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Keeping it Sharp

It's not just about keeping it sharp but knowing when you need to stop and sharpen up.


The more time I spend around woodworking tools and especially hand woodworking tools the more aware I become about the need to keep things sharp. It's something that is often said as part of introductions and sayings like "There is nothing so dangerous as a blunt tool" or "A blunt tool is the second most dangerous thing in the workshop after this one" are often flippantly raised but it's not till you start to gain experience that you begin to understand what that means.

When I first started out I had no real idea about what sharp was. I just thought it might be my technique that needed tweaking or that it was just harder than it looked. I tried sharpening things when I could and practicing my technique on the stones that I had but the part that was missing was knowing when a tool was sharp. I remember trying to plane the flat side of a panel I was making for my Hi-Fi Stand. I was really struggling to get the plane to cut something sensible when the tutor came over and said "That probably needs sharpening" and offered to do it for me. What a difference! It's one of those lessons that stick with you. Now when I feel the plane missing or not cutting how I expect I will, more often than not, stop and sharpen up.

Making the sharpening easy is a key skill to learn. I have setup a fairly simple system to let me stop and sharpen up when I need to without stopping my flow. It still requires me to clear the decks a bit but that is quite often a good thing ( I might write something about that as well). The temporary pause in flow is getting more routine and easier to justify.

I'm sometimes wondering how to convince people at work that the process of Kata and Continious Improvement is worth the time and effort to improve the your workflow. I think that the lessons I have learned here are part of that. I notice the job I am doing is not going as expected and suspect it's due to a blunt blade. I take the time to sharpen up and notice the difference. Also as part of that I notice that it's taking to long to get the sharpening kit out and sharpen up so I might not do it as often as I need and therefor the time for fixing that process is time well spent. It's taken my quite some time to work that out so I'm not claiming to be some sort of Kata/CI guru. I think noticing the benefit should help me in working on my own processes to improve my feedback loops.


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