View Full Version : Sharpen Twice, Cut Once
06-20-2001, 10:18 AM
I have to say that sharpening is still my least favorite thing to do in the shop, but, boy do I love a freshly sharpened tool! I have a Makita sharpening wheel with 120, 1000 and 6000 grit stones, but I usually start out trying to sharpen with Japanese water stones, thinking that I can't call myself a woodworker without perfecting hand sharpening methods and sharpening to finer grits than 6000. After about half a day trying to sharpen on the water stones and ending up with aching arms and hands, I switch to the Makita and quickly straighten out the rounded blades that I have created (and that is with one of those wheeled guides!). It is so frustrating.
So, my questions are:
Is there anything wrong with a blade sharpened to 6000 on an electric wheel? It may not have the mirror polish of a hand sharpened blade to 8000 or finer, but does that really make a difference after the first few cuts?
How can I improve my hand sharpening skills? I have also tried the roller guide on wet sandpaper on a flat machinist's stone (to try to eliminate the issue of stones not being perfectly flat) and have the same problem of slightly rounding the blade (often both from side-to-side and front-to-back.)
Thanks for any advice!
06-20-2001, 11:56 AM
I'm assuming you're talking about sharpening hand tools. If you're talking power tool knives, blades and the like, I have nothing to offer.
Have you tried the scary sharp method, which uses a very flat surface (such as a granite block or plate glass) with sandpaper lightly glued? You can read a full description at http://www.shavings.net/SCARY.HTM#original. Now where this method gets very tedious is when I have a pile of antique blades and irons to redeem, sometimes have to resort to a grinder to remove dings and chips, then do basic shaping before returning to the sandpaper. There's just something about the old metal, something real good that makes it less susceptable to sandpaper abrasion. Because of these tools, I'm thinking of getting a Makita or Tormek grinder; but haven't yet convince myself to spend that much money.
I've set up a 4 part sharpening station that has 3 sheets of plate glass with, progressively, 220, 400, and 600 grit sandpaper. The 4th part is several leather-on-stick honing tools I made. Many use much finer grits, some up to 12,000 (obtainable at auto parts stores) grit; but I haven't found this necessary.
Saw sharpening is an entirely different beast, which I haven't had the inclination to try yet; but a good starting point for western saws can be found at http://www.vintagesaws.com/library/primer/sharp.html. For the moment I'm using mostly Japanese saws with replaceable blades.
06-20-2001, 12:02 PM
LAST EDITED ON Jun-20-01 AT 01:04PM (CDT)
first, I am hesitant to respond because I think you are way ahead of me and most people on the web. I have one thought tho, I, use the Makita to 6000 and then use 2000 grit paper that I flop down on the TS top. I do not use any guide at that point. I think I can feel the right angle and I only make a few swipes (no more than 10.) and always running backword. By doing this and flipping the tool over and doing the other side, I think I get about as honed a tool as I need. From that point on, I usually do not go back to the Makita, but just re-hone with the 2000. It seems to me that this is so convenient a way, that I re-hone more often...less than a minute for a repeat. I have some plate float glass for the sandpaper but havent yet mounted the sandpaper...it is just so easy to hold an 8 1/2 X 11 sheet on the TS.
06-20-2001, 12:03 PM
Forgot to mention Leonard Lee's book, The Complete Guide to Sharpening, great book. You may want to check it out at http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1561581259/qid=993059665/sr=1-4/ref=sc_b_4/102-7178239-8967322.
Funny that you should ask about sharpening. I just finished reading an article about sharpening that stated that "The perfect cutting edge would be infinitely thin, infinitly smooth, and infinitly strong - anything else is a compromise of one sort or another."
At work I am the only one out of about 50 people who has a set of sharp chisels. When chiseling my chisels through the wood with just my hands pushing on the chisels. The other people are using hammers and mallets trying to force there way through the wood with chisels that still has the factory edges on them. I have a friend whose chisel is so dull that he would be better off using a butter knife.
Anyway back to your question the sharper you get your chisels the easier and safer it is to use. I currently am going up to a 6000 grit waterstone using a guide that stays on the stone, and I have never used a grinder on my chisels or plane irons. Be sure to flatten the stones often.
Once you get the cutting edge sharpened and polished it should take only a few minutes to get the edge back if you do not use the tool to much after it starts to get dull.
I have used the sandpaper on plateglass method but I just use wet/dry paper and use a little water to hold the paper in place, works great if I have a nick in the blade.
Good bye and work safely
06-20-2001, 11:20 PM
Sarah; I don?t know if I can give you a good answer, but I will explain what I do.
I use mostly bench chisels and hand planes. I have 4 11 ? x 2 ? Norton diamond stones, 220,325,600,1200grit and 6000 and 8000 water stones. I use a Veritas honing guide. In addition I use a Delta horizontal wet grinder (much like the Makita) If I need to change an angle I use the Delta, its faster to go from 20degrees to 30degrees with the machine than by hand. If I?m going to remove a small nick I use the 4 diamond stone then follow up with the 6000 grit water stone. The only time I use the 8000 grit is if the wood to be worked on contains a lot of resins. I have found that high resin wood will allow a build up on the blade if it?s too course. I use a honing guide for all blade sharpening. I can?t be consistent without one. I know some can do it free hand, but alas not I. I think what ever method gets you a sharp blade to do the job without tear out is just fine.
Hope this helps
06-21-2001, 09:41 AM
Thank you all for your responses. I think I will keep trying to perfect my use of the roller guide on sandpaper or water stones. Based on what you all are saying, I should be able to get the hang of it eventually. I must somehow alternate pressure from left to right on the stroke. I am definately not ready for freehand sharpening.
I agree that the Leonard Lee book is most excellent and I refer to it frequently.