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For those scared or worried about sharpening

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  • For those scared or worried about sharpening

    As a newbie carver I am confronted with the dreaded sharpening, honing etc. Don't know why it's a surprise because I have done joinery work for years and had to sharpen my chisels, but part of the problem lies therein. I absolutely butchered my firmer chisels trying to freehand sharpen them and it has taken a lot of work to get them back to anything like. As I start to put my carving tools together I still keep my eyes out for second hand stuff which may work and save me a few quid, especially perhaps the less used gouge profiles.
    I happened upon a #7 sweep 1/2" oldie on Ebay, from the handle I think it is an old Marples, and got it for the princely sum of £8.
    It has had some serious cleaning with steel wool and the end profile is all out of kilter.
    First thing get the end squared off then start to re-grind the bevel on my budget waterstone grinder before moving onto the oil stone and stropping.
    An hour later it was shiny, at least on the outside bevel, not so on the inner but that will improve with time. It now carves end grain smoothly on my tulipwood carving block, but most importantly I took some of the fear and mystique out of sharpening that was causing me worries. At the end of the day all I would ruin was a cheap chisel, as it happens I have one that I can use and for a bargain price.

    So for those like me I think the best advice would be find a grotty old chisel and play with it. Re-grind the bevel, get it mirror finished through polishing. If you make a mistake grind it away and start again it's going to cost you very little except time and you will gain confidence.

    Am I a sharpening guru? No. But I'm a lot more confident about doing it, and that is half the battle.

  • #2
    Good job and good advice. Sharpening is one of those things that once you "get" it, you get it. It just takes practice and like you've shown, don't be afraid to spend some steel learning. If you spent $30 worth of steel and after that you could sharpen all of your tools, it is well worth it considering the importance of sharpening.

    For the inner, you have several routes you can go. I use a double bevel, so I would have more work to do than most that don't. Either way what I'm going to say will work, the only difference is the angle of the abrasive to the gouge. They make slip stones for the inner curve of the gouge and of course you want the stone to match the gouge as much as possible. I've taken small Arkansas stones and shaped them for this purpose. It's time consuming by hand and not to bad if you have a belt sander to shape them with.

    For cleanup of old tools like what you bought, it's easier to take a dowel or some wood that can be shaped to fit the inner curve and cover it with sandpaper. I'd probably use wet/dry and start around 400 and work up to 1500 (even 600 is probably low enough and then 1000 and 1500). The sandpaper will work much faster than Arkansas stones. The advantage of the stones is if you are doing an inside bevel as I do, it's easy to catch and tear the sandpaper if you are using back and forth strokes and get the angle a bit high by accident. It's hard to tear an Arkansas stone. For those without an inside bevel, the sandpaper probably won't catch as your angle matches what is already there.

    Obviously you can put leather around the dowels or wood as well for stropping the inside, some even use compound just on the wood, or even go the micro abrasives route but they tend to run more money.
    Last edited by fiddlesticks; 08-27-2016, 01:21 PM.


    • #3
      Many of us are willing to spent time on an old, pitted, misshapen, rusty gouge. Perhaps we cannot accept the thought that the new expensive, shiny ones need work - already! I had a similar experience with an old Herring Brothers gouge given to me. After considerable work, it too was shiny and properly shaped. It is now one of my favorites.


      • #4
        For me, it's been changing bevel angles. Scrubbing skews down from 25 degrees to 20 degrees was no big deal.
        Changing crooked knives, eg farrier's hoof knives from 25-30 degrees to 12 degrees was often a puzzle (maybe 14 of those).

        The absolute worst was a Sheffield/UK Mocotaugan-style crooked knife blade as was sold by the Hudson's Bay Company
        in the fur trades of 1700's - 1900's. Good steel but there was an evil little bevel on the back side of the blade.

        Upstairs in my kitchen, I bought a really cute(?) little Chinese cleaver, packed in grease.
        One side 20 degrees, the other 40 degrees, a RH slicing cleaver as it turned out.
        1/8" thick razor blade when I was done and it took several days. Now the best of my 4 cleavers.

        All I can add is that there have been many nights when I have gone to bed, wondering why I can't get a good edge.
        Hindsight shows me that I got the body of the bevel angled as I wanted. But, I just did not go far enough to run that
        out over the edge (@ 10X mag).

        Black felt marker and a 10X magnifier. I am the jig.
        Brian T


        • #5
          I spent the day changing the bevel of a carving (ho ho) set that I have had for a while. I don't believe they were an expensive set at all, but the bevels on the blades were all over the place there was a big set (6) and a small set (5). They reminded me more of chisels. Anyway, got them all cutting well except for the "V' gouges. One is fair- and the other is still a total wreck. Since I've got all the stuff out, guess I'll spend tomorrow touch the other knives I use up a bit

          Well going to get the Blue Emu, grease up and go to beds.

          . . . JOeB

          . . .JoeB


          • #6
            I think when I started carving the first two years....everyone was yelling your tools are not sharp enough! I could have won idiot of the year under this subject. But I was determined to learn how no matter what. Goal number one become a was not about scared as it was not happening.....thank goodness for my bull head attitude. I say just keep trying and those V gouges I just go for pure luck on special days....


            • #7
              Originally posted by Dileon View Post
              thank goodness for my bull head attitude. I say just keep trying and those V gouges I just go for pure luck on special days....
              Honestly I think wood carving is about 10% natural talent and 90% persistence/drive and patience. I look at the carvings of Gibbons and am highly impressed, but I am not intimidated. I know I can carve like that if I truly want to. I'm nowhere near there yet, but I'm on my way. I think some people give up too early. "oh, I could never do that". Well they are right, they can't because they don't believe they can.

              Famous quote I think was attributed to Henry Ford, no idea if it was him for sure "whether you think you can, or think you can't, you're right."

              So use that bull headedness to your advantage. V-tools are still the most difficult for me. I found just slowing down and being very deliberate has been my path to success. The other gouges I can do in my sleep, but I need to pay attention on the v-tools. Which If I think about it it's mostly a lack of practice issue. I have about 40 gouges, only 3 are v-tools, so It's rare that I'm sharpening them vs some other gouge just on numbers of tools, plus I don't use a v-tool much except at the roughing out stage.


              • #8
                Originally posted by fiddlesticks View Post

                Honestly I think wood carving is about 10% natural talent and 90% persistence/drive and patience.
                I agree with that one major......people go "Oh your so talented".... and I go "Yea right,... it took me a year to carve that darn thing!" Patience and persistence to the extreme.


                • #9
                  Boy, do I ever agree with that Dileon!



                  • #10
                    Dileon is correct. Making the actual wood chips is 10% of the result.
                    Brian T