#19
  
I've been thinking, I know, dangerous. What is your opinion of how sharpening was approached years ago when power tools were not available.

I've purchased more than a few older planes and invariably the irons were very dull, and often bore evidence of extremely sloppy sharpening. Now, in most cases there is no way to tell if the sharpening was done in the early part of the 20th century, or just a few years ago. Still, many appear to have not been touched for decades at the least.

I am well aware that today we have tools available to make sharpening much quicker, easier and more precise. I am also familiar with the philosophy of sharp enough for the job.

Just wondering what the consensus among you was on the opinion on common level of sharpness achieved in the past.

We tend to think that sharp is the Holy Grail for hand tools which not only saves time and effort, and increases precision greatly. Of course, a high degree of sharpness is difficult to achieve  with only a dished out oilstone or two to work with. I suspect this was all many craftsmen had to work with due to availability of sharpening tools, and what they could afford.
"Mongo only pawn in game of life."        Mongo
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#20
  Another sharpening thread with a twist clovishound I've been thinking, ...
(05-04-2021, 11:19 AM)clovishound Wrote: I've been thinking, I know, dangerous. What is your opinion of how sharpening was approached years ago when power tools were not available.

I've purchased more than a few older planes and invariably the irons were very dull, and often bore evidence of extremely sloppy sharpening. Now, in most cases there is no way to tell if the sharpening was done in the early part of the 20th century, or just a few years ago. Still, many appear to have not been touched for decades at the least.

I am well aware that today we have tools available to make sharpening much quicker, easier and more precise. I am also familiar with the philosophy of sharp enough for the job.

Just wondering what the consensus among you was on the opinion on common level of sharpness achieved in the past.

We tend to think that sharp is the Holy Grail for hand tools which not only saves time and effort, and increases precision greatly. Of course, a high degree of sharpness is difficult to achieve  with only a dished out oilstone or two to work with. I suspect this was all many craftsmen had to work with due to availability of sharpening tools, and what they could afford.

This could just be my own luddite bias but I think our tech makes sharpening harder for us, not easier.

Options like jigs, different types of sharpening media, and endless supply of new techniques actually make this skill very mysterious.  Combine that with our cultural sense of superiority over the past (that sounds harsh but I think it is true) and we tend to think that those who went before us were "dull"... pun intended.

My experience is that sharp is very easy and quick to accomplish with just some basic skill and no fancy jigs or sharpening media.  In fact my Waterstones haven't been wet in almost a decade.  I got rid of my sharpening jig about 13 years ago and have never desired one since.  They strike me as so absurdly unnecessary.

Butchers worked with razor sharp knives. Barbers had razor sharp blades.  Doctors and surgeons had razor sharp scalpels.  Soldiers had razor sharp knives, swords, and bayonets. The list goes on.  No one had jigs. a plethora of superfine sharpening media, nor endless magazine articles telling them the latest secret to a sharp edge.

I would doubt that woodworkers would somehow be left out of those who knew how to sharpen their tools.

My suspicion is this.  Those tools which are still in decent shape today are those who were rarely used and were used by amateurs.  The tools which were used by professions (the same types) were well cared for but also well used.  So they might have been used up and thus we won't find them.

the tools that lasted long enough to be found by us today were the misused and hardly used tools.  That's why they seem to have been so poorly sharpened.

Just my $0.02
Peter

My "day job"
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#21
  RE: Another sharpening thread with a twist Peter Tremblay [quote='clovishound'...
It may not be apples to apples, because it is a different culture, but in his book on Japanese Tools,  Toshio Odate described their tools for sharpening, which were very basic, no power equipment,  but it was pretty clear that they got very sharp edges.   He came to the US in 1958, so he probably apprenticed in the late 40's early 50's - though that is just a guess.
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#22
  Another sharpening thread with a twist clovishound I've been thinking, ...
I’ve been getting my sharpest edges since I abandoned sharpening with power tools and jigs.
Dave Arbuckle was kind enough to create a Sketchup model of my WorkMate benchtop: http://www.arbolloco.com/sketchup/MauleS...nchtop.skp
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#23
  Another sharpening thread with a twist clovishound I've been thinking, ...
(05-04-2021, 11:19 AM)clovishound Wrote: I've been thinking, I know, dangerous. What is your opinion of how sharpening was approached years ago when power tools were not available.

I've purchased more than a few older planes and invariably the irons were very dull, and often bore evidence of extremely sloppy sharpening. Now, in most cases there is no way to tell if the sharpening was done in the early part of the 20th century, or just a few years ago. Still, many appear to have not been touched for decades at the least.

I am well aware that today we have tools available to make sharpening much quicker, easier and more precise. I am also familiar with the philosophy of sharp enough for the job.

Just wondering what the consensus among you was on the opinion on common level of sharpness achieved in the past.

We tend to think that sharp is the Holy Grail for hand tools which not only saves time and effort, and increases precision greatly. Of course, a high degree of sharpness is difficult to achieve  with only a dished out oilstone or two to work with. I suspect this was all many craftsmen had to work with due to availability of sharpening tools, and what they could afford.
.......
I have a collection of sharpening stones, purchased mostly at flea markets..IMO, there were two levels of sharpening in the olden days..one level was the "it's sharp enough"..and many carpenters hones were no finer than a silicon carbide or a medium and fine India.I have seen lots of them in old cans that they had for kerosene which was with the hones..The kerosene in those can had long since turned to a hard varnish. They were as sharp as they needed to be for rough work..

The folks that took sharpening to a higher level were people that used their sharp tools frequently for hunting, self protection, warfare, shaving etc...and for that they used natural Belgian Coticules, Washita/Arkansas, and German slate hones, while the Asians used hones native to their region..used mostly with water to hone to the finest edge possible., as fine as any we can do today even with our "hi tech equipment". We have all seen how sharp the ancient Samurai swords were, and all done by hand with natural stones...But with modern equipment I can sharpen edges as fine as that in minutes, not hours..I believe most competent wood carvers use power equipment these days, because carving tools for me, need to be "touched up" every 15 minutes or so..no steel I have ever found holds a satisfactory edge longer in steady use..After all, a fine edge is as thin as your breath on a window pane and even at that, it is like a sawtooth under a high power microscope..and I carry a pocketknife almost that sharp every day..and hardly a day goes by that I don't touch it up to be sure. I am obsessive about it, and have been for many years.. Crazy Big Grin
"If you don't read newspapers you're uninformed...If you do read newspapers, you're misinformed.....Mark Twain

Jack Edgar, Sgt. USMC Korea, the Forgotten War 51/52
Get off my lawn ! Upset





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#24
  Another sharpening thread with a twist clovishound I've been thinking, ...
Strops have been around for a long, long time. They get things very sharp. If you look at antique European carvings, you can surmise they had very sharp carving tools. Sandpaper didn't exist back then. It was carving knives, gouges, and scrapers.
Still Learning,

Allan Hill
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#25
  RE: Another sharpening thread with a twist AHill Strops have been aro...
(05-05-2021, 06:39 AM)AHill Wrote: Strops have been around for a long, long time.  They get things very sharp.  If you look at antique European carvings, you can surmise they had very sharp carving tools.  Sandpaper didn't exist back then.  It was carving knives, gouges, and scrapers.

.....................
If you look at antique European carvings, you can surmise they had very sharp carving tools
............................
Excellent point, Allan!!!!!!! Many of those ancient carvings are examples of incredible craftsmanship....which could only be accomplished by the use of very sharp tools....
"If you don't read newspapers you're uninformed...If you do read newspapers, you're misinformed.....Mark Twain

Jack Edgar, Sgt. USMC Korea, the Forgotten War 51/52
Get off my lawn ! Upset





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#26
  Another sharpening thread with a twist clovishound I've been thinking, ...
As a complete guess, could the largest portion of old tools available be from carpenters instead of fine furniture makers. It may just be a sample size issue?
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#27
  Another sharpening thread with a twist clovishound I've been thinking, ...
Carpenters need sharp tools, too.  I think the population of old tools most of us find were owned by family members who may have inherited sharp tools but didn't know how to keep them that way and, over time, turned every chisel they owned into a paint can opener.
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#28
  Another sharpening thread with a twist clovishound I've been thinking, ...
My Grandfather, who served in WW1, spent his entire life as a finish carpenter. He worked in some of the finest houses on the main line in Philadelphia.  When he passed, he had a coarse and a fine stone in a can in his workshop. Both were rounded but he could put an edge on a chisel or plane that would shave hair. (He used to do this to me when I visited him.)

He once told me that the shape of the stone didn't matter, it was the angle of the steel to the stone. The old man didn't spend any more time than necessary sharpening his chisels, he counted that time as wasted, so he evolved an efficient method of sharpening that worked for him.

By the way, he mostly worked with oak, birch, and cherry.  I think he would have laughed at modern sharpening methods.
Jim

Demonstrating every day that enthusiasm cannot overcome a lack of talent!
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Another sharpening thread with a twist


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