07 May 2008
The Knife Hospital
This is a Japanese hangi-to, the carving knife that's used most often in traditional moku hanga. The hangi-to, pronounced hahn _ gee (hard g) _ toe, is used to closely outline the design on a block. Then larger areas are cleared away from these outlines using gouges and chisels. The hangi-to is essential for carving the beautiful thin black lines that are always found in ukiyo-e prints. Although I rarely use such linework in my own prints, I do use the hangi-to quite often, so I was pretty upset when I dropped mine on a hard floor and the point broke!
Interestingly, even though I'm using these woodworking tools on a daily basis, I'm not really a tool kind of person. I've tried to learn the subtleties of sharpening, but it all makes my eyes glaze over a little bit -- maybe it's a girl thing. I have managed to learn to use a leather honing block and some small water stones to keep the edges sharp on my little tool set, but the broken point was too much for me and my attempts to reshape the knife just made matters worse. I briefly thought about getting a motorized sharpener, but found it to be cost prohibitive.
When in doubt, consult the Yellow Pages. I found a local precision tool sharpening company with the welcome words "No Job Too Small" on its advertisement. For a mere $5.00 they were happy to reshape my knife for me. I'm hoping to pick it up tomorrow, as good as new.