Sharpening Gouge s

Getting the Edge With an Oilstone

Gouges, those familiar curved caning chisels, are time-honored, versatile tools that are used by craftsmen of all abilities, yet few people seem to know how to put a good cutting edge on a gouge.

The Japanese craftsman sharpens his gouges with regular water stones. He makes a number of grooves in the stone to fit his gouge sizes. Sometimes he uses one groove for two or three gouges, even though they have different radii. The problem with this method is that if you have many gouges, you need many stones to sharpen them.

I prefer the Western method of sharpening gouges free hand with oilstones because they are harder than Japanese water stones and their surfaces won't become uneven as quickly. I sharpen the bevel on a medium India stone followed by a hard Arkansas stone or Washita stone, and then I use a hard Arkansas slip stone for the inside face of the gouge. (Slip stones taper in thickness and have two rounded edges of different radii.) When I need to change the bevel angle or when there is a bad nick in the edge, I start with a coarse carborundum stone.

Bench oil stones arc available in a variety of sizes. I find a 2-in. x 8-in. stone is big enough for most gouges, but you

Sharpen Gouge

Sharpening a gouge on ail oilstone Isn't hard once you've learned a few simple techniques. Oilstones are best for gouge *liar|M*tiing. Pictured (inset left to right) hard Arkansas, small Washita, medium India, large Washita, and coarse car-liorundum. The hard Arkansas slip stone (front) removes the burrs.

Sharpening a gouge on ail oilstone Isn't hard once you've learned a few simple techniques. Oilstones are best for gouge *liar|M*tiing. Pictured (inset left to right) hard Arkansas, small Washita, medium India, large Washita, and coarse car-liorundum. The hard Arkansas slip stone (front) removes the burrs.

To find the Ih'vcI angle, plaee the shoulder of the lievel on the Htone aiul lift the gouge handle until the edge makes eontaet with the Htone.

might need a longer stone for very wide gouges.

If the gouge is blunt or badly damaged, I first grind the bevel to approximate shape on a grinding wheel before using the oilstones. A water-cooled grindstone is best, but you can use a regular grinding wheel if you use a light touch. To avoid burning the edge, frequently lift the tool slightly off the wheel to let the moving air cool it. I prefer this method to dipping the tool in water.

The bevel angle, usually between 20° and 30°, depends on the kind of wood you are carving and the steel itself. Harder woods require a more blunt bevel angle than softer wtxxls in order to give adequate strength to the edge. You can gauge your bevel angle by cutting a notch in a piece of cardboard at the desired angle and holding it up to your bevel.

Sharpening Hie Bevel

To begin sharpening the bevel, place the medium stone on the bench parallel to the edge of the bench. Put some sharpening oil (I use mineral oil)

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the bevel

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