About Ron Hock

Having written a book on sharpening for woodworkers (The Perfect Edge, the Ultimate Guide to Sharpening for Woodworkers) I feel it is now within my abilities to write an occasional bit about sharpening that may not have made it into the book either because it is just now coming to my attention (new products or techniques) or simply because I couldn’t fit everything into the book (try as I may have).

Along with how-to chapters on sharpening your various tools, The Perfect Edge includes a chapter about abrasives, what they are and which is best suited for what, as well as a lengthy chapter about steel: history, alloys, heat treating and even rust. A better understanding of the bit of steel that is usually between the worker and the wood can’t help but make that interface more efficient, responsive, adaptive — okay, better. The Perfect Edge is due to be available in December with a price of $30.00. I’ll be happy to sign one for you; give a call to pre-order: HOCK TOOLS (888) 282-5233 (we sell blades and such for planes and more, and shellac, too.)

13 thoughts on “About Ron Hock”

  1. Is there a list available of all the recommended primary and 2ndary angles for the various planes? E.g. Veritas Moving Fillister, Low angle block, bench planes etc?

    1. There isn’t such a list that I’m aware of. Of course, ahem, my book, The Perfect Edge, discusses the various parameters that effect that decision. Ultimately, it’s a balance between edge strength/retention (largest bevel possible) and angle of attack (low for end-grain, high for reversing grain.) With bevel-down planes, the bed angle is usually the angle of attack, unless you add a back-bevel. With bevel-up planes, the bed angle is added to the bevel angle to calculate the angle of attack. The tricky part to all of this is, what’s the best angle of attack. Stanley, et al, think 45° is an ideal compromise for a bench plane. Shallower angles allow better shearing for tasks such as end-grain planing, while a steeper angle of attack, like 55° or more, allows tear-out-free planing of wood with difficult grain (but you have to push harder.)

      There’s a lot more in the book. Honest.

  2. I understand why you should sharpen. I’ve never read or seen a discussion of how you know when to sharpen. What are the telltale sign?

    1. There are so many variables that it’s hard to give specific signs. Any reduction in the performance of an edged tool may be the sign that it’s time to sharpen. For rough work, where the surface being cut is not critical, it may simply be that the tool becomes hard to push or control. Where a finer surface finish is the goal, the surface holds the clues. A dull blade won’t leave a smooth surface, due to tear-out or it may be that the blade is leaving ridges that indicate small nicks have developed in the edge.

      It is less work in the long run to sharpen an edge when you suspect it’s needed than it is to wait until there is no doubt. This is why I stress the advantage of developing an efficient technique in combination with an easy-to-use sharpening system for each of your edged tools. I’ve included posts here that are not about the specifics of sharpening but more about the overall mind-set that encourages better sharpening.

      A dedicated sharpening station is one of the efficiencies I speak of and a positive attitude can’t hurt. Sharpening is a fundamental woodworking technique, as important, if not more so, than any other that you know. And, like any other technique, it takes the right tools and setting, a knowledge of the how-to, and practice.

  3. Ron
    What does a strop, like a leather strop, do exactly? I understand that finer and finer stones get a keener edge and a finer “wire”, but what does a strop add; does it remove the wire? I,m old enough to remember a barber using a long leather strop; I thought to sharpen his razor, but now I’m not sure.
    Thanks Ken

    1. A strop can be used either with or without the application of a fine abrasive compound. When charged with a fine abrasive such as green chromium oxide, it acts as a final, very fine hone and with the leather’s compressibility can be quite effective at removing the burr left by the final stone. Care must be taken not to compress the leather too much, however, or you may round over the cutting edge which could have a negative effect on performance. An uncharged strop, just bare leather, can be used as a burr-removal by simple burnishing action — just gently working the burr back and forth to break it loose.

      Strops can also be made from any material that is flat and will hold abrasive. I’ve seen them made from wood, box-board, paper and fabric. Any of these materials will work, also, as an uncharged strop.

      There are those that adhere to each of the above and many that don’t use a strop at all, claiming that the strop actually degrades an otherwise (near-)perfect edge created on their finest stone. Like so many aspects of sharpening, each of these methods work for someone so it becomes a matter of finding the technique the works for you. Experimentation is easy and inexpensive. Try some of these ideas out and let us know how it goes.

  4. Ron
    Just starting to read your book, but have a question about sharpening jointer and planer blades. I have been looking for a solution that would allow me to sharpen the blades without the expense of a large power sharpening station and the required jigs. I found a jig called the Deulen 12″ sharpening jig (deulentools.com) that seems like it would work well. The designer’s claims that he has successfully sharpened disposable planer blades peaked my interest.

    To use the jig, two blades are mounted so that the cutting edge is held at the correct angle. Then you slide the jig (and blades) in a lateral motion to sharpen the edges while you progress through finer grit sandpapers. (the website has a video of the procedure).

    My question is about the sharpening technique. I apologize if this is covered in your book. I am only on chapter 4 at this point… Is it better to sharpen a blade along its length as this jig requires or should it be sharpened across the blade as a Tormek system would do? It seems to me that the cross-grain action of the Deulen jig may not hold an edge as well as a blade sharpened with the grain.
    Thanks Tony

    1. There is some concern that side-to-side honing could weaken the edge with parallel scratches. But I think that, if you hone to a fine enough grit, it would make little real difference. Harrelson Stanley has done a lot of research on side sharpening and has developed a jig called the Sharp Skate. The Duelen jig achieves a similar effect, is simple and useful so I’d say give it a try, stopping at successively finer grits until the edges hold up the way you’d want. A lot of people touch up their jointer knives with the little hand-held hone (that I mention in the book) with no reports of early edge failure and it used a similar side-to-side action. Please get back to us to let us know what you learn.

  5. Ron, I’m the inventor and manufacturer of the Deulen Jointer/Planer Knife Sharpening Jig. Thank you for your kind words. I’d like to send you one of my twelve-inch sharpeners so you can try it first hand. It’s been well received with “Shopnotes” Magazine’s current issue and “Wood” Magazine’s next issue that comes out in August. You can see my video at: deulentools.com. I love your book and have referred to it many times. Thanks, Dan Deulen

  6. Hi Ron,
    I have a wooden moving fillister plane that I’m trying to restore for use. The blade has been ground at the wrong skew angle so that when it is installed and the wedge is tight the blade is not aligned with the sole of the plane. In the Turn of the Skew you had a table of effective angles when skewing a plane that was based on a trig equation. I was wondering if you know of a similar table (or the equation) for grinding the skew angle on the iron given the skew angle of the plane body and the bed angle. Thanks.

    1. I’m sure that I could sweep away enough cobwebs to noodle out a formula for you but wouldn’t it be much easier to just mark the blade when it’s in place in the plane and grind to the line? You can use a Sharpie or whatever and a marking knife and it shouldn’t take but a couple secs.

  7. Dear Ron Hock,,
    I saw with great interest your contribution at James Krenov’s Memorial and I contacted David Welter about my attempt to send a plane to James Krenov for his approval on a slight design change to his now icons. It was sad to see him leave us and thankyou for your message from your heart.. We woodworkers are all in a all a shy lot and this came out so strongly at the memorial..
    This note is to ask about your knives I see advertised on this forum. I dnt know if you post them to Australia but it would please me to buy one or both you have going..How much would the postage be ?
    Thanks again

    frank Noonan

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