Newly bought tools rarely come with a honed edge.
Trying to work with blunt tools will be a frustrating
Honing often and lightly to insure good cutting edge will
For many woodworkers the honing process can be akin to a
moment of meditation.
Like many DIY'ers I’m eager to
get on with the job.
The sharpening process is something to get out of the way as quickly as
However, there have been times when, after a hard week at the day job
mind hasn’t been as sharp as it should be.
And that is when
I've made mistakes.
I've cut a miter the wrong way
or put the tenon on the wrong end or
something equally stupid.
found is the perfect time to stop and do some tool
amazing how therapeutic it can be.
hour sat quietly going through my tools, honing the edges and I'm
ready to get going again and so are my tools.
Some woodworkers use wet-or-dry
sandpaper to sharpen their tools.
This can be done using sheets of successively finer grits on a
such as a sheet of glass.
However, the time and expense of constantly having to replace
the paper are
probably why most use stones.
have long been the
favoured sharpening method in the west.
The natural, quarried “Arkansas” (pronounced
‘Arkan-saw’) oilstones are legendary for their quality.
They keep their shape and flatness with little maintenance and
will last a
However they do cut slower than waterstones.
Oil stones do require lubricating to speed the cutting and
Stones made from diamond particles bonded
to steel or plastic
are very popular among those who use them.
They cut quickly and are lubricated with water.
The coarser grits are ideal for flattening the backs of tools
maintain the flatness of water stones.
While the finer grits are not so common diamond paste can be
used for fine
have always been
more popular In Asia.
water stone is has microscopic particles of quartz suspended in a clay
As you sharpen the clay slowly dissolves to expose fresh
As the quartz particles are always fresh and sharp the stones
However as the stone wears it must be periodically flattened.
They are available in many grits from 800 to 8000 the finest.
They can be flattened quite quickly using a rough piece of wet
silicon carbide paper or carborundum powder on a piece of glass
diamond stone is a lot easier to use.
Waterstones must be soaked before use and if possible kept
moist so they
will build up slurry in use.
files are small
stones used for sharpening carving chisels.
They are available in many
section shapes, the teardrop and
cone shapes are
the most popular and convenient.
of Grit are indicated by
number starting with low numbers for the coarsest grit to high numbers
The most usual grades available are, from 800 for coarse, 1000
1200 for fine and extra fine grits of 6000-8000.
The two finer grades are sometimes known as silver and gold
should all learn how to sharpen all those cutting edges easily and well
Being able to hone your tool immediately on a stone without
having to set up
a jig is quick and satisfying.
The technique of holding a tool at a consistent bevel angle is
difficult, however it does require practice.
The problem is that you
need to maintain the same exact bevel
time or you will create a series of bevels at each sharpening attempt.
Fortunately for those without the confidence or practice there
honing guides on the market.
These will, once the blade is set up correctly ensure that you
get a perfect
angle to that bevel.
Flattening the back of a chisel or
plane blade is as important as honing the bevel.
Good quality tools should be sold with a flat or almost flat
However, it is wise to make sure that the back of your tool is
Fortunately it’s not the whole of the back that needs to be
a small area along the cutting edge, but it is up to you how much you
If the back of the blade is not perfectly flat it will be
remove the burr formed when you hone the bevel.
Finish off with a fine stone to give a flat mirror finish.
You also need to make sure that the edge of your plane’s cap
iron/breaker/chipper/chip breaker is flat,
Any gaps between it and the blade will trap shavings causing
The Bevel Edge.
Most chisels, bench and block plane blades are
manufactured with single bevel angled at 25°.
While this angle is fine for cutting softwoods the edge is
somewhat on the
weak side for cutting hardwoods.
This is one of the reasons most woodworkers will hone a
secondary bevel of
about 35° at the very edge.
Another good reason for a narrow secondary bevel is that it is
easier to sharpen as there is less metal to remove.
Once you have decided on the best angle for your tools it is
stick to it.
There are several honing guides which have ingenious systems
for setting the
angles, squaring the base and even setting skews and cambers.
With the more simple honing guides you'll have set it by eye
Check the blade to be sure that it is staying square.
You can use a try square and a fine felt tip pen to draw a
guide line on the
back of the blade.
On the final honing it’s a good idea to very slightly round of
very corners of plane blades.
This will eliminate a sharp corner marking the wood.
It goes without saying that the more metal you need to remove
the should be the grit of the stone you start with.
For final honing use a fine grit.
Whatever type of stone being used always clean the blade
grits to avoid contaminating a fine grit stone with coarse grit.
When a burr forms all along the back of the blade you know
that it is time
to move to a finer grit.
This burr will become finer as you move to finer stones but
you will be able
to feel it catch your fingernail.
To remove the burr alternately rub back of blade flat on the
stone then the
bevel edge until the burr drops off.
Finishing off by stropping will put that
extra polish on the cutting edge which, will help it retain its edge
that all those minute bits of burr are removed.
is the traditional material used for stropping, however any fine
textured surface would do.
If you have suitable strips of leather it is a simple matter
to tack it onto
thick piece of wood.
However, combination strops with coarse to fine leather, ready
made can be
bought quite cheaply.
You can use a fine stropping paste on the initial strop but
not on the
finishing final strop and don’t allow the paste to contaminate the
If your final honing stone was 8000 grit (gold) it may not be
necessary to strop and do not use a stropping paste as this
be coarser than the stone.
woodworkers prefer their blades hollow ground as they are marginally
hone, there being less metal to remove.
However as the hollow
ground tool is repeatedly sharpened the hollow will
disappear and will require re-grinding.
While grinding is fast and effective, for most of us it is
for major alterations such as repairing damage.
The danger of using a grinding wheel is over heating the
A sure sign of over heating is if the metal begins to turn
If this happens it means that it has lost its temper and will
not hold and
The only cure is to grind away all the blue area and start
Use the wheel at a slow speed and if there is no water trough,
dip the blade
regularly in water to keep it cool.
Once the tool is ground, hone it on an oil stone until a
bright line appears
all along the cutting edge and the heel.
As you will have to constantly remove the blade from the wheel
to cool it,
you will need some way to ensure it goes back on to the wheel at the
Use a guide clamped on to the back of the blade, this can be
just a piece of
wood which will act as a stop against the tool rest.
As far as
only Tormek has produced a honing jig for
gouges , designed to be used on their water-cooled sharpening systems.
This is where you
will have to learn to hone by hand.
For out-cannel gouges those with the bevel on the outside of
the curve place
the stone sideways and use a figure of eight movement across the stone
enough rocking motion to hone evenly across the edge.
Then use an appropriately sized slipstone to remove the burr.
For in-cannel gouges use the slipstone to hone the bevel then
the flat stone
for removing burr.
Because of the way Japanese blades are made, with a hard
steel cutting strip laminated to a softer steel backing there is no
hone a secondary bevel.
The soft iron backing is usually hollow ground to minimize the
material that has to be removed when honing.
However, this does complicate things when, eventually
sharpening begins to
creep into the hollow ground area.
While maintaining this hollow isn’t strictly necessary, to do
so is a
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