Monday, February 15, 2010

Sharpening & Honing Gouges

There was a time I was afraid to use my gouges and chisels, not because I feared a skewered hand, but because I knew that once they became dull, I'd never be able to resharpen them.

I loved using the tools, but like an exquisite dessert that you savor 'til the last, all the while dreading the sorrowful clink of your spoon at the bottom of the empty dish, I'd limit myself, using them only bits at a time.

Well I was just being silly. You should always indulge yourself with things that make you happy. (I say this merely to reassure myself that my post-holiday physique doesn't look as bad as I think and that perhaps someone might have installed a funhouse mirror in my home while I was out.)

A friend came to my shop on Saturday to learn my sharpening tricks. I think he was surprised at how easy it is to create and maintain sharp edges on gouges.

If you buy a new gouge, do yourself a favor—hone it right away and hone it frequently during use. Do this, and you'll never have to sharpen it with anything other than a strop.

If your gouge is in bad shape, it's still easy to bring it back to its original form. You'll just need to use a more abrasive approach with sandpaper or files before you reach for your strop or slipstones.

The trick is to first make sure the cutting edge is straight across, devoid of chips or waves, and second, maintain the bevel angle as you sharpen and hone. There are lots of sharpening methods, more than what I've shone here, so feel free to offer your own advice.

Now, where did I set that bowl of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream...

21 comments:

Dave said...

I think I'm going to send a few dull tools your way! :)

Darnell said...

Great how to.
Have you used the technique where you use the gouge on a piece of hardwood, then charge the groove with compound?
Sorry, there's no more cookie dough, all that's left is the mint..

rgdaniel said...

I'm only just barely out of the "don't use them or they'll get dull" stage... I have a nifty little 1-inch vertical belt sander thingy that I saw Leonard Lee of Lee Valley Tools use in a video on sharpening... highly recommended (video AND belt sander)

http://bit.ly/bw8fvy (video)

http://bit.ly/b44FMm (sander) - note, I actually sourced this machine elsewhere, because Lee Valley does not offer it with the motor, strangely...

Adrian Baird Ba Than said...

Good stuff Kari...
I think that beginners to proper sharpening will be surprised at how dull some store-fresh tools can be.
Ok,they're sharp,sharp enough to get decent results in a lot of cases,but it's the last minute tickling on charged leather that really makes a chisel,gouge etc,sing.
In my experience only premium tool companies tend to take sharpening to stropping & even these tools won't suffer from a little cowskin massage before use.
This is a huge subject...

The Village Carpenter said...

Dave, bring 'em on over. :o)

Darnell, I'm familiar with that technique, but have never tried it. It makes perfect sense, though. I caved and ate that mint ice cream. blech.

Bob, I forgot about that technique. Never tried it myself but know people who do. I've even seen Steve Latta sharpen a chisel on a belt sander. Hey, whatever works! ; )

Black, I couldn't agree more. Every new tool can benefit from honing. Even Lie-Nielsen.

Extremely Average said...

This is really helpful. Thanks for taking the time to do such detailed photographs.

The Great Ethan Allen said...

I wasn't going to comment, until you mentioned a belt sander. Heyhey! That is what I use! Its quick, easy and does not "burn" the chisel like ..say ..a bench grinder. I have labored for hours with a stone, both power water wheel from craftsman and a arkensas oil stone. They take FOREVER. belt sander with a little polish and water makes sharpening EASY ( for me anyway) the easier it is , the more likely you are to touch it up every 5- 10 minutes of use. But to each their own. what ever works for them.

ahardslojdlife said...

Excellent! There is a job available as craftconsultant here in Sweden. You could absolutely apply for it!

The Village Carpenter said...

Brian, my pleasure. :o)

TGEA, it takes a special touch to use a belt sander, but it is very fast. Have you ever tried sharpening a gouge on it?

Niklas, cool!

ahardslojdlife said...

just in case you want to start a new career :)

Tico said...

That's so true about using a tool sparingly to savor it's one- time sharpness. Been there! After setting up my new tablesaw with a dial caliper, fussing over and over to get everything "just so", I felt mildly reluctant to use and thereby initiating the process of ruining the perfection and eventually having to do the adjustments again some day. Routine maintanance and rehab could be enjoyable, I suppose...

After the 220 grit to restore the initial edge of the grungy iron, how many subsequent grits follow?

Tico

The Village Carpenter said...

Tico, after the 200 grit, I go right to a 1,000 grit slipstone and then an 8,000 grit slipstone. Thanks--I had forgotten to mention that.

Jerry said...

Hi Kari good post as usual. Where did you get that dual magnifying glass? Mine is getting a little scratch time for a new one.

The Apprentice and the Journeyman said...

After reading your post my todo list just grew longer. It's funny how my chisels always seem to get more sharpening and honing attention than do my gouges.

By sunset all of my gouges will have new edges. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

here: http://www.upr-jdv.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=79&Itemid=1

A french teacher show his technique in the first video at around 3:30
If that can help someone :-)

The Village Carpenter said...

Jerry, my dad gave it to me and I'm not sure where he got it, but I did a quick search on Amazon and found one that looks similar. Search: Bausch and Lomb Folding Pocket Magnifier - A18085

TAATJ, happy sharpening!

Anon, thanks for the link! Lots of good video footage on that site. You don't really need to speak French to understand what he's teaching.

Woodbloke said...

Hi Kari - I was shown years ago how to hone carving gouges and use much the same sort of techniques...fairly straight forward.
If you want a real challenge, try grinding and honing an in-canneled (sp) scribing gouge...you'll be guaranteed never to look at a bucket of ice cream again! - Rob

Kathy Storm said...

Enjoyed this post. I am still at the "almost too afraid to use" stage with my carving tools.

Jerry said...

Thanks Kari ordered one. Mine had no name on it and I had no idea where to get one.

The Village Carpenter said...

Rob, so to lost weight, all I need to do is buy in-cannel gouges? Why didn't you tell me this sooner??? ; )

Kathy, just hone as you go and keep an eye on the bevel. You can do it! :o)

Jerry, terrific--hope it works well for you.

Tom Buhl said...

Thanks for the sharpening post. Hit me at a good time to get out some retired chisels and make them happy. While I was at it I also got my decent chisels sharper than they've yet been. Onwards with a smile.