Making Philosophy - 1 -
Attention to sharpening
Even with the same result
However, sharpening chisels by machine is the mainstream today. Even in the world of traditional woodcarving, most of the workshops are equipped with the sharpening machine.
When a skilled craftsman sees a completed work, he knows whether it was finished with a chisel that cuts well or not. However, he does not know whether the chisel was sharpened by a machine or by hand. This means that there is no difference in the finish whether it is used with a sharpener or not. And it is faster to use a sharpener.
If you were a woodcarver, would you use a sharpening machine? Or would you sharpen it by hand?
The loss by efficiency
Probably, many people will answer that they use a sharpener. I am a craftsman, but I do not have any sharpening machine. I sharpen all my chisels by hands.
That may seem irrational, but there are reasons to do so. I mentioned that using a sharpener makes sharpening faster. But it only takes a few minutes per one chisel.That is a difference of about ten minutes per day. However, I recognize it only ten minutes per day. Instead, I am concerned that we will lose something important for that.
Sharpening is itself a job for a Artisans doing traditional carving. We grow to understand what a well-sharpened chisel is, both theoretically and experientially, through the repetitive process of sharpening. Place the cutting edge of the chisel on the machine. That makes a chisel that can cut. But there is no deep discovery that I sometimes experience even after becoming a professional for more than ten years. In other words, using a machine for sharpening means "throwing away growth to gain a few minutes of time".
As a result, I decided to sharpen all my chisels by hand.
Compared to carving, sharpening looks so boring, it may seem uninteresting. But, Sharpening has a history that goes back thousands of years. Nowadays, machines have replaced many processes, and I use many power tools such as band saws and drills. However, as a Japanese woodcarver, I do not use machines for chisels and their care. Sharpening chisels by hand" is a kind of "sacred routine" that must not be violated as a craftsman who is responsible for woodcarving culture.
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Making Philosophy - 2 -
Making Philosophy - 3 -
In the world of Japanese traditional woodcarving, we have the phrase, "Ten years for sharpening". It is meant to be a estimate for new apprentices until they can sharpen their chisels that cuts well.
When I first heard the phrase "10 years," I had just started my career as a sculptor. And thought it was an exaggerated expression. I thought it was just a way to increase the value of craftsmanship, and that I didn't understand the depth of this world. After a few years, I realized that "10 years" was not an exaggeration.
Even after more than ten years, I still find many discoveries when sharpening chisels.