The most miserable aspect of hand work is setting up the tools for the first time. Removing the coarse manufacturing scratches from the unbeveled faces of your edge tools can be grueling, boring and filthy work.
(One side note before someone spanks me about David Charlesworth’s “ruler trick.” I really think you need to remove those deep scratches before you polish the tip with the assistance of a ruler. If you don’t, the deep scratches will remain or you’ll be ruler tricking that tool for a very long time.)
After setting up hundreds of tools for testing during the last 13 years, I’ve found that a few inexpensive magnets make the job easier and more accurate.
Get a Grip
I don’t know about you, but my left hand gets pretty cramped when flattening the unbeveled faces of my tools. Once I get a cramp (even though I’ve waited 30 minutes after eating) I find it difficult to apply enough pressure. So the flattening process takes even longer. And so my hand cramps some more. And when I walk out of the shop, my left hand looks like the shriveled prop from “The Monkey’s Paw.”
So I stick a magnetic base from our dial indicator on the blade and grip that. No, it doesn’t magnetize the tool. And no, in my experience, it doesn’t bend the tool. What it does do is speed the process. It requires much less effort to keep the blade against the stone. My guess is that it cuts my flattening time in half.
The magnet, which is from Grizzly’s G9623 Magnetic Base With Indicator ($16.95 total), doesn’t slip or let go , until you want it to. I’ve also used the square magnetic bases that have a switch. These work fairly well, though I like the lower profile and shape of my base.
Another option might be the Mag-Jig gizmos, though I haven’t tried them.
No More Slippery Rules
I do use the ruler trick quite a bit, especially when I teach sharpening and time is of the essence. Students love the trick, but they struggle to keep the ruler stuck to their stone. It tends to slide around, no matter what they try.
My solution? Magnets again. The ruler I use for sharpening is a 12″-long job that I received as a gift for subscribing to the British magazine Good Woodworking. One side is metric, so it’s fairly worthless to an Imperialist like myself.
Like all rulers, it would slip on my stone. So I stuck a couple rare-earth magnets on the back; this prevents the ruler from sliding on the stone. I’ve been doing this for years; it works brilliantly.
Now the only thing that makes me nuts about sharpening is the grime (surgical gloves don’t work , my hands get as hot as a monkey’s bum). Perhaps I need to get my boss to start paying for manicures , that would definitely get Art Director Linda Watts and Managing Editor Megan Fitzpatrick interested in sharpening.
- Christopher Schwarz
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