Sharpening is a physical process which requires all of our attention. I have always said to my students is that you need to push the tool down hard onto the abrasive. This is all a bit subjective until we start measuring and this is what this video is about. I am using up to 6 kg of pressure when sharpening my scandi ground carving knives. I using the same amount of pressure when stropping and then ease up for the finishing strokes.
The one thing I did not mention in the video is that when learning sharpening do not go in hard straight away. Start light and make sure that abrasion is taking place in the correct places along the bevel of the knife. Go in hard get the angles wrong and you have created a secondary bevel and a lot more work for yourself.
It’s here! Sharp has at last been printed and we have a lot of full boxes, so: if you would like to own a copy, click here.
Sharp has hundreds of images in the form of photographs, plans, and diagrams and it instructs how to best sharpen edge-tools. We hope that Sharp will encourage, inform, educate and inspire and all edge tool users to improve your tools – whatever tools you might use. If a tool that you use has been omitted from the book, then the knowledge gained from reading other chapters will enable you to sharpen it effectively.
Some of you have already ordered and received your copies. The response so far has been fabulous, with excellent feedback about the quality of the book and the breadth of knowledge and detail in its pages.
It is published by Crafty Little Press; a small, independent publishing company founded in 2017, and which I co-own with my wife, Lucy Lepchani.
I also run my own wood craft business and have done so for over thirty years, as well as researching and writing. Sharp, and other books, are primarily sold from www.craftylittlepress.co.uk and from www.seanhellman.com and are also on sale through a select range of outlets: small and family-owned businesses, independent bookshops, crafts education centres, and others. We do not sell through Amazon for many reasons; and for the time being we do not work with distributors – although we are likely to do so in future. In the UK, independent bookshops can order directly from us or through Nielson.
Please contact us by email if you are interested in a wholesale order.
A word of warning: Sharp is heavy. At 1.5kg, sharpening skills do not come lightly! Seriously, though; the weight bestowed aches and pains as I carried each box from my van and into my workshop and then wrapped each box to protect it from the damp… but the main point I want to make here, is to do with postage. Postage within the UK is reasonable, and to Europe it is a little more expensive, but sending Sharp to the USA or Australia means you will pay more in shipping than for the cost of the book itself. This works both ways. I often buy books or tools from the USA and the postage is eyewatering. We are currently researching ways of reducing this cost, but due to the pandemic and fewer planes flying, shipping costs are high at this time.
However, we are sure that the information contained in Sharp is worth its weight in gold… or whatever other metal might be better sharpened through the skills and knowledge that Sharp has to offer.
Sharp, by Sean Hellman, published by Crafty Little Press. ISBN:978-09931861-7-2 is available from www.seanhellman.com for £25 (or equivalent in Euros, US/Aus/Can. dollars and other currencies).
Some of you may know that I have been writing a book about sharpening. This book has been in progress for near to 15 years. I became distracted from drafting this project and wrote a book about shaving horses, a few years back, and which is still selling well. The company that I run with my wife, Crafty Little Press, orders books by the pallet load and Shaving Horses, Lap Shaves and other Woodland Vices is now on its third pallet load.
Anyway back to the point: Sharp is very nearly ready. We hope to send it to the printer in late February. It’s a big book with over 300 pages and nearly 1000 photos and illustrations. It was originally written to explain which abrasives to use and how to sharpen green woodworking tools, but as with the last book, it grew and grew. Tool sharpening is a task that most of us might struggle with at some point, or perceive as some dark and mysterious art; but which is essential to our craft. Ultimately, it is simple: get a stone and rub your tool on it until the tool is sharp. If only!
Sharp is a book that will guide the reader through the principles and practice of sharpening; from definitions and requirements in the chapter What is Sharp? and through chapters explaining edge geometry, how to observe the edge to determine correct sharpening procedures required, all about abrasives (including hand-tools, as well as human-powered and machine tools) and with detailed, step-by-step instructions for as many types of edge tool as we could fit into the book; and with an entire chapter given to plans and instructions for time-saving, effective jigs and guides.
Sharp is aimed at all kinds of edge-tool users. My speciality is green wood work, but I also run an electric workshop so all the cutting tools used in machine workshops, are included. Bushcrafters and others will appreciate the sections on knives and axes, as will smallholders who use sickles and scythes. Not to forget the chapter on saws – with details on how to sharpen them, from fine 22TPI dovetail saws, to two-person cross cut saws, and even how to get extra life from those disposable hard point saws that are usually thrown away with abandon.
I had to include information for cooks and gardeners; and if you use a push mower to cut the lawn then how about maintaining the cylinder or reel on that mower yourself? Shears of all kinds, from hairdresser scissors to hedge shears, are also covered in a whole chapter.
One part that I really did enjoy, was boring. Boring tools are great fun, and with such variety. Twist drill bits can be expensive, and for years I had growing piles of blunt ones; but since understanding the angles these need to be held at to grind them sharp, and how to make simple jigs to keep these angles consistent, then I only have to buy new ones if they break or wear beyond use.
…….and lots more.
There is no pre order and the book will only be available through this website, and the Crafty Little Press website, and a few woodworking shops in the UK. You should also be able to order copies of Sharp in the UK, through your local, independent book store. We hope to find US and European sellers at some point – please contact me if you are interested.
This small but perfectly formed festival has only 50 spaces and will never get any larger. I have been teaching and passing on my skills at this gathering for a couple of years now and alway eagerly await the ferry trip from Plymouth to France. The hosts Jane and Peter are welcoming and generous as well as begin very talented. The festival takes place at their home in Britainy and people come from all over Europe to participate and share knowledge stories and songs as well as some inspiring beverages of the alcoholic sort. To Lucy and me, and I know this is true for others, this festival is like a family gathering with new members being added each year. Everyone is made welcome and taken in as family.
We learn, we laugh, we eat and drink together. The food is provided in ample portions and to the highest quality.
This year Jane and Peter have decided to do some prefest courses. Jane is teaching her folding spoons and I will be making wooden sheaths and boxes with people. My emphasis as it always has been is to teach technique and expand the the possibilities of woodworking rather than just on making a thing. So many of you may well have seen my simple tool cases and the more complicated ones and depending on your level of experience you can have a go at making various boxes or sheaths to protect your tools. I will be teaching how to convert and use wood from the log as well as using predried and cut wood. We will be able to make just using simple edge tools and or using some electric or mechanical tools as well.
Lucy and Jan will be teaching a dying and spinning course. The natural dying that Lucy does is a joy to behold, simple plants prepared and boiled to produce the most amazing colours.
Just back from Stafford county show and I have found another way of making fan birds, not anything radical, just an evolution, and going back to when I first made fanbirds on my shaving horse. I have designed and developed a new big push knife to complement my draw knives. It comes in handy for making the fan birds and not just bowls. It is always fun to find new uses for tools, especially when they work so well. More on the pushknives in coming posts, they are not listed on the website yet.
Just wanted to share just how many birds can be made from a small discarded end to ash wood that was going to be burnt. Nine so far and probably another 6 at least because of that knot.
I love the fact that we can add value to something that has no real value and that this added value is skill and time.
The big push knife on the left is £85 with a sheath. Email me if you are interested.
You do not have to be a green woodworker to benefit from this video. We all need to take care of our bodies. As I say in the forward of Shaving Horses, Lap Shaves and other Woodland Vices:
Although we have never been recognised as such, the woodworker, like any manual worker, is an athlete. We often work for hours, using tools that can weigh several pounds, all the time extending and contracting our muscles, working with the rhythms of our breath, building strength and muscle memory. We have to learn how to use tools correctly and become aware of how our bodies feel.
If you practise some of these simple exercises them we can relieve some of the pain we feel the day after working on that project.
This was filmed during Fines Lames et Petit Cuillere a small but brilliant green woodworking festival in France organised by Jane and Peter Mickleborough. With special thanks to Walter Joseph Kovacs for letting me film him and sharing his knowledge.
My main cross cut saw is a sliding compound mitre chop saw. The chop saw cost me £700 ish about 12 years ago and a new one is the same price now. I have heard there can be an issue with the accuracy of the same make with the newest model, and I have been thinking about buying a bench saw with a good sliding table. The reason for buying a new saw is because slowly over time the fence on the chop saw has been bending out of true. The reason is simple, as we may have experienced, it is easy to catch the saw blade on the wood and knock the wood into the fence. This has only happened a few times with any force, but over the years these things happen and can scare the &*%§ out of you. The fence has cracks in and is no longer true and straight. Cutting long pieces of wood result in the wood pinching the blade at the end of the cut, which results in the saw being forced back towards you. Cutting short ends off, results in out of square cuts. All in it is not that safe to use, and students have not been allowed to use it for some time.
Today I made a new fence, if I knew how quick and simple it was I would have done it years ago.
One 2 inch thick lump of oak planed square all round. Holes drilled for the bolts using the original fence as a template.
The old fence placed against the new fence to show how badly it is out of alignment
The casting is cracked on both ends of the fence.
New fence which is made longer than the original
This saw has seen a lot of use over the years and has been punished and used to its full capacity often. It is now again a dream to use, and I have no excuse to buy a new bench saw.
The response from my Shaving horse book has been fantastic, with some great reviews.
I have now partnered with North House Folk School in the USA to sell the books. They are the only retailer where you can buy the books in the USA, so give them a call if you want to save a few dollars on postage.
However, at of the time of posting this blog, they do not have the books on their website.
That often-promised book that never materialised…is now here! After at least three years of work and a lifetime’s experience of making and using these traditional devices, Shaving Horse, Lap Shaves and other Woodland Vices is now on sale, at www.seanhellman.com
It is a resource for anyone wishing to make and use these simple but effective devices, and to participate in an enduring and worthy tradition. Whether a complete novice or accomplished professional, Shaving Horses, Lap Shaves and other Woodland Vices has much to offer: effective woodworking techniques, use of specific hand-tools, ergonomics, and a range of 13 different work-holding devices, either shaving horses or cleaving breaks, and including traditional and contemporary versions of these designs. There is also a section on drawknives and how to use, sharpen and renovate them.
The book is published by Crafty Little Press, a new publishing company set up by Lucy (my wife) and myself, for the purpose of printing and distributing this current title and other books we have planned. So, last week, we collected a ton of books from our local printer, Short Run Press, itself a business with a great reputation and a winner of environmental awards for good business practice. Being local, both collection and personal communication are easy, and we have avoided using lorry-space and consequent fuel by not carrying books across the country or from abroad. The ethos of supporting local economy wherever possible, is important to us, more so than investing in a cheaper product that travels across continents, or from countries which have little or no environmental regulation or employment rights.
You can buy Shaving Horses, Lap Shaves and other Woodland Vices primarily from my website or from Crafty Little Press, www.seanhellman.com and at woodworking events where we are present; it is also available from the Woodsmith Experience and Woodland Craft Supplies. We are also currently seeking to extend distribution outlets here in the UK, and in the USA, or elsewhere. Please let us know if you would like to wholesale from us.
I offer a huge and grateful thank you to all those who have contributed to the book, to everyone who inspired it in any way, and all those who have helped make this work possible.
130 pages and over 400 photos and diagrams.
Here is a short video made by Harry Rogers at the Bodger Ball this year
I spent the day with Richard Devaney at the Saxon village at Escot house in Devon. He was hosting an APT local group get together. As he is recreating Saxon life he does not do saws and hates it when others leave the evidence of the saw in the material. Not using a saw means that wood has a very different end cut to it. This end cut is usually very tactile, visually appealing and organic in its form. I will have to try working without a saw more.
Detail of diagonal supports on a pole lathe
Above and below, the worn and polished poppet heads