We all went into woodworking because we love the craft. We feel refreshed by the sound of a hand plane sliding over the edge of stock whilst tossing the shavings from our hands to our feet, or we love the feel of sunlight blasting through the open window of our shops accompanied by the wind of the cool air breeze. To me, woodworking is a form of meditation. It’s a space where I can create and be on my own.
This is quite a romantic picture I have created for all of our woodworking dreams, but one thing is for sure, these moments are disrupted by the need to maintain and hone our tools. Properly maintaining our tools, including knives, blades and machines, ensures they work much smoother, more efficiently and safer.
The challenge is that we all went into woodworking to work with wood, not to become knife sharpeners, mechanics, etc. Yet, we all know that unless you have a go to guy in your shop, the job of tool maintenance is in your hands.
There are many things we can do to maintain our shop’s tools for precision work without toiling with them for hours on end. For instance, we are all familiar with sharpening chisels and the difference between using a flat oil stone and a turning stone wheel. The difference is not only time but precision. When sharpening a chisel on a stone, we must be exact in the angle we are hold the chisel to the stone while we move the chisel forward and backwards. In contrast, when we use a turning stone wheel we simply hold the chisel in place while the stone moves.
Another example, and the least favorite for many of us, is the sharpening and reinstallation of jointer and planer knives. The most basic technique for reinstalling planer and jointer knives is to put them in, lightly tighten the screws which secure the knives into the header, lay a flat edge over top the table, make sure that the knives are set at the right depth and tighten. This procedure must then be repeated for an additional two or three blades. The problem I have with this is that for some reason it is not accurate enough for me; I always seem to get the blades off by even a millimeter.
Lucky for me, there is a way to set the blades with 100% accuracy and not have to deal with a flat edge over a table. The solution is using a magnetic knife setter. This takes the guess work out of the task. And taking the guess work out of maintenance tasks in my shop makes me a happy man who can go back to my hand planes, sunshine and cool breeze.
Woodworking is about the art, craft and expressing one’s self. When woodworking becomes a mechanic’s job, it’s time to take advantage of maintenance shortcuts.