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post #1 of 51 Old 02-13-2013, 12:42 AM Thread Starter
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Share your sharpening secrets!

i'll go first ...

i'm a cheapskate, so here is my method of sharpening ...

i was originally doing it free hand with chisels and an oil stone i got from home depot, but my results were not nearly as sharp as the blade on the plane dave sent me, so i decided to try the inexpensive robert larson honing jig.

i also picked up a bunch of different grits of dry sandpaper cheap (i work for 3M) and a buffing wheel and polishing compound from a clearance table at sears.

my sharpening station is simply a piece of melamine-covered piece 1 1/4" thick particle board, like what they use for desks. it is flat enough for me. if i really wanted to be anal about a flat surface, i guess i could get a few of the tiles marble tiles at home depot, or go to a kitchen place for a piece of granite countertop, but this thing is definately flat enough for my purposes.

i set mine to give me a 28 degree bevel, what i consider a good compromise between the 25 and 30 bevels that are so common for chisels and plane irons. i simply glued a piece of a free paint stirrer to a scrap 1x4 to make it easy to insert the blade.

i hold the sandpaper down with a weight or my left hand and run the blade one direction only (away from the sharp edge) to help keep it from wearing down the sandpaper as fast.

i also put a magnet on the blade to catch the metal shavings/dust which helps keep the sandpaper clean. every so often, i wipe the grey dust off the blade onto a paper towel, which i throw away when it gets nasty. that is also when i check my progress.

on a new blade, i start with 100 grit paper to make sure blade is square. when it is square, the sandpaper will touch the whole bevel every stroke. you can put marker on the bevel and run it a few times to see that, but after you have done it a while, you will be able to tell without having to use a marker. depending on how out of square the blade is, this part can take a while, but at least you can see progress as you go, and eventually it's square.

also on a new blade, i make sure the back is flat.

once the blade is square, it only takes about 10-15 passes each on the 220, 500, 800 and 1500 grit papers to get it ready for the buffing wheel. i have 400, 600, and 1000 grit too, but they don't really add anything, so i skip them. plus, i have 50-100 packs of the ones i use, so they are what i use most.

between each grit, i run it on the back/flat side a few times to get rid of any burr. on the 800 and 1500, i alternate between the bevel and back sides a few times with only a few passes per side to make sure the burr is as small as possible.

then i use the buffing wheel with my drill. the sears didn't have the green buffing compound, only the red stuff, so that is what i use. but it still puts a great mirror polish on it.

for a strop, the cardboard from cereal boxes and the like is a good option. again, i'm a cheapskate, and we have an endless supply of cereal boxes.

now my blades are so sharp that i can shave the hair off my arm with them. even the home depot chisels and the buck brothers plane iron.
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post #2 of 51 Old 02-13-2013, 07:36 AM
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I do 90% of my sharpening with a $60 home depot grinder, a $55 aluminum oxide wheel for the grinder and an $18 flea market oil stone. I made a strop for stripping the burr.
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post #3 of 51 Old 02-13-2013, 07:42 AM
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Chris, I pretty much do the same as you with a couple of variations. I use a piece of 1/4" plate glass i got free from a local glass shop. I put two grits on each side. I attach it with a light spray of 3-M #77 adhesive which is easy to remove with a heat gun or blow drier. I finish with a fine India oilstone. After using a few of the $15.00 honing guides I bought the Veritas MK II, pricey but well worth it if your'e in this for the long run. I like your tip on the magnet, I'll try it next time.

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post #4 of 51 Old 02-13-2013, 08:42 AM
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To each their own. If it works then you have a good system going. I'd try to get some green paste for the wheel though. The green stuff is like .5 micron and I think the red is not as fine. I found my Lowes has the green made by Porter Cable. I had a stick that came with my old Worksharp's leather pad but I used that up. I cut up an old leather tool belt that I got in a box of misc. at an auction. I then attached it to a flat piece of plywood with staples in the "endgrain". I put sandpaper on the backside with adhesive spray. I keep this strop on my bench now and every so often give a few polishing passes free hand during use of my planes and chisels to refresh the edge. Works great.
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post #5 of 51 Old 02-13-2013, 09:19 AM Thread Starter
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To each their own. If it works then you have a good system going. I'd try to get some green paste for the wheel though. The green stuff is like .5 micron and I think the red is not as fine. I found my Lowes has the green made by Porter Cable. I had a stick that came with my old Worksharp's leather pad but I used that up. I cut up an old leather tool belt that I got in a box of misc. at an auction. I then attached it to a flat piece of plywood with staples in the "endgrain". I put sandpaper on the backside with adhesive spray. I keep this strop on my bench now and every so often give a few polishing passes free hand during use of my planes and chisels to refresh the edge. Works great.
I will keep my eyes open for the green stuff.

ACP, please share your sharpening process, thanks.
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post #6 of 51 Old 02-13-2013, 02:47 PM
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Sure Chris.

I used to use a WS3000, then sandpaper on a granite tile, and am now a waterstone user.

I have the Norton combo set. 220/1000 and 4000/8000. I flatten them with an x-coarse diasharp stone. It also creates a slurry that helps the stones slice through my A2 irons. I use a Veritas MKII for my guide, though I have a Robert Larson for cambered irons.

If I get a used iron that is rough, I will regrind the primary bevel on course sandpaper on my granite plate with the MKII. I'll then use the 220 stone and the 1000 stone on the primary. I'll stop there and go back to the 220 and set a secondary bevel. I'll then work my way up the grits 220, 1000, 4000, 8000 on the secondary. I will rub the back a few times each grit also. Once I have completed the 8000 there should be a very nicely honed secondary bevel. I then take it to the strop. It's an old carpenters pouch leather on plywood. Green chromium oxide compound. If the irons in the MKII I'll just leave it there and strop it on the pull stroke about 10 times then do the back about 5-10. At this point it should shave the arm, slice the paper, etc. In use I will continue to strop every so often. Keeping the strop on the bench and using it often prevents me from having to break out the waterstones as much.

You can use the cardboard or cereal box cardboard too, but I have found I like the feel of the leather more. The green crayon is 3 bucks at Lowes by their buffing wheels in my store. Lee Valley has it too for like 12 I think. Might be a bigger chunk, I don't know.

Oh, I will free hand strop, no guide for that. It's really easy to draw it across the strop a few times quickly without dubbing over the edge.

I liked sandpaper, and if I had an unlimited source I would use it still probably, but the sandpaper added up. I also got tired of cleaning off the 77 adhesive for the next grit or a new sheet. The WS3000 was a major PITA cleaning the plates off and putting a new disc on.

SO that's how I've come to do it. Thoughts?
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post #7 of 51 Old 02-13-2013, 02:57 PM
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I never do the same thing, sometimes I would use paper on a granite stone, sometimes I would use water stones, sometimes I would use diamond plate, then to paper or water stone.

I always use the Lee Valley guide with angle tweeking.

For carving chisels I hone with a fiber wheel on a bench grinder.

Last plane iron I did the main bevel on a wet grinder and a few strokes back on water stones.

What is nice about paper is it stays flat, what is bad is one has to replace the paper and it gets messy.

Water stones are nice, but they have to be maintained and dressed very carefully to maintain flat accuracy.

Pure mathematics is, in it's way, the poetry of logical ideas. - Albert Einstein.
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post #8 of 51 Old 02-13-2013, 03:02 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks ACP. I know what you mean about the PITA aspect of the adhesive thing. That is why I have gravitated to just holding it down with a weight or my left hand. I find it doesn't require much downward pressure to get the paper to do its thing on the bevel, and the jig keeps it square, so using one hand to hold the paper down does not seem to affect the results.

The next time I'm at Lowes, I am going to pick up some of that green stuff.

What angles do you use for the primary and secondary bevels? Are they different depending on if it is a plane iron versus a chisel, or even depending on the plane's usage (fore, jack, smoothing, or block)?

Also, what angle(2) do you use for your low angle block planes?

Last edited by Chris Curl; 02-13-2013 at 03:04 PM.
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post #9 of 51 Old 02-13-2013, 04:04 PM
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If you're doing dry sandpaper, just lay the next grit on top of the old one, it (usually) will hold it on place.

That bowl was perfect right up until that last cut...
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post #10 of 51 Old 02-13-2013, 05:05 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by sawdustfactory View Post
If you're doing dry sandpaper, just lay the next grit on top of the old one, it (usually) will hold it on place.
i'll try that, thanks

can you share your sharpening process with us?
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post #11 of 51 Old 02-13-2013, 05:10 PM
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Thanks ACP. I know what you mean about the PITA aspect of the adhesive thing. That is why I have gravitated to just holding it down with a weight or my left hand. I find it doesn't require much downward pressure to get the paper to do its thing on the bevel, and the jig keeps it square, so using one hand to hold the paper down does not seem to affect the results.

The next time I'm at Lowes, I am going to pick up some of that green stuff.

What angles do you use for the primary and secondary bevels? Are they different depending on if it is a plane iron versus a chisel, or even depending on the plane's usage (fore, jack, smoothing, or block)?

Also, what angle(2) do you use for your low angle block planes?
My bevel down planes are 25 deg and the micro bevel is set by the MKII, I think it's something like 2 to 5 deg. My bevel ups I will move around sometimes. My low angle block is likely around 25 with the secondary bevel making 27-29ish. My chisels are 25 ish too. I think a couple are 30, like the 1" and higher. I try to not get too complicated with bevels. My plow plane's are 30 or 35, I didn't change the factory bevel on those, nor did I put a secondary on them. They are easier to hone free hand that way. My BU Jointer is 35 with a secondary set by the MKII.

I think the rule is with chisels, the lower angles for smaller chisels b/c they can take the force like a nail would. Standard angles for middle size and higher like 30 for larger. Someone can correct me if wrong, but that is what I use. Bevel downs I try to stay around 25, and bevel ups sharpened for their main task. Higher for smoothers, middle road for jointers, lower for shooting planes and the like. I pine for a Veritas BU Jack......
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post #12 of 51 Old 02-13-2013, 05:18 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by timetestedtools View Post
I do 90% of my sharpening with a $60 home depot grinder, a $55 aluminum oxide wheel for the grinder and an $18 flea market oil stone. I made a strop for stripping the burr.
rockler has aluminum oxide wheels, but the highest grit it talks about is 150.

does such wheel make it unnecessary to go through all the different grits, so you can go straight from the wheel to the strop?

if so, i'm very interested in that
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post #13 of 51 Old 02-13-2013, 06:30 PM
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I go from the wheel to either my hard oil stone or my 3 Micron dmt. No need to go thru the grits, but a stone is necessary. I typically only use the strop on the back to remove the burr. I've tested stripping after. It may help very very little after the dmt but nothing after the oil stone.

I've also found it best to never end stripping the back. Always hit the bevel a few strokes last.
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post #14 of 51 Old 02-13-2013, 08:20 PM
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I actually now sharpen on Norton water stones. Im trying to "train the hand" and use Rob Cosmans little device and sort of freehand. I have a Veritas jig for fixing things if the hand misbehaves ;-)

I have a grinder, but have not been using hand tools long enough to have to regrind yet. Only use it for turning tools.

That bowl was perfect right up until that last cut...
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post #15 of 51 Old 02-13-2013, 08:57 PM
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Chris, the other nice thing about a hollow grind is the added ability to free hand. Start with thicker irons or chisels. Set the iron on the stone and rock it. You'll feel a "click". This tells you the iron is "flat" to the bevel. You can then sharpen at the bevel and its easy to see your front - back progress because your not touching the hollow. As you get better you can free hand even the thinner irons.

I put my index finger from both hands close to the stone on both sides of the iron and push down. If you push hard enough the bevel will ride level. Its hard to push that hard for that long, so just let your hand "help" the iron ride at the right level.

I know its easy to just grab the guide and you know you got it right, but when your in the middle of a project, being able to just swipe the iron 4 or 5 times and go back to work is a bit of a physiological advantage. Besides its cool to say "I sharpen freehand".
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post #16 of 51 Old 02-14-2013, 03:29 PM
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"Carving Sharp" is a concept. Different from "wood working sharp" and different from "kitchen sharp".
1. I use oil stones for repairing gross damage, changing bevel angles, making a tool edge and tuning up my 40 degree knot-busting chisels. I wouldn't dream of starting here with wood carving tools.
2. I use waterstones if and when I can see "sparks" of light along the edge of a gouge = must have hit sand particles, the edge is crumpled.
3. I can tell when the tools get "hard to push". My edges rarely last more than 30 minutes. I have a hard leather strop on a stick with chrome green honing compound.
4. Everybody has their favorite total included bevel angles. These work for me in both softwoods and hardwoods:
Knot busters and my kitchen bone cleaver = 40 degrees.
Wood carving gouges, skews & V-tools and good kitchen knives = 20 degrees.
Wood carving knives, straight and crooked = 12 degrees.
5. I am deadfully hopeless at estimating angles. So, I have cards with my useful angles on them, standing by the sharpening medium, whatever it may be.
= = =
There really are several tricks:
a) paint the bevel with black felt marker so you can really see where the metal is coming off.
b) match the angle of the tool shank to the angle on the card for the pull stroke. No need to press hard.
c) Before the stroke, lock your elbows to your sides. This sustains the tool shank angle. Also, it helps to prevent sweeping the tool edge up off the sharpening medium = that action will round off the tool bevel to something totally useless. Particularly important with the knives.
= = =
So. An assembly of kit. All stones ride in "cages", clamped to the bench.
Angle card(s)
Rolling a 5/35 to do the sweep in one pass
Finishing the 5/35 at the end of the pass. Then reversing the direction of the roll. Easiest to see on a 4K waterstone.
Some knives.
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post #17 of 51 Old 02-14-2013, 03:38 PM
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Crooked knives are a slightly different matter for me. 4 of the 8 knives have double bevels. I found that it was easier to clamp the knife and move the sharpening medium.
1. I sharpen with 1,500 grit automotive finishing paper wrapped around a piece of 3/4" aluminum tubing.
2. The strop is cereal box cardboard, wrapped around another piece of tubing, charged with chrome green. I go straight to that from the 1500 grit with excellent results.
3. Same deal with the angle cards and I use 12 degrees total included bevel for all of these.
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post #18 of 51 Old 02-14-2013, 04:17 PM
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Originally Posted by WillemJM View Post
I never do the same thing, sometimes I would use paper on a granite stone, sometimes I would use water stones, sometimes I would use diamond plate, then to paper or water stone.

I always use the Lee Valley guide with angle tweeking.

For carving chisels I hone with a fiber wheel on a bench grinder.

Last plane iron I did the main bevel on a wet grinder and a few strokes back on water stones.

What is nice about paper is it stays flat, what is bad is one has to replace the paper and it gets messy.

Water stones are nice, but they have to be maintained and dressed very carefully to maintain flat accuracy.
I do almost word for word what Willem does. It depends on the condition of the blade I am working on.

When I first started to get serious about sharpening I had to unlearn nearly everything I did. But the most important thing is this quote I was told by a University Professor when I was studying.

It has nothing to do with woodwork but applied to my field of working with Animals.

His Number One rule was " Do no damage, don't make things worse and then try to improve on that. "

That same rule applies across nearly everything we do, especially sharpening. When first starting to learn how to sharpen efficiently I was going to say correctly, but their is no one correct way. But many incorrect ones.

I believe using mechanical power sharpening systems should be banned until one has some rudimentary idea of what one is trying to achieve and why. Sure it takes longer doing it by hand but mistakes take longer to form also.

The next most important thing as far as I am concerned is to know ' How sharp is sharp. " If we do not know what we want to actually achieve, how do we know if we have achieved it.

That is why I believe we should do it by hand until we reach some degree of proficiency and then we can move on. I have seen tradespeople who believed they could sharpen but , infact, it was difficult to know which end of their chisels to use.

Pete
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post #19 of 51 Old 02-14-2013, 04:20 PM
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This thread is really going to help me. My order of stones and strop shipped today. I can't wait to sharpen my chisels and plane... the plane I think Dave sharpened already but I'll dull that soon enough =)
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post #20 of 51 Old 02-14-2013, 04:27 PM
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Thanks to Robson Valley.

I am always fascinated by Robson's sharpening threads. His clarity, photos and advive have helped me tremendously since I have had the good fortune to meet up with him on these internet forums.

It is like doing a refreher course to maintain and upgrade ones professional skills. And yes, with sharpening to me, it's a case of use it or lose it.

I have to keep my hand in otherwise I find bad habits creep back in. That is why I like sharpening all my friends chisels and goughes etc. They are more talented then me but hate sharpening, so it is now a good symbiotic relationship.

Pete

Last edited by STAR; 02-14-2013 at 04:35 PM.
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