Fair Woodworking

March 16, 2012

The ruler trick

EDITORS NOTE *** This post is experiencing 3rd party photo hosting “issues”, that will be addressed as time allows. ***


If you do not know what the ruler trick is (and I’m not talking about the one with the floating hammer…), you can read about it here as written by its creator David Charlesworth.

The ruler trick is one of those ideas that is as brilliant as it is simple. It’s been endorsed by many of the true woodworking greats of our time, and for the beginner it removes one more road block from the challenge of sharpening a plane blade. Besides that, it really does work!

Well… for plane blades that is.

You don’t ever want to use it on a chisel, because you often need to register the chisel on it’s back, and the slight back bevel it creates would lift the cutting edge off the level of the back of the chisel.

There are also some, (myself included) that feel that any kind of back bevel on a low angle bevel up plane shortens the life of the cutting edge.

In this light, the ruler trick is only useful for bevel down planes.

So do I use it for my bevel down planes?

I have in the past, but then it occurred to me that it really does not jive with my mentality for developing better hand tool skills.

Here is the thing. I am a creature of habit. One accidental use of the ruler on one of my chisels would result in me having to regrind the chisel back past the back bevel, and I have no plans on that kind of waste of metal. I also expect that I be able to sharpen my chisels and bevel up blades to the same finely honed edge of my bevel down blades. If I am able (and I think I am) why add the extra step?

If I am not able, why wouldn’t I want every opportunity to improve the edge of my chisels by getting extra practice with my bevel down blades? (I should mention that in my opinion the bevel down blade is the easiest to sharpen anyways)

Finally, I think the ruler trick is of the most benefit to anyone that has less than flat stones. I don’t think I need to harp any more on how incredibly whacked out OCD I am on stone flattening…


Not going to go there…

Edit. I wrote this a few days ago, but didn’t get the finishing touches done until now. Since that time, some great news was posted HERE about Mr. Charlesworth. The Coles notes are that as many in the hand tool world know, he as been terribly ill, but recently has made a full recovery, and is back to teaching. This is great news as he is one of the true leaders in woodworking. The DVD’s I have of his are some of my favorites. Even though I don’t agree with his every point.

Finally, while I voice my opinions that contrast those of many of our wood working hero’s. It should be remembered that I am just another guy with more tools than skills. The Hero’s of whom I speak are superior to me in every conceivable woodworking aspect, and I don’t expect that will ever change.

Take my opinions if you will, but only for what they are worth.


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