Hand Tools Archive

Re: Testing stropping at a high angle

David Weaver
I'll volunteer a chisel or two to test a shallower bevel angle. My primary is already at 19 or 20, so I'm not sure what's practical, but 15 may be doable without issue.

the first natural step is to round over the tip and eliminate failure. The second natural step to shallow the bevel behind the round over comes when you find you have an unfailing edge, but separate fibers in softer woods (or you just get the urge to find something for nothing, or at least less of something else).

i'm sure the single example of oddly sharpened chisels that I have was given a delicate primary in the range of 15 degrees (straight razors are generally around 16 degrees or so, but they're double bevel - looking at one laying on its side gives a good idea of what the primary would look like).

I would be surprised to find that the edge on a 15 degree primary and a 18-20 degree secondary would fail from proper use. But at some point, we'll find out when folks who can't resist the urge to twist a chisel a little to tear fibers off will manage to break off a triangle of metal.

I have so many chisels that potentially damaging one or two is an afterthought, and much current and past toolmaking gives me a good setup to regrind. It's a matter of 2 or 3 minutes.

Someone on the UK site mentioned when I brought this up that long ago, they used chisels with a shallower bevel and just sharpened the tips, and that at one point, they were urged or curious to go to a higher angle and have hated it ever since. That suggests to me that changing bevels on chisels is going to be a big deal to the average person.

For anyone who is pondering this and dreading the possibility of burning an edge, rather than spraying water on chisels or dipping in cups, consider putting a small wad of wet paper towel (very wet, like dripping) under your thumb or fingers to hold the bevel of a chisel on a grinding wheel. This may sound fiddly, but the edge won't burn even if the paper towel is a small fraction of an inch behind the edge (it'll just get sloughed off by the grinder wheel in the event it gets too close to an edge, and it doesn't have enough strength to be grabbed and turned into a disaster).

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