Fair Woodworking

April 8, 2013

It ain’t easy being green

Filed under: Fair Woodworking & Hand Tool Blog,Sharpening,Skill development — fairwoodworking @ 6:45 pm

This weekend I got a real eye opener.

Along with a friend of mine, we put together a sharpening workshop for some of the members of our woodworking club. They all seem to own planes, but non of them seem to ever use them. Those of them that do, they mostly use them to hold down their shelves so they don’t float off into the stratosphere. Some more creative types have discovered that they also are great at storing their very finest of dust collections.

I say, good on them, but it still couldn’t hurt to learn them to sharpen the blade a little.

You see the thing of it all is. There are all kinds of demos and videos out there that we all watch and think that we are learning. I know the folks in the club have all watched Rob Cosman do his song and dance (by the way, I have a new respect for that guy after this weekend), he will demonstrate sharpening, planing, and dovetailing, and all but the most lifeless pools of primordial ooze get whipped up into a lather of tool buying excitement.

And happily go home with tools that they have already forgotten what to do with.

Our plan was to put those hands to their tools, and get them doing stuff with them.

We made a Saturday of it, and this, finally was my chance to show these people how easy it was if they just gave it a try.


Let’s start on the grinder. The grinder is your workhorse, it will quickly remove the material that would take forever to remove with a stone.


No, no. Hold the blade this way, and make light passes on the grinder. No, light passes. A little lighter.

Hang on. Light passes, and you want the blade to slide flat on the tool rest. No wait, you’re tilted back too much. STOP! You’re digging the edge into the stone now, and you’ve burned it….

What is going on here!? Why are they having so much trouble?

And then the memories started flooding back of when I was learning how to hollow grind a blade.

I burned an edge or two. Bobbled halfway through many a pass, and leaned on the grinder so hard that it would slide away from me too.

For years now, I’ve been telling people that grinding is easy, and to tell you the truth. IT’S NOT!!! Not for a beginner! The same thing goes for free hand sharpening. In our world there is very little that prepares us to be able to hold so many joints rigid, and smoothly move the other joints. The modern world just doesn’t work that way!

The thing is that God made us with the ability to control our bodies movements if we are willing to take the time to focus on it. It’s not easy, but it is possible. I learned how to do all this stuff on my own. I sucked big time when I first started, and in some things I still suck, but the things that have improved were not a result of special gifting, or super human dexterity. It’s simply a result of pushing through the suck factor, and reaping the rewards of following through.


1 Comment

  1. I don’t think the time it took you to remember your beginnings is such an odd thing, not just to you or woodworking I mean. My father owned citrus and cattle in Florida, I can’t tell you how many times his jaw would drop, when somebody would make some comment about an incorrect fertilizer they were using or how driving a nail in their trees was providing the proper iron for perfect growth. He was constantly flabbergasted by the average persons ignorance when it came to plant growth, agriculture and animal husbandry. At first, as a kid, I thought it was just him, but then I went to work at a local furniture makers shop. He was an old grouchy guy, but he liked me. And together, he and I gave classes at the local college. He would get so aggravated at people, because they didn’t immediately know which clamp was best for a situation, or how to initially straighten a board. But it dawned on me that older people, of which I’m quickly becoming one, have done things so long we just begin to believe the knowledge or confidence in this situation, is present in everyone. It’s unfortunate, and I never went to a shop class or anything in school, but I believe those classes taught a lot more to people than how to build a birdhouse or turn on a saw. They started younger people along the path of knowing they could accomplish, anything, with a little practice and self control.

    Comment by pete van der Lugt — April 9, 2013 @ 1:40 pm

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