Book Report — Rust: The Longest War

Rust: The Longest War, by Jonathan Waldman (ISBN: 978-1451691597)

It has been called “the great destroyer” and “the evil.” The Pentagon refers to it as “the pervasive menace.” It destroys cars, fells bridges, sinks ships, sparks house fires, and nearly brought down the Statue of Liberty. Rust costs America more than $400 billion per year—more than all other natural disasters combined. – from Rust: The Longest War by Jonathan Waldman

Rust is an insidious nemesis here at Hock Tools — we’re in constant high alert, dousing all our blades liberally with rust-inhibiting oil.  I wrote about rust, it’s chemistry, impact and avoidance in The Perfect Edge. Needless to say, Mr. Waldman’s book was of particular interest to me and it didn’t let me down. Waldman is an environmental journalist who chose to write his first book about a subject most people pay little attention to on a day to day basis. Unless you’re a tool-user.

While Waldman spends little ink on how to prevent rust in a woodshop (okay, none, really – sorry) he dives into the huge world of corrosion with in-depth chapters on the Statue of Liberty, the history of stainless steel, what it takes to protect the inside of beverage and food cans, an eye-opening chapter on inspecting the Alaska pipeline and much more.  Waldman doesn’t limit his discussion to iron rust, but touches on many aspects of what the corrosion of all our metals means to us. And costs us.

It has been said that for every pound of iron or steel produced each year, a quarter pound of previously produced iron or steel is lost to rust. Negligence is not an option.

I found this to be a well researched book, entertainingly written, highly recommended. Please ask for Rust: the Longest War at your local bookstore before resorting to that satanic website bent on world domination that shall remain unnamed. Thanks.

Whoa! This Looks Different!

The New

Anything look different to you? I sure hope so!

If you haven’t been to this site before, there is a rather dramatic change in the “look” of The Sharpening Blog. The Hock Tools website has also been updated with this same graphic feel – our new look – it’s a project I’ve been wanting to complete for some time.

I hope you find the website and blog attractive and easy to navigate, whether you are viewing them on a desk or laptop, tablet or cell. The plan has been to get “mobilized” (read “mobile device responsive”). And now, it is easier than ever to check us out wherever you go.

We haven’t changed anything else, though. Both sites provide the same help and info about planes, steel, sharpening and, of course, Hock Tools products. And, for anyone at the beginning of the update-your-website journey — and like the changes you see here – I searched about for software to help me with the site build. Even last year, my copy of Dreamweaver was way too old. Although I could have benefited from one of the full-featured WYSIWYG HTML editors, I just didn’t (and still don’t) have that kind of time! I wanted a leg up with a ready-to-use template and the convenience these new packages provide. So, after trying several versions I decided to use Artisteer, and I’m quite happy with it. It gave me the boost I needed to get started, and filled my needs for customization along the way. One drawback is that the trial version does not let you save anything. However, after testing it I made the leap. What you see at Hock Tools is the results of that.

Please take a minute to click around on the new site. Feel free to let me know if you find anything amiss, that doesn’t make sense, or whatever. Just use our contact page to let me know. Thanks – I appreciate your time!

New Knife Kits!

Our Two New Kits with Bubinga Scales
Our Two New Kits with Bubinga Scales

Two New Knife Kits – The 8” Slicing/Carver and The 8” Chef’s

Great news! Hock Tools just released two new kitchen knife kits. The  8” slicing/carving and 8” Chef’s knife kits are easily built and immensely satisfying projects. Together with our paring knife and 5” chef’s knife kits, you can now build a classic (and classy if I do say so myself!) set of exceedingly sharp and durable kitchen knives made of good old-fashioned 01 tool steel.

You probably already know that while stainless steel cutlery can be handy, nothing – and I mean nothing – cuts better in the kitchen than top quality, high-carbon tool steel. Our kitchen knife kits are made from 01 tool steel, the same steel we’ve been using for decades in Hock Tools plane blades, and in the knives in our own kitchen.

Yes, the knives above were made from our two new kits and from the same steel at the same hardness that you have come to value and rely on in Hock Tools woodworking blades. As a woodworker, you will appreciate how easily these knew knife blades sharpen and how sharp you can get and maintain them in your own kitchen. You know how tomatoes resist the slicer? Not when you slice them with this new slicer/carver. Keep it honed and tomatoes be sliced.

These Kit Blades come with 3 Steel Pins
These Kit Blades come with 3 Steel Pins

Remember, though, that a little care will prevent corrosion. A good tip is to dip your blade in water before slicing onions, apples, or potatoes. Fruits and vegetables like these benefit from a wet carbon blade rather than a dry one. And – this is very important for tool steel in the kitchen — wash and dry your high carbon kitchen knives after each use and never, never put them in the dishwasher. Stainless can’t hold a candle to the sharpness of these knives, but high carbon needs more of your love. Hone as necessary, and your new knife will be treasured for generations.

Although full instructions come with your kits, you can also find Hock Tools’ knife kit instructions on the Hock Tools website. Plus, there are woodworkers who have completed these kits and provided all sorts of how-to information:

Nik Brown, Digital Woodworker, August 21, 2014 Knifemaking video.

Jeffrey Fleisher, Shenandoah Tool Works, tool review for March issue of Highland Woodworking’s publication Wood News Online, March 2015 issue.

Infinity Tools’ Blog entry about assembling a Hock Knife Kit



Basic Sharpening Kits to help you Get Woodworking 2015!



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:


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.

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.

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.


Fine Woodworking Program’s Winter Show!

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!

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!


Another Rave Review for The Perfect Edge

"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



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, 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.


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

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!