Hand Tools Archive

As a student, convex bevels help

Jim Matthews
In the nine day Sellers course, many of us ran afoul of making ever steeper final angles on our plane blades. If the only thing your after is a burr, a steep honing angle raises one quickly.

The emphasis on honing the entire bevel was mainly to reduce confusion: inspection of a larger surface for similar luster - to the edge of the blade - was simple.


What wasn't discussed (due to time constraints) was the interaction of clearance angles, setting of chip breakers (cap irons) and mouth openings.

I think Sellers was canny enough to realize any open discussions would derail progress to actively making things in a compact schedule. Anyone who as attended an Public woodworking forum has seen the pitfalls of addressing alternatives to the demonstrated method. People get testy over things like this.


There were (in retrospect) problems introduced by having workbenches too high for shorter users (me, for instance) to comfortably hone in the requisite "start" position.

I had an epiphany when demonstrating this technique on a concrete floor. I "disvovered" something obvious to generations of Shokunin - so obvious I couldn't see it.

Where the iron meets the stone at the start of the hone determines the cutting angle.

The convex bevel works is what I call fault tolerant, in that it can produce a usable edge with coarse materials, rough handling and limited essential knowledge. It's like basic training for woodworkers.

Once you're extruded from boot camp, improvements are a matter of adaptations by the user, and only limited by our willingness to make attempts that could fail.

The breakthrough with DW's method is that the terminal angle is set LAST, and with a measure of control. The bonus is in the time saved.

I struggle with consistency, just as I did learning to make a full convex bevel.

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