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Folks, I'd like to start sharpening my own "flat stuff", like

plane irons
chisels
planer/jointer blades

I have a basic set of files and $150 to spend.

I've read about regular bench grinders, slow speed grinders, horizontal grinders, water cooled grinders, and various flat stones. I only get a few hours a week in the shop so building my skill with the practice to build up muscle memory is not really practical, and I'd rather spend more time with wood than machines so speeding it up and making a short learning curve is worth some cash.

Someday later I'll think about sharpening various drill and router bits too. No lathe tools to worry about. I'm happy to build my own stuff like adding lighting or building tool rests, jigs and all.

Suggestions how a sharpening-beginner can best use $150? Thanks!
 

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WorkSharp 3000 is a good tool for flat sharpening. A bit over your budget @ ~$180 on Amazon.

Scary sharp can be pretty cheap to get started. Spend some of your budget on a honing guide and something flat, 1/4" plate glass or a chunk of granite. Some use mdf as a base. It just needs to be reasonably flat.

Diamond stones are another option. Probably still need the honing guide until you get a feel for doing it freehand. DMT DouSharp gets you two grits on each stone. Two stones gets you from extra coarse to extra fine.

Water stones is another option. Not that familiar with cost and use of these. And I think they require some special care and handling.

There's a couple to get you started.
 
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My vote:

Buy a DMT coarse plate ($42), a DMT fine plate ($55) and a DMT extra-fine plate ($57) (all prices from Amazon). That gives you enough grits to work on anything that's not already badly damaged, though it won't be great for cleaning up edges that have been badly nicked. For those, a cheap arbor and sanding disks chucked into your drill press will work fine -- I've been doing it that way for years, and I much prefer it to a grinder. If you can go a few more dollars over, get a scrap of leather (find a local leather goods store, and ask if they have any scrap... you only need a piece about 6"x3", so it shouldn't cost much), glue it smooth-side down to a piece of MDF, and rub it with honing compound.

That's all you'll need 99% of the time, unless you tend to run your tools into nails or drop them a lot. I have a use for grinding more often, but that's because I'm bad at remembering to check the edges of used tools before I hand over the cash.
 

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You are going to have a hard time getting any of the machines for $150 unless you get lucky with sales/used machines.

Most bang for the buck (initial investment) is going to be using sandpaper with a guide. The Veritas MKII is regarded as one of the best guides available and will set you back about $70. It will work well with both plane blades and chisels. Add in some money for sand paper and a flat surface and you're good to go. You will have the recurring cost of sandpaper, but it sure is cheap starting out.

I'll outline what I use just so you have another example. I have the Veritas guide ($70) a combination water stone that is 1000/6000 ($40) a synthetic strop ($20) and green compound for the strop ($10). I only use sandpaper when I've gotten a tool with a messed up edge that needs a lot of work otherwise all work is done with the water stone and strop. To save money from this scenario, don't buy the strop. Robson Valley has mentioned that instead of a strop he uses cardboard from cereal boxes. Total cost of my sharpening setup ~ $140-175.

I don't have planer or jointer (except my hand planes) so I don't know what people use to sharpen them.

Many different ways to skin this particular cat, pick one and go with it.

I'm sure others will chime in with their particular methods and costs.
 

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I have one of each kind of sharpening system. This will get as good a job done as anything.

http://www.woodcraft.com/Product/2004864/7535/Granite-Surface-Plate-9-x-12-x-2-A-Grade.aspx Woodcraft puts these on sale a couple of times a year for 25 bucks.

This is a large fraction of your budget, but well worth the 68.50 at taking the skill out of getting a perfect edge. I have one, as well as an original Eclipse, and a Record with a little ball for a pivot point, so I'm not just pulling this out of the air. http://www.leevalley.com/US/wood/Page.aspx?p=51868&cat=1,43072,43078,51868

Get one each of these when you order the MkII. Get the plain. With the surface plate, it has the perfect texture on the surface that all you have to do is put a splash of water on the plate, and this paper will stay in place. Don't get heavy handed with it to start with. Also get some various grits of Wet-or-dry sandpaper to use for coarser grits from your local hardware store. http://www.leevalley.com/us/wood/page.aspx?c=&cat=1,43072&p=33004

I believe you will be a little less than your budget, and you will be able to make an edge as good as anyone. Once you get comfortable with the paper, get some of this film. You can only back up with an iron or chisel on it, or it will get so sharp, so quickly, that it will cut down into the film. http://www.leevalley.com/US/wood/page.aspx?cat=1,43072&p=68943 I bought another one of those surface plates to keep mine on when the plates were on sale. You can probably find something that will work for nothing. 4 or 5 passes on each will put a mirror finish on something.

I have thousands of dollars worth of sharpening stuff. I have oil stones, water stones, diamond stones, and various power grinders and sharpeners. I'm telling you from 41 years of experience that the above stuff I recommended will work just fine. Paper may be more expensive over the long run if you use it every day, but I'm still on the first set of Diamond Lapping Film that is a little over a year old-I did cut some nicks in some of it before I got the hang of it.

With this stuff, you can get something dangerously sharp. Dangerous to the point that it will put you in the ER in a heartbeat, but it makes cutting wood a real pleasure. You can also flatten chisel backs, plane irons, and all but the longest of the plane bottoms.

When, and if, you do decide to spend a few hundred dollars on waterstones, they need to be flattened frequently. I flatten mine with this surface plate, and a sheet of 100 wet-or-dry. I've been using the same sheet for maybe a year-just rinse it off and let it dry between uses. Pour the slurry back on the stone to sharpen quicker.
 

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I'm also going to say something that goes against the popular opinion here: I found that my tools got dramatically sharper as soon as I lost my sharpening guide. I don't know why. Maybe it was broken. Maybe it was defective. Maybe I'M defective. But I misplaced my guide (one of the Eclipse type), and started freehanding. Sharpening got faster and more effective. I also went from the standard bevel/microbevel to the bizarre convex bevel method that Paul Sellers advocates, and that made another jump in how sharp my tools were. This wasn't a "Oh, I had a lot more practice so it was better" kind of thing. This was a "WHY did I never sharpen this way before? I've done this ONCE with the new method, and everything cuts better!" kind of thing. Moving from sandpaper to the DMT stones was a similar experience. The combination means my tools do things that, a couple years ago, I thought they would never be able to do.

Now: I'm weird, and other people have had very different results. I guess my point here isn't so much that my way is best for everyone (although it clearly is for me), but that you should try a few methods. It may turn out that one of them just plain works for you, and others just plain don't. For me, the honing guide didn't work well at all. For you, it may be necessary.
 

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I don't doubt that the Veritas Mk II is a great honing guide, but its way expensive. I usually freehand sharpen, using a free piece of 1/4" tempered glass (dumpster score) and wet/dry sandpaper. I do use a honing guide when I have to re-establish a bevel on a reclaimed iron, or if I have to remove nicks/chips from the cutting edge. I have this one

Honing Guide:Amazon:Home Improvement

Under 20 bucks and works perfectly.
 

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Learning to freehand sharpen is not that hard. Get an inexpensive chisel and an old plane blade and start with those. Use whatever medium you want, sandpaper, oil stones, water stones, whatever.
 

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I freehand sharpen when I need to hone something in the middle of a job. The real test was my two helpers. They are helpless/hopeless by hand, but with the MKII, they can get something as sharp as I can any kind of way.

I keep the cambered roller on it all the time, and only use the contraption that you fumble with on the front to get the distance to the cutting edge once. Then I used an iron set by the gauge to put a stop on the plywood base on one of my grinders. That makes it as quick as any other guide to put on, and as quick as anyone can hone something by hand. I've offered to bet real money on that, but so far, no takers.

I've found that a lot of people who think they are getting something sharp by hand really have never had anything really sharp to compare to. Irons and chisels that come from Lie Nielsen or Lee Valley aren't really sharp to start with even.


Having someone show you how will save some trial and error, but once I showed my helpers, they had it.

I stand by my recommendation to get the MkII to someone just starting, or has had trouble getting something way past razor sharp.

This is not a cheap hobby. 70 bucks is a cheap entry fee for getting quickly to the goal of getting something sharp, which is holding back a LOT of people who don't really understand what having sharp tools can do for the quality of work you are able to produce.

I understand that there are issues with some of the Eclipse knockoffs. I bought an Eclipse when they were the best available back in the early 1970s, and used it for a long time until Lee Valley came out with the MKII. There really is no comparison.

I've attached a couple of pictures. The first one shows a light colored YP shaving taken by a block plane. The chisel is paring Heart Pine. The second picture shows the thickness (1.1 thousandth of an inch) of the block plane shaving. You should be able to tell by the first picture that the shavings taken by the chisel are a lot thinner than the block plane shaving. Both the plane iron, and the chisel were sharpened by my helpers with the MkII. If you can get something as sharp as the chisel by hand, you are doing good, and don't need a guide. Anyone who can't, should buy the guide.

I've had this conversation before, so I already had these pictures downsized.
 

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Lots of ways to sharpen- I use the sandpaper /waterstone methods. Have a piece of granite-cost 5 bucks. Most expensive was the Veritas guide. Helps get everything perfect in the beginning. It is worth every dime. If patient you can find one used on ebay. I sharpen as I go free hand but once in a while get everything perfect with guide.
Agree with above-once you really get something sharp- you will be ruined. Nothing else will be acceptable. PS. I bought all my waterstones on ebay for about half price. Maintenance of them is using sandpaper and granite to keep them flat and do not let them freeze.
 
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1 piece of 3/4" plywood, dead flat, 15"X ~30"

1 piece of glass, ~ 12 X 24"

1 each of 80 and 120 dry sandpaper, then 1 each of wet/dry paper in 320, 800, 1500 and 2000 grits.

this was a woodsmith shop project and it works wonders. pics 2 and 3 are the before, the last two pics are the after. pic 4 shows the reflection of the camera lens in the bevel face, and pic 5 shows the reflection of the ceiling above the flat of the chisel.

fast, easy, inexpensive and effective. and just like on woodsmith shop, i can slice hardwood end grain vertically with ease.
 

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I have a worksharp 3k on the way to me now. It was $159.00 on Amazon with free shipping so I figured what the hell.

I've been using sandpaper on a marble tile and it works well, but it's a hassle to change out the paper and futz around with the jig to set the right projection. It slows me way down. I think having the angles fixed in the Worksharp will be much more convenient. My honing guide also can't accept flat-edged chisels (only bevel edged for some reason) so I took a grinder to it but it's not perfect and I'm not satisfied with the result. I looked at the MK2 jig but $90 later I'd still be stuck having to drag out the flat surface and glue paper to it every time a tool gets dull.

That said, the WS3000 is not a perfect solution. The angle port can't handle plane blades wider than 2" so anything bigger than a Stanley #5 has to be done by hand on the top rest, or with an extra $60 accessory. So I'll still need to use the tile + sandpaper for the jointer plane. It also lacks the ability to camber a blade (I think).
 

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That's a sweet photo story, Tools. Thanks. At least right now, they have that jig up as a video. Do you do planer / jointer blades with it?
No. Just chisels and hand plane blades. I think planer and jointer blades might be difficult to hold correctly, unless, of course, a jig were constructed to hold them properly.
 
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