Sharpening on a Book on Sharpening

Most bookbindings function as protection for the text contained within.  This, however, is a bookbinding that also functions as a strop. I rebound Ron Hock’s The Perfect Edge: The Ultimate Guide to Sharpening for Woodworkers in reverse calf in order to make it work as a not-so-fine binding/ strop.  This book is one of the best on sharpening, containing an excellent overall assortment of information.  It is loaded with practical advice, overviews of the various sharpening systems and informative photos.  I recommend it as a textbook to accompany the sharpening workshops I teach.

Anyway, this was the first time I constructed a reverse calf binding– the paring took a bit more time since most of the strength of the leather (hair side) was cut away, and the caps were a bit tricky to form. The book was sewn on 5 quarter inch linen tapes, the edges decorated with Golden Fluid Acrylics chromium oxide green mixed with airbrush medium and Staedtler Karat water-soluble  pencils, and the endbands simply sewn in purple silk over a cord core.  The front cover was coated with a .5 micron chromium oxide honing compound, for preliminary stropping, the back left bare for a final polish.  It will be interesting to see how it looks in a couple of months when the metal particles start to build up.

Poor Quality Steel and Sharpening

This is a great example of both sharpening problems and low quality steel. This photo is of the back of a curved leather paring knife. It is a bit difficult to see in the photo, but the darker, shiny area below the cutting edge has been highly polished. Unfortunately, our unnamed client,  let us call him Mr. B, neglected one of the first principals– feeling the burr. Once you feel a burr on a cutting edge, it means that the two planes (bevel and back of the knife) have gone past the point where they meet. As William Blake says in the Proverbs of Hell, “You never know what is enough unless you know more than enough.” The burr lets us know we have sharpened the edge more than enough, and can proceed to the next grit. A great deal of time was spent creating a polished area , that will not affect the cutting ability at all, and be instantly removed once someone attempts to regrind the knife.

The knife edge was dropped, and on the left side of the blade there are some chips, and on the right side you can see bent metal. What does this tell us? That the steel was improperly hardened. Any steel that is hard enough to pare leather (at least Rc 55 or so) should be brittle and chip if damaged, not bend like on the right side of the photo.

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