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Ok, I know this has been at least partly covered in a couple of other threads, such as http://www.woodworkingtalk.com/f11/sharpening-sandpaper-47029/index2/ and here http://www.woodworkingtalk.com/f11/sharpening-44076/, but I thought it would be beneficial to have a slightly more focused discussion/reference to videos, books, other resources, etc., in addition to direct advise, on sharpening gouges. As some of you may recall, I won a 1914 carpenter's chest at auction, full of tools from that period. Included in the chest was a beautiful set of Buck Bros. gouges; mostly out-cannel but one in-cannel as well. As a way of saving $, promoting my hobby and giving my relatives mediocre Christmas presents, I'm making a series of banana stands from scrap western red cedar, and the design I have in mind would benefit from use of the gouges. So I need to figure out how to sharpen them effectively. (This is obviously right up Robson's V"alley", so I look forward to input from him).

Here's a picture of the gouges (on the right):



image-3676629032.jpg



A word about my sharpening supplies. I have an eclipse jig (useless in this application I'm sure), a very low grit diamond plate, some intermediate two-sided stones of a variety that water soaks into them, an extra fine diamond plate, a razor hone and assorted wet-dry sand paper. I am fine with buying (a relatively inexpensive) additional item for this, e.g. a slip stone or something if it would make things easier.

I tried using a pencil with sand paper of a medium grit wrapped around to see if i could make any progress, but didn't. I also tried free-hand on the extra fine plate, rotating for each stroke, just to get an idea of technique that might work but gave it up.

These gouges look as though they've been sharpened (not terribly well - all the other chisels in the box are quite convex, have a slight back bevel and are uneven across the edge - this guy was obviously more interested in getting the job done than messing around with sharpening). They don't look like they've ever been ground. I may need to do that but am hesitant for fear of fouling them up. Also, it looks like one lost its temper half way up - seems quite far to me. If that is in fact the case, is there anything I can do about it?

This is such a long post I am afraid the replies will be low. What I'm really looking for is advice on technique for getting these into shape.

Thanks.
 

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I attended a demo back in March organized by the local Woodturners club.

The demonstrator, Mark Gardner, showed his method for sharpening carving tools. Likely to be relevant for your gouges. This is really honing not removing a lot of metal to fix badly shaped edges.

He had a series of MDF discs mounted with MDF spacers on a long piece of threaded rod. This was mounted on a lathe between a chuck and tailstock, but you could mount this on either side of a bench grinder.

Each sharpening wheel was turned to match the contour of one of the carving tools. The abrasive was a honing compound, which can be purchased in different grits.

The MDF spacers between the discs were to allow room for rolling the tool from side to side, etc. without touching the next honing disc.
 

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Ooooooh! Sharpening gouges! Lemme at'em! I will assume that you will do the clean-up, sharpening and honing freehand, like I do.
1. Pick a bevel angle. I measure every tool I buy. Most carpenter's chisels are 30 degrees. Carpenter's skews often 25 degrees. My spokeshaves 28 degrees. Wood carving gouges, chisels and skews are 20 degrees because even 25 is a big wedge to push wood open by hand. Wood carving knives all run about 12 degrees, some are as much as 15.
2. Draw that bevel angle on a card that you can stand up beside the abrasive (which is some how clamped to and parallel with the edge of the bench. Paint the bevel with black felt marker so you can figure out what's happening.
3. Lock your elbows to your sides. Get the gouge at the card angle. Now, you start a pull stroke at one corner of the gouge (#1). As you pull back, rotate the shank of the tool to the other corner of the bevel (#2).
4. Most Important!!! At the end of the stroke, STOP. Lift the gouge straight up, go back to the start and pull and this time, rotate back from corner #2 to corner #1.
5. From time to time, of course, take a look to see how much of the black marker pigment is getting scrubbed off. Put more on.
= =
Locking your elbows and stopping the stroke are to prevent you from sweeping the gouge up off the sharpening surface. Common beginner errors and the result is a rounded off bevel to something silly like 40 degrees.
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If the bevels look to be crudely sharpened, I'd begin with gentle passes on oil stones to establish a clean bevel at my choice of angles.
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Doing the inside/top concave surface.
Wrap some fine paper, 800 and 1500 around dowels somewhat smaller than the tool sweep. 3 or 4 gentle pull passes parallel to the shank, out over the bevels, should be enough.
= = = =
Testing the result.
I never test with my fingers. I don't carve fingers and I don't get my jollies getting cut. I have "try-sticks" in each of the woods that I carve. That's where test cuts get made.
 

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Before I forget.

The Australian wood working website is called Woodwork Forums.
Get in there and scroll down to the Wood Carving section. Buried in there, back more than a year ago, is a thread called "Star's Sharpening Journey." I rambled on for 5+ pages of text and pictures to describe my freehand sharpening method and equipment.

If somebody goes there and knows how to post a link to it in this thread, I'd be much appreciated.
 

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Thank you for posting the link. I seem to be too computer-clumsy for it to be any more than accidental.

That thread is a long one, some of my methods have changed a little = I use W&D papers more and more for crooked knives and in the past year for wider spokeshave blades.

My Rant: There are several different but equally successful techniques for sharpening edges. The bevel angle has to be considered to have enough steel behind the edge to support it in the intended job.
I don't believe that it matters which technique you pick. BUT, you have to stick with it and learn it.
 
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