|For years I have been pretty good and getting a tool sharp. However with my new interest in carving I've needed to bring "sharp" to a whole new level. The main picture is of a series of gouge cuts I made on basswood. Look at the second picture, which is a closeup of the left side of the stick of wood. Is the gouge sharp? |
I would have to say more or less. It's certainly not dull and we have a pretty smooth cut overall. These days this is the dullest I let my tools get. Notice on the sides of the cut there is a little ripping of the wood fiber, and as the tool is lifting up to exit the wood on the far end of the cut, the angle of attack is less than optimum and we see some fibers scratched and the bottom of the cut isn't smooth.
Since the tool isn't really dull I just spent a few minutes stropping the outside of the gouge. The fourth gouge cut from the left (on the right in the first close-up) shows the result. Not much change.
I kept on stropping the outside bevel of the tool but this time I also stropped the inside of the gouge with a bit of leather that has honing compound on its edge. I go back and forth between inside and out a few times just as I would chase a burr on a straight tool on a stone. It took a little practice when I started to be able to do this without ripping open my hand, but now I don't worry too much about that.
The second close-up picture (which contains cuts five through eight) shows the result. The cut on the bottom of the gouge is clean going and coming. Actually this is pretty good. Except on closer reflection look at the edges of the cut in the middle of the stroke. This part is cut using the highest part of the sides of the gouge. There is a little bit of tear-out there. Not much, but some. The reason is that when I stropped the inside I obviously didn't spend enough time stropping the sides of the inside of the tool. It's an easy mistake to make and something I have to consciously make sure I avoid.
So I went back to my strops and spent a minute more making sure the sides of the gouge got stropped too.
The third close-up (further down on this page) shows the eighth, ninth and tenth cuts. On the ninth gouge cut (in the middle) you can see the result of making sure I strop the sides more - it's a very clean cut. The tenth and final gouge cut on the right is slightly smoother and might have taken less effort, marginally so on both counts. Before I made that cut I stropped again using a plain piece of leather both on the outside and inside of the tool.
There is a bit of a odd shadow on the left of the eight cut. I think it's caused by an uneven edge on the left of the tool. The final extra stropping minimized it and my guess is a little more stropping on the left side of the gouge would get rid of it. Nonetheless the tool is still cutting pretty smoothly on that side.
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