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One of the best and worst pieces of advice in woodworking goes something like this: Do the very best job that you possibly can.

On the one hand, you get just one shot to build your project. And then you (plus your family or customer) has to live with the furniture until it goes into a museum or the city dump. Of course, when you are first starting out in the craft, getting things perfect can be paralyzing.

This last week I spent a week teaching 18 students at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking the fundamentals of handplanes, saws and chisels. It began, like all classes on hand work, with a day of sharpening. And the sharpening continued all five days as we worked our way through the basic steps.

As a result, I got to observe dozens of edges of chisels, scrapers and plane irons from (mostly) beginning sharpeners. All day long, students would hand me tools and ask: “Is this edge good enough?”

The edges weren’t perfect.


 

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