Francis Lestingi Explains Tool-Sharpening Process
EQUIPMENT AND MATERIALS
Carving: Mahogany, from Niagara Lumber (East Aurora, NY), (716) 655-2142 or www.niagaralumber.com; chisels and gouges, from Pfeil Tools (Langenthal, Switzerland), www.pfeiltools.com; Corafoam® HDU, from Duna USA (Baytown, TX), (281) 383-3862 or www.dunagroup.com/usa
Sanding: Silicon-carbide waterproof paper, from Online Industrial Supply (Nashua, NH), (866) 736-9310 or www.onlineindustrialsupply.com; belt sander, from Bosch (Farmington Hills, NY), (917) 421-7209 or www.bosch.us; white jeweler’s rouge, from PJ Tool and Supply (Edgewood, NY), (888) 841-0088 or www.pjtool.com
Misc.: Cardboard, paper, glue sticks and X-Acto® knives, from office-supply stores
As Signs of Gold enters its third decade producing handcarved, gilded wood signs, we thought it was time to share the technique we have developed for sharpening and honing our chisels and gouges. Back in 2006, ST published an extensive article about our hand- carving techniques, which we titled “The Importance of Being Shallow” (see October 2006, page 90). Knowing how to carve is a valuable skill, but carving is neither fun nor successful if your tools are dull and not doing what you intend.
Over the years, we tried every conceivable method – and bought almost every sharpening gadget ever sold – in our quest to maintain sharp tools. The photo to the right attests to this futile effort. We’re not sure how much money we spent, but it might have been worthwhile had the results been gratifying; they weren’t. The procedures were lengthy and tedious and the results were lackluster – any improvements were fleeting.
Eventually, we observed that a few carvers were using sandpaper in some of their sharpening steps. This idea germinated, leading us to experiment with silicon-carbide waterproof paper in every step of the process except for the last honing step. The result was remarkable. Our technique produces long lasting and superbly sharp edges and is fast and inexpensive.
There is one caveat: Chisels and gouges must have a bevel of about 23˚ to function optimally. If this is not the case, we show how to produce a 22.5˚ (close) template using fairly common items. After you’ve properly beveled all of your chisels, this step never has to be repeated. The sharpening and honing steps are achieved easily and rapidly. When a chisel eventually seems somewhat sluggish, just repeat the sharpening steps that precede the honing process.