Gye Greene's Thoughts

Gye Greene's Thoughts (w/ apologies to The Smithereens and their similarly-titled album!)

Monday, June 15, 2015

Lapping chisels at work

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.


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At July 05, 2015 11:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for that...Always nice to steal a few minutes here and there away from work to get important stuff done. Your comment, "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)." threw me. Just in case what? Are you expecting Johnny B. Bad to walk through the door and you're prepared to fight him off with a few well played Chuck Berry riffs?

At July 06, 2015 6:53 PM, Blogger Gye Greene said...

LOL! Well, one never knows...

Actually, sometimes I just get a hankering to play guitar -- except, I'm at work.

I go down to the third sub-basement (parking garage) -- where there's **loads** of natural reverb -- esp. if you point the amp **away** from you... ;)



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