A major concern with sharpening steels is getting them to a point where they will give a superior cut on hard clays. I have mentioned the latest in Diamond Machining Technology but these will be at the higher end of the price scale. What would be a good alternative without the additional high end cost?
Single cut files have been used for this very purpose for many years and the price for a smooth cut, single cut file can range from as little as $10.00 for an eight inch length to $30.00 for a fourteen inch length. My preference would be to spring for the longer length, as this can handle all the sharpening tasks on the steels in your arsenal.
I have in the past and still do use single cut files. This type of file is used primarily for the purpose of obtaining a clean finish on cured plastics, fiberglass, acrylics and polyesters, which makes it ideal for edge finishing because it is extra sharp. These single cut files when setup in a sharpening table configuration make it easy to manipulate a shaped steel against the file to produce a razor sharp edge. When I say sharpening table I’m referring to setting up the file at right angles to a flat plane such as in rebating a piece of wood and setting the file on edge. With a few rubber feet to stop the board from slipping you have a purpose made table for sharpening, be it just the length of the file.
The beauty of this setup is it’s a simple solution with good results. The only drawback is the burrs can leave larger scars than normal in the finished surface. This only becomes more apparent when the surface is dinoced and the film sucks into the surface. It doesn’t mean that the surface is incorrect but it can be a little off putting to the untrained eye.
There are several ways of reducing the amount of visual damage as such.
Re-dress the steel with an oil stone on each face to eliminate many of the larger burrs.
Use a sponge to brush the surface to close up the open cells of the clay giving a more uniform appearance that will transform through the dinoc.
Either way it will reduce the amount of “Show through” on the dinoc but generally this is not an issue when reviewed at a distance. The whole purpose of a dinoc review is to study the form, then if the design is acceptable then the model can move on to the next level.
For me these files work great in a combination with the DMT® sharpening system, giving the best of both worlds. It is the sharpness of the steel that will make the art of surfacing easier without the fight to make the steel cut. A blunt steel will lead to more unwanted surface blemishes than the scars left by a sharp steel. Remember, sharpness is the key.