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Sharpenning carving gouges

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Paddy Roxburgh

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Hi, I am going on a violin making course starting tomorrow (Monday). Now I know how you guys love to argue about sharpenning, and tbh I'm completely comfortable sharpenning straight tools, I am however curious to know how you sharpen your carving gouges, both inside and outside bevel. I have a Sorby linisher, which is fine for turning chisels, but I'm not sure it's up to the job for violin carving. I've made some bits of wood of various radii which I've stuck some wet and dry to and am trying to improve on faces of my ebay gouges but would a conical slip stone be preferable? Should I also stick leather to similar bits of wood for stropping. I also have a 8000 ish grit waterstone that I never use, should I attempt to shape some slip stones.
All advise welcome, especially from any carvers or luthiers.
Cheer, Paddy
 
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D_W

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on the outside of the bevel, I use stones and then buff the tip. on the inside, slips or shaped bits (only honing just a bit at the edge making sure no ridges remain and making sure that the tip has a good polish and a little bit of rounding - you don't want lines all over stuff you carve).

If you use something like a belt grinder, make sure there's no issue with heat and use it only for coarse work - once you get going with the gouges, you'll find that you're not beating the edges up like we all see with chisels in joinery.

waterstones are pretty useless with carving tools - you can use them, but you'd be far better off with oilstones (crystolon, india and then some type of oil stone to refine prior to the buff - a buffer will do far better finishing than any oilstone, so no need for the oilstone to be an expensive one, just something reasonably fine like a step below the black and trans type).
 

AESamuel

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For outside, I use a diamond stone or hard Waterstones with side to side strokes then a regular strop. For inside I use either hard slipstones or lapping paper stuck to curved wood, and loose leather with compound over wood to strop.
 

Inspector

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I'm curious as to why you don't wait to talk to the instructor? I would assume, probably incorrectly, that it would be part of the course.

Pete
 

D_W

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by the way, if hasluck's carving book is out there, it does have a small discussion on this - it's an excellent book - written early enough that it's not been "modernized" with improvements (that usually include directing you to some retailer, etc).

I don't recall there being a buff involved, but hasluck suggested that the need for an ultra fine stone is replaced except for those looking to treat themselves, by "fine emery" or something similar in a strop.
 

Paddy Roxburgh

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I'm curious as to why you don't wait to talk to the instructor? I would assume, probably incorrectly, that it would be part of the course.

Pete

I will do, but I have been on a week long course there before, and the normal set up is that they provide the tools, and sharpen them. It's a part time school in Cambridge, very much aimed at the hobbiest making one violin. I want to make one in my workshop whilst I make one at the college 2 nights a week. I repair boats for a living and am quite experienced at woodwork, but not the specific skills or knowledge to make a violin. I already have most of the necessary tools, the others I will buy/make. I've bought the recommended gouges and finger planes, mostly second hand and I want to turn up tomorrow with them in good condition so they aren't having to spend extra time sorting out my tools.
 

Paddy Roxburgh

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I will do, but I have been on a week long course there before, and the normal set up is that they provide the tools, and sharpen them. It's a part time school in Cambridge, very much aimed at the hobbiest making one violin. I want to make one in my workshop whilst I make one at the college 2 nights a week. I repair boats for a living and am quite experienced at woodwork, but not the specific skills or knowledge to make a violin. I already have most of the necessary tools, the others I will buy/make. I've bought the recommended gouges and finger planes, mostly second hand and I want to turn up tomorrow with them in good condition so they aren't having to spend extra time sorting out my tools.
 

D_W

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This is the book that I have. It's going to get less into "rob cosman says" and more into just the understanding of the geometry and the process. Not surprisingly, they're recommending a sandstone wet wheel at the beginning of the century, and they talk of uneven hardness with grind stones (which is actually true still with cheap grinding wheels, but not brand name stones).
 

Adam W.

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Hello,

I'm just finishing a BA in Historic Carving at The City and Guilds in London. I have a simple and fairly cheap way of sharpening my carving gouges which you might want to try.

I use the red side of an India stone for the sharpening and a piece of slate for honing. Both of these are lubricated with WD40. On the inside of larger gouges I use a rounded edge on the slate or a slip of slate to hone the burr off. The tiny 2-3mm gouges get a folded piece of wet and dry rubbed on the inside

For polishing I use a length of leather belt glued to a flat piece of wood with a handle in the end so that I can hold on to it, this has cheap green polishing compound rubbed on it.

My whole sharpening system cost about £7 and most of that went on the compound. The India stone I got off ebay for 99p and the piece of slate came from a billiard table which was being broken up.

I can easily get an edge which is good enough to shave hair with. I started using slate because there were loads of old oil stones on ebay which were made from slate and it got thinking, so I tried it out and it works nice.

Enjoy your course, it sounds a challenge.
 

Adam W.

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Just a point, I don't put a bevel on the inside of my gouges as all this does is increase the cutting edge angle. I like my edge nice and thin for softwoods and I make it a bit thicker if I'm chopping something hard like oak.
 

johnnyb

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I'll describe my technique I'm sure it can be adopted to other tools.
I like gouges mostly square across the ends and I like a small inside bevel so I can use the tool upside down and clear the handle. maybe not essential for violins though.
1.push the edge into a white grinder. this results in a small flat.
2.very carefully grind your outside bevel using the white grinder never removing the flat. this is in many ways the tricky bit. but it speeds the process along an sets up the main bevel. so you should have a tiny flat on a square(across the end) gouge .
3.use as coarse an oilstone as you have and roll the bevel from edge to edge. try to avoid actually working the tips as its easy to remove to much and the tips are really useful for general carving.(I carefully work them separately)
always try and keep that tiny flat even and eventually it will disappear and a bit more of the same and you have an edge.
4 do the same now with your fine oilstone always observing the edge and avoiding overworking the tips.
5 next get a suitable slip and work a small shallowinside bevel. this also allows a lower tool approach ie the push angle is lower as well as upside down work.
6 strop on leather or a felt buff or anything as by this time the edge will be all but perfect.
7 the only way to confirm your perfect edge is to take a cut across some end grain pine. if its perfect it will result in a shiny scratch free cut. any scratches then fine oilstone and strop
 

novocaine

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would you like to know the secret? the one no one ever tells you about? the one that doesn't involve machines?
ok, here we go.

take you bluntish gouge, take a lump of hardwood, a few inches long and wide, mine is about 4" if it helps.
somewhere on the flat surface gouge out a recess that fits your gouge perfectly and is a few inches long (3" in my case).
pick a corner and shape it to match in the inside of you gouge.

if your gouge is completely fecked, a piece of sandpaper held in the groove or round the corner to bring it back to near sharp.
then add a cutting compound of some sort, I like autosol, to the groove corner.
buff until you are happy with it.

you will need both shapes no matter where the bevel is as you will want to knock the burr off.

now leave the block on your bench and buff regularly to safe having to do a full touch up.

I was shown this my a violin maker, but it was shown by a guitar maker on youtube recently as well.
 

Jacob

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Hello,

I'm just finishing a BA in Historic Carving at The City and Guilds in London. I have a simple and fairly cheap way of sharpening my carving gouges which you might want to try.

I use the red side of an India stone for the sharpening and a piece of slate for honing. Both of these are lubricated with WD40. On the inside of larger gouges I use a rounded edge on the slate or a slip of slate to hone the burr off. The tiny 2-3mm gouges get a folded piece of wet and dry rubbed on the inside

For polishing I use a length of leather belt glued to a flat piece of wood with a handle in the end so that I can hold on to it, this has cheap green polishing compound rubbed on it.

My whole sharpening system cost about £7 and most of that went on the compound. The India stone I got off ebay for 99p and the piece of slate came from a billiard table which was being broken up.

I can easily get an edge which is good enough to shave hair with. I started using slate because there were loads of old oil stones on ebay which were made from slate and it got thinking, so I tried it out and it works nice.

Enjoy your course, it sounds a challenge.
Yep - keep it simple!
The only thing I'd add us that most gouges and carving chisels shouldn't go anywhere near a powered grindstone, they are too thin, they just need frequent touching up, freehand.
 

D_W

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Exactly the opposite of what hasluck said, though they shouldn't be coarsely ground
 

Exluthier

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You’ll want a couple of in-cannel gouges for your corner blocks, size dependent on the size of violin / viola etc., you’re making. You can often find them on auction web-sites, these days.
 

D_W

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Just a point, I don't put a bevel on the inside of my gouges as all this does is increase the cutting edge angle. I like my edge nice and thin for softwoods and I make it a bit thicker if I'm chopping something hard like oak.
Total angle can be the same either way, inside bevel or not. Most who like an inside bevel just grind the primary shallower.
 
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