- Canadian Woodworking Magazine - Book Review

I’m not sure if this is the ultimate guide to sharpening for woodworkers, but I’d say it comes pretty close.


The Perfect Edge

My first exposure to expert sharpening was many years ago watching a European-trained luthier sharpening his chisels. It was a mesmerizing display of Zen-like concentration as he figure-eighted his chisels over a well-worn water stone. I’ve never forgotten it. But it’s not just master craftsmen like that luthier who can benefit from well-honed edges on their tools and sharp teeth on their saws. Every woodworker can appreciate the importance of sharp cutting edges and teeth on their tools. Apart from simply making our tools easier and more pleasurable to use, they are safer, and The Perfect Edge covers just about everything one needs to know to keep his/her cutting tools in tip-top condition.
After a discussion of the importance of a sharp tool in the book’s opening chapter, Hock presents an interesting chapter on metallurgy as it pertains to the various steels used in tools and the sharpening process. This is followed by chapters that cover abrasives, how wood is cut, and the general principles of sharpening. He includes a thorough discussion of oil and water stones; the best ones, man-made versus natural stones, maintenance, etc. Hock also provides a welcome review of various sharpening aids currently available on the market including jigs, grinders and lapping machines.
The majority of the book covers the specific types of tools and their sharpening needs (plane irons, chisels, scrapers, saws, carving tools, turning tools, axes and adzes, knives including jointer knives, drill bits and various power tools). Each is covered in detail and very well illustrated with photos and drawings. In particular, I was very pleased to see that he included a section on Japanese tools which have their own sharpening idiosyncrasies. However, I do wish he had included the topic of bandsaw blades.
Sharpening is like any other woodworking skill (e.g. cutting dovetail joints, planing a board or applying a finish) - the more you do it, the better you’ll get at it. As good as this book is, it isn’t a substitute for experience. That said, this is as good as any book I’ve read on the topic and will give the reader an excellent overview of maintaining the cutting edges and teeth of his/her tools.



  • Introduction
  • Why Sharpen?
  • What Is Steel?
  • Abrasives
  • How Wood is Cut
  • The Fundamentals
  • Plane Irons
  • Chisels
  • Scrapers
  • Handsaws
  • Carving Tools
  • Turning Tools
  • Axes and Adzes
  • Knives
  • Drill Bits
  • Power Tools
  • Microscopic Photos
  • Resources
  • Suppliers
  • Index
PUBLISHER:Popular Woodworking
AVAILABLE FROM:Your local bookseller or online
FORMAT:Softcover, 224 pages
Reviewed by Gerry Tsuji, September 2010
Discover more great woodworking reviews!
Subscribe Now and get instance online access to our library filled with exciting woodworking information.
Continue to stay connected to the latest tool reviews with our bi-monthly woodworking magazines!