WoodCentral's Book Reviews
Complete Illustrated Guide to Sharpening

Complete Illustrated Guide to Sharpening
by Thomas Lie-Nielsen

Taunton Press: 2004
Hardback, 216 pp., $39.95
ISBN 1-56158-657-9

     Mr. Lie-Nielsen begins with steel, with descriptions of carbide, the Rockwell scale and heat treating. A chapter on abrasives goes from grinding wheels to oil stones and waterstones, from diamond stones to abrasive paper. He offers a basic starter kit, a complete sharpening set, and lists of other supplies.
     Section five is on jigs and fixtures, and things start to get even more interesting. The author gives complete instructions for a shop made water stone holder, a spokeshave blade holder, a holding jig for a large scraper plane blade, one for skewed plane blades, and a saw sharpening vise. He illustrates and discusses a variety of commercial honing guides, telling what each one is for and how it works.
     The book is then divided into sections of particular groups of tools with detailed instruction for step by step sharpening techniques on gauges and knives, planes, chisels, spokeshaves and beading tools, scrapers, drills, handsaws, axes and adzes, carving tools, turning tools, and power tools such as jointer knives, planer blades and chainsaws.
     Photos are clear and detailed, such as those showing the sequence of moves necessary to hone the radiused bevel on a scrub plane blade. He also shows how a Japanese plane blade must be reformed by hammering the iron on an anvil, "to push out a thin, hard layer of steel that can be honed to create a new flat at the edge of the blade. This takes practice." That is probably an understatement.
     This is an excellent book, and I can't think of a tool in the shop the author has left out. Many serious woodworkers have for years depended on Leonard Lee's classic Sharpening, also from Taunton Press. So if you already own Lee's comprehensive book, do you need Thomas Lie-Nielsen's? Well, in my opinion, yes. The first noticable difference is in the full color photography and how it is linked to the text for step by step guidance in sharpening techniques. I think it is fair to say there is more text in Lee's older book, and there are more photos accompanying descriptions in Lie-Nielsen's.
     Another point is, Lee's Sharpening was published in 1995 and he covered standard bench grinders, horizontal and vertical wet grinders, belt sanders and sanding drums, plus the usual stones and honing guides. Things have changed.
     Lie-Nielsen covers not only bench grinders, but aftermarket tool rests from Veritas, FastTrak and Wolverine. He discusses the Tormek sharpening system and all its jigs and accessories, and the Veritas sharpening machine. For honing guides he compares the Eclipse guide for chisels and plane blades, the Veritas honing guide, a Stanley jig for short blades, and a Kell chisel honing guide. He also shows specialty sharpening jigs for jointer and planer knives, carving gouges, and drill grinding jigs.
     The basics of sharpening have not changed all that much, obviously, but the full color presentation of sharpening techniques and sequential photos in this new volume are well worth the price.

. . . Barb Siddiqui