The Taming of the Skew

O monstrous beast! how like a swine it lies!
Grim death, how foul and loathsome is thine image!
Sirs, I will practise on this unwitting log.

The Shew Chisel is much maligned by inexperienced wood turners, and yet the experts regularly say it is probably the most powerful tool at a woodturner’s disposal.

I’ve had a number of surprisingly aggressive kickbacks from the skew in the past – encouraging me to quietly put it aside, and I doubt I am the only one!

However, after covering a number of other tools, we got to the skew at Robbo’s, and other than when he deliberately demonstrated a particular user failure (which resulted in a small ‘explosive’ catch, and managed to draw blood), I found myself wondering why the tool was so disliked. It is flexible (both rapid stock removal, as well as finessing beads, forming tenons, and decorative work (particularly when working from square to round cross sections.)

I was surprised how easy the skew was to use!

I don’t remember all the terms, but slicing at 45 degrees, rolling beads, paring away huge amounts of materials. Without being unusually careful either. Sure, catches are definitely achievable (had a few myself, often when I touched the workpiece before properly engaging the rest), and skew catches are often more violent than with gouges, but at the end of the day I was impressed how functional the skew can be.

Robbo has also lent me a DVD; The Skew Chisel with Alan Batty. Interesting that Alan seems to use the skew more with the tip leading, but otherwise the approach is similar, and although it looks so easy when watching it, at the end of the day it can also be that easy in practice, so long as you understand what you are seeing. That is the real benefit of one on one instruction. Even then, I had to pay very close attention to just what part of the skew was doing the actual cutting. What looked like the tip doing all the work was actually a mm or so further up the blade in many cases.

I might have to write a more detailed article (once I understand the tool better), but still would feel like a bit of a knob doing so, when compared to all the real experts out there. On the other hand, that is the real benefit of this website- I have to understand what is happening to be able to write the article/produce the video, and you get dragged along on my journey.

Bathurst Weekend

It’s that time of the year again Bathurst 1000, Melbourne Wood Show, and Christmas quickly approaching.

What has Bathurst got to do with the shed?  I guess not much, other than it gets me up much earlier on a Sunday morning, and it meant I actually got a couple of hours in the shed under the belt before coming in to watch the start.  Oh, and GMC have sponsored the tyre arch sign again, so that’s woodworking related!

Played around with the wet stone sharpener, touching up a few of the turning chisels, then tried to take a chip out of the skew chisel when it had a catch which actually took a chip out of the lathe jaws instead.

Started dressing and shaping some timber for a play table – 90×45 pine, dressed to square, then machined to 40x40x480mm.  Then cut mortise slots using the Mortise Pal.  Perhaps not at quick or as versatile as the Festool Domino, but a hell of a lot cheaper. As Grahame from PWS likes to say – you get $1000 change over buying a Domino!

Tool of-the-Month (February 08)

The tool for this month is the Veritas MkII Honing Guide. Veritas are well known for producing quality jigs and tools, and the MkII Honing Guide is no exception.


The MkII is a significant development on the original jig and although it has been available for a while now, it still justifies being highlighted. It is used in setting and maintaining the bevel angle for edge cutting tools (such as chisels and plane blades).

It consists of 2 main components – the black component is the blade holder, and once the blade position is set, holds it in that position during the grinding/honing process. The other component (silver) (the registration jig) is used to set the blade position so it is honed to the correct angle. Once the blade position is set, this component is removed.

There are a number of advantages of the MkII. First and foremost is the accuracy and repeatability of setting the honing angle. The guide can be used on waterstones, oilstones, diamond stones, and sandpaper (commonly called the “Scary Sharp” technique). It has a large brass eccentric roller which can be set to a secondary position for creating a microbevel.

The setting jig not only controls the amount of protrusion of the blade (ie distance from the roller, which dictates the angle of the bevel), but also keeps the blade square so that an undesired skew is not created.


Here you can see the stop which is dictating the blade protrusion, but also the far side has a fence which the blade is resting against, ensuring that it is square to the roller. The blade in this case is one of my HNT Gordon plane blades (which as you might be able to see, already has a mirror finish).


Once the blade position is set, the registration jig is removed, and you are ready to start honing the blade. I’m going to be doing a separate article/video on various sharpening techniques in the near future, so won’t go into details here.

More recently, extra jigs and modifications have become available for the MkII guide, including a Skew Registration Jig for deliberately (accurately and repeatably) setting a skew angle if so desired.


The Veritas MkII Honing Guide and Skew Registration Jig has been supplied by Carbatec, and continues to prove to be their most popular honing guide.  I’ve had my MkII Guide for quite a while now, and it has proven to be an invaluable tool where it comes to sharpening.  I had the MkI before it, and although it was a good jig, the MkII has proven to be exceptional, and I’ve never regretted upgrading.

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