Like a lot of hobbyist woodworkers, I don't seem to get enough "shop time". And, because I have a family (wife, kids), and because my shop doesn't have electricity (a long story), I'm basically limited to daylight hours, on the weekends.
And, when I do
spend time in the shop, it's more interesting to build things than to perform tool maintenance.
Meanwhile, at work -- I have an "office job" -- we're required to clock out for lunch for at least 30 minutes every day. Sometimes I go for a walk; sometimes I run errands. Sometimes I wander off to the library, for lack of anything better to do.
Some co-workers check e-mail and surf the web (mostly news sites) -- but because I spend all day sitting and typing, I really don't want to spend my lunch break... sitting and typing.
So: sometime in late April -- I forgot to record the date -- I started lapping chisels during my lunch break. "Lapping" basically means "to flatten": to get chisels (and handplane blades) truly
sharp, they need to be super-flat on the back. It's also good to have the back of chisels flat because the chisel back serves as a reference surface when paring.
I have a bunch of old chisels that I bought at garage sales, and most of them need "tuning up" in this way -- so that I can sharpen them properly.
It is now mid-June, and earlier this week was my ninth time lapping chisels at work: this works out to an average of once a week. Although, technically, two of the days were sharpening kitchen knifes for a co-worker. Also, I brought in a block plane that I got from my paternal grandfather -- so I'll probably lap the blade and the plane sole, as well.
Here's my kit, closed. I keep this under my desk at work, next to my electric guitar and amplifier (because, you know -- just in case).
Here's the kit, open. The coarse-grit Japanese waterstone goes in the gap along the back: in this photo I've already taken it out of the box.
The green masking tape lets me mark how far back along the blade I want to flatten: there's no need to flatten it all the way back to the handle. Also, once I've finished lapping the chisel, I wrap the tip in masking tape so I can take it home safely.
The plastic sandwich bag, at the left end of the toolbox, has a small rag that's saturated with baby oil: I use this to wipe down the chisels after I'm done, to prevent rust (the Japanese stones use water; wet chisels lead to rust).
Here's a picture of my set-up, in the Men's room on my floor. It's between the two sinks -- which is handy, since the Japanese stone requires a drizzle of water now and again.
At this point, most of the guys on my floor know that I do this: they walk in to use the bathroom, and see me with my toolkit. Even the Grand High Director has seen me do this. We had a nice little chat out of this: it seems that he was a Carpenter's Assistant in his youth...
This is a closer look at my setup: usually I have the stone running left-to-right, and that's how I run my chisels. I use the white rag to wipe the slurry off the chisel every once in a while, to see how I'm doing.
Here's kind of
an "action shot". However, my other hand is holding the camera: normally I would have the fingertips of my right hand where I've drawn the red dot. I would drag the chisel left and right along the stone.
At the end of my session I flatten my Japanese stone against a reference tile, which I rescued from a construction dumpster near where I park my car by the train station.
Then I rinse off the stone, and the reference tile, in the sink on the left; dry everything off; pack everything away; and put my little "kit" back under my desk.
Cleaning up my chisels is not a very exciting
thing to do during my lunch break. But, it's kind of "zen" to do it for a half hour or so. And it lets me do some "tool maintenance" without eating into my "real" shop time.
Labels: woodworking, work