|Review by dfdye||posted 1405 days ago||3836 views||2 times favorited||14 comments|
Summary: I recently read a bunch of books on tool sharpening, and wanted to share the ones I would recommend to friends. There are a lot of bad books out there, but there are three I have read that stand head an shoulders above the rest. They are, in the order that I would recommend them:
“The Perfect Edge, the Ultimate Guide to Sharpening for Woodworkers” Ron Hock—5 Stars
“The Complete Guide to Sharpening” Leonard Lee—5 Stars
“Taunton’s Complete Illustrated Guide to Sharpening” Thomas Lie-Nielsen—4 stars
The whole story:
For a few years now I have relied on sandpaper for sharpening my planes and chisels, but I have always had problems burning blades when I worked with a grinder, and I knew there were things I could improve regarding sharpening other tools in my shop. As a result, I broke down and bought Ron Hock’s “The Perfect Edge, the Ultimate Guide to Sharpening for Woodworkers” and immediately read it from cover to cover. He offers a fantastic explanation of the metallurgy of tool steels, tips on making your own blades (if you are so bold!), analysis of the composition and applications of assorted abrasives, and just about everything I could ever hope for regarding technique and tips for sharpening every shop tool I could ever think of using. The one area he intentionally skips is sharpening carbide table saw blades, which I think is a judicious choice considering the difficulty of accurately sharpening carbide blade tips, and the extreme danger posed by improperly balanced or damaged carbide table saw blades.
For anyone using hand tools, I would HIGHLY recommend this book as a great reference for sharpening shop tools. Even if you already have a sharpening routine you are comfortable with, the theory, history, and background offered in the book is still worth the read. The production quality is excellent—the pictures and illustrations are top notch, and the book is well printed and bound. It should make a great addition to anyone’s woodworking reference section.
Of course, after I read this book, I had to check out all of the books at my local library dealing with sharpening to see if there was anything I would add to Hock’s excellent book. Long story short, I read through a LOT of really bad books with terrible information that were essentially pamphlets describing what most of us already know. Disturbingly, many of them recommended sharpening techniques that would ruin most good tools. Boo.
There were two exceptions that I could recommend: “Taunton’s complete illustrated guide to sharpening” by Thomas Lie-Nielsen and “The Complete Guide to Sharpening” by Leonard Lee. As most of the readers of this forum obviously know, Thomas Lie-Nielsen is the head honcho over at Lie-Nielsen tools, and he most certainly know a thing or two about building and maintaining tools! As with every Taunton book I have ever read, the production is excellent, and the figures and pictures are fantastic. This book is a pleasure to read, it looks nice, and the information is very well organized and referenced. His book does not provide as much theory and background as Hock does, but his tips for sharpening are quite good, and overall this is what the title says it is—a solid illustrated guide to sharpening. If this were the only book I ever read on tool sharpening, I would not be disappointed, but it falls a step below Hock’s and Lee’s books, in my opinion.
Leonard Lee was not familiar to me, but during reading this book I found out that he is the “Lee” of Lee Valley tools—you know, those guys who are responsible for the Veritas tools? So suffice it to say that he has a few bona-fides too, but even before I realized this, I was quite impressed by the quality of his “Complete Guide to Sharpening.” There is some information regarding steels (not as informative as Hock’s, IMHO), and of course an excellent analysis of sharpening tools, including a few different techniques that Hock omits. This alone puts his book along Lie-Nielsen’s in terms of utility, but the section that makes this book excel is an excellent analysis of abrasives and how the affect your tool’s sharpness. This section has a series of scanning electron microscope images of blades sharpened with various abrasives that alone justifies reading the book! The one minor gripe some may have with this book is that it is primarily in black and white (I don’t remember if it actually had any color in it at all—I already dropped it back off at the library!). Despite this, the illustrations and photographs were quite clear and easy to interpret, and the overall production quality was first rate. I, personally, didn’t really mind the lack of color, but I did think it was important enough to point out for others for whom this might be an annoyance.
So, as I stated in the summary, as a book to buy and put on my shop library shelf, I would be very happy with Hock’s or Lee’s offerings. Though I feel it is not as well rounded of a book as the first two, I would not hesitate to also recommend Lie-Nielsen’s book as an excellent practical guide to sharpening woodworking tools.
-- David from Indiana --