There was a time I was afraid to use my gouges and chisels, not because I feared a skewered hand, but because I knew that once they became dull, I'd never be able to resharpen them.
I loved using the tools, but like an exquisite dessert that you savor 'til the last, all the while dreading the sorrowful clink of your spoon at the bottom of the empty dish, I'd limit myself, using them only bits at a time.
Well I was just being silly. You should always indulge yourself with things that make you happy. (I say this merely to reassure myself that my post-holiday physique doesn't look as bad as I think and that perhaps someone might have installed a funhouse mirror in my home while I was out.)
A friend came to my shop on Saturday to learn my sharpening tricks. I think he was surprised at how easy it is to create and maintain sharp edges on gouges.
If you buy a new gouge, do yourself a favor—hone it right away and hone it frequently during use. Do this, and you'll never have to sharpen it with anything other than a strop.
If your gouge is in bad shape, it's still easy to bring it back to its original form. You'll just need to use a more abrasive approach with sandpaper or files before you reach for your strop or slipstones.
The trick is to first make sure the cutting edge is straight across, devoid of chips or waves, and second, maintain the bevel angle as you sharpen and hone. There are lots of sharpening methods, more than what I've shone here, so feel free to offer your own advice.
Now, where did I set that bowl of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream...