Academy Notes and Tips
the Shopsmith Woodworking Academy
When I was a carpenter's apprentice, I always felt that sharpening my tools was a lot like eating healthy food - I knew it was supposed to be good for me, but I just didn't like the taste of it! To this day, I still don't like everything that's labeled as healthy food, but I have discovered that I actually enjoy sharpening my tools. Why? Because I finally learned the basics of how to go about getting the sharpest edges with the least amount of work.
Why have sharp
My brother, the engineer, explained it best. The anatomy of a cutting edge is simple, he said. A sharp, thin edge of steel offers less bulk as it enters the wood and requires far less pressure to work it into the cut. The less pressure it takes, the more control you have. As a result, a sharp tool is safer because you're not tiring your muscles, so you're less likely to lose control, jamming it out of the wood and into your body somewhere. It's just more likely to shave the wood cleanly, rather than split it like a wedge and jump out at you.
Most will agree that the common benchstone is probably your best buy. They can be used to sharpen many different kinds of tools, they're relatively inexpensive and they're very safe to use. When I set out to buy one, I found myself intimidated by what seemed like a vast array of benchstone types. But aside from a whole lot of shapes and sizes, there are really only a few basic benchstones.
Silicon-Carbide: Classified as man-made oil stones - oil because that's what's used to keep them clean. They're also often called carborundum, are usually gray in color and are most often sold in double-grit (coarse/fine - 100/280-grit) configurations. The Norton Company sells this kind of stone under the trade name Crystolon.