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Sharpening methods comparison

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Blog entry by Bertha posted 08-12-2017 09:04 PM 2242 reads 2 times favorited 108 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Rather than clutter up threads, I’m going to use this blog to keep track of my sharpening experiments. Let me know if there’s anything specific you’d like to see.

I’ll start with rehabbing a chisel using grinder, diamond, sandpaper, and leather.

Let’s start with a lowly antique store find:

I tend to prefer cast steel tang chisels, usually English ones. This one’s a Moulson Brothers 5/8’ish tang with a busted up handle, split short ferrule, and a rugged cutting end. Lots of pits and the sides are rusted and irregular.

I start by chiseling the handle off and examining the business end.

Now, this won’t do. It’s looking pretty rough. I’d have to remove too much of the back to get past the previous sharpening (wtf) and shallow pitting. Gotta Lorena Bobbit and get the tip off. I’ll just lob this one up for you: I’d rather lose some length than some thickness.

I always start with the back but I give a good look all around first. I don’t want to find deep pitting down the length of the blade and have to toss it with a well-finished back. I’ll push it over a diamond stone 20x passes or so and assess the highs and lows. If the cutting edge is distinctly low, as when dumbasses backbevel chisels, I’ll cut the sucker off and start fresh. In this case, I’ll start with the bevel to make sure I can establish a competent one.

I don’t own a surface grinder, so it’s a lot of work and staying true is difficult for me.I built this ugly grinder after getting fed up with my old bench grinder. It has too many stupid safety features.

I’ve got both the Tormek and JET wet grinders with all the trimmins but I prefer using this rig to set out the hollow grind, then establish the primary (the only angle for me) by hand. So I’ll start by coarse hollowgrinding to 29 degrees.

All looks good, so I’ll switch gears to the back. I want the back totally flat and polished, so I simply start coarse and then increasingly fine. The choice is in WHAT abrasives you choose. For this test, I’m going to use some coarse diamond stones (DMT) and sandpaper (AutoZone lol). I mount my sandpaper on marble window sills (Lowes, $15 or so) with spray adhesive (3M). This is a 10” extra coarse plate:

Pretty rough. I follow it up with the same stone in coarse. Then I move on to the sandpaper (Scary Sharp, they used to call it). I use water only to lubricate and try to clean off stray grit when I can. I’ve found one of those giant gum erasers meant to clean handheld sander belts works well for grime.

160:

220:

320:

400:

600:

800:

1000:
screwed picture up somehow

1500:

2000:

Looking over these micrographs, I few things jump out. I’ve got grit transferring from the previous sandpaper. I’m using more of a swirling motion than I thought. The ultra-high grits actually seem to continue to polish. I always figured anything over 1000 didn’t matter, but I did it anyway.

Now I want to establish my primary bevel, but I want to do it over my hollow grind. The hollow grind allows the tip to remain steady against the paper with less rocking, so it’s pretty easy to do this by hand. I have jig systems and I really like them, but they’re impractical for me unless I’m doing a lot of sharpening (which I rarely do). I’ve got a short piece of marble with 800 and 1000 grit paper. I can quickly sharpen the bevel and back and get back to work. I’m not good enough free hand so after a few intermediate sharpenings, when I’m approaching the base of my hollowgrind, I’ll quickly regrind and shape. I find the whole thing cheap, fast, and clean.

I start with a couple passes on a diamond plate to make sure that I’m getting full contact before and after the hollow grind (I’ve found chisels that were not even in thickness).

Looks good, so I’ll go through the grits, starting a bit finer b/c less metal to remove.

220

320

400

600

800

1000

Then I move to a charged leather strop for a dozen passes.

You can see that a wire edge starts coming off around 800 grit. We are removing veeeeery little metal and I couldn’t see it with the naked eye, even knowing that it was there.

It’s very difficult to take a picture of an edge but this one is very, very sharp. I never understood the “take the hair off your arm” test, as even a reasonably sharp blade will do that. You can gauge how many intermediate sharpenings you have left pretty easily. I could get more in the future by honing less initially, but my freehand skills aren’t there yet.

Totally finished edge.

Crap, gotta make a handle. Im feeling like a Ho. Ho-rmingo negro, that is. I like the shape of the Wm Butcher handle and I generally copy it, albeit a bit shorter with a stouter ferrule diameter.

I’m not the world’s best lather (I’m sure there’s a fancy word for that) but it’s standard stuff: pilot for the tang, shape the handle, finish with buttonlac and wax, and hammer it in with a bit of epoxy.

It turned out to be a pretty nice chisel. I’m a weird mix of conserve/replace. I don’t bother with metal aesthetics, just get the rust off. But if I can make it more comfortable, I’ll alter it. I usually shave bees wax into turpentine with a splash of BLO and put it on the windowsill for a week. I scrub that into everything in sight with 0000 wool. It’s like the perfect utility finish, preventing rust, affording minimum tack, and polishes up if you choose. Anyway, that’s all I did here.

I can see myself reaching for it. Next, I want to do basically the same thing with water stones. The winner will get the same treatment using jigs, etc. I’d also like to look at Tormek and charged honing wheel alone. Thanks for looking!

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog



108 comments so far

View Jim Jakosh's profile (online now)

Jim Jakosh

19805 posts in 2945 days


#1 posted 08-12-2017 10:04 PM

Very nice documentary of the process! Nice handle , too. that English steel is very good!

Jim

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

View AaronK's profile

AaronK

1495 posts in 3304 days


#2 posted 08-12-2017 10:15 PM

interesting. im surprised by the roughness left by the higher grit papers. any chance you could polish it on a strop or equivalent grit whatever and take a pic?

View Bertha's profile

Bertha

13465 posts in 2533 days


#3 posted 08-12-2017 10:40 PM

Aaron, tt was already stropped in the last bevel pic. Charged, then raw leather.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View AaronK's profile

AaronK

1495 posts in 3304 days


#4 posted 08-12-2017 11:25 PM

Oops sorry I missed the caption… Wow I’m really surprised the edge looks so rough… It looks like really minor improvements above 600 grit. Even the wire edge isn’t fully gone with stropping. Are you absolutely sure you were actually getting the edge abraded?

View Bertha's profile

Bertha

13465 posts in 2533 days


#5 posted 08-13-2017 01:04 AM

You know, I’m not totally convinced but it kind of looked like a subtle improvement to me. Keep in mind these were taken at 20X. In real life, you know how you look at your reflection to gauge the polish? Well, in this case, the reflected image did appear to get slightly clearer. It was still me, though lol.

I think my paper is probably heavily contaminated from coarser grits. Hell, maybe even from my spray bottle or wiping rag. Maybe I’ll do another run with fresh paper. However, I’m most interested in the stones. I’m going to do 320, 600, 1000, 4000, 6000, and 8000. I have a feeling they will look terrible under the microscope but they’ll be sharp as hell.

I use sandpaper and jigs with death metal going; and stones and freehand with symphony going. It’s a mood thing and I’ve always been curious what’s really going on. All the popular methods can get a chisel/iron insanely sharp from a functional standpoint. I like to start trouble about sharpening and SawStop, so this will at least give me some ammo!

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View TheFridge's profile

TheFridge

8336 posts in 1326 days


#6 posted 08-13-2017 01:20 AM

You can tell there is a slight difference from pic to pic but I did expect a little more smoothness. Even in some pics under heavy magnification it looks a little smoother to me. Interesting stuff nonetheless.

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

View AaronK's profile

AaronK

1495 posts in 3304 days


#7 posted 08-13-2017 02:10 AM

Weird… What might help – at least with freehand experiments – is abrading at alternate angles with each successive grit, that will allow you to see what scratches or improvements come at each stage… I mean, for example, holding the blade like 10° off straight for 600 grit, then -10° for 800 etc etc.

LOL you’ll get no arguments from me. I use a blue DMT plate, fine waterstone (using mineral oil), followed by stropping with green stuff all freehand because… They were yard sale finds for dirt cheap, and works faster than the worksharp and scary sharp with eclipse jig methods I used previously. I like the oil vs water because my shop gets sub zero and I can’t keep water around all year.

View Bertha's profile

Bertha

13465 posts in 2533 days


#8 posted 08-13-2017 03:44 AM

I usually do just that, Aaron, but I thought it would be so pronounced that I wouldn’t need to. I’ll do that tomorrow on the waterstones and see where it gets me. I’m still blaming the old paper currently lol. I also canted the really bright LEDs to take the “busiest” picture possible. I’m not sure I’d see a lot of those gouges looking straight on.

I’ve never known anyone to use mineral oil on waterstones, but I don’t see why not (and now I know someone who does it). I can’t remember what someone used on a diamond plate that ruined it. Acetone maybe? I’ve been scared of anything but water since, as those 10” plates are pretty expensive. What you do is kind of like the Tormek philosophy. Get a nice clean bevel then hone the $hit out of it. I do it with lathe tools but I’ve got a mental block against an untouched hollow grind on plane irons/chisels. Which is a shame b/c the best thing about the Tormek/JET is the diamond trueing jig. In my mind, without that feature, it’s just a big 220 grit wheel; and the plane iron jig is meh.

For jigs, I used the eclipse for yeeeears but now use the Veritas only for the 90 degree register and the camber wheel. I like the supersolid results but what a pain in the ass. I punted my worksharp.

I’d just like to get to a point that I can rapidly get a new edge freehand without making a big production of it.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View thedude50's profile

thedude50

3599 posts in 2318 days


#9 posted 08-13-2017 11:57 AM

Well done

-- Please check out my new stores http://woodratnest.com and http://woodshopstore.com

View Andre's profile

Andre

1497 posts in 1646 days


#10 posted 08-13-2017 03:50 PM

Funny how over a period of time we think diferent ways may be better or quicker!
Have never really giving diamond plates a real chance but have a few for certain
purposes (flattening my water stones) and skipped the sandpaper method completely.
I hollow grind with a hand powered grinder with a 6” white stone, use 180 – 220 grit adhesive back
sandpaper to flatten backs usually on a granite block or the cast jointer bed.
Then start to sharpen on a 1000 water stone followed by a 8000 hone/polish.
Do almost everything freehand, if a plane blade is really out I may dig out the Mk-II
Recently picked up some good oil stones to try but so far not impressing me, but do like
the speed and less mess part!
A great mentor, teacher once told me you can see dull, and he was correct!
Anyways great blog, interesting to see hear your final conclusions!

-- Lifting one end of the plank.

View AnthonyReed's profile (online now)

AnthonyReed

9443 posts in 2280 days


#11 posted 08-14-2017 02:05 PM

Interesting. Thank you.

-- ~Tony

View Bertha's profile

Bertha

13465 posts in 2533 days


#12 posted 08-15-2017 10:35 PM

Thanks, guys. Round 2 waterstones.

I played around with my sandpaper and to say they’re contaminated is an understatement. My leather strop must have some coarser grit stuck on it somewhere. I passed some fresh polished tool steel around and both need help.

So, I started this time with a nice Addis chisel. I own a lot of Addis carving/gouges but I only have a handful of straight chisels. Here’s this one before I start:

superficially pitted, that’s fine. Irregularly cut, but I’ve seen much worse.

Typical story, start with the back. I’ll go coarse diamond (dmt), fine diamond (dmt), then waterstones (shapton), then a final strop on the bevel. It’ll come off the wheel hollowground and I’ll do the rest by hand. Water lube, nothing else.

THE BACK

coarse diamond

fine diamond

(I lost pictures for 800 and 6000 somehow)

1000X (at this point the surface is really blurry/frosted; I love the look if it would cut)

4000X (getting a touch glassier)

8000

12000

THE EDGE

800

1000

4000

6000

8000

12000

After stropping

Here’s an overall at 0X (the rest are at around 25X)

It’s sharp as balls. I can’t remember when I took the honing pic (I resharpened a few times and kept trying it). A couple of honings looked really bad, with some decently deep gouges.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View Bertha's profile

Bertha

13465 posts in 2533 days


#13 posted 08-15-2017 10:38 PM

Here’s the chisel done. Great chisel.

I posted that first photo twice for some reason. I think I meant to post this before:

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View Bertha's profile

Bertha

13465 posts in 2533 days


#14 posted 08-15-2017 10:40 PM

And above, “0X” should really mean about 3X if you include the ocular.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View Andre's profile

Andre

1497 posts in 1646 days


#15 posted 08-15-2017 11:20 PM

Curious, do you push or pull back on the Water stones?

-- Lifting one end of the plank.

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