24 July 2009

Guiding light...

I've been doing some pondering, as I do occasionally, over the last few days regarding honing guides, which is subject of some considerable angst amongst the woodworking fraternity...to use one or nae? Let me say, I'm not in the 'nae' camp as I'm one of those who find them invaluable. I can free-hand hone but the guide gives repeatably every time, which is it's main advantage, especially when using the much harder A2 steels. I use a modified Eclipse clone type with projection boards for each setting. Thus the blade registers from the flat side (as it's supposed to) and with my modification, the blades (chisel and plane) can easily be turned over so that the back and bevel can be honed on the stone...after all, a truly sharp edge is the intersection of two surfaces that meet at a predetermined angle, so both need to be honed alternately.

TheEclipse will hold pretty much everything (chisels and plane blades) but it does have a disadvantage, namely that as the roller makes contact with the stone (short DMT's in my case) only about 100mm of the stone can be used... which is fine but it would be better to be able to use all the stone.

So where have my ponderings led me? I've been considering the Kell series of guides which use a pair of rollers that run outboard of the blade being honed. This means in effect that on narrower blades, the rollers will be on the stone, but with wider blades, a pair of wooden guides would need to be screwed down level with the surface of the stone...not too daunting a task. The crucial disadvantage though, as I see it, is that as the wheels are so small, the blade projection is also small (12mm for 30deg) which means that it becomes very much more awkward to flip it over and hone the back with the blade in situ...'cos you haven't got enough room! The other thing that worries me is that to hone the complete range of chisels and plane blades, two Kell guides are recommended, a No1 and 2.

Not a problem really if you like beautiful, precision made tools, but it's going to irk me somewhat to cough up the best part of £80 when the current one I'm using does everything I need for the princely sum of less than a fiver! I've got the opportunity next Saturday to have another play with one as Matthew Platt from Workshop Heaven is bringing a couple of Kells to Michael's BBQ...so the jury is still out.

I wonder when LN are going to release their new honing gauge?...

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