Monday, June 8, 2009

Supersize It!

As a kid, I used to love to borrow my Dad's little magnifier to inspect everything from flowers to bugs. We'd take it along with us on camping trips and I admit to more than one time, trying to fry an ant by reflecting brilliant sunshine through the lens and onto the hapless creature. Never worked.

In the chip carving class I took with Wayne Barton, the knives we bought from him required some sharpening before use. They came with a blade shaped like the Washington Monument, and it was our job to flatten the sides on ceramic stones. (See illustration at left).

Over an hour later, I tried carving with my knife, which tore the wood instead of producing a crisp cut.

It sure looked sharp to my eye. So I handed it to Wayne, who reached in his pocket for a little monocle-type magnifier. He inspected it and, without a word, slid the blade in rapid-fire motion back and forth on my stone. He looked again through the magnifier and handed the knife back to me.

It cut like butter.

After that, I asked Dad if he still had his pocket magnifier. And while he no longer had the cool one in the little leather case I played with as a kid, he was happy to give me another, which has a permanant place in my shop apron.

The first blade close-up is my chip carving knife. You can see how clean the edge is. And although the sides could be flattened a bit more, it cuts great.

In contrast is my pocket knife (second close-up), which I thought was sharp until I looked through the magnifier. (Did I mention I need bifocals?)

The last two images are the torch lillies that are blooming in my backyard. Unfortunately, there was not an ant in sight when I took the photos.

15 comments:

Ethan said...

"Unfortunate" depends upon your point of view. I imagine it was a fortunate day indeed for the ants!

Now it looks like you have a Wayne Barton carving knife - is that correct? If so, did the knife come with the proper angles ground on it? Or did it come shaped like the Washington Monument?

If the latter, I wonder why Wayne's knives don't come sharpened the way he recommends sharpening them.

Jim said...

bifocals... maybe that's why my tools are dull.
I do like your carvings... very nice, especially the Latin phrase on your tool cabinet. I can just imaging archeologist 200 years from now scratching their heads and wondering aloud... "what does that mean".
JimK
N.Ga.

Lenderboy said...

The latin phrase, did you use a specific font from your computer? I would be interested in flattering you by copying something similar in a gift to my loved one!

The Village Carpenter said...

Ethan, that's the knife I bought from Wayne which came with the monument shape. I'm not sure why they aren't shaped correctly by the manufacturer. Other chip carving knives I've seen also have the monument shape, which if you think about how it's used, makes no sense at all. The corners hang up on the wood and it's impossible to make a clean cut.

Jim, that's the plan with the tool cabinet, and it amuses me no end. hee hee

The Village Carpenter said...

Lenderboy, I don't remember which fonts I used, but look for one with nice serifs and ones that aren't so extreme in the thick and thin parts. Have fun with your project!

Woodbloke said...

Kari - I've just done a big chisel test for F&C and I used a x10 loup to inspect the edges after each test...very useful little gadget to have in a 'shop.
To fry ants under the glass is a delicate operation requring a very steady hand to get the beam focused, surgical precision required.
One further thought...butter doesn't cut!
...hat, coat, already running - Rob

The Great Ethan Allen said...

I shoudl get one of those for my chisels! Up till now I have just been test cutting them on a piece of wood and seeing how it goes, Smooth easy cut= done! I'm getting the hang of it now ( well I should by now!) but they still take too long. It is fun having a chisel cut through wood like its butter.

Ethan said...

The real problem with the ant burning issue is the size of the lens.

If you were to try with a larger lens, like a magnifying glass, I think you would have better ant-frying results.

If you don't want to super-heat one of God's creatures, you could always try to have fun cutting through spider webs!

The Village Carpenter said...

Thanks for the handy tips on frying ants! However, I have become an appreciator of all living creatures. Maybe not sharks, or spiders. Definitely not spiders.

TGEA, this magnifier will hopefully take some guess work out of chisel and plane blade sharpening for me. Sometimes the blade looks perfect to my eye, but it won't cut as well as it should.

Mitchell said...

Your images have shown me why you are good at this carving stuff. Your hands don't shake.

The shots in the shop didn't tell me this; the glass is on the bench and you could have used a tripod to hold the camera. The shot of the lilly, however, is another story. Your fingers on the glass tells me it was positioned "hand-held", yet there is no movement registered in the print.

With hands that steady, it would be a breeze for you to hit the mark. Me, I have to try and time my strikes with my hand being at the right side of it's shake.

By the way, what does the latin on the tool cabinet mean?

Peace,

Mitchell

The Village Carpenter said...

Not only that, Mitchell, but I'm right-handed. Meaning, I took that photo with my left hand. I shoulda been a surgeon! Except for the part where you need to learn math and science... ha ha

The Latin reads: How did you get your hair to do that?

Mattias in Durham, NC said...

I love that Latin phrase too...

Thanks for the inspiration once again. I went on eBay to get a pocket magnifier - $5.72 with shipping! Don't you just love the Internet.

Roy Underhill has a stereo microscope. I never got a chance to try it when I was there, but I'll make sure not to miss that next time. They have what look like decent ones on Amazon for $100-200.

Vic Hubbard said...

To me this is one of those moments I realize I'm not filled with what I think should be common sense. I need to get a good magnifying lense and maybe a pair of those magnifying glasses sets, too.
Btw, thanks for the shop tour from a couple posts ago. WHAT A TREAT!!

The Village Carpenter said...

Mattias, that's right--I forgot about Roy's microscope. He had it w/him at the WIA last year.

Vic, I know what you mean. I was like, jeez, why didn't I think of that?

Joseph Pritchard said...

I've been thinking of buying a chip carving knife. I'm sure glad to know that the knife needs work to get rid of the "monument". BTW, My brother and I took Roy's mortice and tenon/ dovetail class. I used his microscope on one of my sharp chisels, NOT! I switched to one of his. ;^)