The things I learnt last weekend.

Posted by on Oct 23, 2012 in Blog | No Comments


This weekend’s tool sharpening and fettling course was a belter! I feel a good course is where the course members go away with new skills and an enthusiasm to put them into practice, but a really good course is where I also learn something from teaching it. I learnt a lot last weekend.

One of the reasons Peter came on the course was to learn how to sharpen the in-canal carving chisels he uses for violin making. These are very tricky to sharpen as they are curved in two directions making, it difficult to get a sharpening stone to them. I although I have done some carving in the past I don’t have a lot of experience with sharpening carving chisels. We put our heads together and decided to try 3M imperial lapping sheets on glass to sharpen the outside and a piece of the same stuff on a piece of dowel for the inner face. It worked a treat and Peter was really pleased with his newly sharp gouges. One of the problems with sharpening these tools is they tend to leave grooves in normal flat sharpening stones, this will not be such an issue with the lapping sheets on glass, also they are inexpensive so replacing them is not an issue.

3M imperial lapping sheets in various grades can be bought at the excellent online tool shop Workshop Heaven.


On the sharpening and fettling course we spend a lot of time flattening the soles of planes. Previously we have used wet and dry abrasive paper on plate glass. This weekend I was unable to get any wet and dry in 60 grit, which is the very course grit we use to achieve the initial flatness. Instead I had some Indasa Rhynalox aluminium oxide sheets in 60 grit so we decided to use these when we ran out of wet and dry. It was a revelation! These sheets removed a lot more metal than the wet and dry and seemed to carry on doing so. I use Rhynalox in finer grades for sanding and finishing my furniture and think it’s the best abrasive on the market. I’m now converted to the course stuff for plane flattening.
Perhaps the best thing I learnt over the weekend was how to saw straight! Some of you will have seen my video on sawing straight where I show how to get a square cut across the piece, but I had no advice on how to get it square vertically. This tip makes this task easy, thanks to course member Stephen, who learnt it from Matthew Platt at Workshop Heaven.

For this tip to work you need a shiny saw! Mark out the cut with a knife in the usual way, when you make the cut look at the reflection in the saw blade. Keep the reflection so that it is in line with the line of the wood you are cutting, so the wood and reflection are a continuous straight line. If you achieve this the cut will be square vertically (assuming you are cutting square across the piece, this will not work for mitering). Simple, the only mystery is how I have never known this in 30 years of furniture making! Thank you Stephen and Matthew.

Check the reflection on the side of the saw. It's even better if you can line the reflection up with the wood on either side of the saw.

Check the reflection on the side of the saw. It’s even better if you can line the reflection up with the wood on either side of the saw.


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Thankyou, Chris.


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