The Know-Nothing Woodworker #1: In which I discover sharpness, and make a Useful Thing

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Blog entry by ejvc posted 07-24-2014 07:21 PM 1878 reads 0 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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In this series I document stuff that is ground-level woodworking, but since I know nothing about what I am doing I feel like a GENIUS when I accomplish these basic things. (Or as my dad always says, “Even a blind pig finds an acorn once in a while.”)

Yesterday I sharpened my plane blades successfully for the first time. I have tried before but yesterday was the first time I was actually able to make SHAVINGS with my planes. To celebrate I practically whittled a couple of sacrificial boards in half. I sharpened them by hand, with two diamond plates, a waterstone, and a sharpie. And some cloth. I don’t have a strop yet. But I don’t CARE because I can make SHAVINGS. That CURL. And are awesome. (But: does it take everyone else 20 minutes to reassemble their planes? I find it so difficult to get the chip breaker set onto the blade so that there is the right degree of adjustment with the little wheel thingy…) I filled a paper bag with a bunch of lovely curly shavings that will be great for fire-lighting and packing packages :-)

And today I made my first Useful Thing. It’s currently a heatwave in Sweden and the mosquitos are out in force (if you have ever been to Sweden in summer you will know that mosquitos here are no joke). Usually summer is over quickly and the irritation doesn’t last too long—but I am covered with bites now because our windows have no screens. Today I made a screen. I measured the window opening. I cut four bits of 1×1 to length (using my new bench hook, even!). I planed them for fun. I made little shoulder housing joints on each end using saw and chisel (did I mention I can ALSO sharpen chisels? I so rock!) And when they were done it actually fit together! And was square! I glued and screwed Then I stapled mosquito-net fabric to the frame and stuck it in the window. And you know what? It fit perfectly. I tell you, I feel like a million bucks. I both rock and rule.

Daughter mysteriously refused to help with gluing, screwing, or staple-gunning. Instead she hung out and wrote in her horse journal…

And how has your woodworking been today?

-- Building stuff with my daughter (6). Pretty new to woodworking, I mostly sew...

10 comments so far

View DLC's profile


44 posts in 1822 days

#1 posted 07-24-2014 08:24 PM

Nice, I’ve only recently gotten into hand tools (planes) myself. Sharpening sure DOES make a big difference. I recently bought the Robert Larson 800-1800 Honing Guide on Amazon, and it helped quite a bit in keeping a consistent angle when I was sharpening my plane blade on the stone.

-- Daniel, Durham, NC

View ejvc's profile


107 posts in 2162 days

#2 posted 07-24-2014 08:47 PM

I am currently honing-guide free. I use the sharpie marker on the bevel to help me understand where I am not sharpening. And by gum it worked!

-- Building stuff with my daughter (6). Pretty new to woodworking, I mostly sew...

View chrisstef's profile


17761 posts in 3208 days

#3 posted 07-24-2014 09:42 PM

Theres something to be said for making an iron sharp for the first time. Congrats!

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

View Skip Mathews's profile

Skip Mathews

119 posts in 2052 days

#4 posted 07-24-2014 11:52 PM

Awesome! That’s exciting. It makes all the difference to have sharp tools.
I really need to get a good diamond stone. All I have now is an old two sided (rough/smooth) oil stone that my dad used to use for his pocket knife. I can get a pretty good edge but I know I can do a lot better. It gets me by for now. Stones are expensive!$

Oh… the mosquitoes are pretty bad in Missouri as well :)

-- Being focused on a project is the best meditation, it allows you to live in the moment"

View DocSavage45's profile


8724 posts in 3044 days

#5 posted 07-25-2014 12:29 AM


Congratulations…..You’re a woodworker! Yeah! Makin -shavins!

Learned a little trick. Take a feeler gauge blade about 5 thousands. Or what ever works.Lay it on a very flat surface and push your blade that thickness and set the screw. You can check out highland woodworkers weekly on line shows which is where I got this from.

Minnesota Mosquitoes will carry you away. LOL! But when I lived on the lake in Arkansas I was able to sweep them off my arm there were so many.

Sounds like your being a great role model, but what you are doing isn’t making anything. Just skill building so she probably got BORED! LOL!

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View BTimmons's profile


2303 posts in 2687 days

#6 posted 07-25-2014 04:00 PM

I for one had no idea that there were mosquitoes in Sweden at all. Still, congratulations on the first round of proper sharpening. It’s a whole new world, isn’t it?

-- Brian Timmons -

View Jim's profile


80 posts in 4279 days

#7 posted 07-25-2014 09:40 PM

Fun writing! Thanks!

-- Jim,

View upchuck's profile


540 posts in 1867 days

#8 posted 07-25-2014 11:57 PM

Discovering how to find “sharp” isn’t all that easy even if you do have someone to show you how, hold your hands, and observe/correct your efforts in person. It’s even harder to discover “sharp” on your own with nothing but book learning to guide you. But don’t wear out your arm patting yourself on the back. You’ve still got a lot to learn on the subject. Get better.
Better=faster and more consistent. Better=more precise and more variable. Better=teaching the youngster how to keep her tools “sharp”.
While ‘more consistent’ and ‘more variable’ may seem to be to be contradictions I don’t think that they are. It is the precision of achieving what you want. You want a slight camber on your smoothing plane. You want more camber on your jack plane. You want camber plus on your scrub plane. You want no camber on your bench shooting plane. If you don’t have multiple planes just configuring different blades to use in the same plane can extend the usefulness of that plane.
Sharpen something every day. Do you have a drawer full of kitchen knives that need some love? Sharpen one per day. Try different things with the knives. Tomatoes, bread, chickens all respond differently to an edge. which edge is best?
So again…congratulations…keep it up.

View ejvc's profile


107 posts in 2162 days

#9 posted 07-26-2014 06:30 AM

Oh rats. I knew a know-something would come out of the woodwork, so to speak :-) I sharpened a couple of chisels yesterday anyway. I’m pretty sure I have a really long way to go with my skills, let’s just put it that way, LOL. I’m a very experienced sewist, since I’ve been doing that since I was a girl, and I still have a lot to learn there. Woodworking doesn’t strike me as less complicated, let’s put it that way.

-- Building stuff with my daughter (6). Pretty new to woodworking, I mostly sew...

View lightweightladylefty's profile


3266 posts in 3914 days

#10 posted 07-28-2014 05:24 AM

Congratulations on the sharpening. Now come and teach me! But bring your deet. The mosquito is Wisconsin’s state bird!


-- Jesus is the ONLY reason for ANY season.

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