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On Fractured Cutting Edges To Edge Tools Part II

25 October

With one high end chisel sharpened to as near perfection as PS could gain, I pressed the chisel into pine wood for
paring cross-grain and, moving across from one side to the other in swathes 1 wide, cleared an area 1/8 deep 3
across from front to back and 4 long.

I then pared with the grain over the same area and then chopped 6 times hard onto the chisel edge with the same
number of blows and equal force each time. The steel is new and specially formulated.

One of the hardest things for a chisel edge is scraping it on end along the surface of rough grain. Students do it all

the time at first, until I explain how much damage they do to their chisel edges. So, I then scraped the chisels tested
across the surface of the same grain as shown and applying much pressure. I did the same to all the makers
including an unnamed maker from the late 1800s. The end results was surprising. Once treated so harshly, the high
end chisels fared more poorly than I expected. Instead of boring photograph showing results we tested the damage
by seeing how high the chisels had to be elevated on the surface of the wood before the edge bit the wood sufficient
to start a cut.

In my tests all of the chisels bit the surface after sharpening at about the same angle of presentation.

The above measurement show the chisel elevated to 2mm before the bite was effective.
After the pressure and hammer tests the low end Aldi chisel and the old chisels continued to cut without further
elevation. The high end chisels that fractured much more had to be elevated by 12mm to even start the cuts. This
effectively meant that the surface fracture on the edge was so cratered, compensation had to be made to make the
chisel effective. The old chisel, having undergone the same treatment, needed elevating only 2mm. This chisel
continued working for hours afterwards and I was cutting and paring oak shoulders across end grain and paring the
faces of tenons the whole time for demoing to students.

I took an angled shaving with one of the chisels I had run through the test, a reputable maker sold by high end
dealers in the UK and USA. This had faired quite poorly in the tests and this is what we got.

I then took the Aldi chisel that had gone through exactly the same treatment and pared the same surface and it gave
me a clean surface.

Therein was my deciding factor. It wasnt based on cost but work. The Aldi chisel proved to be the better chisel.
Others looked more prestigious and looked nice on the benchtop. Its all about choice then.

This then does tell us that the relief on the underside of all plane irons bar none was a development based on
practical application and not because science itself contributed much if anything at all. A man at his bench saw that a
chisel needed elevating to the work to make it work and lifted the chisel slightly higher. When the chisel was too high
he took it to a stone and honed it. Now some salesman from a distant office and of unknown background or perhaps
a magazine says hone to 25.000 grit on glass covered with abrasive paper and we jump through all of legalistic
hoops. The scary-sharp method is just OK to get those first sharp chisel and plane edges when starting out in
woodworking, but its wow factor leaves a few big questions because its far from an economic or practical solution to
good sharpening practice. At first glance it look feasible, logical, practical. Its not. Abrasive films are extremely
expensive long term and well worth the money for some applications, but for sharpening edge tools for woodworking
in general I think it is obsessive at best. Its all become quite silly. I would say the same too for steel makes and so

My research shows that fracture takes place the very second the chisel touches the wood; so much so the bevel
edge top fracture and the flat face bottom or under-fracture fractures equally and at the same time. Most people dont
know this.

Immediately after sharpening, chisels with dead flat faces must in some measure be elevated to engage the wood.

The less the edge fracture the less the incline needed. Within a few seconds of use, depending on the wood and the
work type, the chisel elevation increases to effect a similar cut. Its at this point then, when the rate of edge fracture
diminishes dramatically, that we are given a practical working edge to chop, pare and plane with. The angle between
the two faces forming the edge may well now be altered, increased as it were by fracture wear to around 40-degrees
as both faces fracture along the edge equally.

Because edge fracture occurs immediately, we should be aware when we sharpen that its the diminished return that
gives us the strength we actually need for real work not temporary or prissy work. After a few minutes of use, newly
made chisels by a major UK maker of chisels left me with a chisel that I could not cut myself with. But, that said and
established, they are still sharp enough for 95% of general woodworking tasks surrounding furniture making. If you
indeed doubt anything I am saying. Run the same experiments. Use any plane for a few minutes on a pine board
with or without knots and remove the blade. Feel the edge and tell me the truth, as you (carefully) pull the fingers
perpendicular to the edge, do your fingertips glide over the edge or does the edge catch ready to cut. Do the same
trial with your chisels and you then see how the wood and the work affects the router plane cutter.
I made a facsimile from styrofoam to show an enlarged approximation view of what happens at the cutting edges of
edge tools.

This post may seem to ramble between chisels and router cutters and bluntness, dullness, motives and so on, but for
me they are apart of the same issue. Our world is all the more fractured into tiny bytes where media projects tiny
informational pockets into our lives and there is really no conclusive result because everything is negotiable in a
world of no absolutes. I cant separate the cutters from routers from chisels and planes because of the various
realities uniting them. Two flat faces set at an angle creates a sharp edge. The most practical angle for this to be
used and restored and at optimal strength is 30-degrees. Knives and axes, chisels and planes all have angle around
30-degrees. This may vary with shearing-cut actions as on scissors and guillotines, but generally 30-degrees is
accepted universally and this is because the material dictates.

Are We Obsessing About Sharpening Edge Tools?
In "Paul Sellers' Blog"

Questions Answered - When is Sharpening Enough or too Much

In "Paul Sellers' Blog"

Making the Paul Sellers Sharpening Plate Holder

In "Paul Sellers' Blog"