It is all back and forth, to and fro, over and over again, until my fingers are sore and angry. Actually my fingers are not only angry, they are bitter and told me in no uncertain terms, “Listen bub, we know you are excited about your new little sharpening station, but either we get a break, or we will wrap ourselves around your neck.” I am not brave, so I relented and decided to take a break from sharpening. I checked and my fingers agreed that they would be more than willing to either “Do some walking through the yellow pages, especially if it is the Chinese food section, or be allowed to type up today’s blog.” It was made clear that the latter option would only be accepted if I let them state their case.
My belief that learning to use hand tool and to take care of them, will serve me well throughout my woodworking life, is not one shared by my fingers. It seems that practicing this skill daily has been met with suspicion by the digits. They don’t understand why I would work so hard to sharpen a small cheap chisel that I may never need. I tried to explain that the skill requires that I do it over and over. The case was made that it is better to get good on old chisels than to do a crappy job on new expensive chisels. This argument fell on deaf knuckles.
When I sensed that my fingers were tired of listening and I suspected they were about to turn on me, I gave up. I stand by my position though. Tonight I have spent close to 2 hours on one chisel. The first 70 minutes, minus the time it took to microwave some Tai Pei noodles and wolf them down, were spent on the 1000 grit. I set up my sharpening guide and started. Unlike my two chisels which I bought, the sharpening process started a new angle on the tip of the chisel. The aged worn chisel had likely never been sharpened and the angle was in need of fixing. Having flattened the back side, I figured I was close to done. I was grossly mistaken. The first time I flipped it over I saw that the heal was getting the new edge. It was obvious that I would have to keep sharpening until I had the entire front of the chisel ground down to the correct angle.
The monks, who devote their lives to the sharpening of chisels, would have likely ground the edge down. I have 3 grinders in the garage. They are old, I have never used them, and they look like a heart attack causing shock, just waiting to happen. So I give them a wide berth. Again, the point of sharpening this sad old chisel at all is for the practice. So I should stop complaining. The old adage applies, “be careful what you wish for.”
I may have sore angry fingers, but I am starting to get comfortable with the rhythm of the chisel and the wet stone. Is it perfectly sharpened? No, but tomorrow I will work on it some more. And then the day after too, and then perhaps a bit on Sunday, and one day, I will be able to put an edge on a chisel that I can be proud of.
-- Brian Meeks, http://extremelyaverage.com