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Thread: sharpening v tool on water stones

  1. #1

    sharpening v tool on water stones

    Hi, any tips for getting the point of v tool on water stones? I've watched a number of videos and have a slip strop but still really can't get it sharp enough to work effectively on khaya. Any suggestions are welcome.

  2. #2
    Can you elaborate on what you are trying to do with the waterstone. (Sharpen obviously) but what is not so obvious is are you working the outsides of the vtool or trying to work the inside with a watertone slip or what part of the tool is giving you issues?

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2018
    SW Missouri
    I use a power sharpener that I built to sharpen all my carving tools, including the V. It has 9" wheels with emery paper and leather wheels that turn at 400-450 RPM. This works well for me, as it allows me to hold the tool still, which lets me maintain the desired angle better.

    That said, when I demonstrate hand sharpening, I use the same method that Mary May demonstrates in her YouTube video:

    I prefer the diamond plates like she is using as they last longer than stones..... just be sure you're sitting down when you price "good" plates.

    The thing to keep in mind when sharpening the V is to consider it 3 tools in 1.... two knives (or chisels) and a gouge (bottom of the V). I start (assuming the edge(s) are uneven, damaged, etc.) by grinding the edges flat until I.... first, have the angle I want ...and second, I can see light reflecting off the end evenly across the entire end. I will then grind the outside of one side (knife) followed by the second side, then the bottom (gouge) where the two sides meet. Using a good light, watch the edge to maintain an even grind (some refer to the light reflecting off the end of the tool as the "white line"). You want to grind until the white line just goes away, then strop.

    It's important to strop the inside of the tool, especially if you formed a burr while grinding. This stropping will bend the burr back toward the outside of the tool. Stropping the outside will bend it back in. I continue stropping until the burr falls off. I never break the burr off with a burnishing tool, etc. I let the honing process do that. (I know some do... whatever works.)

    You can strop the inside several ways. I don't use a stone, but it can work if you do it lightly. Just be sure the curve of the stone matches or closely matches the curve of the bottom (gouge). I prefer the edge of thick leather with polishing (honing) compound applied. Shaping the edge of the leather with the V tool you're going to hone makes for a custom fit. You can also do this with wood (I use scrap basswood). Just shape to fit and apply compound. Flexcut makes a honing block that has several pre-formed shapes to fit gouges and V tools. These are made for smaller tools. If you have larger ones, just make to suit.

    A couple of mistakes beginners make: --Grinding too much, causing a large burr to form. This will fold over and can reflect light, looking like the edge needs more grinding. --Grinding the inside of the V. This can change the shape of the V by moving the cutting edge toward the center of the meat of the tool. Some will say it's okay, and maybe good to do that, but it's a much harder skill to learn. --Not rolling the tool to grind the bottom (gouge). This will leave a flat spot on the bottom of the V and will be very evident when tool is put to use. --Rolling the tool too much to one side. This can cause a notch to form where the side and bottom meet. --Grinding the bottom too much. This will cause a notch to form where the two sides meet (bottom).

    Small V tools are the hardest to sharpen for most people, as it's harder to see the white line and little grinding goes a long way. I check my edges with a magnifier lamp as I'm grinding. This may help. I'd suggest you start with your largest V and get some practice in before moving to the mini and micro V's.

    I always test my edges in wood, cutting cross-grain. Any dull spots will show up in the wood as tears. If you left a burr on the edge, it will probably break off in the wood and become very apparent.

    A word on angles. Every carver will probably tell you something different, but all will probably tell you it depends on the wood you're carving. I use shallower angles on my hand tools (carving mostly basswood with them) than I do on my mallet tools (which I carve bass, butternut, black walnut, catalpa). I have never measured the angles of my tools. If it doesn't work for what I'm doing, I either use a different tool or regrind to suit my needs. Your experience will help you with that.

    There are several methods to sharpen, and hopefully someone else will chime in and share how they do it. What I've described is what works for me. I advise people to try several methods and use what works for them.

    Hope this helps some.
    Last edited by Dave Keele; 11-08-2018 at 7:41 AM.
    .... Dave

    Old carvers never die.... they just whittle away.

  4. #4
    This really helps. I appreciate the thoughtful and thorough response.

  5. #5
    Thanks Dave. Mary's video is on I've recommended as well.

    Mark, African Mahogany is beautiful, but can be tricky to carve. The grain tends to dip and dive and change direction on you. If after your vtool is sharpened and cuts clean in other woods it should be fine for the Mahogany as well.

    Typically you'll need to run the vtool both ways in the African Mahogany riding the appropriate wall to get the cleanest cuts.

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