Fall means many things. Most important among them: firewood season. Whether building a campfire in a stone ring for cooking, heating your space via a woodstove, or just setting your indoor fireplace ablaze for some warmth, these next six months are all about the cheer that can only come from the presence of an open flame.
So, as we settle into the new half of the year, let's take a moment to address humankind's most primitive tool: the axe. Whether your splitting whole tree rounds, dividing logs into kindling, or getting creative with woodcarving, the process is simple, and only needs to happen once a year for the average non-lumberjack. Here's how to sharpen an axe.
A kitchen knife is an unusual tool, in that the point of contact between the tool and the medium upon which it works is actually extremely delicate. Imagine if a wrench were as delicate as an X-acto blade that had to be replaced regularly, or if bar clamps would routinely stop holding things in place because they became all wonky with use. Most non-cutting tools are blunt, hearty and reliable. But blades have to be cared for, stored carefully, and sharpened (somewhat) regularly.
But if there is an abused and neglected blade in your home that is used frequently but cared for rarely (okay, maybe not YOUR home, Mr./Ms. Attention-to-Detail––but the average home), it is the knives in your kitchen. Unless you are a professional ice sculptor or sword swallower, it is likely that the knives in your kitchen are the ones that get the most daily use. And if you are anything like me, it is way too easy to just grab one, use it, and put it back without special care for these knives. Despite my best intentions, it is easy for me to leave a dirty one on a cutting board, haphazardly toss one into the sink, clean in the dishwasher and store them in less-than-ideal ways (i.e., cluttered together in a drawer. I know. I'm an animal.)
Unless you're a millionaire, I always recommend going with used hand tools when getting started in woodworking. (Though, full disclosure, no millionaires have yet to ask my advice.) Vintage tools are plentiful, much less expensive, and depending on their age, usually a better, longer-lasting tool than you can buy at your local big box store. And the best part? Antique tools are more likely to be made in the USA or Europe, where they've been crafted from higher quality steels than modern tools from the home improvement center.
Over the weekend, I found this nice, broad 1 1/2" chisel at a favorite antique mall, with a mere $7.50 on the price tag hanging from the handle. It was in mostly great condition. The top and back had been coarsely ground a few times, and the bevel wasn't square to the sides, but the steel was in beautiful shape and the handle looks like it's never been pounded on.
In the sheer scope and magnitude of Youtube, I going to assume that we will one day see every conceivable thing that exists in the world. Because, we all know, that if it is weird enough for someone to try, there is someone around with a camera ready to film it. So, we can file this under, "what the hell is going on here?" But there's this guy with a Youtube channel whose entire purposes seems to be to constantly and painstakingly recreate a knife out of very different, very bizarre materials.
Let's say you've read up on the merits of woodcase pencils and you've decided to become an inveterate pencil carrier. You've sorted your B's from your HB's, you've picked your favorite finishes and ferrules. You've bought your dozen (or two) and are scribbling smoothly... until one day you find yourself with a dull point and no sharpener.
But if you've got your pocketknife, you're just a few minutes from a fresh point! Let's take a look at how to sharpen a pencil by hand.
Like many hirsute men in the world today, I am privileged by a culture of men's style that has embraced the beard. Because not only do I think it's a bit more flattering of my face, but the beard is a style of convenience – shaving daily is certainly much more work than not shaving. All the bearded man needs are some plug-in clippers that allow you to keep it at a neat length and shape it to your liking, a beard balm and some moisturizer. On paper, at least, there's nothing else essential.
Unfortunately, even if you prize simplicity in your routines, there is this lingering problem for maintaining a neat beard. Unless you are a genetic
Sharpening a blade at home - whether a pocket knife, a chisel, a kitchen knife, a hand plane blade, a pair of scissors - is a relatively simple process. In theory. In practice, it can be a bit difficult, since the essence of sharpening a blade is less about the ability to remove material and create/straighten a new edge. Rather - the trick is removing that material at the right angle to create the bevel that makes up a blade's sharp edge.
My highschool workshop teacher had a saying that's always stuck with me: Keep you edges sharp and your powder dry. While I don't pay much attention to the dryness of my powder these days, I take a lot of interest in my tools. Sharp edges are safer, more precise, less frustrating, and just a lot more fun to work with. Here is one of my secrets to keeping them cutting at their best.
Odds are if you're reading this blog, you're already taking good care of your kitchen knives with a home sharpener of some sort. But are you keeping as good an eye on your pocket knife or other daily-carry type knife? I recently realized that I hadn't quite noticed how dull the knife I often carry had become and set out to buy a good whetstone to take care of it. So here's a brief guide on how to give your pocket knife the TLC it desperately needs.
The journey of an apprentice is a long and hard road, with many hours of thankless work under a master that at some point will hopefully be surpassed in skill and knowledge. Here's an interview with a Western student learning Japanese bladesmithing from an Eastern expert.
For many centuries, from wood to stone, chisels have literally chipped away history to reveal some of our most lasting and beautiful artwork. Do I need to give you any other reason to get yourself a set?