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Restoring Chisels, Turning Gouges and Other Edge Tools

  Maintaining Bent and Curved Carving Knives by Mike Komick and Jim Esten  

Maintaining your carving knives particularly bent and curved knives is an easy but potentially hazardous activity.  Always be alert and never attempt to sharpen a knife if you are not in full command of your mental and physical faculties.

New carving knives are usually delivered sharp and ready to go to work.  If you maintain your knife blade after it has been sharpened you may not have to sharpen it again.  To maintain the blade give it a couple of strokes with the 1000 grit or 2000 grit wet/dry sand paper or stone, and then move to a leather strop and hone the cutting edge with your choice of stropping compound.


Mike Komick

Compounds are available to 10000 grit and beyond!  Donít have a strop?  There are a number of sources, but you can make your own.  See Jim Thompsonís tutorial on making your own strops.  Very easy to do, so make several, taking note of the profile needed.

See the illustration on the right for how much compound paste to use at any given time... just a little bit at the end of the knife.  An important thing to remember when stropping - When the compound gets black and shiny scrape it off and recharge the compound.

Bent knives follow the same procedure as a straight blade, but extra care must be taken to maintain the angle of the blade relative to the abrasive surface because the leverage you have is not directly in line with the blade.  Start with a 600 or 800 grit wet/dry sand paper.

Lay the knife flat on the edge of the paper.  Lift the back of the knife slightly about 5 to 7 degrees so as the edge that is to be sharpened is resting on the sandpaper.  Slide the knife away from the cutting edge.  Do this two times on one side then turn the blade over and repeat the process on the other side of the blade.

You will have removed metal from up to about 1/16Ē from the cutting edge, which is normal.  The key is to keep it almost flat on the paper and rotate from side to side.  The pressure you put on the paper should be light but firm.  After you have a good edge with the 600 or 800 grit paper repeat this process with 1000 grit paper and the then with 2000 grit paper.  You may want to go to an even higher grit for a finer edge. Strop the blade on leather to clean off the burrs after sharpening.

Stroke back and forth on each side until you get the desired results.  Caution: Do not raise the back of the blade too high or you will remove the cutting edge with just a couple of strokes and put shoulders on the blade.  Double Edge Curved Blade Start with 600 to 800 grit wet/dry sandpaper. 

Rip the paper sheet into ľís.  Wrap one of the ľís around a dowel that will fit on the inside of the curve or hook on the blade.  Lay the paper & dowel flat on the blade.  Lift the paper & dowel up 5 to 7 degrees toward the cutting edge then stroke away from the edge.

Do the same number of strokes on each side until you have achieved the desired edge.  Remember to do the same number of strokes on each side for even wear.

Repeat the same process with 1000 and 2000 grit wet/dry sandpaper or sharpening stone.  You may want to go to a higher grit for a finer edge.  Strop the blade on leather to clean off any burrs at the end of your sharpening.  While some may deem it overkill, a 10000 grit brings the tool up to a super fine edge.

Just like chisels and plane irons, donít forget the backs!

Mike Komick and Jim Esten
May 2007

Preferred Edge Carving Knives and Supplies

Related Info

Woodworker's Guide to Wood Collection only $79.99 at Shop Woodworking




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