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Techniques & Methods #1: Scary Sharp Method

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Blog entry by PurpLev posted 06-18-2008 03:43 AM 21841 reads 15 times favorited 28 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Techniques & Methods series Part 2: Fixing Messed-up Blind Dovetails »

so just like every other woodworker at one point (what’s up with the other every other woodworkers is beyond me…) I was researching and learning about ways to sharpen my chisels, planes, and other blade tools in the shop.

Since I am the weekend warrior at this point, and I do not need to resharpen my tools THAT often, nor THAT much, I figure that I can do without any expensive powertools (there are several of those on the market) to sharpen blades and I dont really have the space to store those either way. This still leaves me with several other options.

I figured I’d start with the Scary sharp method as it is the cheapest to get into, and in the future, if I end up collecting waterstones one at a time, maybe I’ll go that route, but from my present (very good) experience with the scary sharp method- I may just stick with it, as the abrasive doesn’t really get worn off as quickly as I thought it would making this a very long lasting, and very cost effective method for me to use.

To all who don’t know what the Scary Sharp method is: The idea is to stick sand papers of different grits on a piece of glass that is true and flat and run your blades over it, moving from lower grits that form the bevel, to finer grits that remove the scratches from the lower grits, to the finest grits that polish the beveled blade to a razor sharp mirror finish. This method really merely uses sand paper which is readily available almost anywhere (finest grits are available at either automotive parts stores, or woodcraft stores, or online)

What I picked up in a recent post on Fine Woodworking really helped me a lot in making this procedure easier to run, and much faster to render. the idea was to have only 1 sheet of sand paper glued to the glass, and to have the finer grits just placed on top of that glued sandpaper, resulting in the abrasive from the glued sandpaper preventing the other sand papers from moving about because of it’s friction as shown in this picture:
sand paper on top of sand paper

This makes it easier as you do not need to glue every sand paper directly to the glass, and have different plates of glass for each sand paper, or having to remove and reattach sand papers to the glass plate. you simply have 1 sheet stuck to the glass, and the rest are easily put on when needed, and put away when not.
closer look

What I have done is stuck a whole sheet of 100grit paper to the glass plate and I use that to roughly set the bevel on the blade. Every few strokes I flip the blade, and lap the back of it to make it flat and remove the burr that is formed at the edge of the blade. Once I have a uniformed scratched bevel, I put a narrow piece of 230grit paper on top of the 100grit, and the abrasive keeps it from moving as I use that to remove the scratches off of the bevel that were made from the 100grit paper. Once again, every few strokes, I flip the blade, and lap the back to clean it, and remove the burr at it’s edge. Once the bevel is uniformly smoother, I repeat the same process with a 400grit paper, after that I take it to a 600grit paper. at that point the bevel is faitly smooth and clean, but not mirror shine YET.

Next I use 1000grit paper (got it from Woodcraft as noone else carries these finer grits … not even Rockler to my surprise!) I spray a few drops of WD40 on the edge of the 1000grit paper and let the bevel run over that (but not the honing guide itself!). Again – flip blade, and lap the back. and move to the last 2000grit. At this point the blade still is lightly oiled, just enough to lubricate it, but not too much as to mess up the work area. I run the last few (20) strokes on the 2000grit paper, flip the blade, lap the back, and clean the blade with a cloth.

At this point the bevel edge is razor sharp – slices through hair, and as a mirror shine.

If you wanted- you could go with higher grit abrasives (sand paper, water stones, etc.) but for me, for the time being – this is more then enough:
Mirror finish
Shine finish

This procedure is only necessary to go through once to set the bevel on the blades, but after it is set and done, and you lose the edge on that blade, you can run a quicker procedure with only running through the 2000 grit paper which takes a few seconds. and if needed use a lower grit to clean anything that cannot be cleared with the highest grit.

EDITED: D I S C L A I M E R :
Good points have been raised as comments, and I’m glad people took the time to respond to this blog. Some suggested the use of different materials such as granite for the backing, and baby oil for the displacement of metal dust. some suggested higher quality abrasives, and these are all good points and should be considered if you are researching this subject. other good resources for sharpening and honing have been mentioned in the comments, and also some good articles are available at Fine Woodworking, and Popular Woodworking.

What I have been writing here is about my own experience using materials, and objects that I had at hand and readily available at home. This procedure as mentioned above has proved to provide me with results that are far better then I had expected and I wanted to share that with anyone that might benefit from that. This procedure is extremely fast for me to go through when needed, and requires minimal preparation and storage space – all of which suit me very well. If this technique worked so well for me – it might work that well for you too (and then again … maybe it won’t… :o) )

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.



28 comments so far

View WayneC's profile

WayneC

12290 posts in 2751 days


#1 posted 06-18-2008 03:49 AM

Great write up. One suggestion is that once you get the back to 2000 grit, you should only use the 2000 grit paper.

Do you leave the paper free or attempt to secure it to the glass with water or another method?

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View PurpLev's profile

PurpLev

8476 posts in 2302 days


#2 posted 06-18-2008 03:57 AM

WayneC – I will definitely go that route next time I need to clean my edge… thinking about it – going anything lower will just remove more material from the blade unnecessarily!

Thanx!

the 100grit paper is stuck to the glass on 4 corners using double sided tape (carpet tape).

I’ve actually read on another article in fine woodworking where they suggest not running your honing guide over the abrasive paper AT ALL. I think it’ll preserve the guide better, but the strokes will have to be shorter which will make the job more tedious… does anyone have any takes on this one?

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View WayneC's profile

WayneC

12290 posts in 2751 days


#3 posted 06-18-2008 04:07 AM

I’ve just run the guide on paper. Also, I’ve use a Granite surface plate and wet dry sandpaper instead of glass. Basically, you use a spray bottle to wet the stone and the paper will stick. I just run the guide over the abrasive. I also have the cambered roller for the LV guide. Allows me to put a slight camber on plane blades.

http://www.woodcraft.com/family.aspx?FamilyID=4864

I have a Worksharp and that is my favorite method of flattening the back and setting angles on the blades. I use water stones for final honing.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View daveintexas's profile

daveintexas

365 posts in 2530 days


#4 posted 06-18-2008 06:18 AM

Good informtion. I am like wayne, I got a piece of granite for free, most granite places have some cut offs that they disgard. I like it because its heavy. I use 3m spray adhesive to hold my paper to the granite, and the granite is just the right size to hold 4, quarter sheets of paper.
And I use water on the paper, may have to try the oil method tho.
Thanks for posting.

View Tom Adamski's profile

Tom Adamski

306 posts in 2425 days


#5 posted 06-18-2008 06:19 AM

After many hours of using the scary sharp method, I agree it produces a wonderful cutting edge. I have since moved onto the water stones abd have not regretted it as they produce a fine polished edge just a little quicker. Two recomendations I have, one; stop using the glass. Buy the “salt & pepper” granite tiles from Menards home center. They are 12” x 12” x 3/8” and perfectly flat. Oh yea, when on sale they are less than 2 bucks. Recomendation two, Don’t place your finer grits on top of the course grit. It will telegraph its texture through to the finer grits. Don’t believe me? Throw a hand full of gravel onto the bed and the put on the fine linnen sheets and try to get a good night’s sleep. Instead, buy a few of the “cheap, cheap, cheap” granite squares and spray mount the grits onto each one.
Buy the way, granite is more durable “read: less breakable” than glass. Also, glass that is less than 3/8” thick is really not that flat… FYI

Tom

-- Anybody can become a woodworker, but only a Craftsman can hide his mistakes.

View PurpLev's profile

PurpLev

8476 posts in 2302 days


#6 posted 06-18-2008 03:31 PM

Thanx for the comments y’all – I’ll pick up a granite slab whenever I come about one, but in the mean time I just use glass – cause I just had it to begin with… I’m pretty sure there are some granite shops around, so if I’ll catch one in the corner of my eye, I’ll stop by and grab a couple – even if just to prevent the chance of a glass breakage…

Tom: I’m sure the courses grit transfer in some way through the finer grits, but in my experience, and for my use, it produces good enough (actually – very good) results, and is super fast, but I guess if I’ll have several smaller Granite slabs I could just have one grit on each, and just swap between slabs… with the glass I was just trying to avoid having a large surface of grits…. easier to focus on a smaller size glass.

daveintexas: The only reason I’m using oil is because I dont really like the idea of water & metal… call me anal, but thats just me. I actually may try swapping that with mineral spirits which might be less messy… we’ll see, for now all I’ve got is this WD40 which IS a (water) displacer… so seems to work very well displacing the mess away from the edge of the blade.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View Texasgaloot's profile

Texasgaloot

464 posts in 2354 days


#7 posted 06-18-2008 07:51 PM

Hey Y’all—

I too have been messing about with this method for more years than I care to admit, although I’m not above learning something new. Great write-up! FWIW, I’ve heard of guys even using the tops of their tablesaws in a pinch. The only pause I have about putting a sheet of sandpaper on top of another sheet is that some papers tend to curl a bit in higher humidity conditions. The curl (in my experience) often results in either cut sandpapers or rounded chisel edges. (I’m on a no-bad-words campaign now that my 11 year old is starting to show an interest in the shop.) Just food for thought.

-- There's no tool like an old tool...

View PurpLev's profile

PurpLev

8476 posts in 2302 days


#8 posted 06-18-2008 09:19 PM

Texasgaloot: that is true, the sheet of sandpaper on top does tend to curl (I think you can see that in the photos I posted) but from my experience with it so far is hasn’t torn up, nor did it rounded the edge of the blades… but thats a good point to think about.

I guess different experiences will dictate different methods. so far this one works well for me.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View sIKE's profile

sIKE

1271 posts in 2408 days


#9 posted 06-18-2008 09:25 PM

I recommend instead of using WD40 and its ilk, use baby oil instead it is cheap, can be bought in bulk, and can be sprayed. Remember all you are looking for is a light weight mineral oil to float the metal bit away to increase the life of the abrasive. I use granite tiles to grind and hone my edges. I also use the high grade 3M Micro-finishing abrasives. Brent Beach as the most awesome write up on the scary sharp method, along with shop made jigs and empirical proof that using the Micro-finishing abrasives gives you the best/sharpest edges you can get. His web site is here.

-- //FC - Round Rock, TX - "Experience is what you get just after you need it"

View WayneC's profile

WayneC

12290 posts in 2751 days


#10 posted 06-18-2008 09:41 PM

RE: using tablesaw tops. People also use jointer beds for sharpening….

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View PurpLev's profile

PurpLev

8476 posts in 2302 days


#11 posted 06-18-2008 10:04 PM

sIKE: Good Reading Material! Thanx.

only problem with using the Tablesaw/powertool top is that you’re occupying that space, and it’s easier to move blocks of glass/granite around, and not so much take that sand paper off of your table saw and replace it with another… haha.. kinda messy

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View Grumpy's profile

Grumpy

19455 posts in 2505 days


#12 posted 06-19-2008 02:35 AM

Great blog Purplev. I use the same technique. Have you tried a diamond stone?, they are dead flat & cut very well & probably quicker than the emery paper.

-- Grumpy - "Always look on the bright side of life"- Monty Python

View PurpLev's profile

PurpLev

8476 posts in 2302 days


#13 posted 06-19-2008 04:50 AM

Grumpy: I was looking at the DMT diamond stones, and maybe I’ll get them one at a time… but I heard mixed opinions about them from people having different experiences with those stones. from what I read, they are great for truing stones, and for setting up scrapers, but not so great for chisels and planes… I take it you have a different opinion on the matter – I’d love to hear more. I like the fact that they do not lose their form, but how long do they last? and are there any limitations/cons to them when comparing to waterstones? I’m still not sure which route I’ll take in the future, but in the mean time, the cheapy sand paper does great service for me.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View WayneC's profile

WayneC

12290 posts in 2751 days


#14 posted 06-19-2008 04:55 AM

You also may want to look at the worksharp. It is another option that is close in cost to a set of water stones or diamond stones.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View Grumpy's profile

Grumpy

19455 posts in 2505 days


#15 posted 06-20-2008 01:18 AM

Purplev, I have only been using the diamond stone a short time so can’t comment on the life, I think GaryK uses them, he might have a better idea.
I have used the diamond plate for chisels & plane blades, also wet stones & as you do the emery paper on glass. After a few more shardenings on the diamond stone I might have a better idea but to date I am impressed with the result. Unfortunately they are a bit expensive.

-- Grumpy - "Always look on the bright side of life"- Monty Python

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