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A Simple Freehand Method
by Joel Moskowitz

In our view the most important single skill to learn in woodworking is how to sharpen. In old woodworking books they rarely mention anything about it, probably because sharpening was a skill you needed in general life, but today woodworkers need to master this skill specially. Now we aren’t particularly dogmatic about the technology you use - oilstones, waterstones, etc. - and there are tons of books and materials on using this gizmo or that gizmo to get some sort of decent edge. However, we are fans of free hand sharpening. First of all it isn’t hard to learn. You just need some basic technique and practice, and one you get it down, you can sharpen anything easily. A few years ago we created a web exhibit on how to sharpen. In it, Maurice Fraser, the teacher who taught us, gives a giant step-by-step demonstration, with detailed explanations on how to hold a tool on a stone, move it successfully, and basically sharpen anything. Norton Abrasives was so impressed they commissioned us for videos on sharpening using their oilstones and waterstones. Maurice’s video on oilstones is listed above. This video on waterstones features Tools for Working Wood’s own Joel Moskowitz using the same techniques Maurice taught, modified for use with waterstones.

Unlike pretty much anything on sharpening out there, the video emphasizes the basic technique of how to hold a chisel free hand, move it on a stone, and create a professional edge very easily. It’s a short video because we stuck to the basics. But if you watch it and practice, you will be able to sharpen anything easily with no more equipment than a set of waterstones and a way to flatten them. It’s not hard. You just need to learn some basic hand-holding technique, and you will be sharpening quickly, easily, and with no danger of stone contamination from a jig. We feel that all the gizmos out there just complicate the process and make it needlessly mysterious. Woodworkers have been sharpening for thousands of years, and it’s the first thing an apprentice needed to do. Once you’ve learned the skill, you’ll have it for life! DVD format, 26 minutes. (also available as part of a kit with the necessary stones).


  

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