Hand Tools Archive

Re: Wood and steel wear

Warren in Lancaster, PA
There are other factors besides hardness that can make a certain wood rough on edges. Jarrah falls into the hardness range of our hickories, but I think it is tougher on edge longevity. (There are five or six hickory species here in Pennsylvania, around a dozen in North America). Persimmon, Diospyros virginiana, is harder than jarrah and black locust, Robinia pseudoacacia, is softer, yet it is the locust that is more like jarrah with regard to edges.

We often use the word texture to describe this. A wood with even or mild texture is easier to work than one of the same hardness with "stringy" or uneven texture. I think that weak places in the steel edge get caught on harder areas in the wood and cause mechanical distortion. My observation is that steel with fine texture does better in this regard. I have better results with 19th century steel (very fine texture) and I would expect poorer results from harsh sharpening abrasives which cut deeply into the edge and cause uneven texture of the edge.

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