We love and admire those beautiful wood sculptures done by driftwood artists and wish to work as hard as necessary to achieve this artistry. But many times the tools necessary to complete such works are sadly neglected. Those older teachers and artists knew the value of their tools and worked at keeping them clean and sharp.
Mary Matthews, one of LuRon’s first teachers, often sharpened her router blades every 15 to 20 minutes during her work times. All her blades were clean, sharp and protected in carrying cases so that none would dull by banging into each other. And so with all your tools and other equipment, know the best way to keep them clean.
Riffles, Rasps, Files, and Probes
For cleaning these types of tools, the best way is to either dip or soak them in rubbing alcohol and brush them clean with a wire brush. Smaller needle files can be safely stored in an old toothbrush travel case. If these are very fine, place a bit of foam at the bottom of the case to keep them from slipping through. Those files that are double headed can be encased in foam and tape to protect your hand from that other end. When needed, change the handle and switch sides to prolong the life of the file or rasp.
Routers and Scrapers
These should be sharpened to make the job of scraping easier. Sharp blades mean you do not have to fight the wood, just slide right through it with a very sharp edge. Sharpening is done easier with a diamond sharpener held at a 45° angle and pulled in one direction out toward the outer edge, some artists also choose to sharpen the inside edge of their router blades. This is done with a diamond needle sharpener or a fish hook sharpener. I do not sharpen both edges as this tends to weaken the blade and these must be replaced more often. Which ever way you choose, always hone the burrs off the edge on a leather strap. Keep these edges protected when not in use.
Most Sandpapers don’t last too long, but the cloth backed paper has a surprisingly long life, all sandpapers need to be kept clean for maximum efficiency. To clean sandpaper lay it flat and rub the surface with an art gum eraser or sandpaper cleaning block. Some papers can also be washed (the foam backed kind) but be sure to first use the sandpaper cleaner. Pitch filled sandpaper is usually a total loss after use, so use each clean area before pitching it.
Keep the working surface of your wood as clear as possible so you can see or feel those top marks that need removing. The use of an old toothbrush, clean paint brush, cosmetic brush, tack cloth or lint free cloth should be kept at the ready to be used often. Some of my students keep a can of compressed air handy to blow the swarf away.
Keep the handles of all your tools clean. I wipe mine with alcohol or some sort of waterless wipe, the reason this is important is that sharp blades can cut if you slip or make a careless or awkward move and germ filled handles almost guarantee infection. Just play it safe around any tools.
Many of you have specialized tools and equipment so plan how to keep these in their best working condition. Look around at clever things others do to protect and handle their tools. Work safely and make your work easier with these few tips!