I’ve had the great opportunity to watch Paul Seller’s series of DVD’s along with read a lot of Christopher Schwartz’s material and being a newcomer, I’ve come to the conclusion that when most of start out, we tend to over think everything. We have had it drilled into our heads in everything we’ve done up until this point that we must MEASURE everything we do. If I’ve learned anything so far, and I’m glad I’m learning it now, is that MEASURING in woodworking is for the birds. Whether it’s the EXACT bevel we sharpen our tools or the measuring of laying out our projects. I’ve found so far that I could do quite well at this point without the measuring tape, as long as I have a marking gauge, a set of dividers, a bevel gauge, and a square. I’m debating completely throwing the tape measure out. I’ve found that in woodworking, there is so little that accurately gets MEASURED with numbers on a ruler or tape measure. Measuring is a form of ROUGHING out your plan. The truth is, I wish I had learned this fact when I first started. I was so concerned with measuring everything I did and I was finding out that the projects I started with weren’t as ACCURATE as I was hoping they’d be. I began thinking, “How can this possible if all my measurments are correct.” It was to the point I was pulling out my digital calipers to measure and check everything to make sure it’s the exact thickness I need when in reality, I didn’t understand that the project will turn out just fine whether my piece of wood is exactly 1” thick or 1.2566763” thick. As long as everything is marked using the same marking gauge or the same bevel setting and marked always from the same side and then making sure that all dadoes, tenons, and mortises are based off of each other instead of measurements, then everything will turn out more accurate and fit together perfectly ALL WITHOUT MEASURING A THING! In other words, let the pieces of the project dictate the sizes of the project, instead of a measuring tape.
What inspired this blog is I’ve been reading a lot of people debating over sharpening tools and the correct methods. I have to say that to this point, the greatest bit of information I’ve come across is watching Paul Sellers sharpen his tools. It was like a magical woodworking epiphany! Up until that point, my MEASURING side of my brain, which tends to make everything more difficult than it needs to be, kept telling me that I had to use a honing guide and my bevels had to be the perfect angles and I needed a worksharp 3000 or a tormek or whatever. And to those people that have them, don’t be offended because I’m not telling you that you shouldn’t use them, I’m just saying that I’ve found you really don’t need them. Woodworking has been done for 1000’s of years without Tormeks, Worksharps, or fancy honing jigs. I know it seems impossible! How did they know what their bevels were on their tools without a veritas mark II honing jig?? I have a secret for you, they didn’t! I’m sure their tools were hand sharpened to an approx bevel somewhere between 20-30 degrees and they worked fine. Same method I’m finding is so true in sharpening my own tools. No more jigs, no more machines, no more switching discs on the worksharp, no more setting every bevel perfectly. Just hand sharpened on my set of diasharp diamond stones and hit the leather strop with honing compound. 2 minutes of time and sometimes less, I’m back to work without having to drag out the $500 worth of sharpening equipment that I kept telling myself I had to have. I’ve come to peace with the fact that my chisel might have a 32.987387654789 degree bevel instead of the 30 degrees I was hoping for, but when it sharp, it cuts wood perfectly every time!! That fact used to bother me to the point that I had drilled in my head that I have to buy $100 honing jigs and $300 machines to make sure my tools are sharp.
I’m sorry for the long-winded thoughts and hope no one who owns one of those very well made machines and honing jigs gets offended because they do work very well and they make tools very sharp. I just wish someone would have told me this info before I started in woodworking. So with all this being said, there I two things I will leave you with:
1) The less MEASURING you do, the more ACCURATE you will be
2) Keep it simple stupid!
-- Greg, Owner, Quality Carpet One, www.qualitycarpetonecrofton.com