Crazy Stuff Stumpy Thinks About #17: Some people just ain't too sharp!

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Blog entry by StumpyNubs posted 03-30-2012 01:26 PM 2265 reads 0 times favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 16: Don't lie... YOU HAVE TOO MUCH WOOD! Part 17 of Crazy Stuff Stumpy Thinks About series Part 18: The WoodWright's Shop & The Highland Woodworker... I dunno about this... »

There are a few golden rules in woodworking: You can never measure it too many times. You can never have too many clamps. Never spill your beer on the table saw. And it’s never, ever… sharp enough.

If you only use power tools, you’re missing out, buddy! For the love of everything holy, go buy at least one hand plane! I guarantee, when you use it for that first project, you will be hooked forever! There is nothing in this world, I kid you not, like the feel of razor sharp steel cutting smoothly through wood.

But there’s a problem, one that has turned countless new woodworkers away from hand tools, forever to live on the dark side with its power saws and random orbit sanders. It’s a problem that manifests itself the very first time they put steel to wood. You know what I’m talking about… the plane clogs, tears at the fibers, and makes a mess of things, and it often leads to a chunk of cast iron and rosewood crashing into the wall across the shop.

The very first time I picked up a hand plane I encountered this problem. It was a brand spankin’ new plane. I was certain it was a good one because I’d spent a whole $20 on it at Walmart, and the polyurethaned wood handles glistened like the morning sun. I grabbed a chunk of 2X4 and set the blade deep, because I thought a good plane should remove a lot of wood. Let me edit this story for the PG audience and just say that it didn’t work out so great. No matter how I set the blade, I ended up with a clogged mouth (on the plane, not my face) and a mess.

I was one of the lucky ones. I had read about the frustration that most new hand tool users can experience, and I resolved to never give up. Like a lone soldier fighting for the freedom of future generations, I kept at it until I had unlocked the secrets of this strange and wonderful tool.

Actually, there was just one fundamental secret that changes everything. It’s a secret so valuable, so precious, so vital to life itself that it has been carefully guarded by a handful of craftsman and passed down from one generation to the next for centuries. And I am going to share it with you for free. (Actually, you can mail me fiver if you feel so inclined. I won’t turn in down.)

Sharpen the stinking thing! Sharpen it, and then sharpen in again. Then sharpen it some more, and when you think you’re done, sharpen it again. The most expensive plane is nothing but a paperweight unless it is properly sharpened. And by sharpened, I mean honed to an edge that will scare the hair off your arm at the very thought of shaving it. This type of sharpening is not possible with hardware store sandpaper. You need the good stuff: honing film, stones, or my personal favorite, polishing compound.

If you are new to hand tools, do yourself a favor that will literally change your life. Dedicate yourself to learning the craft of sharpening. Then get ready to enjoy the world of hand planes in ways you never dreamed of!

While you’re at it, check out the only woodworking show that is worth it’s weight in sawdust: free episodes of Blue Collar Woodworking are at!

Visit our Stumpy Store to help support the show!

And in case you missed it a wile back, here’s our episode about my favorite way to sharpen. It takes the Worksharp 3000, ditches the expensive paper and glass discs, and turns it into a super-duper sharpening dream machine!


A lot of people have been asking me to make these plans available. It is the designs for the Worksharp 3000 setup I did in Blue Collar Woodworking episode #6=. It is a holder for the system with a drawer for accessories, plus a platform to sharpen wide blades, a holder for a full range of MDF discs with less expensive sandpaper and buffing compounds instead of the pricey honing films. It also has an attachment to use Tormek and Jet jigs.

Thought I'd post it for those who have emailed me about it!

-- Subscribe to "Stumpy Nubs Woodworking Journal"- One of the crafts' most unique publications:

11 comments so far

View Bluepine38's profile


3379 posts in 3108 days

#1 posted 03-30-2012 01:41 PM

I started working with planes in 1952 in high school shop, and was very happy when I was able to use
a belt sander to finish off large pieces of wood used to make a coffee table and large cedar chest. I
still have an old Stanley block plane and smoother plane that are never to far from my hands in the shop.
I was going to buy a larger plane a year or so back, but Stanley quality has deteriorated somewhat, so I
am saving up for a good plane. Thank you for bringing back good memories.

-- As ever, Gus-the 79 yr young apprentice carpenter

View Roger's profile


20928 posts in 2827 days

#2 posted 03-30-2012 01:47 PM

Very good post Stumps. One thing for sure also is simply this: A dull tool, becomes a dangerous tool.

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed.

View DocSavage45's profile


8589 posts in 2866 days

#3 posted 03-30-2012 02:54 PM


I did check out this video earlier. It’s well done. It reminded me “I have a worksharp sitting on the shelf.” The box and machine were new when I put them on the shelf and later became a shop cat bed! After watching I said “gotta put an edge on my tools.” pulled the box off the shelf and found the manual had deteriorated some! Grrrrr!

Took time to sharpen 30 chisels so far! Gouges, lathe tools, and plane blades next!


-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View Philip's profile


1277 posts in 2562 days

#4 posted 03-30-2012 11:17 PM

Good post, good advice. I read a FWW article about sharpening with sandpaper and thought yeah! now were talking.
...then I looked up the sandpaper the guy uses, might as well buy a diamond stone for that, or a few cheap sharpening machines.

-- I never finish anyth

View StumpyNubs's profile


7598 posts in 2824 days

#5 posted 03-30-2012 11:20 PM

Phillip- I use buffing compound. It’s cheap as heck, and it works great. But you need a machine like the Worksharp in the video above to apply it. Sure, the machine is expensive, but I think you save a lot in the long run.

-- Subscribe to "Stumpy Nubs Woodworking Journal"- One of the crafts' most unique publications:

View ShaneA's profile (online now)


6955 posts in 2621 days

#6 posted 03-30-2012 11:29 PM

Great post Stumpy. Nothing like the frustration of a dull edge, or the excitement and joy of a sharp one.

View Martyroc's profile


2712 posts in 2329 days

#7 posted 03-30-2012 11:52 PM

Good post, I had similar issues many many years ago and it wasn’t until 7 or 8 years ago until I finally figured it out. I spent a few weeks ago sharpening my planes and chisels, took me just about all day, well worth it. I now have over 6 hand planes and 2 dozen chisels, some good some great some lousy, but even the cheap lousy ones work good as long as they are sharp, only problem is the steel is cheap and doesn’t hold the edge.

Where were you 20 years ago when I needed this advice, I hate figuring stuff out for myself, way to lazy for that. :-)

-- Martin ....always count the number of fingers you have before, and after using the saw.

View MoshupTrail's profile


304 posts in 2504 days

#8 posted 03-30-2012 11:58 PM

So what you’re saying is, I should get into a hand plane so that I can spend lots of money, time, and frustration on sharpening. I get it. :)

-- Some problems are best solved with an optimistic approach. Optimism shines a light on alternatives that are otherwise not visible.

View StumpyNubs's profile


7598 posts in 2824 days

#9 posted 03-31-2012 11:31 AM

No, Moshup… I am saying you should get a hand plane. AND you should learn to sharpen it so that you can AVOID spending lots of money, time and frustration! :)

-- Subscribe to "Stumpy Nubs Woodworking Journal"- One of the crafts' most unique publications:

View rodman40's profile


166 posts in 2350 days

#10 posted 04-15-2012 07:34 PM

Hey Stumpy, Started working on my WS platform today, got most of the wood cut and ready to assemble, going to order the extension bar from a web I found that ships for FREE, love free shipping, here are a couple pics of the cut parts, Thanks again,default,pd.html?ref=JET_wtbjetn708040 Hey Stumpy free shipping is on 299.00 of shopping oh well.

-- Rodman

View StumpyNubs's profile


7598 posts in 2824 days

#11 posted 04-15-2012 08:04 PM

Can’t wait to see the end result. Post it as a project on Facebook when it’s done!

-- Subscribe to "Stumpy Nubs Woodworking Journal"- One of the crafts' most unique publications:

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