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Book Review: 'The Perfect Edge' by Ron Hock

In the interest of full disclosure, the following book , “The Perfect Edge” , is being published by my parent company, F+W Media. Also, I consider the author, Ron Hock, a good friend. Oh, and once I got on stage and shook it with a belly dancer in Greece after too many grape leaves and shots of ouzo.

OK, now that all that’s on the table, I think I can also say I’m a big fan of the two other big sharpening books out there: “The Complete Guide to Sharpening” by Leonard Lee (Taunton) and “Taunton’s Complete Illustrated Guide to Sharpening” by Thomas Lie-Nielsen. I’ve also sharpened a few tools in the last 15 years using everything from a brick to a $1,000 electric-powered record player.

So let’s get the most important question out of the way. If you already own the books by Lee or Lie-Nielsen, do you need “The Perfect Edge?” Well, unless you are a sharpening geek, no. All three books are outstanding works, in my opinion. All three will teach you how to sharpen a wide variety of tools. All three will take you from rank amateur to a zero-radius-intersection connoisseur.

If, however, you don’t own a book on sharpening, I think “The Perfect Edge” should be at the top of the list, if only for the fact that it covers the latest innovations in sharpening equipment and is written in a very breezy style that makes the technical information easy to digest.

Hock is one of the founding fathers of the hand-tool renaissance that has been blossoming during the last 20 years. He started out supplying plane irons to James Krenov and his students at the College of the Redwoods. From that modest beginning, Hock Tools grew to sell all sorts of blades, tools and even shellac through his company in Northern California. In fact, the term “Hock blade” is almost becoming the generic term for an aftermarket plane iron.

So Hock knows a good deal about woodworking tools, steel and sharpening. And what is remarkable is that this ironmonger also happens to be a fine writer. Reading about sharpening can be, for the lack of a better expression, a real grind. There’s a lot to know about abrasives, steel, ergonomics, lubricants and (if you are lucky) common sense.

As a long-time sharpener, I think Hock did a better job of explaining the abrasive side of the sharpening equation than anyone else. “The Perfect Edge” finally made the light bulb go on in my head on the topic of how different abrasives work the steel.

Hock’s book also is strong in other areas. While all three books do a fine job of explaining how to sharpen chisels and plane irons, “The Perfect Edge” really does an excellent job with turning tools, knives and saws as well.

Hock also covers all the new powered sharpening equipment and many of the honing guides on the market today. It’s quite up-to-date for a book. Plus, I think the photography is great. It’s sharp and gets right up on the action , plus Hock offer pages and pages of microscopic images of edges, which are very helpful for anyone trying to understand how steel becomes sharp and then dull again.

One last point of disclosure is in order here. Though I got to read Hock’s book in its entirety before it went to the printer, I had absolutely nothing to do with the effort to get it written, photographed, edited and published.

But I wish I had.

“The Perfect Edge” is now available for pre-order in our store for $29.99. The book is scheduled for general release in December, when it will be available from suppliers nationwide. Oh, and here’s a little hint: If you want a copy signed by Hock himself, you can order the book through the Hock Tools web site.

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