The hot topic of sharpening
Tuesday, January 14, 2014
One of the hot topics of conversation for quite a while now - although it always ranks high in the top 10 most frequently asked questions – is that of sharpening tools. I am usually asked a few questions at the clubs I visit, and apart from how many projects people turn in a year and a few others similar type things to gauge, what people are doing one question is who struggles with sharpening. I get lots of comments and requests for information on the subject, and it is something that is always in the mix when discussing tools and such like. I have heard it said - although I cannot verify whether it is wholly true, but it probably has an element of truth in it - that more people give up turning due to not being able to sharpen tools effectively, than any other reason. As mentioned, there is probably a grain of truth in that as many struggle with tool use too, but inability to use a tool well is also exacerbated by an inability to sharpen, which of course hinders their usage, and so the spiral of problems becomes ever deeper.
It is a shame. It is fundamental that people learn how to sharpen their tools, and maybe this is something that clubs can organise in their hands-on meetings. We all know that there is a myriad of devices and ways of sharpening tools, but I was always told to keep it simple and find something that works for me. That comment, from my apprenticeship days, will no doubt serve others well.
I note that some people are offering short courses on this subject, and apparently the response to these has been excellent. So it seems that people love to have someone to guide them in a systematic, but simple to follow way. Sharpening tools is a core element to all woodworking, and without sharp tools, we are pretty much stuck.
Being told to ‘keep it simple’ has stood the test of time, but given all the devices, gadgets and machinery out there, it is somewhat bewildering and costly if one makes a mistake. Being able to try-before-you-buy is always a good thing, and clubs and courses are always a good way for this to happen. One club I went to recently had such hands-on evenings, and it was amazing to see that between the members, they seems to have nearly every gadget and sharpening tool available. So the hands on event was very popular and solved a variety of issues people had.
What did you find helped you in this area, when you started?
(PHOTOGRAPH BY GMC/ANTHONY BAILEY)