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.