Port Townsend School of Woodworking
Preserving the Tradition

NORTHWEST TOOLMAKING Resource and Glossary


Japanese Tools (Including 'marking knife' blanks and straight knives) Water Stones

THE JAPAN WOODWORKER, 1731 Clement Ave., Alameda, CA  94501 (Now a subsidiary of Woodcraft Supply)

Grinding jig, 3M polishing film


Water Stones (flats, slips, and cones), Marking Knife Blanks, One-Way Grinding Jig, Good Selection of Other Tools, Good Prices, Nice Folks

HIGHLAND WOODWORKING, 1045 N. Highland Ave. NE, Atlanta, GA, 30306

Flexible Diamond Abrasive sheets (In micron sizes 125, 74, 40, 20, 10, 6


3M Polishing Films, Japanese straight knives and other tools, many specialized tools



Annealing:   To ‘soften’ steel by heating to critical temperature and cooling very slowly.

Critical Temperature:  (CrT) The heating point at which steel atoms re-form their structure, enabling changes in hardness. Signaled by bright orange color and loss of magnetism.

Hardening:   Heating hi-carbon steel to CrT and quenching in vegetable or mineral oil (water OK but not recommended - results can get too brittle; petroleum too toxic). ‘Stir’ steel in oil for faster, more even cooling.  Steel becomes hard and potentially brittle, is unable to be cut by a file near the sharp edge.

Tempering:   Re-heating hardened steel to 400-425 degrees (light to dark ‘straw’ color) to add toughness and flexibility. Hold at temperature for one hour, allow to cool slowly.  Repeat if desired.  File should be just barely able to scratch near the sharp edge after treatment.  Rockwell hardness about 58-62.

Keen edge:   A fine steel edge formed of two flat planes that meet in a 22-25 degree angle for adze blades (higher in some circumstances but 30 degrees or less) and approximately 17.5 degrees for knives and related edge tools.

Sharpening:   Essentially a polishing process. Begin by shaping steel to a keen edge with a coarse abrasive medium, then polishing out the scratches left behind with each progressively finer medium.

Stropping:   A final polishing step done with polishing paste or compound on either smooth wood (in any appropriate shape), or on smooth leather bonded to a wooden form.  Pastes include Simichrome Polish, Wenol, Flitz, Blue Magic.

Roundover:  A condition where the cutting edge is rounded over because of improper sharpening techniques or buffing. Severely reduces effectiveness of cutting edge. (Opposite of ‘keen’).



  • Tool Steels (purchased): 1095, O1, L6 are common types (comes in bars, sheet, or precision-ground flat stock in many dimensions.) Grind to shape, harden, temper.

  • Found materials: Leaf springs (car, snowmobile, trailer), planer blades (Harder steels like planer blades and repurposed tools are best ground cool to maintain the original temper.)


  • Tool Steels (purchased): O1 most common
    • apanese laminated steel knife blanks
  • Found materials:

    • Mill-type bandsaw blade (L6), pieces cut across the width

    • Used or new Planer blades

    • Repurposed tools or knife blades (to reshape)


Horseshoer’s or Farrier’s Forges. Operate on propane gas or coal.
NC Tool Co is one source. Whisper Baby or Whisper Momma (One or Two gas burners-constant)). Runs on propane gas.
Another is Majestic Forge .com:  Two -burner Farrier's Deluxe (Works on one or two burners-changeable)

GRINDERS:  Prefer slow-speed (1750 rpm and slower) grinder to reduce heat build-up.  Various belt grinder types are also adaptable.

GRINDING WHEELS:  Friable-matrix wheels cut and wear faster, keeping steel cooler.  Class uses 8-inch diameter by 1-inch wide wheels. 


‘Wolverine’ grinding jig* by OneWay Manufacturing.
www.oneway.on.ca   1-800-565-7288
241 Monteith Ave., Stratford, Ontario N5A 2P6

*Add a larger aluminium or steel plates to the original adjustable plates to replicate the setup used in class.  Could also adapt to some belt grinder designs.