Arts & Mysteries: Period Sharpening

An experiment uncovers cutting edges of the past.
By Adam Cherubini
Pages: 34-36

From the November 2006 issue #158
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“How did they sharpen their tools back then?” I’ve asked this question myself and I have been asked the question, and I’ve never felt comfortable with any answer. We know that 18th-century woodworkers had grindstones and natural whetstones and that’s as far as any answer I’ve ever heard or given goes. I assume that the average 18th-century craftsman could produce an edge on his tools as sharp as modern woodworkers get. But is that true? Exactly how did period craftsmen sharpen their tools? What kind of edges did they get? To find out, I decided to purchase old whetstones and an old grindstone, make a period frame and give it a try.

From the November 2006 issue #158
Buy this issue now