Intro to Hand Tools
Three Saturdays ago, Kristin and I woke up early and headed down to good ol’ Cerritos Community College to start our new class, Woodworking with Hand Tools.
Previously we have taken Basic Woodworking, Cabinet Making and a Furniture Lab together. I have also taken table making and a few more lab classes. I have a pretty good grip on basic furniture making and power tool use, but have been frustrated in my use of hand tools. Kristin is not a fan of huge power tools and recently inherited some old tools from her Grandpa. We finally decided to take the class and good thing as they are discontinuing weekend courses after this semester due to crummy state budget here in California.
By the end of the course we will learn to sharpen and restore chisels, card scrapers and planes. The final project is a small tote/box that features hand cut dovetails, through mortises, and wood that is S4Sed using hand tools. We are excited to learn.
Week 1: What is Sharp?
After a few introductions we went right into a discussion of:
1. Why use hand tools?
2. What is sharp?
3. Wood structure and tree anatomy
For a few great answers to these questions I recommend (based on our syllabus we bought and are reading these)
1. Why hand tools?
“The Nature and Art of Workmanship” by David Pye. This is a somewhat esoteric but interesting book about the execution of workmanship as a dying art. It is too complex for me to sum up at this time. I do think it is required reading for all woodworkers.
2. What is sharp?
The Complete Guide to Sharpening by Leonard Lee is a must have for all woodworkers.
To quote: ... ” a sharp tool can be defined as one that has a keen edge that will hold its shape in repeated use for a given material and technique while producing a good surface finish on the the wood.”
Week 2: Chisels
We came back to class with some of our old planes in hopes that our teacher would evaluate them. The course can get pricey as the list of required hand tools is quite extensive.
Week 2 of class began with a recap of chisel cutting dynamics. A similar discussion can be found in the Leonard Lee book leading to the conclusion that correct sharpening angle is balance between efficiency of cutting and durability of the edge.
Our instructor demonstrated his process of sharpening chisels which involves:
1. Lapping the face
2. Grinding a double bevel
3. Honing and polishing the bevel
Sounds easy? Hmmm.
Our first assignment: Lap the face of the chisels. Our class defines lapping as transferring one shape to another. In this case we will transfer the flatness of our stones to the face of our chisel. (Note: I will the refer to the flat part of the chisel as the face as per my class).
All of this will set you back somewhere between $150 and $200 U.S.
Overview: Lap stones… Lap chisels… Repeat
Our chisels to be sharpened. My older set of Marples at the bottom. They have been abused by a Work Sharp Sharpener (more on this evil machine later). In the box: a set of Irwin chisels (newer Marples) I got for $17 bucks with 50% off coupon at a Rockler clearance sale (cha-ching).
Also my black handled paint/ glue scraping chisel and a crummy Harbor Freight Chisel.
We filled a 5 gallon bucket with water and soaked our stones. Meanwhile we got out the new Granite Surface Plate.
We set it up on our workmate on a towel in preparation for flattening our stones.
In preparation I “broke the back” of some 220 Wet Dry paper and soaked it in the bucket. The idea here is that it prevents the corners from turning up when I adhere it to the paper.
Here Kristin “Squeegees” it down to the granite.
You would think your stones would come flat. The Nortons actually were, but best practice is to flatten ‘em. My King stones were dished from prior use. Also, you the Nortons cut fast and wear away quickly which requires constant flattening. The surface plate is a necessity (you can use plate glass or a DMT stone too). The Norton kit comes with a flattening stone that keeps its shape fairly well but also requires maintenance
We drew pencil lines on the stones so we can watch our progress. You can see a sheen where the light reflects off the worn areas in some light, but the pencil marks help.
To flatten: just rub the stones on the Wet Dry paper
Chamfer the edges to help prevent cuts. They are extremely sharp after flattening.
I alternated between a skew angle and a horizontal approach. For one grit I would move with the chisel set at an angle this created an even scratch pattern that I could remove with the next grit.
My pressure is all on the left hand being careful not to tip the chisel up.
For the new set of chisels, Kristin removed their factory finish with lacquer thinner.
Most of the new chisels started off with grind marks from the factory. This is the HF chisel but the Irwin’s have a similar pattern.
A new Irwin chisel.
Here is one of my old Marples after lapping but before stropping.
After lapping from 220 to 1000 to 4000 to 8000 I polished the chisels on a leather strop with aluminum oxide. Here are the results on three (the instructor said we have it down).
I have a Work Sharp and I am almost convinced that it is one of my least useful tools. I devastated a 1/4” chisel on it a few months back. Check it:
It is too easy to roll the narrow chisel on the fast moving plate of the Work Sharp
After lapping on the 220 stone you can see that I am starting to flatten the back. I am pointing at the area. The cloudy diagonal marks indicate where I have begun to flatten.
A bit later as the pattern “spreads”.
Finally the same chisel after moving through all of the grits and polishing on a strop.
With narrow chisels I have learned to use a back and forth (as opposed to side to side) motion.
We have 9 chisels lapped between the two of us. We each worked for about 10 hours.
Next time: The bevels.
-- -John "Do I have to keep typing a smiley? Just assume it's a joke." www.flickr.com/photos/gizmodyne