Turning Archive 2006

How sharp is "sharp"??

Russ Fairfield
>These discussions on sharpening always confuse me because everyone is using different terminology. I can add to that confusion with the following.

My opinion is this, and I have no idea whether it agrees with anything that has already been said.

There are only three (3) things to remember:

1. There are only two (2) ways to separate wood fibers - we can tear them apart or we can cut them apart.

2. Sharp tools cut better than dull tools, and the sharper they are they better they cut.

3. The lower the tool angle to the wood, the cleaner the cut, and the better the finish it leaves behind. Skewing the edge of the tool at an angle reduces the cutting angle.

Skews and spindle gouges with low angles cut the wood fibers apart and therefore sharpness is a virtue. The sharper they are the better they cut, and honing and buffing the edge is justified.

Withe the angles on a bowl gouge, an how we use the tool to remove a lot of wood, we are getting very close to tearing the wood apart and the sharpness of the edge doesn't matter as much, and we can get by with a more ragged edge on the tool. In fact, the edge on a bowl gouge might give a better "bite" in the wood if it is a bit rough along the edge, and an edge that is straight from the grinder can be the better. Honing and polishing are a waste of time.

Finishing cuts with a bowl gouge are no different from finishing cuts with a skew or a spindle gouge and the sharper tool with lower angles at the cutting edge leaves a better surface on the wood.

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