Back in what we once called junior high, my home economics teacher drilled into us the importance of using a sharp knife. We’ve all heard the rationale before, but it was news to me then: a sharp knife is a safer tool to use because it cuts with less effort and more cleanly than a dull one. The same principle certainly applies to turning tools, too. The sharper they are, the faster and cleaner they cut and the more enjoyable they are to use. Just try to force a dull gouge against a bowl blank — especially a bone-dry one! — and it will be the most tedious bowl you’ll ever make.
Not surprisingly, the first principle in Kip Christensen’s “Ten Principles of Clean Cutting,” our AAW feature article in this issue, has to do with tool sharpness. If you disregard the importance of using sharp turning tools, he says, the other nine don’t matter much. But by all means figure out how to grind and sharpen, because experiencing the other nine principles with a razor-sharp tool in hand will make you a better woodturner.
Truly understanding Kip’s principles will take practice and time. And mastering what they mean will take years. Even gathering all ten of these principles in one article is ambitious, verging on an overload of good information. So, I’m planning to process his advice this way — and maybe you will consider doing the same. Dedicate ten turning sessions to this article, focusing your effort on just one principle per session. Some or even many of them may already be ingrained in your turning methods now, but I’ll bet others will provide excellent food for thought as well as good opportunity for focused practice.
Chris Marshall, Woodworker’s Journal