We’ve just received another load of brass engraved center squares, which are now in our store. Whenever I’m building a chair or working with curved surfaces, this tool is always on my bench or in my apron pocket.
Yes, the tool is useful for marking the centers on a piece before putting it on the lathe. But I use the tool for far more. Because of its shape, it helps me lay out mortises on a curved arm, seat and comb. Bisecting a curved surface by eye is tricky, but it’s child’s play with this tool.
It also is great for pulling lines around curved and flat surfaces, again a function that regular squares can’t do (without special attachments).
Finally, the tool is like a worry stone. We designed it to have a soft and noticeable presence in your hand. There are no sharp edges, and I find myself rubbing the engraving when I’m thinking at the bench.
In fact, we joke that the hang hole at the tip of the tool is actually so you can wear it as a necklace when you are at the disco. (So much classier than wearing a medallion or razor blade around your neck.)
New Printing of ‘Sharpen This’
We received our third printing of “Sharpen This.” That is a new record for one of our books. Usually we print enough books to last us a year to 18 months. “Sharpen This” was released in June 2022, and we are already into our third printing. That means more than 14,000 copies are out there in the world.
Even crazier, both French and German translations of the book are already well underway. Usually foreign publishers wait a few years to gather sales data before investing in a translation. (It took eight years for the German translation of “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest” to come to light.)
Most heartening has been the response from readers. Most woodworkers seem to get their sharpening instructions from people who make or sell sharpening equipment. So it’s little wonder there is so much confusion out there and useless or redundant sharpening stones and jigs.
“Sharpen This” isn’t selling or promoting a particular system. They all work, and I’ve used almost all of them. Instead, the book explains the mechanics of a simple process. And the perspective on what is “really sharp” is from a professional woodworker’s point of view. Not a manufacturer or seller of silly #30,000-grit sharpening stones.
So if you feel any uncertainty about your sharpening, or it takes you more than a couple minutes to sharpen a tool, “Sharpen This” might help.
— Christopher Schwarz
33 thoughts on “Update: Engraved Center Squares & ‘Sharpen This’”
Speaking of Sharpen This, if you’re still planning on making additional videos would you consider doing one on spokeshave blades? They’re too short to fit in an Eclipse-style honing guide (mine, anyway). Do you do those freehand?
You can always make a wooden blade holder that uses your eclipse style guide to sharpen spokeshave blades. That’s what I did, and it works very well. Just a small piece of hardwood as wide as your blade and as thick as your guide jaws will allow, with a tablesaw kerf in the end to hold the blade. I tapped the wood and use a 1/4-20 knob to hold the blade tight and chamfered the edge that faces the stone for clearance.
It would also be great to have a video on drawknife sharpening.
And a #80 scraper. I just finished planing a bunch of urban forested locust and sure could use the instruction. I’ve never gotten this sucker to work worth snot.
And a #80 Stanley scraper. I’ve never gotten this to work worth snot.
Good one. Will add that to the list.
And knives. Pocket, not marking. Please.
once i learned to sharpen chisels and plane blades, figuring out how to sharpen knives of all kinds was easy. sharp is sharp no matter the shape of the blade. biggest thing is holding the angle mildly consistent. it also helps to start with a coarser stone until you get a burr the whole length of the blade, then switch sides and work through the grits. btw jam or cheese with grits?
Great news for the translated versions! Would you know if the french version will be available as an e-book or pdf?
We don’t know – but here’s the publisher’s site; Yaan will be able to tell you! https://edvc.fr/qui-sommes-nous/
This is one of the books I skipped because I’m pretty comfortable sharpening the things I use a lot. But I was recently explaining to someone why I thought LAP was great, this blog was great, Chris was great, and how much I’ve learned from other LAP books and now, dammit, I’m just gonna buy this book, too. It sure as hell isn’t going to make me a WORSE sharpener and like every other book I’ve bought from you, I’ll likely pick something up.
Great article. Whom are you using for engraving these tools
Hi Wayne. The engraving was designed by Jenny Bower. And we (with much tribulation) got our CNC mill to engrave it smoothly.
One of those 14,000 copies sits next to my sharpening station. It really is a handy book. Perfect size, too. Ironically, the book that Chris never wanted to write is the one that everyone else wanted him to write.
I only wish I had discovered LAP a tad earlier. I really, really wish I could buy the book that Chris wishes he never printed: the “Book of Plates”. Any chance anyone who bought multiples back in ’19 wants to share … ?
There is a special edition Roubo book that i wish would have come out in about 2 years so i coupd afford it
Hi Louise, I have a copy I would be willing to sell you. Interested?
Yes! Shoot me an email with more details.
How difficult is it to drill more holes into the long part of the brass? Sort of like a speed square or a marking gauge for curved edges. Say, at 1/4″ intervals, for example to mark the spindle deck on a chair seat blank that is already cut out.
Easy. Brass is like a slightly hard but consistent wood. (Ipe is harder to drill into.) Make a centerpunch mark where you want to drill. Use a twist at low speed. You probably don’t even need to use lubricant with brass.
“You probably don’t even need to use lubricant . . . ” Boy, that phrase has gotten me into lots of trouble over the years.
Put a small blunt edge on the drill you use to prevent the drill from grabbing the brass on exiting the material. It is simple and there are plenty of diagrams and info on line. Mrpete222 probably has a good YouTube video showing the correct geometry for drill bits for use on brass.
Congratulations on Sharpen This. I wish I’d had this book 5, 10, 15 years ago. Not only would I have had sharper tools (and knives – the principles taught me more about knife sharpening than a thousand internet videos), but I’d have save a ton money on stuff that never got me any closer to “sharp”. Once again LAP rocks. Thanks!
All my tools are sharp. First time in 40 years. Thanks.
Haven’t read the book, but the video series is really great. I’ve been sharpening for a while and learned several new tricks. Some things you don’t even talk about, but I realized I’ve been doing in bone-headed way. For example, I never thought to wipe off the imbedded swarf with a shop towel. Is the book worth picking up if you’ve watched the videos?
Probably not? Hard for me to say. If your edges are sharp and you are happy, then skip the book.
I really enjoyed Sharpen This! and would not hesitate to recommend it to others. I think there’s an opportunity to talk about other sharpenable objects in another book if you wanted (saws, auger bits, etc) but maybe that’s at the point where far fewer people want the material and if they are willing to do it they are already figuring it out.
I can guarantee you would sell at least one more copy if you started international shipping options. Im from Israel and i dont have a local supplier. Sigh…
May I request, perhaps, a future blog entry- With regard to the centre square, I don’t seem to be able to get my head around your comment about bisecting on a curve. With the rounded bottom of the thick section, it looks like the blade could give an infinite number of lines across the curved work, so it’s hard to see where the accuracy comes from. What don’t I get?
“Once you understand that sharpening is merely polishing two surfaces until they have a zero radius intersection, you can sharpen anything.”
“He could sharpen an edge to separate a proton from its neutron, if needed.”
Those two statements, written well before “Sharpen This”, taken together comprise the fundamental key first-principle of all edge-tool sharpening. Everything else after that is tactics.
Hey Chris, what’s the reach of the smaller center square (bisecting an arm bow, for example)?
I just ordered Sharpen This, which I didn’t expect to be my first book from y’all. I’m very excited to get it!
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