In some ways my blog records a wide range of things I might otherwise have never written down and that includes everything from new tool reviews to my opinions on sharpness and what sharpness is. Some time back I presented something to my students suggesting the question of why we sharpen to 15,000 grit when we can barely if at all discern the difference when we plane the wood to say 400 grit. I did the same thing today as I do occasionally and sharpened two planes in front of them. They watched the shavings emerge from the two planes with ease and were astounded that there was so little discernible difference both in effort and result. To some this is heresy but the proof of the pudding for me came when i started to question why sharpen to such tight tolerances when the result are not clearly and visibly different. My answer today is as in times past. It takes about half a minute to rough the bevel back down to get rid of the worn edge and get to a burr again. Finishing to 15,000 takes about the same time and so it isn’t much trouble to go the extra mile. Now, that said, once the bevel is indeed polished to that level it does take longer to abrade out the steel to get to the cutting edge again. I find it a good idea to keep one plane sharpened and kept at 400 and another one polished out to 15,000. This is of course my opinion. I still keep a scrub #4 hand for taking heavier cuts and to get down close to where I want and finish out with the other two planes. This is what owning inexpensive planes has done for me. This is why, in answer to people asking why I have so many planes lined up on my bench, I keep them close to hand. In sequence and for a given task I look at the wood and see how much I need to remove. I grab the scrub to remove heavy shavings and then the 400 for the next level. That often is enough for me. But then if I want the superb levelling and finishing of a surface I might add in the 15,000. All in all I save time this way and much effort.
Someone came through last week and yet again reminded me that no one can make a living from woodworking these days. I know that that’s not the case but of course what he was saying really is that no one can make money from woodworking these days. That’s a whole different thing. Making money is exchanging what you make for an amount of money you can exchange for a lifestyle you want beyond woodworking or other than woodworking. Making a living is living woodworking and doing it even if you must work differently than other people do. If I needed or to work longer or be better at designing my work to live woodworking then that is what I did or would do. it’s simple enough. Working is not an unpleasant thing for me and that is why at 65 I still put in around 10-12 hours in a given day. Of course my work is diverse. I still make pieces every week but now of course I still teach classes. When I first started teaching I was a maker then as I still consider myself to be now. In those days I worked five days and used my Saturdays to teach classes. i built the benches one by one and added extra students as my space increased. The outcome of my life was furniture makers and woodworking teachers too. It’s been a marvellous life, but if anyone asked me today do I plan on not making or teaching or blogging or writing books yet. Then the answer is as long as I have breath and strength I hope to keep doing everything I can.