Sharp carving knives, gouges, and chisels are a must for any wood carving project, whether it is a 3-dimensional little cowboy, relief landscape, or a whittled animal.
If your bench knife seems to drag through the cutting stroke or if it leaves behind fine, thin scratch marks in the cut it is time to get out your sharpening stones, leather strop, and rouging compound. Dull knives and rough cutting edges can be dangerous as they cause you to apply excess pressure to make the stroke.
I start every carving session by first checking the sharpness of my tool edges. You can do this several ways. First, make a few cuts on a basswood practice stick. Your tool should push through the cut smoothly, if it seems to drag or hang-up on the wood it needs sharpening. You can also look at the cutting edge of the blade under a bright light. If your tool is dull the cutting edge will appear as a white line or you may see white spots where there are dings or dents.
I also check my sharpening stones on a regular bases as they can become bellied or bowed in the center from use.
Let’s look at the simple steps to sharpening your wood carving knives, gouges, and chisels.