Fair Woodworking

April 26, 2014

Don’t get edgy about sharpening.

Filed under: Fair Woodworking & Hand Tool Blog — fairwoodworking @ 11:18 pm

A couple of weeks ago I had ‘the talk’ with a new hand tool woodworker. You know the one we all dread?
No, not the  “where do baby hand planes come from” talk.
The one about how often you need sharpen your plane blades.

I think what makes this awkward is the power tool equivalents of today. Many woodworkers will use the same table saw blade for months, or in my case, years. An educated guess from a power tool woodworker might be every woodworking session or two.

It’s rarely welcome news that a plane blade depending on the wood and the skill of the sharpener, you could find it showing signs of dulling after as few as just a couple of passes.

It’s true because sharpening is really two skills. Making the edge sharp and making it durable. Just because you can shave hair off your back does not mean it is a strong durable edge. I can remember many times where by the time I was happy with how I’d set the plane to take a shaving, the test cuts had already dulled the edge.
In an obvious way that really sucks. You may almost feel like you have a sharpening hobby and from time to time get distracted by woodworking, but don’t get discouraged. In the beginning you have to resharpen a lot but in the beginning you also could use more practice sharpening. The more you sharpen the better you will get, but there is still more. Many new woodworkers also dread sharpening because they struggle to re set the plane.


Setting up a plane is difficult at first, but the more you do it the better acquainted you will become with the plane. One day you and that dreaded plane will become friends. One day you will discover that rather than breaking into a cold sweat, you will appreciate the break in your woodworking to catch your breath, and ponder the greater issues that trouble our world. Like if you were playing basket ball in space and you completely miss the net, can you still call it an air ball?


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