I’ll admit doing the sharpening section is a bit difficult for me. Not because I don’t have anything to share but because so many people have taken the time to produce some really great material on the subject. I thought, what original material can I add to the subject? The answer is none…sort of.
For awhile I was not OK with that, until I saw something that put me right back on track.
This picture in my copy of The Pine Furniture of Early New England set a firework off in my brain…I don’t have to be original, not even a little bit. Why not? Because some really smart people before me had to learn something somehow from someone to get anywhere. Take the picture above, the drying rack is simple elegant and useful but why did it set off that firework?
Because It made me realize that my current project has a heritage deeper than I originally thought.
I modified this design from something that I had seen Tom Fidgen do in Made by Hand (one of the most beautiful books ever published on handwork…it even smells good). Here is the page.
He openly credited the design to James Krenov based on (I’m guessing) this picture found in The Fine Art of Cabinetmaking (another must read):
For some reason I had never considered that Krenov might not have come up with his “bents”, but there it was slapping me in the face drying a set of britches out on a damp day, proof that good design just so happens to be simple. Good technique is the same, I can’t show you some new flashy way to sharpen an edge that is going to work better than the way we have done in for the past several hundred years, but I can show what I know about sharpening to add to that heritage.
I learned to sharpen from several sources, combined with practice and a solid background in abrasives. I will link some of the sites I have learned a great deal from here. I have shot some video that I will be posting as soon as I edit it but I will also be posting a picture and text version of my instructions for those of you who have slow internet connections.
I use a combination of Jigs and Freehand techniques in my shop to keep my edges good to go. I prefer freehand though because it is quicker and more convenient allowing me to refresh and edge and get back to work.
Let’s talk Jigs for a minute.
The best jig out there is probably the simplest. The eclipse side clamping guide is simple cheap and reliable, you really don’t need anything more fancy. But it’s also a jig that require a jig to use. You need to be able to set the projection of the blade consistently with this tool. Here are links for two ways to do that.
I like both of these methods but in retrospect I would make one modification. Instead of using the shim to set the micro bevel (that does the cutting) I would use it to set up the primary bevel (by shimming the jig instead of the blade). This would mean that my stops could be at exactly the angles I wanted my final edges to be and I would not have to fiddle with the shim as often (because most of the time you are just expanding the micro bevel).
When I use these jigs I like to push them as opposed to pull since it makes a more efficient use of my muscles, but try both ways and see what you like. The push stroke also lets you use alternating thumb pressure to put a mild camber on a smoothing plane.
30 degrees is a good angle to start your tools at as it’s the ideal balance between edge retention and keen cutting. If you are bashing out mortises in hickory 35 would be more advisable, and on the flip side of that, if you are paring pine end grain 25 would be better.
It’s getting a bit late here so I will go into the rest later.
-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan