The mild Winter in the South really gave the weeds a strong foothold, rather than getting cold enough to really kill the little buggers. In the last couple of days the weeds have just shot up, and rather than pulling the lawn mower out for these problem plants, I grabbed a grass whip (photo below) I’ve had since the mid ’80s.
Before heading outside, I looked at the the whip’s edge, and it was pretty dull. By now we know that I can’t let a tool stay dull, once I know about it. Haha. The edge of the whip has a wavy back-and-forth sort of pattern, which looks like it’d be a pain in the rear to try and sharpen, but I’ll share a tip on how I quickly had it back to decently sharp.
I started off using a black Sharpie to color the portion of the edge that I planned to sharpen, much like I do when sharpening a chisel or an iron for a hand plane.
Instead of going to one of my sharpening stones, I grabbed two (Coarse and Fine) Dia-Fold diamond hones (which are coincidentally about as old as the whip), since the area I planned to hone had a small footprint. I ended up only using the fine Dia-Fold, as it removed enough material quick enough, and it left a decent surface behind.
I start with the hone making contact with the the wavy section, but only the part farthest from the cutting edge, and gradually lowered the hone until the Sharpie was removed from the the cutting area. It was easy to hold the whip and the hone, so they stayed in the same relative relationship, and work my way quickly down the surface. Once I got into the swing of it, I finished both cutting edges in less than five minutes.
Now that the grass whip was again ready to slice and dice, instead of mashing and tearing, it was out to work on my golf swing. Oh, I was actually out in the yard cutting the weeds, but there’s no reason you can’t work on your golf game at the same time, especially with the way a whip feels in the hands.
While I was “working on my golf game” one of our city’s refuse trucks drove up to get our refuse. The guys in the truck stopped for a moment, as they were a bit intrigued, and asked what exactly I was doing. It seemed that they hadn’t ever seen someone that cut their grass with one of these whips, while basically practicing their golf swing at the same time. I could be wrong, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they stop at the local garden center, and pick up a grass whip for their house/yard. (*If my buddies at the City happen across this article, it was nice visiting with you today, even though it was only for a few moments.)
As a reminder, always remember to check your tools to make sure they are sharp, before putting them to use, as they can be more dangerous when they are dull.
I hope you enjoyed the article and find a way to integrate a necessary chore with something you enjoy, which can make it fun! As always, let me know if you have any questions or comments.
I’ve been doing a lot of hand planing lately, with a good portion of that in the “flattening” mode, as opposed to a more general “smoothing” mode. While I was working today, I was checking my progress with a pair of Winding Sticks, and as I used them I wondered if others do the same thing.
So, I’ll start with a basic description of using the winding sticks, for anyone not familiar, and then share my trick of the trade, but I also made a short video earlier, that I’ll post down below.
When I’m preparing to use a hand plane in order to flatten a board, if the board is fairly large, I can usually feel whether there is a crowning in the center or not. If the board is fairly narrow, the only really good option is to use my pair of winding sticks, as they amplify the differences making it much easier to see even small discrepancies.
As I progress on the larger boards, it is less and less easy to feel the shape of the board, and the winding sticks again are required. On larger, and wider boards, it can be difficult to know for sure just where you need to remove wood, even if you’ve determine there is a crowning on your board. After I set the winding sticks on the board I wish to test, with the winding sticks’ center dots close to the centerline of the board, I sight over the stick closest to me, and lower my sight until the first portion of the far stick’s top edge is obscured. This will either be the right corner, the left corner, or the whole stick. The first two results indicate there is still twist/wind in the length of the board, which requires further work. The last results indicates the two sections where the winding sticks are sitting, are in the same plane. This doesn’t automatically mean the board is flat, so you need to test in multiple locations down the board. I usually leave the winding stick alone, the farthest from me, and move the closer one towards the other stick, in about 6″ increments. If you get the same “in plane” reading all along the board, just make sure to check for flat along the length of the board, with the longest straight edge that you have.
Now, back to the tip portion of the article. After I check the winding sticks, and find there is still twist/wind as well as a slight crowning, I lightly tap the end of one of the sticks, and watch to see where it’s center of rotation is located (the highest part will be very close to the center of rotation). I made my winding sticks out of cocobolo, and they will spin quite easily on any raised section, but metal winding sticks may not spin as freely. In either case, you can also lightly hold the winding stick towards it’s center, and while applying extremely light downward pressure, try to rotate the stick. If the stick still rotates fairly easy, the center of rotation will again be very close to the highest point. If you feel some friction, even if it still spins, you are likely getting pretty close to flat.
Click on the link below, to watch the included video:
I hope this helps anyone that is having some trouble working wood flat, with hand tools. Please let me know if you have any questions or comments. You can also find me on Twitter as @LeeLairdWW and on Instagram as LeeLairdWoodworking.
Before I get started on the main topic, I wanted to pass along that I am now on Instagram as LeeLairdWoodworking as well as Twitter as @LeeLairdWW, in case anyone didn’t know. It’s been a bit since I had time to write a proper article, so if you’d like, you can see what I’m up to on one of the other feeds. Ok, so on with the article.
I was working at my bench a couple of days ago and went to measure a sharpening stone, as I was preparing to make a new honing guide board, since I’d just purchased the new Lie-Nielsen Honing Guide and a few add-ons. (If you’d like to read about the build, hop over to Highland Woodworking and it should be up in the not too distant future, or you can check out some of the other articles I’ve written for Highland).
Ok, so I measured the sharpening stone, using a tape measure that was close, and engaging it’s built-in clip at the end of the tape. It measure almost exactly 8 1/2″ long. I was about to go cut some wood, and I’m not sure why, but I decided to measure one more time starting at the 1″ mark, just for confirmation. Whoa, this time it measure 8 1/4″ long. As you might imagine, I checked both ways a number of times, before believing what I was seeing. As it turned out, the end clip wasn’t bent at a 90-degree angle, but the tip was back towards the tape measures body. This caused the tip to make contact while the measuring tape wasn’t completely lined up with the edge of the stone.
I’ve owned this tape measure for 20+ years, and I can recall over the years that I’d measure multiple times only to end up with the wrong size. Jeez, I wish I’d dug a little deeper back then, to figure out the actual cause.
Since I knew I can always use the tape measure in the second mode above, I decided to see if I could actually fix the problem. I held the tip, as close to the bend as possible, while holding the other leg of the metal piece that makes the tip.
While holding both very tightly, I gradually bent the tip towards the 90-degree mark, and then released. I was afraid it might break if I went to fast, or too far. After a number of small movements, I decided to call it a day. I got the tape so it measures within 1/16″ comparing between the tip and the alignment mode. I found this reasonable enough to stop there.
Mainly, I wanted to make sure everyone checks their tape measures, to see if they are actually reading accurately, before wasting time or resources. Of course, I don’t usually use this when I’m making critical measurements, but, knowing your tools are correct sure helps have more confidence.
I hope you enjoyed the information and please let me know if you have any comments or suggestions.
In a recent article, I talked about the tools I purchased in order to hand-stitch some of the leather items I make. I also mentioned my family had done some forms of leather working, when I was a kid. The only stitching that we did at that time, or my family did, used leather lacing […]