WoodSkills Issue 02 - Page 78


I think there are a number of things that amateur woodworkers can do to make the process less stressful and more productive. In so doing it is my hope they may come to see sharpening as a positive experience and do it often enough that it becomes an intuitive part of their daily workflow. This is my main concern.

My approach to teaching and writing about sharpening is simple: I believe that to become a better woodworker, you must become a better sharpener. There are two parts to this:

1. That woodworkers embrace sharpening and do it. Sharpening must become intuitive in order to be efficient. This is really the only goal and you can’t avoid it.

2. We have never had so many options and so much literature on the subject. That’s good and bad. Understanding the fundamentals is critical so that you can make informed decisions about both the techniques and the tools you will incorporate into your workflow as well as set realistic expectations about the results.

How people sharpen doesn’t really concern me.

I don’t care much about your method or stones

you use so long as you get your tools sharp.

There are lots of options and most of them work very well. While there are really no wrong choices, you should bear in mind that every choice entails some sort of compromise. (For example: Heavy or light; fast or slow; low versus high maintenance; speed versus cost.) Seek advice from others or take a class so you can try out various bits of equipment.

Before I outline the six positive steps that woodworkers can utilize to improve their sharpening, I want to point out why I believe people fail to become good sharpeners.

1. Lack of practice; not putting in the time.

2. Lack of confidence and/or an inability to make decisions for fear of making a mistake.

3. Too much focus on optimizing perfection instead of on getting tools sharp quickly. That is to say, not understanding the concept of ‘good enough’.

4. Lack of good instruction, role models, etc.; someone who can teach, observe, critique and give advice.