As a woodworking blogger, I try not to “overshare” when it comes to personal information. I try not to talk about my exotic skin lesions, what I had for breakfast and the wide array of annoying personal habits of my co-workers.
But today is a sad day here in the shop. It’s time to let go of the “woobie.”
The woobie is actually a rag (there, I said it) that has been soaked with the lubricating juices of many plants, animals and petroleums. For more than a decade, the woobie has wiped down every tool when I put it away. It has wiped every plane sole to make it easier to push. It has cleaned off every edge after sharpening.
But today I think the woobie goes in the garbage.
Here’s the problem: I think the woobie has been contaminated by some sort of abrasive grit. Here’s the evidence: My handplane edges are deteriorating more rapidly.
One of the indicators that it’s time to resharpen a plane iron is when the shaving from the plane’s mouth isn’t intact across its width. It comes out as several smaller ribbons. What’s happened to the iron is it has suffered small nicks or fractures in its edge that prevent it from taking a full-width shaving. Plus, it leaves little plane tracks behind at these fractures.
I’ve noticed that my smoothing plane iron at work is now deteriorating much more rapidly than my smoothing plane at home (which is where I keep “son of woobie”).
More evidence: When I was teaching at Kelly Mehler’s School of Woodworking in September I left my woobie at home. And after crouching and whimpering in the corner a bit because of my forgetfulness, I noticed that my edges were lasting a long time again, even though I was loaning my planes to the students.
Hmmm. The woobie sees a lot of abrasive when it wipes off my tools from sharpening. And it sits by the drill press, where there are metal filings and other nastiness. The woobie could be the source of the problem. Embedded grit could be scratching the irons when I wipe them off.
I could launder the woobie, but I want to stay married. So here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to put the woobie at the bottom of my now-empty garbage can, start a new woobie and monitor the longevity of my plane irons. If my edges improve I’ll let the woobie go to the dump with the next load of trash.
And judging by how quickly we move here, that should be about Christmas.