“A wild boar was sharpening his tusks upon the trunk of a tree in the forest when a fox came by and asked, Why are you doing that, pray? The huntsmen are not out today and there are no other dangers at hand that I can see. True, my friend, replied the Boar, but the instant my life is in danger, I shall need to use my tusks. There will be no time to sharpen them then.”Aesop (621~565 BC)
It’s nice to have a philosophy on a subject because it helps one distill random thoughts down to the essentials.
Allow your humble servant to explain his philosophy about sharpening woodworking tools, not because it is charming and unique, and not because you should emulate it, but because it will provide insight into the things written in this blog and elsewhere. Use it to calibrate your BS meter. It is often neck-deep when people talk about sharpening.
My philosophy regarding sharpening was shaped by my experience as a carpenter, contractor, commercial cabinetmaker, and joiner working under pressure, against a clock, sometimes with a boss watching with eagle eye, and often in front of customers, not as a hobbyist fiddling around in a garage workshop. Married young with a growing family to support, I quickly discovered that children eat constantly and in ever-increasing quantities, so efficiency was and is important to me.
Efficiency was also important to the Clients who hired me. Sharpening and maintaining tools is, of course, part of the job, but from the Client’s viewpoint, it’s wasted time, so it’s important to minimize time spent fiddling with tools during the work day. Accordingly, I followed the example of craftsmen I respected and started the day with sharp tools in good working order, and kept spare planes and chisels sharpened and ready to go as backup.
Self-employment hammered into me the monetary value of time. It also taught me that quality sharpening stones and tools are expensive and wear out, and that to feed wife and babies every day I had to work efficiently to minimize time and money expended on maintaining tools, while maximizing the amount of work I accomplished between sharpening sessions.
I developed a strong dislike, nay hatred, for blades that fail to perform, refuse to become extremely sharp, dull quickly, or take too much time and effort to sharpen. I loathe them not just because they are irritating, but because they waste my time and money. Even considering the higher initial cash outlay, the cost-effectiveness of handmade, professional-grade tools in helping my mind and hands do good work and feed the family became as obvious as a burning road flare on a midnight highway.
You, Beloved Customer, may not feel the time and financial pressures that professionals do, but owning professional-grade cutting tools and learning how to sharpen them in an efficient and professional manner will make woodworking less frustrating, more profitable, and more enjoyable.
What is your philosophy?
The journey will continue in Part 4 with wisdom from a celebrity and pictures of pretty swords. Until then, I have the honor of remaining,
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Links to Other Posts in the “Sharpening” Series
- Sharpening Part 1 – Introduction
- Sharpening Part 3 – Philosophy
- Sharpening Part 4 – ‘Nando and the Sword Sharpener
- Sharpening Part 5 – The Sharp Edge
- Sharpening Part 6 – The Mystery of Steel
- Sharpening Part 7 – The Alchemy of Hard Steel 鋼
- Sharpening Part 8 – Soft Iron 地金
- Sharpening Part 9 – Hard Steel & Soft Iron 鍛接
- Sharpening Part 10 – The Ura 浦
- Sharpening Part 11 – Supernatural Bevel Angles
- Sharpening Part 12 – Skewampus Blades, Curved Cutting Edges, and Monkeyshines
- Sharpening Part 13 – Nitty Gritty
- Sharpening Part 14 – Natural Sharpening Stones
- Sharpening Part 15 – The Most Important Stone
- Sharpening Part 16 – Pixie Dust
- Sharpening Part 17 – Gear
- Sharpening Part 18 – The Nagura Stone
- Sharpening Part 19 – Maintaining Sharpening Stones
- Sharpening Part 20 – Flattening and Polishing the Ura
- Sharpening Part 21 – The Bulging Bevel
- Sharpening Part 22 – The Double-bevel Blues
- Sharpening Part 23 – Stance & Grip
- Sharpening Part 24 – Sharpening Direction
- Sharpening Part 25 – Short Strokes
- Sharpening Part 26 – The Taming of the Skew
- Sharpening Part 27 – The Entire Face
- Sharpening Part 28 – The Minuscule Burr
- Sharpening Part 29 – An Example
- Sharpening Part 30 – Uradashi & Uraoshi