In our last installment of The Very Bad Inshave Saga, I demonstrated a simple way to get a nice, consistent grind on the bevel. It took plenty of time and patience, but the results were satisfying. I’m not out of the woods, yet, though: I still have to hone the bevel, and I haven’t even mentioned the condition of the back, yet:
Since a sharp edge is nothing more than the acute intersection of two polished surfaces, I’ve got to get the back polished before I can hope to make this tool sharp. Right now, it’s a long way from polished. I started by turning dowel about 1 1/2″ in diameter on my lathe:
Then I saw a kerf down the length:
And fit a quarter sheet of 180-grit sandpaper into the kerf:
Then, I turn on the lathe and carefully work the entire edge, being careful not to round over the back of the edge too much. This is a more delicate process than it appears; you can do a lot of damage in a hurry, so be careful.
After a couple minutes of work, I pull the inshave off for inspection:
I continue with the 180-grit until I have an even shine, and then I work the blade up to 600-grit to give it a nice polish:
After 600-grit, I charge the dowel itself with some green honing compound to get a mirror shine:
And that’s it. The back is polished, and it only took 20 minutes or so. Now I can turn my attention to the bevel. Honing the bevel of a curved edge is always difficult and requires a fair amount of skill, but I found the shape of this inshave to be particularly hard. There is a lot of metal here – far more than a simple carving gouge – and besides that, the uneven curvature of the blade means that I’m constantly having to re-position my stones as I move along the blade. I’m not so sure I could have done this were it not for the hollow grind left by the grinding wheel.
I started with a 1000-grit slipstone, honing along the bevel, not across the bevel. I followed it up with a 4000-grit slipstone and a bit of stropping with honing compound on leather. The polish on the bevel is tiny – too small for me to photograph, unfortunately. Only the very edge needs to be polished.
I was not able to get this inshave to my usual standards of hair-popping sharp, but I did get it sharp enough to easily slice through sassafras. I found that I could hog off thick chips, or very fine ones – the tool is surprisingly responsive.
And it leaves a beautifully smooth surface. I think I’ll have no trouble going straight from the inshave to a scraper.
So, there you go. My tool-making escapade for the Windsor chair is nearing completion. I still need to build a shave horse, but the number of excuses that I have for delaying the project are steadily dwindling.
3 thoughts on “Sow’s Ear, Meet Silk Purse: Sharpening a Very Bad Inshave.”
Great technique and nice photos. Thanks. I’ve enjoyed exploring the blog a little, and will enjoy looking around some more. Keep up the good work!
Thanks for the encouragement, Dave! I’m just getting started, but glad you’ve enjoyed it so far. Sharpening curved tools is the final frontier for me.
I feel like grinding the bevel and polishing the back were the easy parts, but I’m not completely happy with my stone work on the bevel. I feel like oilstones would be preferable, but I’m stuck with my waterstones for now, which seemed a bit too soft. I’d be curious to know your methods for sharpening an inshave/scorp.