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Sharpening wood carving tools

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Uploaded on Jul 18, 2009

Jude Fritts demonstrates sharpening a gouge as she works on the pipe shade carvings for the pipe organ at St Philip Presbyterian Church in Houston. Visit www.judefritts.com.

Carving tools must be sharpened frequently to maintain a razor sharp edge. I use Japanese water stones to sharpen my tools. After wetting the stone, I make a slurry on its surface by rubbing it with a softer stone (starting at minute 1:16 in the video). Water stones sharpen much smoother and faster than oil stones and are less messy.

I show the motion of sharpening a gouge starting at about minute 1:40 in the video. Rock the chisel along its curved tip while moving it in an oval on the wet stone. Notice I keep my wrist at the same level so the tool is sharpened at a consistent angle. Once you get the motion down, it becomes a nice smooth rhythm that you don't even have to think about. (1:40)

Check the tip of the chisel periodically as you sharpen until you get a little bit of a burr on the front. Take that off with a slip stone and then move to the polishing stone. Be sure to rinse the chisel off before you move to the next stone so as to not mix coarsenesses. Also, rinse off the coarse stone before putting it back in the water (2:40).

Two cotton buffing wheels are used to get the super sharp, mirror-like finish. (3:30) Buffing wheels are often used nowadays instead of the leather strops that were traditionally used. Put a little rubbing compound on the wheel. Hold the chisel on the buffing wheel without pushing hard. Get the back and a little on the front, too. Always wipe the chisel off before you go to the next grade of compound. The result is a very shiny, razor sharp edge (4:50)

In between sharpenings, you can touch up the edge a few times on the fine buffing wheel before having to sharpen again (5:00).

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