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Sharpening Abrasive System & Reprofiling Wood Engraving Tint Tools

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Thu 12th Dec 2019
Blog Categories: Wood Engraving Tools | Wood Engraving Printmaking | All / Filter

In Wood Engraving, Tint tools cut straight lines in varying widths, sometimes used to create tone - or tints. I buy my tools in from a reputable Amercian company via Intaglio Printmaker in London, and had numbers 1, 2, 3 in their range (1 being the smallest). However, they weren't of equal width, and I felt the number 1 was too narrow, scratching the surface rather than scoring a neat narrow line, so I decided to reprofile them all to the widths that I wanted.

Intaglio Printmaker's Website
Reprofiling tint tools
Reprofiled tint tools on my sharpening paper & mirror.

Sharpening Abrasive System

As I have a strong background in working with wood, and sharpening wood working tools, for me reprofiling the tools isn't as hard as it sounds, and I have all the hand sharpening equipment that I need. I do most of my sharpening using the Hermes Self Adhesive Abrasive Film range, which is available in grits of 800, 1200 and 2500 - which is very fine (and probably finer than many other wood engravers sharpening systems). It is an Aluminium Oxide resin bonded abrasive film. These come on a roll which you stick to a mirror (which is presumed to be dead flat).

I do this because I want my woodworking planes to have a flat and very sharp edge - and this range of grits allows me to do that. And because it is stuck to a mirror, when the abrasive looses it's kick, I can just remove it from the mirror, cut another piece from the roll, and stick to the mirror - and I know that it will keep dead flat and sharp, unlike sharpening stones which loose their flatness over time through use, and get clogged up with oil etc.

Hermes suggest you can use oil or water to sharpen with. I use oil, simply because that is what I'm used to, and also I don't like to mix water with steel edge tools becasue they will rust.

When I need to remove a lot of metal, I use a traditional sharpening stone, in medium and fine - I don't mind if these aren't absolutely flat, and have had them for years.

Reprofiling & Sharpening the Tools

This section provides an overview of modifying expensive engraving tools, which could render them useless if not done correctly. Space does not permit a step by step guide. This work is potentially dangerous, and you should only do this if you have experience of these techniques, as you could damage tools, or yourself otherwise.

I first checked the comparitive width and state of all the tools under a magnifying glass. From this I could see that the number 3 tint tool was about OK, but the number 2 was about the same width as the number 3, and the number 1 was far too thin for my liking. I couldn't get a set of different sized tints with these tools.

The number 3 tool needed the least amount of work so I started with that. I simply rubbed the bottom edge of the tool carefully on the 800 grit abrasive film (mounted on the mirror - needs to be at the edge of the mirror) after applying the sharpening oil. I did this to make the round base even (as it wasn't quite) - using the magnifying glass fequently to check the state of the tool. Then I stroked the working edge then the sides to remove any burr and tested the tool on some spare end grain wood (as a wood engraving block maker I have plenty of spare bits to test on).

When I was happy with this, I carefully repeated the process on the 1200 then 2500 grit, and tested again. These fine grits make for very sharp tools - and needs to be done very carefully to prevent damage to the tool, timber, and miss use in engraving resulting in finger injuries!

Now to the number 2 tool, which was about the same width as the number 3. This needed a fair amount carefully taking off the sides using the abrasive paper, ensuring that an equal amount was taken off, preserving the slight angle of the sides, equally on both sides. This resulted in a narrower tool - again checking frequently with the magnifying glass, and comparing to the number 3 tool, to ensure all was going well.

When I was happy with this, I proceeded to the same steps as for the number 3 tool above.

Now to the number 1 tool, which was far too thin. This requires metal to be removed from the tool base, ensuring that an equal spread, but leaving a slightly round bottom, and taking most of the tools length (otherwise it interfers with the angle tool is used). This resulted in a wider tool - again checking frequently with the magnifying glass, and comparing to the numbers 2 and 3 tools, to ensure all was going well.

When I was happy with this, I proceeded to the same steps as for the number 3 tool above.

Then I tested in some more wood to ensure the widths were equally different, so I could get a good set of tints.

All in all I was pleased with my work, but it did require a lot of careful concentration and thinking ahead what I was doing, as it would have been easy to render these tools useless.

Tags: wood engraving,woodengraving,wood engravers,woodengravers,engraving,engraver,printmaking,print making,printmaker,print maker,relief,block,print,printing,tint tools,reprofiling,sharpening abrasive system

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All text, images and illustrations © Copyright David Rodgers 2019 unless stated otherwise. No copying in part or whole without written permission.


All articles made are based on my own personal experience, and may not be suitable for everyone. They are not to be taken as formal advice; always seek personal professional advice before doing anything, especially if it is health related, or might affect your health.

Where links are provided to external sites, I am not responsible for the content of these sites.

All content is believed to be correct at time of writing, but policies and prices change over time, and this article is not updated to reflect this. Double check all facts before making any decisions.

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