Tools for Working Wood

 Joel's Blog at Tools for Working Wood

Hand Sharpening Carving Tools  


In my previous blog entry I wrote about practicing some basic carving. Before I carved the pieces I took a look at my #9 1/4" and was appalled. Most of the time we use either an Ashley Iles sharpening system (rubber wheel, then buff) or more usually a Koch system (paper buffs). Both system work great but over time we damaged the geometry of the tool.

It's pretty easy when sharpening to overdo the center of the gouge and after a little time the center is recessed and you get bad overall tool geometry. I decided to hand sharpen the tool from scratch. It took about 10 minutes. using a diamond stone, a medium India, followed by a hard Arkansas and some stropping.

First, with the tool held vertical on the diamond stone I squared it up correctly, then on the diamond stone I reformed the bevel. Then I went to the medium India to finish up the bevel, creating a wire edge. Finally I polished up with the hard Arkansas stone, and stropping. The inside of the gouge was worked with a small slip-stone.
Nothing special to report except that I had to remember to pay close attention to the sides of the gouge which need to be super sharp to cut cleanly without overdoing the center.

Holding the angles when sharpening is very easy. Just hold the tool the way you want to, lock your arms against your body, and sway back and forth. As I sway back and forth I also rotate the tool on the stone to sharpen evenly, or just rotate a little to sharpen selectively.

I used our Multistone which (in Norton's infinite wisdom) has been discontinued with the hard Arkansas stone. We only have a very few left (our personal one is tricked out with an additional diamond stone as an extra). In general most people prefer oilstones to waterstones for carving tools because the oilstones don't groove as much if at all. We still stock the longer replacement stones for the multistone so if you wish just make cases for the longer stones. Longer stones = longer stroke = easier time of it.

Horse butt leather strops are out of stock until September, a nearly lifetime supply of Micro-fine honing compound is pretty cheap. I don't personally own a very good slip stone for the inside of the gouge (I need to get one) but a scrap of horse butt (cut 1/2" off the end of the strop) with honing compound rubbed on the edge of the leather works a charm. What I have discovered on stropping in general is to pay more attention to the sides of the gouge and then the middle will take care of itself.

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