April 12, 2012

make a stropping wheel

photo copyright Karin Corbin 2012
Over the last couple of days I built a homemade stropping wheel for sharpening my carving tools. It makes them incredibly sharp, even the very tiny 1mm and .5mm gouges can be sharpened to a razor sharp edge with this wheel. There is no risk of overheating or burning the small tools. It will remove any minor nicks as well. A local carving teacher told me how to make this wheel.

The cost is low and the materials are easy to come by. The material the wheel is made from is mat board. Yes, it is the mat board you find at art supply stores and framing shops. You adhere layers of it together with a PVA glue such as Elmers. Be sure you cut accurate circles so you don't have to spend a lot of time shaping it into a true circular surface after you mount it to a motor. I did the final shaping of my wheel with a coarse grit sanding block while the motor was spinning the wheel. The sanding to a true circle creates a lot of fine dust so I used a vacuum cleaner nozzle right next to my sanding area to collect the dust. Don't forget to wear a dust mask! After the wheel is trued you can put honing compound on it.

I used 8 layers of double thick mat board in this wheel. I put weights on the stack of mat board disk while the glue set to prevent voids in the layers. Getting voids is a defect that will spoil the effectiveness of the wheel.

I have glued my new stropping wheel onto a plywood disk screwed to a faceplate so I could spin it with my lathe. It is very important to look at the photo above to see how the wheel should be turning in relationship to the tools you are sharpening. I am standing on the backside of my lathe while I am sharpening my carving tools to get the correct spin direction.

What a difference using this wheel is making in my work. I can't get my carving tools this sharp with hand stropping on leather. The tools now glide through the cuts with little effort or pressure leaving a nicely polished surface. I hear that lovely ssssstt noise as the tools cut. The noise that only happens when you have razor sharp cutting edges with polished bevels.

transfering images

photo copyright Karin Corbin 2012
Using carbon paper to transfer images to wood is a common method. However the layers of paper and carbon tend to shift and when working with miniatures it is even more difficult to control.

Thin pencil leads break or else the lines keep getting wider as the pencil wears down. Also the paper the image is printed on can tear when drawing on it if you press firmly.
photo copyright Karin Corbin 2012

So now I cut a small piece of carbon paper, cut the image to size and use clear cello packaging tape to hold those two items together covering complete over the paper leaving the tape wide enough to stick the image to the surface I am working on.

Instead of a pencil I use a metal scribe held at a slight angle so the point glides along on the surface of the packaging tape. Packaging tape is pretty tough stuff but it does remove without any trouble from the surface of the wood.

The end result is very nice image transfers with good dark lines and it is quickly done because there is no shifting or fussing.