I’d seen it before. The guy on a PBS woodworking show. 30 minutes of fantasy. How easily shavings magically fall from his project. Was he carving balsa wood?
When finally I tried it, complete disaster. Chunks of wood removed. Deep divots. Chisel following grain instead of my will. I accept the truth. Repressed for years, it is time to face fact. My chisels are not sharp enough.
I had been putting this off even longer than learning the art of flossing back molars. Yet it was not a girlfriends’ insistence this time. An older woman’s beckoning desires had me considering the sharper edge.
This old violin wants her bushing pegs trimmed close. Flush close. Pink skin on a chilly autumn morning close. But leave the surrounding wood intact. A visit with the old guy from Southern Italy is more than helpful.
Antonio eyes my chisel suspiciously. It looks remarkably like a combination spackle knife, pry bar, hole punch, and packing iron. Respectfully he does not toss it into the rubbish bin, but brushing it aside, places a newspaper-wrapped parcel upon the counter. Lunch?
Here is a sharp chisel. This is what you need, he tells me with many extra syllables. Wow, is this refurbished chisel sharp! Back at the table, boxwood bushing pegs are conquered. Slicing against the grain, wafer-thin shavings appear. Translucent, they remind me of ginger root prepared for tea. Only thinner.
The following week, taking my new chisel back for consultation, Antonio animatedly launches into a general attack upon all tradespeople. I am lumped into “all tradespeople”. A satisfying classification. I am one of many, using the tool wrong. Backwards. Upside down. With no formal training, I accept the professional sharpener’s compliment. We’ve made it to the big time.