As most of you know Nancy’s husband John passed away in recent times leaving me wondering about the state of the business. As Nancy told me she spent many years working with John to assemble the various models and together they were able to keep things moving. I am happy to report that Nancy is continuing the tradition and it was truly nice to see her.
The success and happiness of a carver truly lies in being able to identify and maintain a sharp edge. Nothing like a dull tool will dull a carvers interest. More than 30 years ago my stepfather gave me a really nice pocket knife and taught me how to keep it sharp. He was a butcher and taught me on water stones using the standard “dime” method that many of us know. The key piece of information he imparted to me was that how the placement of a bevel can create a blade that remains sharp when being worked hard. In addition he taught me that if I could look at the cutting edge of my tools I would see that it is made up of many microscopic teeth like you would see on a handsaw. When these teeth get bent over they leave white scratches behind requiring us to strop our blades. To supplement this information about 15 years ago I was fortunate to listen to a talk being given by Marv Kaisersatt who imparted his blade shape preference which eliminates the bevel completely. I adopted this teardrop cross-section shape which has brought me the type of results I desire with tools that are “slick” in their cutting and remain “scary” sharp.
Prior to my Burke purchase I used a set of arkansas stones, then graduated to an Ultimate Sharpener, then finally my Burke. I am protective of my knives as they are my primary tool and when I need to reshape them I will utilize diamond stones and cards in combination with the machine. This ensures I have the desired shape prior to sharpening and finishing of the cutting edge. An example of this is that the spine of my knives are rounded which allows me to roll out of a cut. Square spines are not bad and are preferred on my “hogging” knives as the maintain a rigid and strong blade that can take a beating.
So why a Burke when I have an ultimate sharpener? Before I answer this I need to provide you a little background...while I am mechanically inclined I am not a machinist nor an engineer. I know what a C&C machine is but have never operated anything but a mainframe computer. So to put it nicely my machining skills are amateurish. I do not want to spend my time sharpening but rather carving and my carving budget is at the higher end. Given that I chose to have the Burke at my side as it operates at a much slower speed (so I don’t fry many tools temper) and the wheels on the lower spindle spin slightly faster and allow me to polish the channels of my gouges. While many debate the need to polish your gouges channels in my experience my tools become even “slicker” (less resistance) which allows me to quickly effectively cut myself...er..the wood.
I have owned this model for around 10 years and I use a green oil based rouge and could not be happier. An investment in my happiness that I will never regret.
One other note is that prior to traveling I can run through all the tools in my box in very little time with the cutting edge I desire. It should also be noted that learning to use the machine and sharpen a variety of tools takes time and practice so Be patient and make sure you put in the effort.
It’s a warm day here in NY and I will be carving...will you????