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.
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 rather than the waxed threading that I’m using.
I have completed a number of hand-stitched leather items since obtaining my updated tool kit, and something I did prior to my last piece, made a huge improvement! I was laying out the location of the stitching on my last piece, and was next to my inside bench, where I have my new magnifying work light. I gathered the tools I use for creating the stitching holes, and was getting ready to shift to my larger and heavier bench in my shop. My work light reflected off of one of the chisel’s bevels, and what I saw led to a more efficient tool.
As I moved the chisel (thonging tool) under the magnifier, so I could get a more detailed look, I was somewhat amazed. The bevel area(s) all were much more rough than I expected, which really shouldn’t have surprised me at all, with my experience with woodworking hand tools. It was like everything finally started to make more sense. Whenever I’d driven one of the chisels through any leather that had some thickness, I had to spend a fair amount of time working to get it back out. I’d read about others applying some wax to the chisels, to make the process work better, and I still struggled even with some paraffin added after every other time it went through the leather.
For those that don’t know, I’m a woodworker that knows how to sharpen tools. I’ve both demonstrated and trained well over 1,000 woodworkers on sharpening, so why didn’t I think about sharpening these thonging tools (leather punching chisels)? I guess I never noticed my family sharpening this type of tool, and was stuck in some sort of “kid”-mode, where if your parents didn’t do it, it must not need to be done! Well, that changed immediately upon seeing the thonging tool’s bevels under magnification. I have a couple of folding diamond hones I would use, since the individual chisel teeth are really narrow, and I didn’t want to create grooves in my good water stones.
I held both the thonging tool and diamond hone, so I could see them together, through my magnifier. As the bevels on these little tools are very tiny, it helped me see when the bevel was aligned on the hone. At this point I let my sense of touch take over, and I could feel when the bevel’s flat was engaged as much as possible. On the first 3-tooth tool, when the bevels were touching, all other parts of the tool were “floating”. This required me to lock my wrist and really focus, in order to keep a constant angle, as I moved the tool over the hone. Surprisingly, the second side of this same tool, had yet a different bevel angle, so it kept me on my toes.
I worked both bevels until their previous coating of oxide was replaced by a the diamond’s scratch pattern, and I felt a burr form on the opposite side (for some reason, my camera didn’t get a good image showing this stage). I applied some honing paste (from my Tormek T-7) to a small flat piece of wood, and repeated the same movements over the wood, which acted to remove all of the scratches on the bevels.
I was finally just about ready to work the next leather piece, which had fairly thick leather for both sides. As I was working the previous leather pieces, most of the time the stitching holes looked great from the side that was facing up when I was punching it. The rear side was a different story and seemed to have a mind of it’s own, and at times, the punched holes were so close to the edge that they almost missed hitting leather. I decided I’d purposefully only strike through the top layer of leather on the current piece, using the 3-chisel head, working around the piece creating an appealing template. I noticed that even with two lighter-blows of my mallet, the chisels advance further, yet still came out of the leather extremely easily without any paraffin!
Next, I came back through with my single-chisel head on my thonging tool, aligning it in each of the individual holes, and while maintaining vertical as much as was possible, strike the tool with a straight downward force. Using this technique with additional focus, created a much more consistent hole layout, on both sides of the piece.
So what have I learned? I’ll treat any future leather working tool just like I do any woodworking tool, where the first step is to always sharpen and hone, before they ever touch wood (or leather). Remember that as the tools go through a medium (wood or leather), they are likely to move either towards the least amount of resistance, or due to the bevel(s) on the tool. I need to give my leather working the same attention as I always do my woodworking, as it is another skill activity.
Hopefully you’ll find this useful, supportive, or even enlightening! What ever you do, don’t ever give up on anything, and always strive for your best. Please let me know if you have any questions or comments.
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