08/18/2007 Technique is everything - or we will give you a free honing guide
|If I had a dollar for every post on a woodworking forum about sharpening I'd be a rich man. Really rich - Bill Gates rich. |
What I have noticed is that gallons of virtual ink has been spilled on topics like which set of stones to buy, which sharpening jig to buy, etc., but almost nothing about basic sharpening technique and the need to practice. And this to my mind is the problem.
I was taught woodworking by Maurice Fraser. In the first class, after a 40 minute class and a 40 minute hands-on session, Maurice would routinely have a class of brand new students (it was the first class, after all) sharpen a dull chisel to razor sharpness with not much trouble. To get good at it took practice, but after that first class it wasn't anything anyone thought twice about - except maybe to reread the notes and do some more practicing. You can read about the way he taught it here. A few years ago we did a video for Norton Abrasives and Maurice did the oilstone version and I did the waterstone version. The technique is the same on both versions, just the technology is different. It seems the common feeling these days is that sharpening is something that needs years of practice and only "experts" can do it free hand. THIS SIMPLY ISN'T TRUE. Sharpening was something that you learned really quickly as a first day apprentice or you found another another line of work. Woodworking is about learning dexterity, and training your hands to sharpen is the first step in training your hands to cut straight, chisel to a line, and in general not drop tools on your toe.
I disagree with a lot of teachers in the field. Teachers that I respect a lot - so it bothers me that I disagree with them. A lot of them feel that if they show sharpening using one jig or another, students will get sharp tools right away. They won't be discouraged and will be able to go on to building a project. Maybe there's some truth to this, but I think students would also end up with sharp tools and the ability to progress if they were instructed that free hand sharpening was a basic skill they could master. They'd be able to trust their hands for more and more complicated work earlier on.
And if you don't believe me, take a look at some early woodworking and woodcarving books. Beginner projects were far more involved in days past, and honing guides weren't really on the market in the 19th century. And by the way, if anyone tells you that the people back then weren't as efficient sharpening as we are now with some guide, tell them to look at the furniture made back then. I think the tools were plenty sharp enough.
So here's my idea - drop by our new showroom with a chisel. If I can't teach you to sharpen it properly, I'll give you a free honing guide. (I do reserve the right to grind the chisel initially to a nice hollow grind first.)
Hopefully you'll see that you don't need the guide.
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