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REVIEW David Charlesworth DVD Part 1: Plane Sharpening

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Alf

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This is the first in a series of videos/DVDs made in collaboration with the Lie-Nielsen Toolworks showing David Charlesworth’s personal technique for sharpening plane irons. Different aspects of preparing and honing the blade and chip breaker (cap iron) are covered in eight sections, largely filmed in a one-to-one workshop setting, but with some segments filmed at an open house presentation held at L-N’s Maine workshops last year. I’ll go through each section to give you an idea of what it covers:

Keeping Waterstones Flat
Starting with a brief outline of the important aspects of a plane that need to be addressed, DC then explains what stones he uses, an alternative set up using the stones sold by L-N…
and a brief (very brief) dismissal of diamond stones, oil stones and ceramic stones. Then why and how to flatten waterstones using either a diamond stone or wet’n’dry on float glass.

Preparing the back of your blade
Why a flat back is important and how to achieve it using two distinct types of stroke on the stone. Also a good example of how the stone will wear, and just how frighteningly fast they do get out of flat.


The Ruler Trick
Tommy Cooper had his fez, Zorro his saw cut “Z”, and DC has the Ruler Trick; why he does it and how.

Honing the bevel
How DC goes about honing a straight bevel, using an Eclipse-style honing guide, raising a wire edge and what grinding and honing angles he uses.

Preparing a curved blade
Just as you’ve got a square edge sorted, why you need a curved or cambered blade. How to form an accurate one on your iron using strips of card (I kid you not) and the advantages of a narrow wheel on the honing guide.

Re-sharpening a curved blade
The importance of not going too long between sharpening, and how to re-hone that cambered blade in 4 minutes

Fettling the chip breaker
A frequently neglected part of the blade assembly <discreetly pushes her own sorry cap irons under the carpet with her foot…
>; why it needs to be tuned and how to go about doing it.

Assembly of the blade and chip breaker and setting up the plane
Seating the blade/cap iron assembly firmly in the plane, setting the lateral adjustment, depth adjustment and avoiding backlash. Then a few “show-off” shavings to finish.


Well if ever a product lived up the “does exactly what it says on the box” slogan, this is it. I found this a very restful video/DVD to watch, I must confess. The presentation is clear, calm and unhurried. You get to see everything you need to see, although there was some bitty cutting at some points which was a little distracting. Sound quality is good; a nice touch to be able to actually hear when the iron was satisfactorily adjusted, for instance. One or two alarm bells rang early on when the brand of waterstones Lie-Nielsen stock, rather than the ones DC uses, were rather clumsily plugged. I wondered if I was going to be in for a 75 minute L-N commercial, but I needn’t have feared. Apart from a few planes loitering here and there looking gorgeous, there’s nothing to upset a L-N challenged viewer. In fact DC’s Stanley #5.5 and Hock blade got plenty of air time, which was nice.

This is strictly a masterclass on how DC sharpens a blade and tunes a cap iron; if you’re looking for alternative methods, pros and cons of various sharpening media etc, look elsewhere. That’s okay, as it doesn’t claim to be anything else, but I did come away with rather more questions about DC’s method than I’d expected. That’s probably because I tend to like knowing the reasoning behind doing something one way rather than another, rather than just unquestioningly following instruction. This is definitely what I’d call the “our’s not to reason why” approach to learning a new technique. Disappointingly there was a lack of anything on back bevels, which I’d hoped for as DC is such an advocate of them. For one thing the difference between them and the result of the Ruler Trick seems to cause considerable confusion, and it would have been nice to have that cleared up.


Having a skilled craftsman take you step-by-step through a technique has obvious benefits over an article; it really fixes it in your mind when you’ve seen it done, you don’t inadvertently put your own emphasis on one aspect or miss something else out altogether, and so forth. I was amused to note one unexpected result of seeing what DC did, as opposed to just hearing/reading it, was the number of strokes taken on the stone at each stage was regularly two or three times as many as he said.
And talking of reading, if you’ve had your head in a bucket for the last few years and missed all DC’s articles on the subject, worry not. The whole process is there on the disc, and I don’t believe you’d be at any disadvantage.

A newbie of the greenest sort watched some of this DVD with me, and her comment is perhaps as good a summing up as any; “You just know if you do exactly what he says you’ll have a sharp edge at the end ”. ‘Nuff said.


David Charlesworth Hand Tool Techniques. Part 1: Plane Sharpening DVD 75mins £19.95.
Video also available, both direct from David Charlesworth and Lie-Nielsen

Very many thanks to David for sending me this DVD to review. Stay tuned, a review of part two will follow in due course.
 

Philly

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Interesting!
I have the 2nd vid and await your review!
Also watched DC Himself sharpen an iron at the Tools show-the number of strokes does depend on how wide the micro bevel has become. Once you get to a certain point it's time to re-grind the primary bevel.
thanks for the review, up to your usual high standard!
regards
Philly :D
 

Alf

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Philly":1akwbufa said:
Also watched DC Himself sharpen an iron at the Tools show-the number of strokes does depend on how wide the micro bevel has become.
Different stroke counting in this case; the re-sharpening stroke counting was flawless.
It's no big deal anyway, but I was still amused. Little things for little minds...


Cheers, Alf
 

gidon

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Nice review Alf - thanks. Did consider the DVD's at Tools 2004 but felt I'd read most of his tips in his books and in mag articles. Still might be nice to see it performed live!
Cheers
Gidon
 

Alf

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Just for you, Philly, I've gone back over my copious notes and assertained it was strokes used for the Ruler Trick. Beards were not involved except in being in the general vicinity at the time.


Cheers, Alf
 
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Very nice review again Alf. Get the CV off to GWW this instant!!!!

Afraid £20 is to steep for me to pay to watch someone sharpen a plane iron though :wink:
 

Noel

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Give us a clue Alf? I'm thinking the words Norm and Abrams are not part of the answer..................?

Noel
 

Manny

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Alf

Disappointingly there was a lack of anything on back bevels, which I’d hoped for as DC is such an advocate of them. For one thing the difference between them and the result of the Ruler Trick seems to cause considerable confusion...
What's a back bevel and a ruler trick?
 
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Manny

Ruler trick is to place a thin 6" ruler on the edge of the waterstone under the blade when polishing to a mirro finish. you then only polish the back of the blade just behind the cutting edge rather than polishing the whole of the blade back. Saves hours and is pretty easy.

A back bevel is literally a bevel ground on the back of the blade as well as the front (at the cutting edge) to effectively alter the angle of the cutting edge of the blade. Many woods have' difficult grain' which standard angle blades struggle to cut without tear-out
e.g. you can take a standard blade in a smoother and grind a back bevel on it to give an effective cutting bevel of 50 degrees to tackle difficult grains. This is much cheaper than buying a second frog with steaper angle.
 

Alf

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Manny,

The Ruler Trick is DC's way of cutting down the amount of time spent on polishing the back of a plane blade. It involves a Ruler (surprise) and a polishing stone, the former placed on the latter and the back of the blade is then polished on the stone. The ruler raises it ever-so slightly so that you end up only having to polish the very front edge of the back, where it's important, instead of tediously doing the whole thing. Whatever you do, don't do it to chisels 'cos the back of a chisel is its built-in guide to help you cut to a line etc and needs to be flat all the way to the edge.

Back bevels are an easy way to get a high angle of attack with a standard angle bevel down plane. Some timbers respond better to be being planed with a blade that meets the wood at an angle higher than the usual 45degs. The much praised infill planes used to be bedded higher, for instance, and L-N provide an optional high angle frog at 50degs for their planes. But all the wood knows is what angle the back of the blade is at when it meets the edge, so you can cheat and make a small bevel on the flat side to create the effect of a higher bedding angle. Thus 5 deg back bevel on an ordinary 45 deg Stanley will have the effect of a 50deg angle of attack.

Well I tried, but if that makes any sense without the aid of diagrams I'll be surprised...

Cheers, Alf

Edit: <sigh> Tony beat me too it, and much more succinctly too. ..
 

Manny

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Thanks Tony and Alf

That's very interesting especially about back bevel.

Just for interest do you use a honing guide? and if so do you find it worth the time and effort.

I was taught to not to use one and it seems to me that learning to sharpen tools unaided is an important skill. I get more satisfication from using a plane than from anything else in woodwork and knowing that I can put a decent edge on that blade adds to that satisfaction.

But I'm not knocking the use of honing guides I'm just a bit surprised that a professional such as D. Charlesworth would use one.
 

Philly

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Manny
I occasionally sharpen freehand-I get a good edge, but find that the angle of grind varies somewhat. When I use a guide it is so much more straight forward, and lets be honest, how long does it take to put the guide on? 3 seconds?
How much of a hurry are you in?
If Mr C uses a guide then I should be using one, 'cos he is well above my league!
only my thoughts,
Philly :D
 

Manny

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Philly

I've never used one which is the reason I asked the question and I'm not at all trying to be critical or whatever.
I'm a chippy so doing things in a hurry is quite important, but if you say it takes 3 secs. to put a guide on thats no time at all.
 

Alf

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Ooo, controversy. Excellent. Can we do tails vs. pins next?


Most of the time I don't use one; exceptions are things like shoulder plane irons, and not always even then. The argument "it only takes a few seconds to use" is fair enough, until one day you have a non-standard iron to hone that won't fit in your guide... Honing guides are restrictive - they're supposed to be. They restrict the amount you can foul up your bevel, but they also restrict what you can hone and at what angle. But polarising opinion on them, as seems to be popular amongst certain woodworking oracles, is a pointless exercise IMO. My philosophy is to use them when they're helpful to you, learn to live without them for when they're not.

Cheers, Alf
 

Philly

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Sorry Manny, didn't mean to come over all "foaming-at-the-mouth" :lol:
I have heard the arguments for both sides, and tried both ways. IMHO using a guide gives a consistant, repeatable sharp edge. You never have to worry about rounding over the edge.
Freehand is useful and "quicker" (maybe), but the end result you want is a razor sharp edge.
I have used an eclipse (bought from the local bankrupt stock shop for £2) for 4 years. Give one a go and see what you think? (and enter the dvd competition and win yourself DC's sharpening vid!)
best regards
A Calm Philly :D
 
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