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Commissioning your Tools - part 2

In the last blog I made my brand new carving tool feel so comfortable that it ‘disappears’ into my hand. Now we turn to the blade itself, that all-important dance of metal and wood.

Even when I’m using the word 'sharpening' here, continue to think commissioning: getting that bevel and cutting edge ready for best service...

There is no point me competing here with the many videos and downloads on Woodcarving Workshops that address sharpening.

What I can do is make some fundamental points:

1. Sharpening (commissioning) is a skill. Every carver since carving began has had to learn to sharpen their tools, including myself. You can learn it. It’s more circumscribed than carving itself. There’s an end result - ‘the tool will look like this’ - job done.

2. You need to know what you are aiming for, what a properly commissioned tool should look and feel like, and the step by step approach to getting there. It's a bit bewildering when you start but once you've felt the joy of a properly commissioned/sharpened carving tool, there's no going back.

3. With practice you’ll get quicker, a lot quicker. To beginners, sharpening can also seem a chore, a slow difficult hill to climb. But... Once you get into the habit of commissioning your tools when you get them; when you know what to do and have the means to hand, you'll find it doesn't take very long. (And see 5 below.)

4. Start slow, with one tool. Step by step. Get it right. Rejoice. Move on. Don’t be afraid to have a go, make a mistake, learn from it. Be persistent.

5. You only need to commission a tool once. After that: maintenance...

6. Here's the pay off:

When you have fully commissioned your carving tool, brought it into service and introduced it to the others, you’ll have a tool which is very much your own; loved and cared for from the start, and not only sharp, but cutting well and a joy to use.

Once you have felt that joy, nothing less will do.

To commission a woodcarving tool is to possess it, make it an integral part of yourself as much as your work.That's why carving tools are so personal. I never lend mine—I keep a separate set for students.