Eclipse Evolution – Our Honing Guide of Choice
For 12 years we provided a Taiwanese copy of the old UK Eclipse honing guide. I used these guides in the workshop and for demos, they lasted a few months of regular use before the bearing corroded, locked up and died. They sort of held plane blades Ok but the lower chisel clamp just didn’t grip the tool, always skewing, hard to hold straight. But, for $20, no one complained.
Nine years ago, in Thomas Lie-Nielsen’s office, (the inner sanctum, tool heaven), I noticed a small compact tool looking something like an Eclipse guide. Thomas revealed it was a prototype for his new honing guide! Five years, six years, seven years went by, still no guide from Thomas. Understandable though, given the magnificent range of complicated quality tools he makes, got no idea how he does it, genius…(BTW, I am no longer the Australian importer for Lie-Nielsen, new importer here.)
About that time the guy that sells second hand tools at the Sydney Timber & WWW Show sold me a genuine Eclipse honing guide, in great condition. It worked so well, simple, effective, flexible…it reignited our interest in the tool. Could it be replicated?
An extended research process finally revealed the Taiwan manufacturer that made the guide copy. Negotiations enabled me to import the guide in component pieces, unassembled. One of our CNC guys, (another Tom), wrote an intricate CNC mill machining program that machined the two guide halves as pairs. There were five operations, the top clamps, the bottom clamps, the ‘belly’ of the flats, the front to allow clearance for higher honing angles and the sides had a clean up. We also machined a stainless steel roller bearing and an aluminium knurled knob.
The modifications ensured the blades being sharpened were square to the roller and hence the sharpening stone, and straight, and held securely. The blades also sat flat on the guide because the clamps no longer produced a hump when they were tightened. Hence the Henry Eckert Honing Guide was born.
Thomas Lie-Nielsen has now released his honing guide, a side clamping guide like the Eclipse. It is a stainless steel beauty, with the ability to change clamps to accept all the different Lie-Nielsen blades, very nice.
We thought the first Henry Eckert Honing Guide was a good performer, it certainly did the job and has many woodworkers using it today.
I have always had a dream to manufacture here in Adelaide, design the tool, control the manufacture and hopefully improve the tool performance. Casting bronze is a journey, well it was for me. Lots to learn, lots of errors, lots of money… But, when the tool is finally finished, polished, shining, working, it was all worth it, I think…
So we made the Henry Eckert Honing Guide Mk II from the ground up. Gunmetal bronze, stainless steel, solid brass, sintered bronze. We think, all the right metals, no short cuts or compromises. We made the two sets of jaws deeper to accommodate the thickest blade around and then some. A third, finer set of jaws, takes thin chisels now. Heavier, solid and tough. We hope you agree. We also added another Angle Setting Jig to suit the new tool, it makes setting the angles very quick and repeatable. We are not going to accommodate skew blades but we are working on a way to hold short spokeshave type blades or short Japanese chisels.
So that is our Eclipse Evolution, a smart and enduring design from a long time ago, now with design modifications, contemporary manufacture and metallurgy.
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