Admit it. We all have those tools that we don’t use as much as we’d like because they’re a pain to sharpen. Mostly they fall in the category of what I call off road tools. They tend to have curved or odd shaped cutters that require a combination of voodoo, marvel mystery oil, and luck to achieve good cutting geometry. Off road, because they open up possibilities beyond the standard straight and square joinery. I can usually fumble through a sharpening routine on just about any cutting tool but not with the ease of a straight plane iron. So the downward cycle goes something like this. The tools I don’t use often, I sharpen on an “as needed” basis. Because they’re not sharp and ready for use, I tend to not reach for them.
Thankfully, my son Josh gave me a DVD for Christmas by Larry Williams from Old Street Tools, Sharpening Profiled Hand Tools.
Larry shares some practical and simple methods to sharpen a variety of edge tools: hollows and rounds, carving gouges, cambering a jack plane iron, complex moulding planes, snipes bill planes, beading planes, V carving tool, and a moving fillister. For each tool he shows the method for completely re-profiling the blade and bringing it to a finished honed edge. He even shows how to normalize (soften) a blade, reshape it with a file, and re-harden it. Granted, I don’t expect to have to perform surgery on every tool, but it’s great to get some sound information in the event it’s needed. Larry also does several things I really appreciate. For each tool he points out the critical details inherent to that type of blade, like the side clearance angles on the filister. Often when I’m fumbling with a tool tune up, it’s one of those small details at the source of it. He also gives a short demo of how the sharpened tool should cut, not on mild pine but on what looks to be tough cherry. No excuses now, get Larry’s DVD, sharpen up all those ornery devils and turn off the paved highway.