10 thoughts on “The Perfect Edge”

  1. Ron,I have to say I feel like a fool as I had been very much looking forward to meeting you and somehow missed you at the Valley Forge show. How, I don’t know as I was there all three days. Hopefully in the future I will have the opportunity again. I am very much looking forward to buying your new book. Take care, Fred West

    1. I used Brian and his book as references for my book so, yes, much of his info is included and expanded in that I go into much greater detail about sharpening in general. But his book goes into greater detail about double bevel sharpening than mine. If the topic is of interest I heartily recommend his book. It is full of specifics that include back bevels on jointers and planers as well as hand planes. Great stuff. Those who don’t know about Brian’s book may wish to visit his website: http://www.lessonsinlutherie.com.

  2. I have been reading and re-reading your book, and I love it! I am a bookbinder, and use lots of cutting knives on leather which seem to be a different animal altogether from wood. Leather stretches easily and has a variable density from top surface (smooth and rather hard) to bottom surface (thick and fibrous) due to the nature of organic skin vs wood. The solution seems to be to have a very sharp knife, and to hold the leather flat against a very flat surface.

    The problem for me is really in the shape of the specialized knives. There is an “English paring knife” which is a shaped like a rectangle, with the upper right corner cut off to make a rather acute angle – something like a skew chisel – and ground along the angled edge. The cutting edge is rather long – over two inches – to allow leather to be cut at a long bevel along the edge so that it can be wrapped around the edge of the cover more neatly. It’s tough to sharpen this long bevel using any of the commercially available jigs. Even harder to sharpen is the “French paring knife” which is a rectangular metal with the top narrower edge – about 2-3 inches wide – cut to a gentle curve, so that if you held the knife up with the flat side facing you the top would look like a dome. It’s beveled along the entire curve, and I have no idea how to make any kind of jig to sharpen this knife.

    Any advice would be gratefully received . . .

  3. As you have noticed, traditional bookbinding knives are impossible to sharpen with a jig, at least any jig I know of — you will have to learn to do it freehand. The extremely long bevel, and acute blade angle of the traditional English style knife stems from the fact that older trade trained binders would heal pare (a term Tom Conroy has coined) rather than tip pare as is now most common.

    I make and sell paring knives specifically for bookbinding, including modern interpretations of French, English and Swiss style knives:

    I made a short video showing tip leather paring at:

    And there is a post about blade angles for leather paring knives at:

    Last September, at the Guild of Book Workers Standards of Excellence Seminar, I was videotaped demonstrating sharpening a curved, French or Swiss style blade freehand. It should be on utube, soon…
    Jeff Peachey

  4. Thank you, Jeff! I’ve been reading your blog for a long time. I found the above video clip a while back, and I’ve watched it so m any times also. I also first learned the “heel paring” and your video was the first time I’d seen anyone paring with the tip. I spent all morning yesterday sharpening my knives – with Ron’s book open on the table – before making my first pass at tip paring with the English knife.

    I used my flattened fingers under the handle as a jig to hold the knife at a fairly constant angle, and I think I could actually make one out of wood. I’m thinking of a short piece of wooden rod, slotted horizontally through the top so I can slip the knife handle in sideways. My knife handle is slanted, so i should be able to register it firmly in place and get the right angle. Can’t think of how to do the French knife, though, so I’m looking forward to the video.

    After making the knife sharp, I made my first attempt at tip paring and shocked myself at how easily a nice smooth bevel came right off. I’m not exaggerating – it changed my life. You don’t want to know how many times I haven’t practiced my craft because of how discouraged I was with my ability to cut something properly. I’ve relied on tools like the Sharf-fix instead. And I’ve been told, I’ve read many times, what a difference it makes to have a sharp knife, but I was never able to experience this because I was never able to properly sharpen my knife. I hope that all woodworkers and craftspeople everywhere take inspiration from your work. It IS possible to put a fine edge on a blade, and it does make a difference. Ron’s book is absolutely wonderful for anyone who has struggled with sharpening. Jeff’s work is just as wonderful for bookbinders.

    Thank you both – you can’t know what a difference your willingness to share your knowledge has made. When my craft improves, my life is better. I am very grateful.

  5. Hi Ron, I am interested in purchasing your book the perfect edge. I am in Gympie, Qld, Australia.
    When I go to the shopping cart is says that I will be charged the going international rate, Are you able to give me some idea of the approximate cost of postage to me in Australia as I have been caught before when the postage worked out to be significantly higher than the cost of the item which almost tripled the cost to me. As it is the book will cost nearly $A40.00. If I spend too much I will be in more trouble than if I temper my blades in the kitchen oven. Cheers Mark.

  6. The shipping costs for books overseas is usually more (sometimes much more) than the cost of the book. My best suggestion is to try to find it at a more local bookseller or try http://www.woodworksupplies.com.au/. They should have a copy or can direct you to one. The ISBN is 978-1440329951. I also think it’s available as an ebook from a certain satanic website bent on world domination (that shall not be named.) If all that doesn’t work, let me know. We’ll figure something out. Thanks!

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