancy, dedicated stone pond that will keep your stone(s) handy and your work area as clean as possible. An apron and a roll of paper towels nearby would not be considered luxuries.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Basics with stones. A grinder as add-on, above, and also a belt grinder.

Basics with stones. A grinder as add-on, above, and also a belt grinder.

From here, you may want to add some electrical power in the form of a bench grinder or one of the dedicated sharpening machines that I’ve discussed elsewhere. Most resharpening jobs do not need power tools but they do come in handy for all sorts of things, including reshaping the damaged or neglected edge. In and of itself, the addition of a power tool may necessitate a dedicated area in the shop for sharpening — such as that long counter under the window or a cart or bench built just for this purpose. If the grinder has a permanent home on a bench or counter, a drawer under or nearby would be a good place to keep the rest of the sharpening gear so it stays clean and out of harm’s way.

Perhaps not basics, but basically very useful options to hand sharpening. Tormek, Work Sharp and Veritas

Perhaps not basics, but basically very useful options to hand sharpening. Tormek, Work Sharp and Veritas

With time and dedication you’ll no doubt find yourself acquiring and adapting all sorts of special purpose doodads for those tools that you, and only you, understand how to sharpen. Your collection will depend entirely on the types of woodworking you do and the tools required for it. A wood carver will have a different sharpening kit compared with a turner’s, etc. All the possibilities let you be creative and open to new ideas. It seems that every woodworking magazine has an article on some nuance of sharpening every few editions. Ask friends or fellow students or club members about their sharpening setups and use all available resources to learn more about your own sharpening needs, then respond accordingly. As I’ve said before, asking others is a great way to get to know another woodworker. Just ask, “How’d you sharpen that?” and you’ll likely make a new friend.

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Fine Woodworking Program’s Winter Show!

•February 2, 2015 • Leave a Comment
CRWinterShow2015

First Year James Mawyer hangs his cabinet-and-shelf at the Pacific Textile Arts, 450 Alger Street. The Mid Winter Show opens tomorrow morning at 10am, and runs through February 8th.

The College of the Redwoods Fine Woodworking Program’s 2015 Winter Show is open! And, as is the case each year, it is absolutely stunning! You have to hurry, though, as it only runs through the 8th. The reception will be this Friday, the 6th, and is always a great party. I will, once again, be at my post behind the bar. (You can’t trust just anyone to open all those beers.)

This year the show has been relocated to Pacific Textile Arts. It’s a bit off the beaten path, up near the program’s classroom: 450 Alger Street, Fort Bragg. I hope to see you there!

Two NEW Knife Kits — See Them First in San Diego!

•January 19, 2015 • Leave a Comment
P1070614

Now you can build a set of 4 classic kitchen knives.

 

We’ve added a beautiful 8″ Chef’s Knife kit and a matching Slicer/Carver kit to compliment our popular 5″ Chef’s and 3.5″ Paring Knife kits.

Linda and I will be at the Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event at Palomar College in San Marcos, California this weekend, January 23 and 24. Along with our usual assortment of the best blades, breakers, plane kits, etc, we’ll be introducing our two new knife kits!

We’ve received rave reviews about our knife kits along with numerous requests for longer blades. So you can now add an 8″ chef’s and an 8″ slicing/carving blade — just waiting for you to add handles — to your kitchen knife block.

The newest blades have only just arrived and the photo above is how far I’ve managed to get toward pics for the website.  But I’ll finish these up and bring them to Palomar College, along with some some kits for you, too. (The website has these new kits listed but without photos — I’ll get to it, uh… tomorrow! Yeah, that’s it.)

We hope to see you there!

-Ron

Another Rave Review for The Perfect Edge

•December 15, 2014 • Leave a Comment

"This is a really great book"

 

If this looks like shameless self promotion, well, it is. Please forgive me for basking in the glow of Norman Reid’s new review of my book, The Perfect Edge, The Ultimate Guide to Sharpening for Woodworkers. Mr. Reid offers a chapter-by-chapter review that’s so nice it makes me want to re-read my own work.

I know you’re busy with the holiday season so I won’t go on and on. We have signed copies available if you need a last-minute gift for that special tool-user in your life. Makes a great stocking-stuffer or Secret Santa surprise, too!

And we’re still offering our Blade Bucks Discount: when you order The Perfect Edge through our website we’ll include a coupon good for $10 off your next order with Hock Tools. How cool is that?!

Happy Holidays!  — From Larry, Mark, Linda and Ron.

Last Minute Invite for those in San Francisco

•December 13, 2014 • Leave a Comment

IMG_5150

 

Our friends, Sarah and Tobyn have been meeting with some real success with knives they’ve crafted from Hock Tools’ kitchen knife blades, and their other wood works. We received this invitation and website announcement from them:

dear friends,

we want to let you know this saturday, december 13th we will be at heath ceramics in the mission peddling our wooden wares.
if you’re in the neighborhood, please stop by and see us :) if not… we’ll miss seeing your face and hope to meet up soon.

either way, check out or website, www.millionandclark.com at this point our website’s shop is selling the kitchen knives we’re doing with hock tools (which are lovely!), but we also have endgrain chopping blocks, breadboards, rosemary infused beeswax paste, and these smart looking geometric boxes that look super sweet with a staghorn fern poking out. we will have all of this with us at remodelista‘s marketplace hosted by heath ceramics this saturday AND we’re currently being sold at bernal cutlery on guerrero/17th and the perish trust on divisidero.

xo,

sarah ad Tobyn

So make some time, enjoy the break in the weather and meet them at Heath Ceramics in the Mission District to see their latest work. Say hi for Linda and me!

 

Glen-Drake’s New Website and Blog

•November 17, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Glen-Drake’s famous Tite-Mark marking gauges

Glen-Drake Toolworks has just gone live with their excellent new website. Owner Kevin Drake is a discerning and demanding tool designer and manufacturer — and a good friend of mine for many years. Kevin always has a well-considered take on just about any topic, especially in the area of tool use, function, ergonomics and overall design. Unlike many tool manufacturers, Kevin takes the time to question tradition, and rather boldly re-imagines a tool: how it’s used, how it’s held, even going so far as to re-design the hammer from the ground up.

Glen-Drake’s Chisel Hammers

With all he has to offer woodworkers about tools and techniques I’m happy to direct you to his new blog, too. His latest entry on sharpening is spot on — he even graciously references my book, The Perfect Edge (thanks, Kevin!) And be sure to check his instructional YouTube videos. Kevin is extremely knowledgeable about working wood and is an excellent teacher. Plus, he promises more instructional videos to come!

Rob Porcaro on Chosera and Nagura

•October 28, 2014 • 1 Comment

Rob’s Diamond Nagura

I have taken advantage of Rob Porcaro’s expertise and generosity a couple of times (here and here) in the past and do so again today with impunity. Rob has three recent posts on his Heartwood blog that may be of interest to you, the sharpening literati.

Rob’s New Fave: Naniwa Chosera 10,000X

The first is about his love affair with his new Naniwa Chosera finishing stone — and who can blame him? The Chosera stones are well respected and somewhat famous for their excellent “feel”.

Nagura Questions

In his next entry he explores the mysteries of the nagura, a small, soft stone used to dress a waterstone and generate a slurry on the surface. As with so many sharpening tools and techniques the use of the nagura can be controversial (see page 73 of your copy of The Perfect Edge). Rob’s questions and answers go a long way to explain the fine points of final honing using a nagura stone.

Rob’s Diamond Nagura

In Rob’s most recent of the three posts he explores the ins and outs of using a 1200x diamond “stone” as a nagura. I think Rob’s on to something here. Maybe it’s time for Atoma and DMT to pay attention.

Thanks for sharing this with us, Rob. Good work!

 
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