Chris Schwarz's Blog

Make Your Own Edge Guards

When sharpened steel knocks into anything else, the result is usually dull steel.

That’s why woodworkers protect sharp edges by wrapping our tools in canvas or leather tool rolls. Or we stuff them in smelly socks. Or we wrap them in special rags and refuse to even look at them for fear of them becoming dull.

I’ve made a lot of little slip-on guards for my edge tools using business cards and masking tape. These work fine, but they do tend to slip off at the worst possible moment. I’ve always wanted something better, like the vinyl edge guards that Czeck Edge Hand Tools sends with its tools.

But I don’t need 500 guards for a single 1/2” chisel.

So I was intrigued when one of my students showed me an edge protector he had made using wax paper and Plasti Dip, which is much like the chocolate stuff for dip cones at Dairy Queen. It begins life as a liquid. But once it is exposed to air the stuff sets up like rubber. Yum.

So I bought a can of black Plasti Dip at my local hardware store for $14 and began experimenting with it. At first I tried it on raw, dry steel. The Plasti Dip stuck to it and then peeled off like a balloon on a beef frank. That was no good.

I covered the tool in wax first, then dipped it. Nope. Petroleum jelly. Non-drying vegetable oils. A steely gaze. Nope, nope and nope. The Plasti Dip just stuck too much.

So why not wax paper? It looked a little lumpy. I wanted to avoid lumpy.

Then I decided to try masking tape. But I wrapped the tape around the tool with the tape’s adhesive facing out. This worked great. Most tools were ready to go after one dip. Some tools required two dips before all the blue tape was fully covered.

After the little edge guards were dry I snipped off the blue tape that peeked out.

I made little edge guards for all the tools in my tool chest within an hour. Easy. And they look nice and hold quite well — just be sure to stretch the tape as you wrap the tool like a mummy.

After coating all my edge tools I still had a half can of the Plasti Dip stuff. I began looking around and wondering what else I could coat. The cats’ paws to give them extra traction on our hardwood floors? Hmmm, juvenile trouble is ahead.

— Christopher Schwarz

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25 thoughts on “Make Your Own Edge Guards

  1. BillT

    I made some like these using Gorilla tape. The first wrap tightly around the chisel with the adhesive side facing out (that was tricky), and then a layer around that, with adhesive facing in.

    Works pretty well, but it’s tricky to make them snug enough that they won’t slide off too easily, without making them so snug it’s hard to get them back on the chisel.

  2. tirebob

    I finally found some Plasti-Dip (here in Calgary it seems really tough!) and I have to say it works like a charm! I am might pleased with the result and I have to admit I am now looking for devious way to use this stuff to mess with stuff all over the place!

    Great tip… Thanks!

  3. tman02

    Chris -

    Thanks for the tip and video. I looked for the chisel tip protectors at the Woodworking Show earlier this year, as I’ve had them for years and some of them are broken, and no one had them nor had seen them in a long while.

    I’ve done this and it works well. I just had trouble getting the tape started, but after that it went well. I double dipped them to “cover up” the edges of the tape wrap. They aren’t very pretty but they do the job.

    Thanks again.

  4. keithm

    A few other options:

    * Electrical heat-shrink wrap. Get an assortment cheap at Horror Freight. Fold it back on itself while still pliable.

    * Heat an old plastic milk bottle with a heat gun until it turns transparent. Push the tool in and spin around like you are doing a candy apple. Remove and press into a neat blob with gloved hands

    * Scrap leather sewn with a “Speedy-Sticher”

  5. Capie

    Yes, Chris, I also latched onto your bussiness card idea, but found it a bit un-long-lasting. Currently using plastic from 1 litre icecream containers (cut out in a fat capital “T”), cut and bent to suit the chisel size, and then warp it up with “electrical tape”. The type that the layers fuse into one another (not insulation tape). Takes a few minutes to make but it’s rugged and will last a long time. Doesn’t slip off either. I don’t think we’ll have the Dip thing anytime soon in South Africa….

  6. wklees

    What’s the stuff that Lie-Nielsen puts on his accessory/extra blades? It works great! It is soft doesn’t stick to the blade and seems to hold up to knocking around the toolbox. You can see through it so you get a better idea of what you’re holding than an opaque material. Perhaps you could get him to offer it up for purchase.

  7. rwyoung

    I got stuck at “balloon on a beef frank”. I have a good friend who makes his living as a street performer / clown, “Balloon Man”. He informed me that his balloons are Kosher (as is he). This leads me to wonder if the problem isn’t with the choice of beef frank.

    Also, shellac works well to reduce problems with hair shedding in cats. Also make good door stops afterward.

  8. careforapint

    Sugru is awesome, but will stick to just about anything. If you do use it for this, be sure not to get it on your tools. I made a grip for a wrench and you can’t pick this stuff off.

    1. Christopher SchwarzChristopher Schwarz Post author

      My last tool chest had dividers. I prefer the traditional wide-open approach. I didn’t see a lot of tool chests with lots of dividers in my research.

      Next up: I’ll get my wife to knit me a cozy for every tool.

  9. John Cashman

    The real fun comes next. They have Plast-Dip in spray cans. Why settle for just the cat’s paws? With a spray can you can do the whole cat! Scabbards for tenon saws! hose down that Holtey before you take it on the road!

    But the real future? Custom prophylactics.

    I just want to say one word to you. Just one word. Are you listening? Plasti-Dip.

    1. macmarty15221

      … Chris would also need to have a Way Crazy Backbone to be standing over there, with his hands over HERE. Clearly the painted toenails belong to the next-generation woodworker-in-training we’ve heard about before.

      While I’m here, I’ll advise Chris to give those edge guards another dip, in some color other than black. Otherwise he’ll be re-making them in … oh, about 9 days, after the black ones crawl into the shadows and disappear. That’s what happens to ALL black items in my underlit cave, with speed proportional to value.

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