Chiseller

My recent experience in Mr. Arimoto's woodworking class convinced me that I need to get better at shaping wood with hand tools like chisels. I've been using Sharon's set of three Craftsman wood chisels for years, with poor results.

The poor results are due to the facts that the chisels have never been properly sharpened and I had no idea how to use them properly. After a few hours of instruction in usage, and a demonstration in sharpening, I feel much more confident, and am now willing to get better at both.

So, first step is sharpen up Sharon's chisels, right? I went down to the Lowe's to look for sharpening stones, but most of what they ahd was for knife sharpening. They had small diamond hone things and pocket stones. The had one of those big three stone rigs, but it was expensive and seemed more complex than I was looking for. I just wanted a few bare stones: a coarse, a medium, and a fine. In bare stones, they just had medium.

However, they did have a set of six heavy Stanley "Fatmax" chisels on clearance for twenty dollars. Those chisels cost about ten dollars each to buy separately, so this was a good deal. Even the ten dollar sets of cheaper chisels only have three sizes, and having a greater variety of sizes available is almost as important as better quality blades. Too good to pass up.

Home Depot wound up also focusing on diamond hones and knife sharpening, but they did have a decent-looking coarse/fine combination stone for five dollars, so that's what I got. It is a double-sided bare stone. I'd have preferred separate stones and a medium stone, but this is a good start.

After a bit of freehand work with the stone, I tried out the new chisels by clamping a piece of scrap pine lumber to my workbench and cutting out a rectangular mortise to cradle the stone while I sharpen. It didn't take me very long, and it was good practice.

It's not the most beautiful job, but it's only my second chisel project. Previously, I would have used a router to cut out a cavity like this. It probably would have come out a little smoother and more even across the bottom, but in my experience the router is difficult to control on such a small work piece (I don't have a router table) and is way noisier than just shaving out chips with a sharp chisel.

Then, I spent some serious time getting Sharon's old chisels back into shape, and practicing my chisel work so I could fine tune that stool project. I'm much better at it now, but I can tell I still have far to go.

2009.11.04 at 12:00am EST