Refining the Edge

A master class in honing carving tools.
By David Calvo
Pages: 53-55

From the November 2006 issue #158
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In the last issue, we looked at a basic set of carving tools and how to refine the shapes with grinding. In this article, we’ll take a look at getting the edges sharp for carving by honing. German woodcarver Frederick Brunner made me aware of an important key: the necessity for an absolutely flat bevel. We want a straight line from the micro edge back on the tool steel, so there is no resistance when carving. Having a round bevel is like driving down the road with your emergency brake on. The rounded curve gives inherent drag to the activity.

We establish the outside bevel first on the grinder (see “Bare Bones of Carving,” October 2006, issue #157). The angle you grind on the bevel is based on the thickness of the tools. The first rule is that you do not want a long, thin bevel. I always tell my students, “A shaving razor blade is sharp but it is lousy in woodcarving.” You need the shoulder to ride on.

So, let’s step into the apprenticeship here and learn the basic strokes of hand sharpening, Brunner Style. For starters, I use Japanese water slipstones. This is the only change I made from the oil slipstones that Brunner used. The Japanese culture is hand-oriented and the feel of the tool in the hand is important as a reference point.

From the November 2006 issue #158
Buy this issue now