Wednesday, 30 January 2013

The Joy of Sharpening

I have a confession to  make: I don't sharpen regularly.  It's not like I don't know how...more like I just hate it.

I learned to sharpen out of curiosity, even though I was sure my chisels were good enough from the factory.  Of course I was wrong.  We spent all day at it in that first class, and I came away with one sharp plane blade and one sharp 1/2" chisel.  At first I was seduced by the smooth back of the plane iron, the mirror finish of the micro-bevel, and the way my newly sharpened chisel sliced through the most difficult woods.  I ran to Lee Valley and bought the tools to sharpen all my chisels and blades and set to work.

Oh, the drudgery!  The mind-numbing, back-aching boredom!  Backs refused to flatten, primary bevels would not be established, unless hours were sacrificed at the water stone alter.  Even the blades that were advertised as 'just needing a quick honing' to be ready to use - those were the most frustrating!  And that last bit took forever!  That led to Kevin's Rule of Sharpening:  When it looks like you are 95% done, you still have 95% of the work ahead of you.

It's not like I gave up on sharpening.  If I got a new plane I would dutifully flatten the back of the blade and give it an edge...Once.  But that was it.  In some cases, like those chisels, the tools went literally years without another look.  One by one my chisels fell victim to nicks and drops and neglect.  My block plane was so dull you could almost see the radius of the edge with the naked eye.

Now, though, I have a project in mind where I will need that block plane.  And I will need it to be sharp.  With a deep sigh and a heavy heart I hauled out my stones and set out to re-do the primary bevel.

You know what?  It wasn't that bad.  In fact, compared to what I expected, it was downright pleasant.  Fast, even.  In what seemed like no time the primary bevel met the back.  And the micro-bevel?  Like, two minutes, including the time it took to change stones.

It went so well that I decided to give my chisels the same treatment.  The same thing happened.  Quick and easy, I had new fresh edges.  Okay, the corners leave a little to be desired, but I had 4 chisels done in about 2 hours.  The first time I did it they took about 2 hours each!

I guess all that hard work paid off in the end.  Next time, I won't wait so long to touch up a blade.  I still dread sharpening new blades but I will be much more likely to keep them tuned up.  Hopefully, all my blades will see a lot more use.

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