Sharpening is the most sensitive part of woodcarving. With well sharpened tools carving is a refreshing and fun activity and it’s also much more acurate. With dull tools people tend to turn away from carving due to disappointment, so it’s important to invest time in sharpening. Here it’s even more true that a good tool is half the victory. If you have four hours to carve something, spend two hours sharpening your tools. The edge angle is the most important thing to pay attention to.
For linden and alder a sharper angle is recommended, while for a harder wood like oak a wider angle is more optimal. Chisels usually get sold already sharpened and if they don’t sustain bigger damage or chipping they can be resharpened with wet or oiled sharpening stones. If there are bigger irregularities on the edge, a grindstone is recommended to reshape the whole blade. Here you should pay attention to regular cooling, because if the steel goes above 300 C, then it will get soft again and lose it’s ability to sustain a blade, which can only be repaired with re-heat-treating.
If the edge or the blade switches colours quickly to a dark grey or blue then it’s hardness falls under 40 Rockwell, and it won’t cut anymore. For sharpening we use a grindstone, a cloth-disc and a felt-disc, which makes it easier and more efficient. With the felt-disc we use a dark-green paste made for steel, for deburring and polishing. Be careful to only apply the paste to one corner of the disc, as the other parts will be used for clean-up. It is also important for our machine to be strong enough, because friction can slow the disc down, which will damage the edge of the blade. Wet and oiled grindstones are also recommended
With these you have to progress from the rougher 220 up to the smoother ones like the 6000, and not to go from smoother to rougher ones. After that the final deburring should be done with calf-skin glued to a flat surface with it’s rougher side up, then rubbed with petroleum and cigarette ash. If you can’t get grindstones and other sharpening equipment, then regular sandpaper will do as well. We recommend that you glue 4-5 pieces of different smoothness onto a piece of wood then progress accordingly. The sharpening of the inside on profile chisels should be done with a perfectly fitting stone or a piece of wood (which is shaped like the inside of the chisel), with sandpaper glued to it. We can also provide all the tools and materials mentioned above. If you’d like to learn how to sharpen properly, feel free to contact us.
Useful tip! When carving something like the picture above, using 45 and 120 degree V angled chisels, it is useful if we sharpen it back a bit, so it doesn’t rip or tear the chips out. I’ll try to demonstrate on the pictures below.
As seen here, where the edges meet, the blade is a little bit further back than the ones above, so the chisel cuts the grain on the surface of the wood first, then the deeper ones, making the carving easier overall.
There is also a scenario where it’s useful to sharpen the blade forward, so the corner is in front of the rest of the blades. We usually use this for the ’’corn grain’’ or ’’plumseed’’ shapes. If we keep the chisel perpendicular to the wood while carving, this will produce just the right depth, where the middle is very deep and the sides are shallow.
This is a ’’sulyok’’ with a peach-seed pattern, where I use a special sharpening int he chisel for this one. The sides of the blade are sharpened higher, and the middle is lower. This one is easy and quickly doable. Optimal for beginners in linden.
Maybe on this 45 degree ’’goat’s foot” chisel it is easier to see the how it’s sharpened back a bit. It is also visible that it’s recommended to use tape ont he chisel where it’s close to the handle, so it’s more comfortable and doesn’t blister up the hand.Tools also available at my shop