Scary sharp? Or barely sharp, but learning

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Blog entry by Cato posted 10-26-2010 03:24 AM 1991 reads 0 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch

So had the day off today and thought I would take the time and try out the glass and wet/dry sharpening system that I got to attempt to sharpen my new and old planes.

Set up and went with coarse 220 to 600 grit and then went to fine grits 1000,1200,1500. I have 2000 but did not try that yet.

I should back up and say that I am going to have to read more about bench planes and their adjustments, as I have very little experience with them.

I did manage to take them apart and put them back together correctly I think. Sharpened my little Stanley block plane that is a bevel up, my old Stanley #4 plane, and my new Woodriver #6 plane.

All in all I think my pocket knife may be sharper after this first attempt. At least my pocket knife will really take the hairs off your arm, where my plane blades took a little but I definitely do not have the method and technique down yet.

Practice practice. I did try the planes out on the edge of a 5/4 ash board. At least I learned a little how to set the blade and get some fine shavings, but it took some effort to push the plane down the board.

Once I can get the plane blades closer to what people refer to as scary sharp, then maybe I will feel more comfortable with hand planing.

I haven’t ever really needed much in a hand plane, but then I have always done more DIY home projects that were more carpentry than fine wworking. I better look out this dabbling could lead me into trying to do something that involves skill levels above my normal butchery of lumber.

7 comments so far

View canadianchips's profile


2600 posts in 2991 days

#1 posted 10-26-2010 03:42 AM

You are well on your way.
You started !
When you have your first paper thin shaving roll off the plane….THEN YOU WILL BE HOOKED .

-- "My mission in life - make everyone smile !"

View Blakep's profile


232 posts in 2796 days

#2 posted 10-26-2010 04:00 AM

Your off to a better start than me. I bought an electric hand plane a while back and tried it out a few times. It was horrible ha I definintely need a lot more practice because it has scared me into not using it again since.

View Broglea's profile


685 posts in 3085 days

#3 posted 10-26-2010 04:07 AM

Cato – Did you use a sharpening guide? Spend the $10 if you don’t have a guide and you will be scary sharp in minutes.

View Gofor's profile


470 posts in 3781 days

#4 posted 10-26-2010 05:10 AM


A couple of observations solely based on my own experience, and I am still a novice:

1. With the 2000 grit, just give it a little side to side on the front and back. Knocks off any micro burr won’t dull anything)

2. A REALLY sharp blade will dig in faster than a dull one, especially if you are going against the grain. I start mine where it will not cut and then gently advance it (1/8th turn at a time after the slop has been dialed out of the adjuster). If it digs in where I need a lot of pressure when it first cuts, I have found that the mouth is too wide for the species of wood, the plane sole is not flat, or I misread the grain. (To get fine shavings, a 1/32” mouth is a starting place. Open it more if it clogs up.) This is also where I fine tune the squareness of the blade to the surface if it is not a cambered blade. If it starts hitting on one side, I hit the lever to get it square, if that is my need. Going against the grain results in a deeper cut than with it, in my experience, so sometimes I have difficulty getting a truly flat glue edge on a wood the changes grain direction. I have to work form both directions and sometimes use a shorte plane when edge jointing boards for glue-up.

3. To really get the hairs to jump off my arm, even after the 2000 grit, I hone with green compound (chromium oxide) or the one hard Arkansas Washita oil stone that I have. A cheap buffing wheel loaded with chromium oxide will only take one pass on each side to make a big difference. A leather strop or a board rubbed with it takes more strokes. Realize in honing, the blade is pulled backwards, not pushed into the abrasive.

A sharp iron wants to cut. If the plane mouth is wide and the wood soft, it will take a deep shaving even with just the finest bit of the edge exposed. If the sole is dished at the mouth, all you are going to get are heavy shavings, because too much blade is exposed when it hits the wood. Once it bites, it will flex and dig down, and the wood levers up thicker as the sole is not keeping it compressed.

All that said, getting the hairs to jump off my arm is really not necessary for most initial work. The deeper cuts take that edge off fairly quickly. The edge I get with the 1000 grit is what I really work with most of the time. However, honing (either with a honing compound, or dragging it back over the 2000gr) as the push gets harder maintains a good working edge for quite a while if the blade is of decent hardness.

Blakep: I also have an electric one. It is great for taking a lot of wood off in a hurry. Mine is now only used to flatten free-hand chain-sawed logs to make a flat bench top surface. Not much good for anything else in my world, but carpenters use them to get doors to fit, I hear.

For reference in terminology: I consider a fine shaving as less than a thousandth to maybe .002”. Medium is .002 – .005”, and is what I usually use to get wood close. With my scrub plane, I will take off .015 to .030 at a whack (dished and somewhat narrower), but it gets rough wood to shape quickly.

Again, I am a novice, so may be either too aggressive or too conservative in my settings compared to those who are real galoots. Still learning and welcome any critiques on my post from those in the know.


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View Cato's profile


701 posts in 3306 days

#5 posted 10-26-2010 12:37 PM

Thanks for the advice. I was pushing the blade and pulling across the grit. I will try just pulling.

Gofor- the mouth on my #4 and #6 is way wider than 1/32 when the blade is adjusted to just barely cut. I guess there is an adjustment for that, I just don’t know how to do that yet.

My little block plane has a moveable mouth, so I can set that close.

For grins I measured some of the curls after sharpening. I got as fine as .001, but mostly around .003, so it sounds like I was getting close to proper cutting depth.

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2137 posts in 3103 days

#6 posted 10-26-2010 04:02 PM

Cato, for the sharpening process, I would recommend using a guide and pushing the blade into the grit instead of pulling. Where you want to pull, is when you use the buffing wheel. You build up the edge by consistent strokes and then polishing off any of the remaining swirls. When you push the blade, you are grinding the edge. Think of a grinder, the abrasive is moving toward the edge. When you are polishing, you are using a fabric wheel so moving into the wheel will pretty much shred it. You are very close to a good edge. I think if you repeat the cycle you are doing now with just a pushing motion, by the time you get to the high grits, you will have a much cleaner edge.


-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

View Gofor's profile


470 posts in 3781 days

#7 posted 10-27-2010 01:18 AM

Yes, to clarify, when sharpening, I push the blade into the abrasive. Honing is just finessing the final sharpened edge with a very fine abrasive (the polishing step David described. He said what I meant.:) . Sorry about the confusion. I should have specified my terms because some people refer to the entire process as honing.

As for push or pull or both when sharpening, Leigh-Nielson has a demo video that shows using both as a back and forth motion. I personally usually just push, as it gives me better control, but be aware there a conflicting schools of thought. I will try it one day when I remember to, but most of it is automatic to me now. I have found the push/pull method to cause me to rock the blade, giving a rounded bevel.

And yes, I too use a guide. (Veritas Mark II)., and write the settings for primary and alternate (and back bevel if there is one) on the blade with a Sharpie, so next time I can easily repeat the exact angle. I have several spare blades so experiment with different bevels, etc, as well as have a flat and cambered one so i can go from flattening to jointing an edge quickly.

As for the #4 you have to move the frog to adjust the mouth. The frog is the assembly on which the iron sits. With the iron removed, you will probably see 2 screws going straight down into the sole. Loosening the screws allows you to move the frog to open or close the mouth. Depending on the age of the Stanley, there may be a screw under the blade depth adjuster. If so, turning this screw will move the frog, but the mount screws still need to be loose for it to move. If there is no screw, then its just a matter of sliding it by hand. Re-tighten, install iron and check. Repeat as necessary to get the opening you want. Its basically a trial an error adjustment on the Stanleys. If there is no frog adjustment, its one of the early model Stanleys. (made prior to 1920 I think).

I have never seen a Woodriver plane, so do not know if the process is the same or not. Surely someone else will chime in here with more and better advice.

Hope this helps and doesn’t add more confusion.


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