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ShopNotes Podcast 044 — The Sharpening Episode

By: Phil Huber
There are few secrets when it comes to sharpening tools for woodworking.

During the past week, I re-learned a few lessons about sharpening. At the same time, Logan got a question from a friend about sharpening. Seems the time is just right to look at this topic from some different points of view.

The easy way is to jump into a discussion (argument?) about methods and equipment. Instead, John, Phil, and Logan look at the mindset of sharpening first.

What does that mean? This week I was sharpening some carving gouges. Something that I do freehand. It's been a struggle recently. The key is patience and practice. Patience in that it takes time to learn, then master, a skill. I need to stick to the process and not bail when my expectations aren't met.

Practice comes in investing in the fundamentals. In his case, I needed to get the stance and form of working the curved bevel of the gouge across the stone evenly. It's something I learned while learning to sharpen plane blades and chisels — even with a honing guide. Don't try to rush or speed up. Deliberate strokes done correctly will in time lead to greater speed. You need to train and practice before you develop excellence.

For Logan, he realized that sharpening well means finding the appropriate level of sharpness to match the tool, application, and work at hand. Not every tool needs to polished up to 20,000 grit — maybe none do. But when you understand how your tools fit into your building process, you find the level of sharpness that makes the most sense.

John brought the discussion back to equipment by wondering what are the essential features of a good sharpening kit.

John's sharpening essentials

The surprising consensus is that a woodworker benefits from an inexpensive honing guide, a coarse/medium combination stone (oil for Logan and me, water for John) along with a fine stone for higher performance. That's really it.

Logan's sharpening kit

However, both Logan and me a grinder of some sort can help take the drudgery out of establishing a bevel or correctiong flaws.

Project Update:

Logan — He got his vise stands & shelf installed in his shop. It's turning into a solid sharpening & metalworking area ... eventually.

Logan Wittmer sharpening and metalworking center

His next project is a "real" dining table. The inspiration is a design he likes from Thomas Moser.

Logan's dining table inspiration

John — Is working on making his shop away from work more suitable for his personal projects ("all projects are personal to me").

Phil — Recently made this shrink pot from a section of birch tree that once grew in the yard of his childhood home ... Awww.

Birch log shrink pot by Phil Huber

What you got?

Published: Nov., 13 2020
Topics: None
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