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Occasional Table Class (Hand Tool Build) #10: Sharpening and a lesson in humility

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Blog entry by RGtools posted 1051 days ago 4304 reads 2 times favorited 18 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 9: A brief bit about sharpening (dont worry more detail will come) Part 10 of Occasional Table Class (Hand Tool Build) series Part 11: Sharpening with Jigs Video »

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.

Lie Nielsens way

Mafe's way

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



18 comments so far

View Julio 's profile

Julio

173 posts in 1477 days


#1 posted 1051 days ago

How to sharpen small mortices chisels or shoulder plane blades wtih that kind of guide ?
It is the most convenient honing guide I adore it, I use it adjusting the projection with a small stainless steel rule instead of the wooden stops

View RGtools's profile

RGtools

3299 posts in 1252 days


#2 posted 1051 days ago

Laertes, I work with oilstones. If you go back in this series one chapter I talked about the three most common sharpening methods and why I chose what I did. They all work so find the one that fits your personality. But a word of caution on oilstones your finest one (either a hard black, or a hard translucent) should be a natural stone, the synthetic ones dish out quickly and do not give a great polish.

Julio. I have sharpening a mortise chisel in this guide, you just need to mount it low and keep it there (I’ll do pics since we use a mortise chisel in the class), to do that you may need to take an auger bit file to the seam on the inside of the jig. It’s not as convenient as sharpening it freehand though. The Stainless steel rule works fine too, but I find I get more consistent results with the stops (and it’s a bit faster).

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View mafe's profile

mafe

9435 posts in 1686 days


#3 posted 1050 days ago

;-) looking good my friend.

-- Mad F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.

View RGtools's profile

RGtools

3299 posts in 1252 days


#4 posted 1050 days ago

Thanks my wife is helping with photography so you will see a bit of an improvement in the picture quality.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View mafe's profile

mafe

9435 posts in 1686 days


#5 posted 1050 days ago

It was the rack I meant.
But I have no doubt that wife is looking good too, but perhaps this is not what we talk about?
Best thoughts,
Mads

-- Mad F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.

View RGtools's profile

RGtools

3299 posts in 1252 days


#6 posted 1050 days ago

Big smile here Mads.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View mgfranz's profile

mgfranz

12 posts in 1643 days


#7 posted 1039 days ago

Wow… Chapter 10 of a “Occasional Table” class build, and I haven’t seen a single board get cut, planed, milled, sized or nothing, in fact I haven’t even seen a single tool being demonstrated in it’s use.

Are you ever going to build anything or are you going to just keep professing the tools you own?

View RGtools's profile

RGtools

3299 posts in 1252 days


#8 posted 1038 days ago

MG, believe it or not I have the same complaint about the class as you do. As I said in the begining of the class, I would start the build in late october…the idea was to give beginers time to aquire any tools they needed and did not own (and give me time to bring in the harvest). I thought that would be ample time to explain a bit about tool selection and set up. Learning the tools is an unfortunate nessecaty to woodworking and I am trying to cover it well enough to move on and put the darn things to work.

Be patient, I am having to be too.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View tomfidgen's profile

tomfidgen

38 posts in 2336 days


#9 posted 980 days ago

great post and really nice project. makes me want to build some more like these.

-- tom fidgen, www.theUnpluggedWoodshop.com

View RGtools's profile

RGtools

3299 posts in 1252 days


#10 posted 980 days ago

Thanks Tom. As one of the people who can take personal credit for getting started on this weird path called hand work I really appreciate it.

Hope all is well in your world.

I still need to build a few of those bents…projects keep pushing them aside though.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View brazjuca's profile

brazjuca

54 posts in 1168 days


#11 posted 965 days ago

muito bom, pena que aqui no Brasil nao encontra este jig. ops rsrsrs
very good, pity that here in Brazil do not find this jig.

-- Brazjuca guarapari Brasil. All worth it when the soul is not small. (Fernando Pessoa)

View RGtools's profile

RGtools

3299 posts in 1252 days


#12 posted 965 days ago

Fortunately you do not need the jig to sharpen. Here is a link for how do do this free hand

Felizmente você não precisa o gabarito para afiar. Aqui está um link para como fazer isso a mão livre

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View Don W's profile (online now)

Don W

14611 posts in 1165 days


#13 posted 964 days ago

I just re-read your article. First I agree The Fine Art of Cabinetmaking is a must read. Its probably one of the few woodworking books I’ve actually read cover to cover. Its a book where you learn how to think about how you’re woodworking, not a “how to woodwork” book.

I’ve found if you want to learn to sharpen free hand, first the article that did it for me is the one you posted. The second part of that is start with thicker blades. Its much easier to feel the “click” mentioned in the article on thicker blades. Especially chisels. I always do chisels free hand now, they have gotten easy. Some days I can do the normal stanley blades, some days I still need the jig.

I also liked your statement about ideas being built off other ideas. Very good point.

-- Master hand plane hoarder. - http://timetestedtools.com

View RGtools's profile

RGtools

3299 posts in 1252 days


#14 posted 964 days ago

Thanks Don. Hit hit two nails on the head. The thicker blades are a godsend when it comes to your initial efforts. As you progress you get a feel for the angle enough that a thinner blade is easier. there are one or two blades that I use the jig for, but slowly they are all getting hollow ground and my jig sees less and less use.

I had a history teacher who said that if you try to cross an ocean by building a bridge with small stones you will die before your reach the other side, Anyone who tries to build their own bridge will. The only way to progress over time is to build on someone elses bridge. This applies to just about anything.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View brazjuca's profile

brazjuca

54 posts in 1168 days


#15 posted 964 days ago

thank you friend, I started translating good book, here in Brazil we have no such tradition in woodworking as the United States, so we fail to learn from one of the main things, like sharpening, grateful for the considerations.

sorry for bad english

-- Brazjuca guarapari Brasil. All worth it when the soul is not small. (Fernando Pessoa)

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