Hand Tools doings #19: Sharpening frustrations

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Blog entry by Betsy posted 04-24-2008 04:54 AM 1753 reads 0 times favorited 15 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 18: Sharpening Part 19 of Hand Tools doings series Part 20: Sharpening - from frustration to pretty close to elation »

OK——so last time I told you I was able to get a mirror finish on the backs of my chisels. That’s all swell and nice——I can see my ugly mug in chisels now…... But I daresay my bevels are not fairing quite so well.

I have the Veritas system honing jig and am using the scary sharp system up to 600 wet/dry paper and finishing on a 8000 water stone. The jig I understand and am sure I am using it correctly. I am making uniform scratches along the bevel—- but not turning a burr. I tried 3 or 4 chisels this way and no burr. Then I tried to sharpen without a jig and viola! a burr.

So guys what may be the problem with the jig. I have reread the instructions and have placed the chisel in the jig as instructed and have confirmed that the bevel is flat on the paper. But still no burr.

Then I read spaides blog—- where if he can do it anyone can do it. I am thinking my name is not “anyone.” I’m falling under “that other one” personhood.

Trouble shoot for me guys, please. Give me some ideas of what I’m doing wrong.

I have my Kelly Mehler class in a few weeks and I would rather have my chisels a little more respectable then they are now.


-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

15 comments so far

View jjohn's profile


390 posts in 3856 days

#1 posted 04-24-2008 05:10 AM

My guess would be that if you can put an edge on the chisel without the jig that the jig might not be a quite the correct angle. Just guessing though. Let’s see what others say before you take my word for it.

-- JJohn

View Betsy's profile


3391 posts in 4038 days

#2 posted 04-24-2008 05:11 AM

Thanks JJ

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View Eric's profile


875 posts in 3926 days

#3 posted 04-24-2008 07:52 AM

Maybe it’s not the jig?

When I was taking a class on sharpening, I was told that on the scale of grits, you can only skip one level at a time. So, in this guy’s opinion (he studied under Tage Frid so he at least knows a couple things), you are probably skipping too many grits on your way to 8000.

If I understood this guy right, you could go from 600 to 1200 (skipping 800), and then to 6000 (skipping 4000), or do 4000 and skip 6000 on your way to 8000.

Finally…are you using a nagura stone on the 8000-grit stone?

-- Eric at

View Dorje's profile


1763 posts in 4139 days

#4 posted 04-24-2008 08:30 AM

I’d look good and hard at where the edge of that bevel lands on the paper or stone when in the jig. If it is set to the right angle, or a degree or so higher, I’d think you’d have a burr within a few strokes, pull it off on the stone you polished up that back on and move on to the next…

I don’t think the grit has to do with not getting a burr…if you’re sharpening an edge, you oughtta get a burr regardless of grit, whether it’s 220, 400, 600, 1000, 4000, 8000 (tho the burr from the 8000 might be slighlty harder to detect)...

If your primary bevel angle has been established, you shouldn’t have to work your way up to 600, but rather you should be able to get away with starting at about 1000, pull the burr off and head to the 8000. (I use a 1000 followed by a 6000 with very satisfactory results).

-- Dorje (pronounced "door-jay"), Seattle, WA

View Steelmum's profile


355 posts in 4104 days

#5 posted 04-24-2008 01:23 PM

When I first tried using a sharpening jig I had trouble with the chisel slipping. I would get everything set up properly and after double checking, I would move it to the stone and it would slip. One slip and it is no longer touching properly.

-- Berta in NC

View Lakey's profile


97 posts in 3914 days

#6 posted 04-24-2008 02:34 PM

Geez Betsy – I feel your frustration. You are getting a lot of advice from many directions and it’s hard without a demo. Have you looked at any DVDs or online video tutorials? This is my step-by-step evaluation, and I’m probably going to repeat what other folks have already said, so bear with me. Question first – did you already hollow grind your chisels on a grinding wheel? If so, then …

1. After you put the chisel in the guide and before you tighten it, put them on a piece of MDF or something flat and adjust the chisel in the guide until the bevel is flat on the MDF, then tighten the sucker down. This just helps set-up a little.

2. You can start honing the bevel on a 1000 grit stone – skip the lower grit, it won’t help and might be contributing to the problem. Put the bevel flat on the stone, just like on the MDF, press down firmly on the bevel, and PULL the whole thing toward you, with constant pressure on the bevel. Keep doing this – press on the bevel and pull toward you – it’s much easier to control on the pull stroke. Do this maybe 15 times and then feel the back of the bevel with your fingernail. You’re looking for a little wiry edge, not a great big burr. All this means is that you have successfully removed some steel. When you feel this wire/burr, move to the next stone. I go from 1000 to 4000.

3. On the 4000 grit stone, start by working the back of the chisel to remove the wire/burr you just created. No need to remove the chisel from the guide. Then repeat the same thing – press on the bevel, pull the chisel toward you, maintaining the pressure. When you feel the wire/burr, move up to 8000 and …

4. Same as number 3. When you get your burr on the 8000 stone, remove it on the 8000 stone or if you have and use a honing strop or diamond paste, do that.

If you are going to look at a DVD, I would caution against David Charlesworth’s, not because he doesn’t know what he’s doing, but he makes it sound soooo complicated – and he talks too slowly!

Also, secure your stones somehow – lots of ways to do this – so they don’t wiggle around on you while you’re trying to do this. Keep the stone wet, but the slurry is your friend.

I hope this helps.


-- "No Board Left Behind"

View Mike Lingenfelter's profile

Mike Lingenfelter

503 posts in 4256 days

#7 posted 04-24-2008 03:53 PM

I was thinking the same thing Dorje was thinking. Is your bevel set correctly in the jig. If you aren’t removing material from the tip, you will not raise a burr. Take a Sharpie and mark the tip of your chisel and take a few passes. Did you remove the mark? If not, you bevel might be set to low in relation to your flattening surface. If it did remove the mark, it’s possible that your back is not really flat. It maybe polished but it might not be flat.

View Tony Z's profile

Tony Z

205 posts in 3932 days

#8 posted 04-25-2008 02:12 AM

I just sharpen mine on the concrete driveway. It makes nice, uniform 4 Grit scratches.;)

-- Tony, Ohio

View Betsy's profile


3391 posts in 4038 days

#9 posted 04-25-2008 04:20 AM

Guys—- thanks for the help. I think I’ve worked it out. I don’t have it perfect but I think it was definitely a problem with how my jig was set up. I took some time to really look at the instructions and at how I had it set and low and behold I did have a wrong setting.

Steelmum—- as to the slipping—I was having trouble with that to——but have found out my problem on that as well. You have to make sure that the chisel is dead center in the jig——so use your referencing jig to make sure it is. Then when you tighten the two clamp screws do a little on one side and then a little on the other until it is tight. Then hold the jig up to the light and make sure that the clamp in sitting perfectly level on your chisel. If it is not you’ll know right away because you’ll see some light—- and it will slip when you start to work on it.

Lakey do you always sharpen on the pull stroke? I’ve been doing push and pull on the lower grits and then switch to a pull stroke only on the higher grits. I’m also working on a system to keep those stones in order as well.

So long and short——- I have been getting a wire edge all evening and I think I’m starting to get it. (I know, I know, I’m a slow learner!) I even tried one chisel on end grain of a pine board and it did a whole lot better than it had. So I know I’m making progress.

Thanks for all your great help and support. I know that I would not be as far along on this without all my friends here at LJ.

Tony——as for the concrete driverway——I remember my Dad sharpening his knife on the concrete——seemed to work for him. But I do think I’ll stay with waterstones and sandpaper. :-)

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View Al Navas's profile

Al Navas

305 posts in 4017 days

#10 posted 04-25-2008 05:05 AM

Pretty cool, Betsy!

Not too long ago I took about two weeks off from project work to do exactly what you are doing. I finally have sharp chisels! I share your joy, Betsy – and congratulations!

I am mostly a power tool guy, but more and more I am getting into hand tools, to be able to accomplish things that can be done properly only with hand tools. I am having a blast.

-- Al Navas, Country Club, MO,

View Dorje's profile


1763 posts in 4139 days

#11 posted 04-25-2008 07:29 AM

You seem to be going through this process a lot faster than some of us!

I’m glad you’re getting better results a day later!

-- Dorje (pronounced "door-jay"), Seattle, WA

View spaids's profile


699 posts in 3835 days

#12 posted 04-25-2008 07:55 PM

Matts video is a good and free resource. It helped me a lot. He posted it Sunday August 19th 2007.

-- Wipe the blood stains from your blade before coming in.--

View Betsy's profile


3391 posts in 4038 days

#13 posted 04-26-2008 07:09 AM

Spaids——that’s a good video. I have not watched his videos before. Think I’ll have to be checking out some more of them.


-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View Lakey's profile


97 posts in 3914 days

#14 posted 04-27-2008 01:59 PM

Betsy – I only did the pull-stroke thing when I was learning because it’s so much easier to control. Sounds like you’re there, though – congratulations on making such great progress. It isn’t easy!


-- "No Board Left Behind"

View Betsy's profile


3391 posts in 4038 days

#15 posted 04-28-2008 12:29 AM

Thanks Lakey——I am getting there—still got a ways to go though to be above the novice line—- but working on it and having fun on the journey.

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

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