Workshop Minimalism in the Heartland III

Learning to “do without” a full set of tuned up tools was in a sense liberating.  It’s not the way I want to work much of the time, but it is a great challenge on occasion, and this was one of these occasions.  It made me reflect on Howark Roark’s designing The Courtland, a project he accepted not because of any philanthropy but rather for the mere challenge of the task.

Thus the week spent in The Heartland was especially invigorating and rewarding because we were able to accomplish so much with so little.

As I wrote last time I acquired a minimal toolkit, some of which needed some tuning.

Using the backsplat slab I was able to employ a pack of wet-or-dry sandpaper from my daily trips to the hardware store to get the edge tools sharpened to accomplish whisper thin shavings.  Laying various grits of abrasive belt on the slab, or wrapping it with wet-or-dry sandpaper I got to darned near perfect edges.


I first got the bed and sides of the block plane flattened with an 80 grit belt, then used the same set up to establish a cutting angle for the iron.


Moving quickly up the ladder of grits to 600 the result was a superb small plane in about 15 minutes.

The Fat Max chisels took even less time, about two minutes apiece.  They started out near-perfect flat on both the backs and the bevel, so a few seconds with each of the 240, 400, and 600 grits resulted in mirror surfaces that worked brilliantly.

I had never done much of the sandpaper sharpening before, but I am absolutely convinced of its utility after this week.  I intend to explore this application more in the future, perhaps even fabricating a block for use in my carpenter’s tool kit.  I recently discovered my local hardware store in Maryland carried 1500 grit paper and the auto body supplier carries up to 4000 grit, so it might be possible for me to dispense with sharpening stones altogether at some point in the future.


The final tool needing the restorative touch was the unnamed and unmarked, but very sharp, back saw I got at the Goodwill for a couple of bucks.  It was rusty and grimy, but mostly it was missing two of the nuts.  The blade just flopped in the handle.  Another trip to the hardware store resulted in my returning with two new binding posts and a tapered reamer to kiss the holes in the blade allowing for a reassembly and high performance.  A little cleaning with abrasive pad and oil completed the process, and it was put to work.