Update on the Upcoming Workshop Transition

In my future workshop looking into our future home.

The house project has been progressing in spite of the typical delays and hiccups. It has been inspiring to meet and watch the many skilled tradespersons working on the project. From the framers, to the electrician, to the HVAC pros, they all have demonstrated great expertise and tremendous pride in their work. I’ll be dragging guests to the basement to check out Robert’s meticulous wiring runs.

As you might expect, the workshop situation at the new place crossed my mind while we were planning. Kristin and I considered all sorts of scenarios, including the possibility of me building a small workshop apart from the house. Ultimately, we decided that the attached two-car garage would be the workshop. That decision was based partly on practical simplicity but, also, on what has worked for us already.

In my present workshop looking into our present home.

Our one-car attached garage has been my workshop for the last 27 years. It has worked well for me and it’s what I’m used to. Much of my workshop time necessarily occurs in small bursts of time, so it’s nice to step right out of the kitchen and into the shop. Three large-enough windows have allowed in a fair amount of natural light. It has also served as a transition area/mudroom from outside into the house.

The new shop will be larger (absent of two theoretical cars instead of one), but still attached, with a place for everyone to kick off their shoes and hang their coats. A few good windows will let in natural light, and, for most of the year, the large garage door will open up the shop to the outside.

I’ll build in some bookshelves, tool storage, and all that. I’ll sort out the details later. Meanwhile, I’ll be able to work just fine with a bench and my bowl horse. The bowl horse and low bench can be moved around easily, but I’ve been thinking a lot about the workbench location.

I built my workbench 27 years ago. It began with a simple framework of construction lumber and a 2×4 ledger board lag-bolted to the wall studs. I ripped two sheets of 3/4″ plywood in half lengthwise, then screwed and glued them, one-by-one, to the frame beneath and then to the layer below as the layer cake rose up. It sort of grew organically from there as my methods and work evolved. More holdfast holes, extended vise jaws, and a face frame to expand the edge-holding possibilities.

I know there are many other workbench options, but I’m taking this one with me. It works for me and I can’t bear to leave it behind. I know a lot of folks prefer to have a free-standing bench that allows access all around, but, after considering adapting this one with back legs, I plan to attach mine to the new wall, much as it has been attached to the old wall. The only difference is that the left end will be accessible instead of trapped in a corner.

One of my reasons for attaching it to the wall is stability. The bench simply doesn’t move, even with heavy or sudden pressure. Also, I’ve gotten used to having many of my tools in easy reach on the wall behind and beside the bench. I think I’ll arrange things similarly, although I will have two windows just above the bench.

That upper shelf in the current workshop runs around the room and is incorporated with the boards lining the wall itself, so it, and much of the shop, will stay. But many things will be coming with me: shelving units (including the one holding the planes), wooden boxes, chests, cabinets, hooks, stools, horses, racks, and more.

Book shelves will be important. I’m thinking about putting doors on the shelves to keep the dust out. Ideas are welcome!

Shelves like the one above my sharpening area will be relatively easy to transfer.

I like the way narrow shelves, like this one from a branch crook, catch the light coming in windows. Things like these will re-attach in the new shop.

The view will be new. Here’s a look at a little grove of aspens from the north wall window of the new shop.

Meanwhile, things are busy for now, but I’ll still have some time over the next couple months to work in this shop. Maybe I’ll even finish this bowl over the weekend.

Posted in Uncategorized | 17 Comments

Carving the Leaves

Following a couple recent posts on carving a sign in white oak, here and here, there were some questions about how I carved the leaves. Below are two photos of the leaves before and after painting. I’ll expand on my general explanation with this post.

For smaller leaves in softer wood, like those on the alphabet boards in this post, I use a knife. Leaves like these in white oak call for a gouge. I’ll demonstrate with a #6 14mm (9/16″) gouge, and a utility knife for the stem. As you may have noticed in the lead photo, the shapes of both have been modified. The gouge has a cambered or bullnose shape across the edge, with the corners drawn back. This is the key for carving these incised almond shapes without the corners marring the opposite side.

I keep a few gouges sharpened like this because they can come in handy for other situations too, including letter carving. Otherwise, my gouges are sharpened straight across with, theoretically, sharp crisp corners.

I just eyeball the radius, rather than measuring, but you could use a circle template to trace a line in Sharpie onto the tool. Measuring this particular tool now, the edge is an arc of a 3/4″ (19mm) circle, so a 3/8″ (9.5mm) radius.

I begin by grinding the radius at 90 degrees to the face of the grinding wheel, then I tilt the support up to grind the bevel at around 25 degrees or a little less (I suppose). I normally take gouges to a stationary stone for honing as I show here. Here’s an alternative. I hold the stone in my right hand and the gouge in my left. I rock the gouge from corner to corner as I move the stone up and down, while sighting in between to keep the stone flat against the bevel. It’s very natural, really. Here, I’m using the face of a hard Arkansas slip stone, lubricated by oil.

I flip the gouge over and do the same sort of thing with the rounded edge of the slip stone. My left thumb and forefinger rotate the gouge and serve as stops for the stone so as not to go beyond the corner of the gouge edge. I hold the gouge out a bit to create a slight inner bevel of maybe 2 or 3 degrees.

I strop the outside bevel by dragging backwards, flat on the bevel, while rotating the tool form corner to corner.

Same for the inner bevel on the round edge of the strop.

Time to carve some leaves!

With a scrap block of the white oak from the sign, I carved a little sample of two leaves on a stem. The leaves are about 1 1/4″ (32mm) long and 9/16″ (14mm) wide. The safest thing to do first is to make a stop cut along the center line to prevent the fibers from lifting across your outline when cutting from the first side. This can be done with a vertical gouge stab or with a v-tool. In this case, I just began with a small safe excavation in the middle of the leaf, which will expand outward with successive cuts.

In the photo above, I’m making the second cut from the opposite side of the first cut.

The cambered edge shape of the gouge allows the cutting edge to reach the center while not overcutting near the corners. The chip pops out, revealing a simple leaf shape. You could quickly create a whole tree full of leaves of this simple shape, even varying the sizes, by making these two simple cuts.

And there are many other possibilities. Eyes, footballs, fish… Here is a spoon handle employing the same technique to create fish of various sizes. The tails are triangular chip cuts, from a knife.

These leaves I’ve drawn are a little more complex in shape, so I maneuver the gouge around a bit, coming back to my drawn outline. I skew the gouge slightly now and then in consideration of grain direction.

On the second leaf, I’m making the first cut right at the outline. I’m confident in how the wood is behaving and that I can get away with it.

For the reversing curve approaching the tip of the leaf, I can flip the gouge upside down and press down while slicing forward.

You can see the cut and the fibers waiting to be released from the other side of the leaf.

The first cuts on leaves this size will rarely reach all the way to the bottom along the central vein of the leaf. By working back and forth from one side to the other, you’ll end up with clean sides and a defined curving central valley. Each leaf can be different, so just nibble around a bit until it’s a shape you like. Unintended shapes will probably look even more natural than your plan, so just have fun and see what happens. Leaves are low pressure!

The stem can be carved with a v-tool, gouge cuts from opposite sides, or other ways. Here I’ve decided to use a utility knife with a modified blade. It’s a standard Stanley blade, but I’ve ground a slight curve to the edge and re-sharpened it. Bevels on both sides of the blade. I think I first got this idea years ago from a video produced by Drew Langsner, featuring Swedish carver Bengt Lidstrom. The video is wonderful and packed with techniques and ideas. It’s now on YouTube here (I originally watched it on VHS). It’s at about the 58:30 mark that Bengt pulls out his utility knife to cut some designs and lettering on the bottom of a bowl.

The white oak is hard, but with a couple successive cuts I can reach the bottom of this narrow stem from one side, then the same from the other.

Here, I’m trimming and expanding one wall with a different grip.

The pencil lines are a guide, but what matters is the the carving itself. Erase the pencil lies and see what you’ve got.

Maybe it’s a sign of an early spring!

Posted in carving, sharpening, tools, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 9 Comments

New Bowl Horse Plans and Tutorial

Over twenty years ago, I designed and built my first bowl horse and it has been an important carving partner for me ever since. I use it for every bowl, but also for shrink pots, spoon blanks, and all sorts of other things. It is an integral part of my workshop.

For the past year or so, I’ve put a lot of thought and effort into developing an improved design to share, with detailed plans and clear instruction. This horse is built with common materials and simple techniques, yet it performs better than my previous horses. A few critical details really matter. With very little woodworking experience and less than $30 of lumber, you can build this bowl horse that will remain solid and serve you well for many years to come.

Once I had developed the design, I asked Jeff Lefkowitz to convert my rough drawings into beautiful, clear plans. Jeff’s work and attention to detail is legendary. He has produced plans for Curtis Buchanan, Peter Follansbee, Tim Manney, Peter Galbert, and other amazing craftsmen. Jeff’s high standards resulted in excellent plans that assure success for those building and using the bowl horse.

To accompany the plans, I wrote an extensive step-by-step tutorial detailing the building process, with over 50 photographs. The tutorial and the plans are found on the Bowl Horse Plans page. The full tutorial is available to all for free there.

I’m selling the plans on that same webpage as a PDF download. This makes them available everywhere instantly. All credit cards should be accepted, regardless of country. Once you purchase access, the download links for both pages will become available/visible to you on the webpage — like a curtain has been lifted. You could download and work with the plans from your computer screen, but if you wish to have the plans printed at full size, you can simply email the files to your local print shop. My shop charged me $10 for the two pages (42″x24″, and 36″x24″). Then there’s no need to pay for shipping on top of that, or to wait for a tube to arrive in the mail.


Posted in bowls, carving, events, holding, patterns, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 20 Comments

Exterior Sign in White Oak: Finished

A couple weeks ago, I wrote a post about carving this exterior sign in white oak. Since then, I’ve painted the leaves and letters, built and installed the cap, and finished it with exterior oil. Here’s a few shots from my learning experience.

There’s the main body of the sign all carved. As mentioned in the previous post, I wanted to add color for interest and contrast in varied lighting conditions.

After a lot of research, consultation of folks with exterior sign experience, and personal testing, I went with the artist acrylic paints above, although other very good brands would work as well. These pigments are all from the larger list recommended by Martin Wenham in his book. I’m trying to learn more and more about color theory and practice and Martin is a master. I mixed the brownish color from the first three, and the green from all four. Professional artist colors like these list the specific pigment used, along with the opacity (vs transparency) of each color. Notice the opacity square for each of these pigments is a completely black square, meaning very opaque/solid. Also, all of these pigments have the highest lightfastness rating, so they will be naturally resistant to fading. I thinned my mix just a touch with an acrylic medium to the consistency I wanted to work with.

The painting was painstaking, and I did a couple coats on everything. However, I found in my experiments that I could go over the edges slightly (see the photo above) here and there and clean up in the next step.

After all of the paint had dried thoroughly, I sanded the smooth surface of the sign with a flat cork sanding block and fresh 400 paper. Looks like a lot of dust, but it was actually a very light sanding.

There it is after vacuuming the dust and wiping down with a rag. Crisp edges as if I had that sort of painting skill and control.

I sighed in relief that the colors turned out the way I had hoped, and then it was on to the cap.

I wanted rain falling on the cap boards to drain mainly toward the back of the sign, so I cut and planed a bevel to the two top surfaces of the main body of the sign. That meant the joint between the two cap boards would be a compound miter. After marking, sawing, test fitting, and block-plane-tweaking, I got the fit and wondered how.

Wanting to join the cap boards to each other tightly and securely, rather than just to the sign body, I dusted off my simple pocket screw jig. With some Titebond III to seal the joint, three screws held the joint tight. The angle of these cap boards actually worked out perfectly with the angle of the pocket screws.

Strong enough for the purpose, for sure. I plugged all of the pocket screw holes, and two of the three are hidden by the sign body.

There’s the cap held in place with stainless steel screws that can be removed if needed for maintenance.

There it is after treatment with Watco Exterior Oil — Natural. The oil and solvents have no effect on the paint. I opted against exterior varnish and for the oil that can be more easily maintained with another application anytime. The white oak itself is naturally decay resistant.

The ray fleck comes out more at certain angles to the light. That groove I plowed under the front edge is meant to force any water that wraps around that edge to drip off before making it to the body of the sign itself. Can’t hurt, I guess. The finished sign with cap boards is 35 1/2″ long and weighs a little over 10 pounds.

All ready for the “Minglewood” retreat that I suppose is ideal for anyone “born in a desert and raised in a lion’s den.” (A comment on the previous post spurred me to take a closer looks at the lyrics of New Minglewood Blues.)

I’ve got other projects underway. One that’s been ongoing, and has taken a lot of time and work, is the development of the plans and tutorial for building my new bowl horse design. Without Jeff Lefkowitz‘s genius and hard work, I don’t think I’d have ever been done. But they’re finished! Now I just need to sort out some more technical computer details and I hope to make them available by the end of the weekend. So, more on that soon I hope.


Eventually, I’m going to find the time to get to these hickory posts and rungs I shaved down months ago. I’ve bundled them now with Superman duct tape to grab my attention. It’s been a few years since I’ve made a JA chair, but I’ve got my new version of the MACFAT book, and I’m excited to see that Peter Follansbee just put out a video series on making the JA chair. Who better? So, with all that help, I’ll sort it out.

Posted in Lettering, paint, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 26 Comments

Exterior Sign in White Oak Underway

I’ve been designing and carving an exterior sign for a cottage called “Minglewood.” Above is the sign with the carving portion complete, and below is my early small sketch of the design. The cap boards, which were inspired by the roofline of the cottage, will be attached to the top of the sign board itself. They’ll slope toward the back of the sign to shed water behind. The sign (30″ long) will be attached to two vertical posts anchored in the ground.

Compared to the thumbnail sketch above, the final design was streamlined, especially the branches and leaves. Designing took more time than the carving. I don’t know how much time for either, but I know it was more for the first.

I chose white oak mainly for its durability outdoors that I’ve experienced first-hand. I made our patio furniture over 20 years ago from white oak, a table and chairs. They’ve sat out in the rain and the sun and they’re still solid. The piece I’m using here is quarter sawn, so it won’t move much and will be unlikely to warp. Also, the ray fleck is a nice touch.

There’s the first cut up there on the M, a stop cut of sorts. For these big letters (the M is about 6″ high) I used a big V-tool to remove much of the wood before refining the walls with chisels and gouges. Much more effective than a knife in this very hard wood.

Here I’m roughing the upright of the L, which is also the trunk of the tree. The V-tool work on other letters can be seen as well. The remaining wood will be removed with the chisels and gouges.

For these flaring (waisted) elements, I use a combination of the three tools above, all flat carving chisels, but sharpened differently. I work them from the upper edge to the bottom of the V. The one on the left is ground straight across and is best for straight or slightly convex (when viewed from the outside of the trench) walls. the middle one has a slight camber and can negotiate slightly concave areas without the corners digging in. The third is ground to a skew to get into tight spots usually at the terminals and junctions.

Here’s the cambered chisel working the concave wall right up to the corner.

There’s the skew slicing right down into the junction of the end wall and side wall.

The curves are cleaned up with gouges. Here I’m removing some chips with some mallet blows. I’ll follow by rocking and slicing with a gouge to create the final surface.

I’ve shown this arrangement before, but I use this sort of I-beam bench extension held in my vise to hold the workpiece out on a narrow peninsula so that I can access it from both sides easily. Just a couple 2x4s capped by a 1×6, all held in the vise at one end.

The plan is to paint the letters, branches, and leaves before treating the whole thing with oil that can be easily maintained from year to year. The shot above is taken in the shop with light coming across the sign from the left. The shadows allow the sign to be read clearly. Below, I’ve simply rotated the sign into the direction of the light, and the difference is clear. The paint will assure a contrast no matter what that sun is up to throughout the day or if car lights are approaching the sign head-on.

I don’t think I’ve painted an exterior sign before, but Martin Wenham’s book has a whole section on painting-in letters and selecting materials.

Posted in Uncategorized | 24 Comments

Marvels in the Mud

Other than a few days of really cold temperatures, things have been mild around here this winter, with more rain than snow. You’d better have your galoshes on for a tromp across open ground. Saturday, temperatures dropped down to about 20 degrees Fahrenheit and crisped things right up for a while. Perfect for a nice walk.

As I crunched across fields and through woods, I stumbled upon a large area of fantastic ice crystals on a patch of ground recently turned over by earth moving equipment. Knowing they wouldn’t be there long, I snapped a few photos with my phone.

It reminded me of an underwater scene with the 3″ strands of ice seeming to rise out of the depths and flow in gentle currents.

It’s gone now, and I have no idea if it was hoarfrost or some other phenomenon, but it stopped me in my tracks.

Posted in nature, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 6 Comments

Bowl from a Plank: Part 2

Back to the “bowl from a plank” that I started in this post a couple weeks ago. After preparing the blank and laying out the hollow and rim, I began to hollow the bowl. Remember, this plank was completely dry. In fact, I think it had been kiln dried a few years ago. I can tell you, the adze doesn’t sink in nearly as deeply as it does into green walnut! After getting most of the bulk out, I switched to a gouge and mallet. Not only because of its effectiveness in this dry wood, but because of the shape of the hollow which descends steeply from the rim.

That’s my #8 30mm bent gouge in the photo above. I’ve recommended it as a first-gouge for anyone getting started in bowl carving. You can remove a lot of wood fast. A heavy mallet absorbs the shock of the blow and drives the gouge forward. I set aside one of my usual carver’s mallets and grabbed the much heavier mallet I made twenty years ago with an apple wood head and a sugar maple handle. It’s sweet.

Even on a narrow bowl like this, the cross-grain trench provides a stop cut of sorts. You can see how a heavy chip like the one being taken above will run out at the trench rather than run through to the opposite side.

I moved to a gouge with a slower (flatter) sweep to do the final paring of the interior, then moved to the outside. I went straight to the drawknife for defining the rim and shaping the outer side walls. I’ve been using my Bowl Horse 2.0 now for a few months and I’m very happy with it. I made several adjustments in terms of construction, dimensions, and details that have all proven to be changes for the better. I’ll be sharing more about this and I’ll be making very clear plans and a full building tutorial available.

After shaping the sides, roughed out the compound curve under the deep handles with an axe. Then refined them further with drawknife, adze, and gouge.

For the final shaping and surfacing of the sides, I worked in rows by eye with the drawknife, one row at a time from rim to foot.

On the end panels, I worked across the grain with a #3 gouge by eye, curving the rows slightly. Since the end wall bulges out at the center, I stop about halfway across to work with the grain as much as possible, then flip the bowl around and work toward the middle from the other side. The flutes merge in the middle.

After doing both ends of the bowl, I touch up here and there, shifting the lines one way or the other slightly by shaving a little heavier to one side of the flute.

I’m still not completely settled on what I’m lettering on these handles. To experiment with different ideas without writing any more on the wood itself, I placed a sheet of paper over the bowl and ran my fingers over the edges, leaving an impression of the bowl’s outline on the paper. I can now take this away from the bowl itself, darken the outline with a pencil, lay tracing paper over it, and play around with design after design. The paper can’t always conform to the complex curves of the surface, but close enough for the purpose.

Posted in bowls, finding wood, Lettering, Uncategorized, walnut | Tagged , , , , | 16 Comments

For a Christmas Workbench

I couldn’t help it. As a kid, when I was handed a Christmas package that seemed likely to contain clothing or some other uninteresting stuff, I couldn’t hide my disappointment. Packs of tube socks and underwear were politely acknowledged, then unceremoniously set to the side. What an ungrateful little snot.

The gifts that really got me excited were the ones that held the promise of creative possibilities. Crayons, Lite Brite, Legos, modeling clay… When it comes to woodworking, I remember a wood burning (pyrography) tool and a Handy Andy tool kit — with wood-handled tools painted with light blue accents.

These memories came to mind as I worked on the little sign in the photo above. A friend had explained to me that his young grandson, Christopher, has a budding passion for woodworking. He wanted a plaque to personalize the workbench he and his wife are giving Christopher for Christmas. A workbench?! Tube socks don’t stand a chance.

This little (13″ x 2 3/8″) cherry sign will be mounted to the bench. The letters in that bottom line are only about 1/2″ high, so I had to put the “cheater” glasses on for that. I hope the sign gets dinged up over the years as Christopher works away.

Wishing you all happy holidays and a creative 2023. And, for the record, I’ve come to appreciate socks, underwear, and just about everything else.

Posted in Lettering, Uncategorized | 16 Comments

Bowl from a Plank

Sourcing, storing, and/or processing green logs can be a challenge for some people based on location and other circumstances. There are ways around it. I’ve written a few posts that feature bowls carved from dry wood, or other creatively-sourced blanks.

Among the several projects on my list is a smaller version of a bowl that I made in 2015. That’s a photo (from my post about it) of the original 2015 bowl below. That bowl was 26 1/2″ long, 7 3/8″ wide, and 3″ high. My current iteration will be about 20% smaller, while retaining the same general proportions. So it will be less than 2 1/2″ high. I’ve had a walnut plank hanging around my shed that is 2 3/4″ thick. The more I looked at it, I realized that it might do the trick. The plank is in the top photo, along with my initial chalk scribbling.

“A Little Bread” Walnut Bowl 2015

I traded the chalk for a pencil and got more precise about orienting the bowl in the plank.

I struck my longitudinal centerline parallel to the grain pattern, without regard to the edges of the plank. This initial layout changed a bit later, but it gave me enough to go by to cut the excess length from the plank. There are some major bark inclusions and splits just below the bowl edge, right above the vise jaw.

The 2015 bowl had an arched top that corresponded to the natural curve of the outside of the tree. In this case, I created a curve with a plane after striking the shallow arc on both ends of the blank.

The dark marks are from mutton tallow that I rubbed on the handsaw during the crosscuting.

I bought it from Lee Valley years ago, stuck it on a shelf and forgot about it — until Meeko the cat knocked it down a few days ago and stared at me with a sheepish grin. Still works.

I realized that my 18″ steel ruler wasn’t long enough to be a drawing bow for the sides of this bowl. Then I spied my tallow-covered handsaw lying there. I flexed it with a length of masking tape and laid out the side arcs with the back.

Now it’s ready for hollowing, which means I’ll be wishing it were green wood. I’ll snap some more photos along the way.

Posted in bowls, finding wood, layout, patterns, Uncategorized, walnut | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

My New Old Arkansas Stone

A whetstone is no carving instrument,
And yet it maketh sharp the carving tool;
And if you see my efforts wrongly spent,
Eschew that course and learn out of my school;
For thus the wise may profit by the fool,
And edge his wit, and grow more keen and wary,
For wisdom shines opposed to its contrary.

Geoffrey Chaucer, Troilus and Cressida

When my buddy brought me a small bag of tools gleaned from an old garage, my attention was first drawn to the chisels. There were a couple old Buck Brothers worn down to nibs and an interesting bent gouge. Someday I’ll give them some attention, but I’ve been diverted by what I had first overlooked.

At the bottom of the bag was what looked like a dirty old fruitcake, but not as heavy. I quickly realized it was a sharpening stone. It was covered with a thick coating of grime, and I expected it to be an old common carborundum stone. But it felt particularly dense. Not to make the story unnecessarily long, I cleaned it up and it turned out to be a nice old hard Arkansas stone.

since most of the tools I sharpen are curved, I like to use stones that don’t dish easily. I mainly use diamond plates, but there are lots of methods that work well. I also use Arkansas stones, and I have a small assortment of Arkansas bench stones and slips. I like them. I like the way they look, feel, and cut. I like their longevity, capable of being passed down through generations. I like the feel of the oil and the way the stone nestles into its wood box. And I like the keenness they bring to the edge of my carving tools.

The upfront cost for new ones isn’t cheap, but old lonely stones reside in rusty tool boxes and garage corners all over. A visit to some yard sales could yield a special sharpening kit for very little cash. Or maybe a friend will bring you a stone in a bag!

Arkansas stone coarseness varies, but it’s not so much a matter of “grit.” This is explained more completely here and here, along with a lot of interesting information about the broader category of “novaculite” stones. Basically, the more dense the particular stone is, the finer it cuts. The less dense it is, the faster it cuts, while leaving a relatively coarser finish.

In the case of this old Arkansas stone that came to me, it was pretty easy to measure its density, since it was rectangular and regular. It measured 154mm x 47mm x 26mm, so 188,188 cubic mm3. Its weight on a postal scale was 455 g. That makes a density of .00242 g/mm3, or a specific gravity of 2.42. According to this information and/or this, that puts it within the range of a “hard Arkansas stone.” That process can at least give you a basic idea of what you’re working with.

Of course, what really matters is how it cuts the steel of your tool, so you could skip the numbers and just see how it performs. If it’s old and grimy like mine, you’ll want to freshen, and probably flatten, the top. I started with some 120 grit sandpaper on a flat surface, rubbing the stone on it, face down. The high areas will wear down first. Arkansas stones are hard, but keep at it. Whistling helps. Once you’re flat, work down through some finer grits, spending a minute or two on each one. I stopped at 600 grit paper. The good news is that an Arkansas stone is hard enough that there will be no need to reflatten for years.

A wood box is ideal for an Arkansas stone. It absorbs any excess oil and protects the stone. I made this one from a thick chunk of dry cherry. After planing the opposite faces true and parallel and squaring up the block, I struck two lines with the marking guage, wide enough apart for the saw kerf and a little extra.

I sawed between the lines, then planed both sawn surfaces flat to the lines.

After marking for the dimensions of the stone, I used a Forstner bit to excavate the majority of the wood down to depth, then squared up the sides with chisels and cleaned up the underside of the lid with a bent gouge.

I put rubber bumpers under the corners of the box. Ready for action.

The stone worked great for its first task of sharpening a gouge. I move the gouge along the length of the stone, rotating the gouge along it’s bevel as the gouge moves sideways. My left hand pushes right and rotates the gouge counter-clock wise, My right hand moves the gouge to the left while rotating it clockwise. Back and forth in a steady rhythm.

The shot above is mid-stroke. That’s a hard Arkansas slipstone to the right for handling the inner curve of the gouge.

The stroke to the left just about finished. I want to stop right at the corner of the gouge without over rotating. The abraded steel particles become suspended in the oil, keeping the pores of the stone open.

In the shot above, I’m sharpening a recently acquired knife after our cat knocked it off the bench onto the concrete floor. Because he’s a cat.

I bought this knife from Paul Jones at Deepwoods Ventures. I asked him to make me a knife with the same form and size as the pen blade extended in my pocket knife that I use for a lot of the lettering I do. This little guy works great. Some folks are interested in trying my somewhat odd technique, but have trouble finding or buying the pocket knife. This is cheaper and a little safer I suppose. There’s nothing in it for me. It’s all between you and Paul. But if you’re interested, Paul would be happy to make one for you. You can contact him here.

Posted in Lettering, quotes and excerpts, sharpening, tools, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 9 Comments