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Thread: Thoughts on Sharp

  1. #1
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    Thoughts on Sharp

    My intention was to not hijack Ken's thread on New Chisel Prep. This thread is to share thoughts on sharpening, sharpness and even testing sharpness.

    Often the first sign of a blade needing attention is the quality of work a blade is performing. On a plane, the shavings can tell a lot. Here is a plane with a small nick in the blade:

    Nicked Blade.jpg

    The spot with the nick is not cutting creating a split in the shaving. Even though a thicker shaving may not split, it will leave a little line on the work that can be felt.

    A thin shaving requires a sharp blade. Some of my blades do not seem to nick up like an A1/2 blade. They continue to take smooth shavings they just can not be dialed in to be super thin shavings.

    The actual nick is difficult to photograph:

    Hard to Photograph.jpg

    You may be able to see where it is, follow the arrow. A dull spot or a nick will often show up under close examination under light. Even with poor eyesight a sparkly or a dark area can be seen.

    After sharpening this blade it took a good full width shaving without splits:

    Sharpened Plane Blade.jpg

    The wood is a piece of alder from the firewood pile.

    Testing on end grain is a helpful test for many folks. Here is an After & Before of a 1-1/4" Sandvik chisel:

    Before & After.jpg

    The patch to the right of the red line shows the surface made by a dull chisel with a few nicks. It is still sharp enough to pare a joint that will be hidden when assembled. To the left of the line is a patch cut with the same chisel after a trip to the oilstones. The shaving on the left patch was thin enough that it didn't remove remnants of the streaks from before the chisel was sharpened.

    Here it is in action:

    Clean Shaving.jpg

    Smooth cutting of end grain may not be important to many woodworkers. If one is carving details such as letters or other 3D work, it can be the difference between looking sharp or looking rough.

    Some folks do not like end grain to show. My taste differs:

    Smooth End Grain.jpg

    My DVD/CD/Blue Ray drive just didn't look right without a little elevation. This is also a piece of alder firewood, smoothed with an LN #62.

    jtk
    Last edited by Jim Koepke; 01-21-2020 at 8:48 PM. Reason: wording
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

  2. #2
    Jim,

    Good photos and a good demo.

    ken

  3. #3
    My first question would be, what is the chisel _for_? I have some awesome antique chisels that I have for many years used for mortising, and they have rust pitting that you would never get rid of, and they work just fine. Actually, some other such afflicted chisels work similarly well for paring. Sorry to conflate the issue, but that's just what I do.
    Last edited by Doug Dawson; 01-21-2020 at 11:51 PM.

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    Sorry to conflate the issue, but that's just what I do.
    Sacrilege! Blasphemy! Treachery!

    Your comments are valid in that a chisel or blade only needs to be as sharp as the job at hand requires. After all, sharpening is really a process. Go to the stones or strop to get an edge and back to work. Though it is often treated as a ritual. Sometimes it is the ritual that teaches us the process.

    In a plane, a pitted blade can be used like a toothed blade if it is pitted enough. The original blade in my #5-1/2 was very pitted. It also had a bit of camber. Recently it occurred to me, when it came to my shop, it was set up to be used as a scrub plane. This was a few years before my first use of a scrub plane. Recently it was set up with the original blade and is now my fourth plane set up as a scrub. It will likely go back to a straight blade since it is the only #5-1/2 in the shop.

    jtk
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Koepke View Post
    Your comments are valid in that a chisel or blade only needs to be as sharp as the job at hand requires. After all, sharpening is really a process. Go to the stones or strop to get an edge and back to work. Though it is often treated as a ritual. Sometimes it is the ritual that teaches us the process.
    Sometimes, I feel that in these conversations "sharp" is the end-goal, rather than simply a means to an end. You're correct, it only needs to be sharp enough to do the work at hand. Often that means I'll stop sharpening before it's reached "sharp for sharps sake" and just get back to work. If I'm paring down the interior surface of a mortise, or a tenon cheek I in no way need to be as sharp as a final exterior surface.

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    Sharpening is good and so is woodworking. Two different activities, but equally fun.

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    Quote Originally Posted by lowell holmes View Post
    Sharpening is good and so is woodworking. Two different activities, but equally fun.
    They may be "different activities," but they are deeply connected.

    Not much quality woodworking will occur without being able to sharpen your tools.

    jtk
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

  8. #8
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    And.....not much woodworking will get done, if'n all you are doing is sharpening....and sharpening...and sharpening....

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by steven c newman View Post
    And.....not much woodworking will get done, if'n all you are doing is sharpening....and sharpening...and sharpening....
    While it's not my personal "gig", there are people who make a sub-hobby out of sharpening. IIRC, there was a japanese-style sharpening contest last year in NYC - I remember seeing a video posted. I think our own Brian Holcombe participated as did Wilbur Pan (Giant Cypress blog).

    It's all good. Some people like to challenge themselves to develop sharpening skills, others to cut perfect dovetails, others to make beautiful tools, etc. There's plenty of room in this hobby. Do what pleases you.

    Fred
    "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
    - Sir Edmund Burke

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    And.....not much woodworking will get done, if'n all you are doing is sharpening....and sharpening...and sharpening....
    With the blade in my original post, it took more time to put water in the tray and soak my stones than it took to go through the grits on three stones.

    Not much woodworking will get done if one doesn't take care of sharpening their tools.

    To paraphrase what Fred said, people find their pleasures in various endeavors.

    Some find displeasure in the basic necessary endeavors in life.

    jtk
    Last edited by Jim Koepke; 01-26-2020 at 3:02 PM. Reason: wording
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Koepke View Post

    Hard to Photograph.jpg

    You may be able to see where it is, follow the arrow. A dull spot or a nick will often show up under close examination under light. Even with poor eyesight a sparkly or a dark area can be seen.
    Want to photograph that nick? Get one of these for $23

    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07DRGR6LX

    I just ordered the stand for $21, will see how that works. The included stand is not so nice. It works, but is not so nice.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Pitonyak View Post
    Want to photograph that nick? Get one of these for $23

    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07DRGR6LX

    I just ordered the stand for $21, will see how that works. The included stand is not so nice. It works, but is not so nice.
    That would be a lot of fun, but my only way to use it would be to connect it to my computer. That would mean running into the house all the time to take a picture and then running back to the shop.

    To bad it doesn't have a built in power source and a memory card.

    jtk
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

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    I use diamond hones to sharpen my tools.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Koepke View Post
    That would be a lot of fun, but my only way to use it would be to connect it to my computer. That would mean running into the house all the time to take a picture and then running back to the shop.

    To bad it doesn't have a built in power source and a memory card.

    jtk
    Luckily, this one comes with everything you need to connect it to a an Android phone. The cable can connect to standard USB, as well as C and some other one, mini I think. In other words, it will work newer and older android phones. I do not know if it will work for iPhones, I think so. It connects as though it is a web cam. I also did NOT want to have to run back and forth. Spend a bit more money and they have one with a built-in screen, but $23 made it worth it to give it a try.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Pitonyak View Post
    Luckily, this one comes with everything you need to connect it to a an Android phone. The cable can connect to standard USB, as well as C and some other one, mini I think. In other words, it will work newer and older android phones. I do not know if it will work for iPhones, I think so. It connects as though it is a web cam. I also did NOT want to have to run back and forth. Spend a bit more money and they have one with a built-in screen, but $23 made it worth it to give it a try.
    The price is great. Since moving to an area without cell service, my cell phones were given up almost a decade ago.

    jtk
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

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