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I remember watching a youtube video once about a large competition in Japan to see who could get the longest and thinnest single curl with a hand plane, the skill and sharpness was amazing, they were almost transparent.
 

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Thanks for that descriptive outline. I forgot to mention, I'm using a Veritas MK 2 guide when using just the flat stones. Sounds like I need some intermediate grits.
Yup, you really do. Jumping from 220 to 1000 is way, way too big of a jump, its like trying to read the 4th floor of a building by jumping from the sidewalk. Honestly, going from 1000 to 4000 is a bit much too, personally id like to have a 2500 in the middle there as well.

You mentioned some issues with clogging, what are you using as a lubricant on the stones, and what kind of stones are they? I know you say wet stones, but unfortunately wet isnt really a type of stone, just a catch-all term. Are these waterstones, india, arkansas, etc..?
 

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Discussion Starter #23
The stones I have are Norton aluminum oxide water stones. They describe them as "For fast sharpening and fine finishes on planes and straight chisels, chose the Norton Combination Grit Waterstone. These dual-grit sided synthetic stones are softer than oilstones and are used with water and minimal pressure to quickly sharpen and polish for a quality final product. Available in a variety of grits for a number of jobs, including the repair of damaged tools, cutting, finishing, and polishing. Color-coded by grit to make selection quick and easy. "

The lower grits I have are individual stones; the higher grit is 4000 on one side and 8000 on the other. I use water as lubricant. I've tried everything from spritzing to a continuous flow across the stone while sharpening. I think I've even tried adding a little dishwashing liquid to the water. They just clog - almost instantly. I suppose it could be the quality of the stone, although these stones weren't exactly cheap, that's why I'm doing some investigation before making a (another) big investment.
 

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A Nagura stone will help clogging by creating a slurry it prevents clogging. But I got by for years without using one, just hit it with the flattening a couple seconds to clean up the black schmush. Be sure you wipe or rinse the chisels clean before going to higher stone transferring schmush from the previous grit.

You need a few more stones something on the order of 400, 800 & 1000. I use diamond plates for the lower grits.

Sharp tools are the foundation of ww'ing, so think of it as an investment. There are cheaper water stones on Amazon, but you'll get what you pay for. BTDT.
 

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With my diamond plates I use Windex, when I see the black stuff floating up in the area at the end of the stroke, I give it a spray it and wipe it off with a rag
 

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Read the late Leonard Lee's book on sharpening. Available through the company he set up. Lee Valley.
You will find two pages of photographs made with a scanning electron microscope (SEM). There is no better way to examine a metal edge at any magnification.

I'm always carving in very softwoods (red & yellow cedar) so "carving sharp" can't be pounded in with a mallet.

What I learned is that steels are so soft and plastic when thinned to an edge that 1,500 grit (3 micron nominal particle size) is as far as you need to go. Then hone on some sort of a strop with CrOx (0.5 micron) mixed with AlOx (0.25 micron) to finish with a nicely polished surface. I put all my water stones and expensive diamond plates away. I use 3m fine finishing wet&dry silicon carbide sandpapers. The strop is an office file card with honing compound scribbled on it.
For my carving adzes, I use a tennis ball as a mandrel.

Don't forget to always paint the bevel with black felt marker to follow your progress.
I've been using the black felt tip trick for plane irons and chisels for many years and as my eyes have grown old with me it makes more and more sense to use it.
I also do not believe you need to use any grit beyond 12 to 1500 grit, especially if you use a two step stropping process of a Green polish proceeded with a stropping of White or Red. As you said any finer a grit your edge will roll over or fracture off. I've tried using a finish with 20K and end up having to sharpen again in the quarter of the time than with 1500 grit.
 

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LL point out that really thin steels at an edge are very flimsy.
It's poor thinking to imagine that you can do any better and the pictures are proof of that fact.
I was gung-ho to do 4,000 and beyond until I saw those SEM pictures. Such DOGMA.
I put all the stones away, shifted to simple silicon carbide papers up to 1,500 grit (3 microns)
and never looked back.
 

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LL point out that really thin steels at an edge are very flimsy.
It's poor thinking to imagine that you can do any better and the pictures are proof of that fact.
I was gung-ho to do 4,000 and beyond until I saw those SEM pictures. Such DOGMA.
I put all the stones away, shifted to simple silicon carbide papers up to 1,500 grit (3 microns)
and never looked back.
??? So you abandoned honing to a higher grit b/c you’ve concluded it weakens the edge, therefore you’ve settled to work with duller tools? Either you’ve misinterpreted something or the entire ww’ing world is about to be upended.

Seriously, honing is really polishing. It removes very little metal. It’s really nothing more than removing scratches and grooves left by coarser grits. The strength of an edge is a separate issue from sharpness — related to the angle, steel quality and mass of steel backing up the edge. In addition, a secondary or tertiary bevel is higher than the primary.

On a micron level, a dull edge is jagged and less consistent. The more it’s polished, the less jagged IOW more sharp. In use a less honed edge fractures and the edge rolls over much faster. Maybe what you’re confusing is a low angle edge has less steel backing it up, even though it’s sharper, it rolls over more easily.

Sharpening is a very individual thing -- it boils down to what you think is sharp enough. Much depends on the specific tool and also the wood. 1500 paper is roughly equivalent to a 1500 water stone. I’m positive any SEM pic will show an edge honed to 1500 is much more jagged than one polished to16000 — IOW duller.

You’re system would never work for me, as well as thousands of other ww’ers. The paucity of hair on my left arm will prove this 😉😉. I think I’ll stick with the dogma.
 

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Discussion Starter #29
I've often been curious about the need to sharpen to higher grits. It seems to me that honing a tool to a polish also make it slipperier, making it slide through the wood more easily. I'm kinda thinking it might be different for a chisel that you use by hand versus one you beat with a hammer.

Anyway, my interest in sharpening is that I hope to build a guitar. This involves using a chisel so shape braces that are glued to the top. The margin for error is small (or more accurately, the cost of screwing up is large). The pros do this with ease using sharp tools. While touring a guitar factory, I watched workers shape braces quickly and accurately. I asked if they had a department dedicated to sharpening and they told me that each person was responsible for sharpening their own tools.
 

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I can't argue with the factual evidence presented in several pages of scanning electron microscope images of steel edges. I have no unsupported generalizations or assumptions to make.
The finest of edges is needed to cut the softest materials. That, in fact, is why bison meat is so easily cut with flint.

I report a technique for sharpening wood carving tools which is entirely satisfactory for working in soft conifer woods.
However, if you do not select the wood correctly, no amount of faffing around will ever make a useful edge.
 

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I agree Example: When I know I will need chisels I bring my own in. An individual at the Senior Center Wookshop picked up one to try it, he got a nasty cut as he was used to what I consider dull chisels there and pushed way to hard. His comment to me as he was bleeding all over the floor, "your chisels are to damn sharp". When I want to shape, shave, or pare I only want to use hand pressure, if doing a mortise I have chisels that I leave at 1200 and use a mallet, but when I want to fine tune it I use the 8000 ones
To each their own I guess.
 
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