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Start with a Good Point
Traditionally, hand-sharpening with an India stone (coarser) followed by an Arkansas stone (fine) does the job well, but you must position the graver carefully against the stone and keep a good angle while grinding the edge back and forth (figure 1). Good sharpening techniques take practice and trial and error to develop over time.
Using a positioning device can help. The traditional Crocker fixture allows you to grind the graver tip at a pre-set angle. Sliding it along a piece of glass gives it smoother travel against the sharpening stone.
A more advanced tool, the GRS Power Hone is a complete sharpening system with a variety of holding jigs and diamond abrasives. The latter are needed when shaping and sharpening carbide gravers, but also work well with carbon and high-speed steel gravers. The GRS basic Power Hone fixture adjusts for the graver angle only.
It is fast and efficient, but limited. Because of its simplicity, it is the go-to sharpening fixture for fast re-sharpening.
The high precision of the GRS dual-angle sharpening fixture allows for precise shaping and sharpening of the graver.
This is useful when multiple surface angles are needed.
Improve the Cutting Edge
Once the graver is sharp, you can improve the cutting edge several ways:
After sharpening, poke the tip of the graver into a block of wood to remove metal flashing from the tip.
Grinding the initial shape of the graver reduces the size of the point, allowing for better visibility and faster re-sharpening. Take care to avoid overheating the tip while grinding the initial shape.
Try using an abrasive wheel to soften the newly shaped back of the graver. This removes any rough edges leftover from grinding.
Using a piece of leather and Fabulustre steel polishing compound, strop and polish the face of the graver to a clean cutting point.
Polish the belly the same way, as in the example of this flat-bottom graver.
When polishing carbide and steel gravers, try using 50,000-mesh diamond spray on a scrap of leather. Available from tool and gem-cutting suppliers, the spray is commonly used for gem faceting. Add a ceramic lap to the mix and you can get ultra-precise and ultra-sharp edges.
Other than judging by eye, you can measure the angle of the point with a relatively inexpensive angle gauge.
As with any cutting tool, the final test of sharpness is to cut metal and inspect the cleanliness of the cut.
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