Guitar Making Tip Number 171 is about the secret to working with a chisel and other edged tools. The way to be really successful is to sharpen your tools really well, and take very thin passes. When you work the tools like this, you get much better results. Here is why.
Using a Chisel For Guitar Making
I made a discovery that I am both embarrassed by and that I really enjoy sharing. I share it to help other people who may not want to share their own experience, or worry that they will be embarrassed.
When I first started using edged tools, I really thought they were awful. I didn’t understand how to use them well, and just assumed that they fell out of use because they were inferior to modern tools and techniques.
I wrote more about it in My Discovery of Sharp Tools, but the moral of the story is that you need to know how to use edged tools in order to get the most from them.
The nice thing about knowing how to use them is that the secret is about the same for every edged tool. You need to do these two things to get the best experience with the tool, and you will end up using them a lot more once you do…
Edged Tools Need to Be Very Sharp
Thing one is you need to sharpen your tools. They come from the store sharp-ish, but not nearly what they can be. You also do not need to spend a fortune getting the equipment needed to sharpen them.
You can spend money if you want and get something like a Tormec or a Work-Sharp sharpening system. They are really nice, but you are going to pay for them. If you have some patience, you can buy a good combination stone and sharpen by hand.
Before you buy either, be honest with yourself. If you are not going to use the stone, because it’s a lot more work, don’t waste the money. In that case, wait and save for a sharpening machine that you might actually use. You need to buy whatever system you will actually use. That’s the most important.
Take Very Thin Passes With Edged Tools
Thing two is how you use the tool. If you try to hog out huge chunks of wood with each pass of the tool, you are going to be disappointed. Instead of trying to get it in one pass, take several thinner passes.
Not only will thinner and shallower passes be better in the long run, they will also be easier on your body and arms. You should be able to carve with a chisel by hand, without using a hammer. Also, a hand plane should be able to glide across the board without feeling like you are pushing really hard.
All you do is adjust your iron, lower your attack angle, and go for less material removal in with each pass. You will really enjoy the ease and near effortless pace in which the smaller bits of wood fly off. This is one of the most valuable woodworking tips that I have ever learned.
Trading Time for Even More Time
The time you spend sharpening your tools will be returned ten fold. Don’t think you are wasting time by sharpening because you are not removing wood. The sharp tool will work better, and it will remove material faster. This is how you get that time back.
Also, a sharp tool will be much safer than a dull tool. You won’t have to push as hard to make each cut, and that’s what really makes the process safer. Since you are not forcing the cut, you don’t risk slipping and cutting yourself.
Taking thin passes also gives you more time, because you will remove material faster and you will reduce the chance of taking off too much. The thing about carving is that you can’t put it back once you take it off. Go a little thinner, and you can sneak up on your target without worrying about going over it.
Guitar Making Tip No. 171 – Wrap Up
Edged tools can be a little tough to use at first. However, if you use these two tricks you can make sure you get the best from your edged tools. These two tricks are to use very sharp tools, and to take thin passes.
Whatever you have to buy to make yourself sharpen your tools, buy it. The price will pay itself back over time. You will enjoy the experience of working with hand tools, and you will be safer with your tools too.
Then, make sure to take thin passes instead of trying to get it all in one shot. These thinner cuts will be easier, and will take less effort. You will become less fatigued as you work, and you will be able to work more carefully.
1,001 Acoustic Guitar Making Tips for Beginners
Tip No. 171 is from my book, 1,001 Acoustic Guitar Making Tips for Beginners, which has a thousand more great tips to get your first few builds on the right track. There is no secret to guitar making, just a lot of small things that you need to get right. These tips will help you.