Tools for Working Wood

 Joel's Blog at Tools for Working Wood

Diamond Sharpening - Introduction  


In the past 30 years sharpening with diamond stones has gotten more and more popular. Some teachers, notably Paul Sellers have been huge advocates of the technology, and more and more people are using diamonds for some of all or their hand sharpening needs. The largest US maker of diamond stones for sharpening, and one of the best is DMT and lately we have started to stock most of their entire range. This is the first of two blogs on diamond sharpening, this entry being about the issues involved, and the next part about with my personal experiences with the stuff.

30 years ago the major complaints about diamond stones were that the stones weren't flat enough for precision sharpening, the stones didn't last, and you could not get a finished edge from one. The major positives about the technology were that the rise of exotic alloys in woodworking tools such as A2 and D2 increased the demand for a sharpening media what could handle these tough materials with speed. Also diamond stones didn't need lubrication or flattening.

Another popular application of diamonds in sharpening is to charge a plate with diamond paste, which turns the plate into a fine abrasive stone. This works great,especially for very fine grits. This is an old method of sharpening that has been applied to woodworking tools for the past ten or twenty years.

In addition to directly sharpening stones another very popular use of diamond stones is to flatten waterstones. It's a quick method and works great with one major problem. The problem is that the way you make a diamond stone is by taking a flat piece of steel, sprinkling diamond dust of a specific grade on the plate, and then nickel plating the entire plate, rocks and all, to cover the stone. The plating bonds the diamonds to the plate. When you use a diamond stone to flatten a waterstone, the water stone particles are abrasive and wear away the the plating that keeps the diamonds on the stone - so the diamond stones work slower and slower. In the photo (taken with my inexpensive not very sharp USB microscope) on the right you can see the plating surrounding the diamond particles like irregular halos.

When sharpening diamonds produce a coarser edge than does the same grit waterstone. There are two reasons for this. Diamonds, like most abrasives have a nominal grit assigned to the stone. The grit - 220, 600, or 1200 or so mesh is the maximum size of the diamond particle. This is the same with all abrasive stones - there is a nominal abrasive grade and an actual variance on the particles. Lower quality stones will have a greater grit variance but all diamond stones have some variance. With regular waterstones the second you start sharpening, any large grit particle shatters, and all the particles start to round over and wear. So very quickly you get an even scratch pattern that we associate with the grit of stone. Diamonds, which cut fast, don't shatter (very much) and the larger diamonds on plate scratch the edge deeper, and don't get worn down. The end result is that for the same grit stone, the diamond scratch pattern is a fair amount coarser. But, because the diamonds don't break down, very fine diamond pastes can sharpen quickly and for a long time.

Pre-diamond my basic sharpening sequence for waterstones was, Hollow grind, use a 1000 grit stone to create the wire edge, then chase it with first a 4000 or 5000 stone, followed by an 8000 grit or better finishing stone. For harder Japanese tools I stop there, for Western steels which are typically softer I follow with a plain, untreated leather strop.

The question now is what's an appropriate sequence of diamond stones? Do I need as many? of what size? DMT makes two basic styles: the original DuoSharp with spots of diamonds on plastic substrate, and the DiaSharp which is a continuous diamond surface on a precisely flattened steel substrate. For woodworking tools the steel plate is the way to go - it's what they were designed for. They do weigh a ton, are more expensive than the earlier stones, and are overkill for knives and other non-precision tools. I like large stones, but the weight of the steel stones has kept me on the 8" size, not the 10". A fair number of customers like the 6" length because it's a lot less expensive, and much lighter. To keep the stones from slipping around a bench we stock the absolutely fab non-skid mat or a magnetic holder that comes with 12" stones and has the advantage of lifting the stone off the bench for more clearance.

DMT does manufacturer, and we offer, an 8000 grit (extra-extra-fine) DiaSharp, but as I am chock full of finishing stones I haven't tested it. In the next part of this series I will take a closer look at diamonds and start getting into practical experiences. I've got two goals here - the first is figure out if I can get an edge that is the equal to or better of the edges I get using oil or water stones. The next goal is to figure out what's the fastest way of getting there. Finally, and make that three or four goals, can diamonds be used on my carving tools and are they an improvement on what I am already using? The last goal and let's just say, amongst my many goals, is answering the question: are diamonds a good solution for sharpening kitchens knives and other things that I get regularly asked to sharpen?
Tags:Woodworking Tools and Techniques
Comments: 11

Professional Status  


Dr. Matt Taylor, a physicist and project scientist for the Rosetta mission (the team that landed a probe on a moving comet) recently gained fame for reporting on the mission on the BBC - while wearing a lurid bowling shirt.

You could make the case that he singlehandedly jazzed up the image of scientists all over the world, and if that's so, perhaps we owe him a debt of gratitude. It did bring home the point that every profession has its professional wardrobe. You know, the clothing and image that immediately establishes someone as trustworthy, serious about what they do, and imbued with the appropriate knowledge. Doctors wear lab coats, bankers wear suits, Chefs wear toques and aprons, and Thomas Lie-Nielsen wears a vest.

That's why I'm so pleased we have started to stock Blaklader workwear. The Blaklader line is designed in Sweden and is one of the leaders of what is known as "European Workwear." For me, it's striking that there is such a thing. In Europe, craftspeople are typically paid better than than craftspeople are in the US, and crafts jobs have more structure and training. It's no wonder that a craftsworker would want clothing appropriate for the hard wear shop clothing gets, with pockets and protection where it's needed. It's clothing that will make your job easier and more comfortable.

In the US, we expect our professionals to look the part, and their wardrobe choices help shape our expectation of their professionalism. It's really no different with workwear.

The line is designed with the same cleverness and practical ideas that we appreciate in fine tools. Destroying your knees on the job? Here are pants with reinforced kneepad pockets and two kinds of insertable cushioning . Utility pockets where you need them - and in the right number. Check it out and see what you think - we have jackets, pants, vests, and even a work kilt.

In other news the two books by John Whelan Making Traditional Wooden Planes and The Wooden Plane: Its History are once again back in print and the Festool Vecturo is out on the marketplace in force. We are already sold out of the Festool Toolie and Festool Apron - both limited seasonal items that we apparently understocked. Sorry about that.

Tags:Product News, Sales, and Promotions
Comments: 3

Cyber Monday - Actually Starts On Sunday Night!  


This coming Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving, has become to be known as "Cyber Monday" and on-line retailers (that's us) are supposed to have some really great deals for you. Most years we have pretty much ignored Cyber Monday because let's be fair we are kind of busy and we have pretty good deals year around. However, and this is a trait pretty common amongst all retailer of a certain age, in business for years at the same location. We have tons and tons of perfectly good merchandise that we can't sell for one reason or another. And it piles up. Usually the only thing wrong is a packaging or cosmetic defect, or something we discontinued and have a few left. But in any case the stuff takes up more and more room. So Ben and Nar have spent weeks photographing the tools, writing one line descriptions and getting over three hundred items ready for the chop.

The list include wonderful new old stock that we never got around to selling normally, and dented crap that someone might want for reasons we don't get.

So that's why there has been that poster up on our webpage for the past week. Sunday night, around 10:00 PM Brooklyn time, it all goes live and it's open season. Why Sunday at 10:00 not midnight? We are a small company and the poor sap who has to release everything and not screw it up is me, and if I wait until midnight I will probably pass out first.

BTW we also have no idea if the web site can take the volume of traffic, and actually everyone in on-line retailing is wondering if the entire Internet can take the volume of traffic. We will see.

Also - and this is important - for the first time we are allowing people to reserve items in their baskets. Once you add a sale item into your basket you will have 30 minutes to close the sale, Theoretically more time if nobody else wants it but by 30 minutes we mean 30 minutes. After that, if your order isn't COMPLETED, anyone can put the item into their shopping cart and it will vanish from your cart. So my suggestion is, set up your cart over the weekend with anything else you might want to order (and save on shipping) - such as some gramercy tools, or the new Festool stuff that is shipping on Dec 1 or some brand new ready for winter Blaklader work clothing, and then after 10:00 put the stuff you want in your basket and check out.

Good luck, have fun!

Tags:Product News, Sales, and Promotions
Comments: 0

American Field Show At Industry City Nov 22 - 23, 2014  


Come to American Field
Next weekend we will be taking a lot of our American made tools and clothing and setting up two blocks away so we can participate in the American Field All American Pop-up Market. This show highlights American Manufacturing from all over the country. Click on the picture to take a look at the list of exhibitors - everyone from old line companies to new companies with a single product. IT's going to be tons of fun.

At the same time - next door - will be The Brooklyn Holiday Market featuring Brooklyn makers and hosted by Wanted Design. A lot of our friends are exhibiting there. Both shows are free I think you will have a great time!

See You There!

Tags:Product News, Sales, and Promotions
Comments: 0

PayPal, Festool, and Cyber Monday  


This blog post is a catchall letting you know about some of the new things on the horizon here at TFWW. First of all, in addition to all our current methods of payment was have now also accept PayPal for all transactions. On one level PayPal is just another means of buying stuff, but I'm excited because it speeds up checkout. With Paypal checkout becomes simple: Click the "Pay with PayPal" button on the bottom of the shopping cart, or on the checkout page, log onto PayPal, select the address in PayPal, return to our store for shipping method selection, and then confirm the sale. Done. Of course, if you're shopping on mobile, anything that lets you avoid typing in information into a phone is a big step forward.

Cyber Monday: All around our office and warehouse are boxes of tools that for one reason or another aren't on the website. So on Sunday November 30th at 10:00PM(ish) Brooklyn Time, we are putting all this excess stuff on line for a massive Cyber Monday Blowout Sale. Over 200 items will be available! For the first time. you will be able to put something in your cart, and have it reserved for you for 20 minutes or so to give you time to shop some more and then check out. After the 20 minutes, if you don't check out, the items will be removed from your cart so other people can snag them. My big project for the next week is writing the software to make this reservation system work. So details might vary in the final execution. But it's a fair system so two people can't buy the same thing only to have one person disappointed.

Diamond Sharpening: For the past year, we have introduced a new product every week. In the past weeks. DMT diamond sharpening products has been a big new category for us. After years of being on the fence about diamond sharpening I am working on testing and figuring out a sequence of stones to get a great edge for a minimal cost. So far I don't think diamonds are great for the final finish, but they certainly do a fine, fast job of roughing out an edge and staying flat. I'll have a real how-to soon.

Festool: New stuff from Festool will be coming out on December 1st, with pre-orders starting (we hope) next week. The big new tool is the Festool Vecturo Oscillating Multitool, which is a Festool branded Fein Super Cut tool. The Super Cut, which is the top end of the Fein Multi-Master tool, is very popular, and the Vecturo cutters will be interchangeable with the Supercut Tool (not the regular Multi-master). The Big Festool innovation will be several versions of cutting stops that will also fit the Super Cut Tool. The attachments will be available separately for Fein Supercut owners.

Also new from Festool this fall is the return of the Toolie - a wrench with all the metric Allen and screw keys you need for Festool. A hose attachment to give you a third hand, And drawers slides to turn any cabinet into a SysPort.

We will have full information and be ready for pre-order next week or so. Stay tuned for more details!

The picture above, which has nothing to do with any of this, is of one of my favorite new products - our set of mini colored pencils (see photo above). They are cute, portable, and a great stocking stuffer. It even comes with a sharpener, an eraser, and it fits in a wallet. Some people use them in pencil holders - which sounds like it might be a fun lathe project.

Tags:Product News, Sales, and Promotions
Comments: 3

Colen Clenton - A Man and His Shed  


Colen Clenton is the maker of a range of really wonderful adjustable squares and other measuring tools that we have been proud to stock for many years. I've never met him in person but we have chatted on the phone about this and that for ages from our ends of the earth. When my son was born, Colen sent us a magnificent rattle made of she-oak. He's a wonderful craftsman and a wonderful guy.

This video shows Colen in his New South Wales, Australia, shed workshop. I'm writing this from a Manhattan high-rise but I can admire his very different lifestyle and of course the reverence for craft that we share. Colen began his tool manufacture by making tools for his own use that attracted the eyes of people who coveted them. He speaks warmly and encouragingly to others who would like to earn their livelihood with their crafts. And needless to say, his gorgeous tools are scene-stealing supporting players throughout the video.

One of the things I find most interesting about Colen's tools is that while they do exactly the same thing as many other measuring tools by other makers, their combination of design, materials, and execution makes them feel wonderful in the hand and amazingly satisfying to use. Watch the video and see how Colen's values and life choices are reflected in his tools.

We stock the complete line of Colen's tool here.
Tags:Product News, Sales, and Promotions,Woodworking Tools and Techniques
Comments: 2
The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the blog's author and guests and in no way reflect the views of Tools for Working Wood.
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