GWW: Keep Your Tools Sharp, A Short Post

If I could give advice to a new woodworker it would be this: When you buy a tool, what ever it may be, buy some way to sharpen it at the same time. I was in the Ontario, CA Rockler store on Monday and there was a young man (younger than I) asking the employee what he should buy to help him finish up his inlay work. I have spoken with this employee a number of times and I can say he has a wealth of woodworking knowledge so I wasn’t surprised to see the customer with a card scraper and a burnisher to go with it.   I didn’t stick around to listen the the rest of the advice he was giving the customer about his first plane choice but I’m sure  he steered him in the right direction (he has a plethura of planes from what he has told me).   Furthermore, I’m sure if the customer were to buy a plane he would have been told about the number of ways to keep his iron sharpened.

My point is when you buy a tool and use it for the first time and it performs fairly well it is a great feeling. You saved, researched, and chose the right tool for the task at hand. But what happens when that right tool gets dull?  You most likely start looking for a different tool, one that isn’t right for the job.  Then comes the frustration when your project (or you) gets damaged due to poor tool choice or a dull tool.  There have been many times when I want to make something but put it off because I have no efficient or consistent way to sharpen my tools, primarily speaking of turning tools. The only turning tool I can sharpen is my skew.  Now I primarily turn pens and small spindles so I have become quite good with the skew but I do like to turn bowls now and then.  No one would dare take a skew to a bowl turning.  If you have ever tried turning a bowl with a dull bowl gouge you know just how much tear out results and in turn, so to speak, frustration results.

A few pens
Amboyna burl, spalted maple burl, and lazer inlay pens 
Figured maple bowl
Figured maple bowl

When I was working on the bar stool mentioned in a previous post, I was faced with cleaning up epoxy squeeze out from the glue up.  I used my card scraper to scrape the dried epoxy the ran down the legs but I noticed it was really dull as it wasn’t scraping well at all.  I sharpened the scraper as outlined by Michael Pekovich in Fine Woodworking Magazine and it came out beautifully.  I was now scraping epoxy shaving vs epoxy dust.  This severely reduced my working time with the random orbit sander.


So be prudent about purchases and save up until you can afford the tool you need and the proper method for sharpening that tool.  Save yourself from the frustration of using dull tools.  Now go build something.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s