It seems that sharpening chisels and plane blades has been elevated to the status of an art in some woodworking circles. Perhaps for good reason—a super-sharp edge on your tools is a requirement for crisp, tight joints and smooth surfaces. It takes practice to judge the right bevel angles and to hold the blades just right when stroking the stone. I never quite mastered the art of doing this freehand.
But that's what they make honing guides for. The Veritas Honing Guide has such innovative features that it quickly became my favorite. First, you don't have to guess the bevel angle—you set it exactly with the auxiliary angle-setting jig. (The honing guide and angle jig are sold together.) Choose one of five common bevel angles (15°. 20°, 25°, 30°, 35°) on the pen-tagon-shape angle jig. Use that as a "template" for mounting the blade at that exact angle in the honing guide. When you hone the blade on the stone, you'll get the chosen bevel angle perfectly. Second, the guide's roller is mounted on an eccentric axle which allows an adjusting knob to set the bevel angle up or down in 1° increments. What a neat trick. After you hone the basic bevel, just turn the knob, hone a bit more, and you get a perfect micro-bevel angled one degree more than the basic bevel. Wrhen it comes time to rehone the tool, you can reproduce the original bevel angle exactly with the angle-setting jig.
The Veritas Honing Guide is well-made, and will accept blades up to 2'/2 in. wide and V* in. thick. It will also hold short blades like Japanese chisels and spoke-shaves. It works for me.
Price: $26.00 for honing guide and angle jig. Available from most mail-order catalogs and woodworking stores, or from: LEE VALLEY TOOLS, LTD.. 1080 Morrison Dr., Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, K2H 8K7,
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've been making wood spoons since 1982. During these past years, I've frequently found myself, head down, totally absorbed in shaping a split branch into an uncommon kitchen utensil. Particularly before holidays or special birthdays, I gather up my hewing ax, knife and gouges and go rummaging through the woods looking for a branch with just the right crook to create something both useful and impressive. Hand-carved wood spoons have an uncanny power to capture people's best attention. Unlike metal spoons, wood spoons don't scratch pots, clink 011 your teeth or feel cold to the touch. A spoon shaped by hand from a living tree does more than simply hold food. It pleases the eye, and invites use. Such an object has value, and makes eating a little more wholesome.
It was in 1982 that I first met Wille Sundqvist, a Swedish master of the ax and knife who was teaching at Country Workshops in North Carolina. We've had a few encounters since—including a two-week visit in Sweden, where spoon making is a tradition—that have helped to make my proficiency in the craft almost as great as mv enthusiasm for it. Wille is a model teacher, and his lessons form the foundation for this article.
My favorite method of spoon construction begins with an ax. A spoon born of the ax has bones, meaning it's stronger, because the ax rives the wood by following the grain. You split the wood and hew it to rough shape, finding strong planes and bold angles to structure the finer work you need to carve with the knife.
But lately, I've been exploring the character of spoons roughed out on a bandsaw. The handsaw has a few advantages over the ax: It's less wasteful of wood, allowing you to sometimes make two or three spoons out of the same wood blank. It's also easier to visualize and rough out the initial shape. For that reason it's a good way to begin spoon carving.
What Makes a Good Spoon?
You can find all kinds of wood spoons in craft galleries; even discount stores sell packages of stirring spoons or sets of salad servers. Rarely are these pleasing or practical forms. They're either two-dimcn-sional cutouts—rough-edged and coarse—or heavy, clunky masses of wood that attract the wrong kind of attention. Think of a propeller, whose function and function alone yields a beautifully coherent sculptural form. Wille says an object should have all the wood necessary to make it strong and useful, but not a gram more. Some of his spoons are so finely carved their bowls are translucent, and they have lasted in his kitchen for more than a decade. The secret is to align the shape of the spoon with the flow of the grain and avoid weak, short-grain areas. You can't make a good ladle, for instance, from a straight piece of wood. Good ladles come from crooks in branches that look
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