Eden Workshops (UK)
Mechling Bookbinders Workshop
Jeff Peachey Bookbinder and conservator; bookbinding and conservation tools.
Shepherd’s (Sangorski & Sutcliffe): Bookbinding & supplies.
Book Island, Juliayn Coleman Blog.
Wright County Swappers Meet
Grainger. General industrial tools and supplies. Quality stuff for professionals; not cheap. Stores everywhere, Minnesota and nationwide; if item not in stock, order to pick up in store.
Woodcraft Quality woodworking supplies. A national chain with a store in Bloomington (9125 Lyndale Avenue South).
Veberod Gem Gallery Jewelry-making supplies & tools. Some tools are of interest for book arts and small metalworking projects. Good cheap pin vises. (Minnetonka, across 61 from Ridgedale.)
Rockler. Good stuff for enthusiasts with money; some available for less elsewhere (e.g., Woodcraft). A Minnesota company, with local stores.
Jo-Ann Fabrics. Lots of neat small tools in several departments, some for working with paper as well as sewing, beading, and similar crafts. Also, of course, all sorts of fabrics. Some stores (such as Maple Grove) are bigger and better stocked than others (such as Ridgedale).
rest of the world
McMaster-Carr industrial supplies 500,000 products, no order too small. They also give you lots of information you will need (measurements, specs, etc.) about whatever you are looking at—sometimes more info than you’ll find at the manufacturer’s site.
Klein Tools Well-known maker of general tools.
Snap-on Tools. Famous high-quality tools, especially for mechanics. Priced accordingly. Not everything they sell is made by them, and quality may vary accordingly–even at top prices.
Rio Grande Jewelry-making supplies & tools. Some tools are of interest for book arts and small metalworking projects. Good cheap pin vises.
Otto Frei Jewelry-making tools, findings, and supplies.
Lakeside Scissor Sales Specialized scissors, hobby tools, etc. Quality can vary, but there’s good stuff for little money. They’ve been at the State Fair, may be regulars for all I know.
Micro-Mark: Small hobby tools & miniature tools.
American Science & Surplus: Like the Twin Cities’ Ax-Man. A good place to buy 10x illuminated loupes for much less than the same loupe would cost elsewhere, if you want to read the ATF series numbers stamped on the shoulder below the baselines of the Hs and ms of 6-point type. (The $7 loupe works fine.) Where technical specs matter, they’re knowledgable, informative, and honest.
Hand-Eye Supply “Tools, Books & Clothing for Practical Purposes.” Gaebel pica sticks.
The Best Things: connoisseur tools,
ARTCO American Rotary Tools Company; also hand tools.
engineersupply.com Engineering supplies, measuring tools, etc.
The Rust Store “Solutions for All Rust Problems.”
For sharpening and shaping of metal, I’m generally happy with Arkansas stones, diamond sharpeners (in particular those from EZE-Lap, below), and sandpaper, with big cheap carborundum stones for coarse work, files for special shaping, and really big files for the coarsest material removal tasks.
Arkansas stones are no longer the only option for quality sharpening stones, but they still have a lot going for them, including simplicity of use and low maintenance, advantages that some of the newer alternatives do not have. The white and “translucent” Arkansas stones have as fine a grit as you could ask for. I recommend Dan’s, below, as a source for these stones.
Chronic woodworkers are very fond of waterstones. These cut faster (and cooler) than oilstones, and are available in a wide range of grits. But they also wear down faster, and must be periodically flattened. They must be kept soaked in water, which also means that they need their own space. Any metal sharpened with them must be promptly and carefully dried. For this reason, they are practicable mainly for people who do a great deal of sharpening, enough to warrant the extra maintenance and space, and who have workshops with space for a dedicated sharpening station.
Carborundum stones (a.k.a. silicon carbide) are most familiar as cheap items in hardware stores. (Crystolon is Norton’s brand-name for their high-quality silicon-carbide stones, which are not cheap.) They come in several grades of grit; combination stones are also available. As far as I know, the cheap ones, at least, are not available in the finest grits needed for the finest finishes on blades; this is probably because cheap carborundum would not be suitable for this in any case. Look for the big ones (6 inches long or so) unless you need something smaller for touching up small knives.
Carborundum stones are not natural stones: they are made from ground-up silicon carbide. The cheap ones, which are fine for many purposes (and all I’ve ever owned), are made of coarsely sorted powder and thus have less consistent grit. Higher-quality ones are available, for a significantly higher cost. The best-known high-quality ones are the Crystolon brand from Norton. Carborundum is extremely hard, harder than any knife blade. It is good for re-beveling and re-shaping, and for harder steels (such as D2 and stainless). The finer grits are a good first step for sharpening dull blades. For a good edge, finish off with a finer stone of another type.
Carborundum stones need to be lubricated like most other stones, and are classed among the oilstones.
(“Carborundum,” by the way, is a trade name that long ago came into common use as a generic term.)
Grit sizes can be very confusing, since different systems are used to designate grit size for different sharpening materials (sandpaper, oilstones, waterstones, diamond stones, etc.) Information about grit equivalencies found on the Web is not always accurate or consistent. Christopher Schwarz (who else?) does much to clear this up with a brief article and useful (downloadable) comparison charts, at: https://www.popularwoodworking.com/article/true-grit-understanding-sharpening-grits.
Most sharpening stones need to be lubricated. This keeps them from getting loaded up with fine metal particles, which would soon impair their cutting ability. Lubricant also reduces temperature, which could be an issue with tempered metal, though I don’t know if this is the case at hand-sharpening speeds. Some stones are lubricated with water: waterstones, of course; diamond stones also work best with a few drops of water. The common “wet/dry” sandpapers can also be used with water. Blades sharpened with water must be promptly and thoroughly dried. Ceramic stones are not used with lubrication; they must therefore be cleaned during lengthy sessions and after use.
Other stones (including Arkansas and Carborundum stones) fall under the general class of “oilstones.” A wide variety of substances is in fact used to lubricate these. Oils for stones are commonly sold by dealers in sharpening supplies. 3-in-1 oil is an old standby. In recent years, however, Simple Green all-purpose cleaner has become very popular as a sharpening lubricant for oilstones—it lubricates well and keeps the stone very clean. You should give it a try.
Dan’s Whetstone Co. Arkansas stones, etc. I recommend Dan’s as a source for these stones.
Eze-Lap. A wide variety of well-designed diamond and carbide sharpening tools for many, many uses. A number are small, very handy, and quite affordable. I love their Model M and model S pocket sharpeners for on-the-go touch-ups.
Flitz Premium Polishing Products. Abrasive goo to put on your strop.
Shor International Jewelry polishing compounds.
Honing Guides by Richard Kell.
X-ACTO Craft & Office Tools; Knives, Sharpeners, Trimmers.
Japanese wood working tool shop. Knives.
Japanese marking knife.
File handles are a matter that deserves the attention of readers of this page. If you use a file without a handle, you run the risk of injuring yourself on the file tang if you slip. If you slip with enough force, the injury could be serious. Some woodworkers, at least, are apt to make their own handles, which is easy enough if you have even a rudimentary wood shop. This is perhaps why the matter isn’t much discussed.
But for those of us who must buy them, note that file handles are always much too small for the file sizes (lengths) they’re rated for. Almost all of the tang should be covered by the handle. Measure the maximum tang thickness and the size of the hole in the handle, and buy accordingly. I’ve never found ready-made handles that fit well on really big files, so for these just buy the biggest handle you can.
The Lutz “Skrooz-On” handles (below) are the handiest I’ve found. Pferd, a European maker of files, also makes good handles of another type, which can be bought—by the box only—from Grainger. A lot of the handles I’ve gotten in hardware stores (including Nicholson brand) are not so good.
Future Home of Slav’s Tool Shop. Little on the site right now, not even contact information, and this hasn’t changed in some time. Slav is a woodworker and a legendary dealer of new old stock (NOS) files and rasps. I think he mainly sells at shows, and to addicts who have his phone number. Some of his stock is very old indeed, and none the worse for that. Slav’s prices are quite reasonable for the value he gives in merchandise quality, selection, and product knowledge. I’ve had the memorable pleasure of buying some files from him at a toolfest. I can put you in touch with him; you can also just do a Web search for the two words Slav file —which is a measure of how synonymous those words are among file afficionados.
Maine Wood Concepts Current maker of Lutz “Skrooz-On” file handles, famous old shop standards with much to recommend them, including price. The best source is Maine Wood or McMaster Carr; the latter may have more informative lists and about as wide a selection. Other sources may not sell the full range.
Boggs Tool & File Sharpening Company. They sharpen old files—I have no idea how. I’ve seen the results, which are definitely good.
Grobet USA Mfrs & Distributors: fine (& famous) Swiss files, etc.
Gold Precision Rasps—Corradi Shop High quality files and rasps.
Milani Handcut Rasps.
Willy Vanhoutte. Renzo Milani hand cut rasps.
ICS Cutting Tools: files page.
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