The Art of Sharpening-A Beginners Woodworking- Getting Set Up As A Woodworker

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A Brief History On Patience and Mastery

There is some Truly Fascinating History tied up with Woodworking. It's Romantic in the True Sense of the Word- Embodiment of Patience, Care, Love, Thoughtfulness. Perhaps it's moved away from that a little bit since the Introduction of Power tools But a True Woodworker Never Ignores Good Foundation Practices.

I Like the Stories of the Woodworkers almost in Folk Lore where they would head deep into the forest Looking for a nice grove, and upon Finding one set up Camp for a good 6 Months at Least. There They Would Proceed to Make a Lathe.

For those Who Aren't Familiar with a lathe, it's a device that 'Turns' the wood at high speed and enables you to carve a cylindrical shape. Now in the Story i'm talking about there was no power. These Guys set up a Pole Lathe.

Using a Flexible but strong sappling, They would Harness the reflex ability of this tree, Using a thin piece of rope and a foot pedal- With the rope tied to the sappling and wound Once around the wood and down to the pedal, With a push on the pedal would give the wood a good 2 rotations perhaps.


They Would Make Hundreds of Chair Legs, Table legs, Tool Handles etc and Dry them as they Went.

Now I'm SURE these Men Knew the Art of Sharpening!

Quality Woodwork Begins With Sharp Tools!

The First thing any Woodworker should Start out with is a Sharpening Stone, A Straight Edge Chisel and a Mallet.

The Sharpening Stone is the Shrine where Woodworkers Devote themselves to Fine Woodwork. Traditionally, it has been many a Apprentices first Project to build a small box to 'House' the Stone, As it was mine.

The Quality of a Woodworker can often be told by Observing their Tools. I used to sit and look in Admiration at my Mentors Tools, and if I was to Hold one it would be like picking up a Newborn Babe!

He Taught me the Importance of Having Sharp Tools before you Begin any Project! If they are Not sharp you shouldn't start!

He would give me an Example of Carving etc and It would cut through like Hardened Butter or something! He made it look so Easy! The Difference between a Really Sharp tool and just a 'Sharp' tool can make all the Difference, Especially when it comes to Ease and Quality.

The Technique of Sharpening


Now you want to Apply Firm Pressure with your Hand On the Chisel and with the other hand on the handle, this is important, adjust the angle so All of the Leading edge( edge with an angle) is in contact with the stone. Now once that is 'Firm', while keeping the pressure and angle steady, begin moving it around the stone.

The best thing I've Found is to do a figure 8 using as much as the stones surface area as possible. By doing this it also means you get an Even wear on your stone. 

You will Need to keep the Stone Wet as well for smooth Operating.  It's a good idea to have a Sharpening station/ shrine for this sole purpose too.  You are probably asking do I use OIL on it? The answer is NO.

It is an Old Argument, you CAN, but over time you will Clog up your Stones Pores and it will become less effective, as well as making it more difficult to maintain.

Water is the Best to use.  Have a little Jug by your Station. Add it regularly during sharpening process.

A Sharpening stone

A medium and fine grit is a good place to start. ( medium grit one side and fine the other) This way you can move onto Fine grit after getting the Edge Even.

Doing Both sides of the chisel you will see it become Polished. Make Sure your Edge encompasses the Whole Angled Edge. Don't make your edge only a couple of Millimetres!

Once you are satisfied, remove the tiny Bur on the end by Using the palm of your hand or a piece of leather and knock it off by scraping it back and forth on its edge across your palm ( or leather).

Test it by Digging it in gently on the surface of the back of your thumb, if it catches its sharp!

Now That your Tools are sharp Make Sure to Place the Sharp edge always resting off the Bench so not to Dull the edge! You'll have to become Conscious every time you put one down and pick up another! It Can Take some Getting Used Too!

And Remember - Quality Woodwork Begins With Sharp Tools!

Sharpening Stone ( Whetstone) Maintenance 

Also It's Worth Noting that the Sharpening stone itself requires Maintenance! It Must Remain Level and Flat or the Sharpening Process will be Impaired.

To Keep it Even or Restore An Old Stone, You Will need a piece of glass, some sand for grit, water and your Stone. A Great Way to Do this Actually is To Take it to the Beach if you can and Perform figure 8's mixing sand and water.

If you can't No Worries Just Set Up a Station at home with these Materials. Perform the figure 8 Adding sand and water regularly and with some patience it will once again be perfectly level across the board!

Getting Set Up As A Woodworker

The 3 Most Vital Tools To Start Doing Some Woodwork are a set of Straight Edged (Bevel) chisels,  A Wooden Mallet and a Sharpening Stone( Whetstone).

With these tools you can start on a Almost any Project (which if you're beginning, Should be Box to house your Stone as Rites of Passage!)

I recommend Getting Quality Chisels, the Respect and Pride you will Get in Using them Will help you Gain that Meditative state as Well as ensuring you Look after them and Keep them Sharp!

The Mallet Shape I recommend ( As Seen Below) is the cylindrical shape as you can 'twirl' it around your hand and 'Hit' at any contact point - For me Anyway, it makes it more precise and enjoyable work than a traditional mallet shape.


Iv'e Spent Some Time Researching and Located The Best Buys Online I Could Find:

If You're In America:



Sharpening Stone

If You're In The UK:



Sharpening Stone

If You're In Australia:



Sharpening Stone

Last Note

A great Quality of note I'd Like to Mention Regarding My Mentor is He was Single Pointed. Focused. 'Zoomed in'.

Sharpening is a Meditation, A Necessary Step to establish the mood.

Sharpening your tools is An Art.


A Jolly Swagman,



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