Maintaining your trimming tools through regular cleaning and sharpening can extend their life and yield faster, more exact trimming results.
I recently posted to my Instagram account about being able to sharpen Dolan trimming tools using a sanding block. I had a few comments and direct messages from people asking for more details on the sharpening stone and not knowing they could sharpen their trimming tools.
As Sue Dolan-Mischik, owner of Dolan Tools, says, “A chef sharpens his knives before he uses them, so why shouldn’t we do the same with our tools?” A trimming tool, like any tool, is an investment in our work; by keeping the blade clean and sharp, we are taking care of our investment and work.
When working with porcelain at the soft leather-hard stage, I need a nice, smooth, clean trimming tool that will cut the clay and not rip or tear it. Because of this, I try to clean my trimming tools after every trimming session and run the edge across the sharpening stone each time before I trim to make sure the edge is still sharp. Keeping your tools clean and sharp prolongs the life of the tools, cuts down on time spent trimming, and helps improve the finished surface of the trimmed pieces.
When you are sharpening your tools, make sure you know the type of metal they are made of. With Dolan tools being made of high-carbon steel, never use a rotary tool or grinding disk as it will spot heat the blade and end up cracking it. Always use a sharpening stone and never directly heat the blade. You can find sharpening stones at your local hardware store.
To sharpen your trimming tools, grab a dual-grit sharpening stone (I use my grandpa’s). The stone has two sides, a sharpening side and a polishing side. Start working on the sharpening side, then move to the polishing side to clean up any burrs.
- With the stone in your hand or held on a table, start on one end of the sharpening stone, holding your tool at a 45° angle (A).
- Firmly press the blade down, then, in an arching motion, move the tool across the stone from one end to the other (B, C).
- Repeat this motion until you reach the desired sharpness.
- Rotate the stone 180 degrees, flip the trimming tool over, and repeat steps 1–3 to sharpen the other side and to avoid creating a groove on one side in your stone.
- Flip the stone over to the polishing side.
- Repeat steps 1–3 to remove any sharp burrs or rough spots.
Note: For the purposes of this article, I let my tool weather a bit in order to show the contrast between what a non-sharpened edge looks like (D) then a sharpened edge (E). I do not recommend allowing your tools to weather in your studio—always keep them clean and properly stored.
the author Kyle Guymon is a potter from Bountiful, Utah, who mainly works with translucent, relief-carved porcelain. You can find more of his work on Instagram @kyleguymonpottery and online at kyleguymonpottery.com.