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Woodcarving for Beginners

Tool Sharpening

The maintenance of a sharp edge to his tools, is probably more important to a wood carver, than to most other craftsmen in wood. It is therefore essential that this art is mastered at an early stage, and be able to apply that knowledge as necessary. The work produced by dull tools will not look as fresh and clean, and the tools themselves will be more dangerous to use, since a dull tool requires more pressure in use, and the blunt edge may cause the tool to slip.

Oil Stone Sharpening is divided into two main parts: Grinding and Sharpening proper or honing. Grinding is only needed at long intervals, while sharpening may be needed several times during one session, just to touch up the edge.

Grinding of carving chisels is best done on a Sandstone wheel, about 12 inches in diameter, two inches wide, and turning in a trough containing water. The stone should turn slowly, and the tool held firmly with one hand on the handle to provide the angle of cut, and the other hand on the blade to provide pressure at the point of cutting, and to control the position of the blade on the stone. When grinding is completed, the water trough should be emptied, because if the stone is left immersed in water, there may be a tendency for the stone to soften over time. If the only stone available for grinding is a high speed carborundum stone, then great care has to be taken to avoid overheating the tip of the blade, causing a burn mark, which indicates that the metal has been de-tempered, and will be softer than before, and will not keep a good edge.

The principal differences between a carver's chisel, and that of a joiner, or cabinet maker, is that the joiner will bevel his chisel one side only, and with a flat bevel, while the carver may require a bevel both sides, and the bevels will be rounded off, in order to provide the greatest flexibility in use, and to enable the tool to get down as closely as possible to the work piece.

Two oil stones are needed, a medium or fine oilstone, such as a joiner would use, and a fine carving stone. A carver's stone is usually white and is of much finer grit than the carborundum or india stone. A thin oil should be used such as sowing machine oil, and stones should be cleaned off after use to avoid them becoming clogged. A clogged stone can be cleaned with paraffin, then wiped down with a cloth to remove the rubbish accumulated.

Some carvers like to add an inside bevel to a gouge, and fine slips are needed for this, and will be needed even if an inside bevel is not wanted, in order to clean of the burr left by honing. Flat, triangular, and rounded slips are needed to complete the job properly, in various shapes and sizes.

You will detect the burr which must be removed when you have sharpened the edge of your tool, by running your finger over the reverse side of the edge.

Ring, E-Mail, or Fax us now, and find out a little more.

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Lichfield College, The Friary, Lichfield, Staffs WS13 6QG, England
Tel/Fax: 0044 (0)1543 301200

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Last updated: April 4th, 2000.
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