Metallurgical Chisel Photos.. After Sharpening

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Blog entry by YooperCasey posted 01-08-2008 02:47 AM 1641 reads 0 times favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch

So for those of you who read my first post, heres the results! I decided to finish this part tonight because I remembered I am getting my wisdom teeth pulled tommorow morning, so I’ll be out of commision for a bit.

I spent about 35 minutes with the Veritas Mk2 jig. I started with the 1000 grit side and moved to the 4000 grit side. At the end I’ll post some pictures of the factory finish that came on the chisels.

This is the blade edge at 40X, notice that even when cleaned up there is still some rough edges?

Here it is at 100X, the rough edge becomes much more evident.

And finally at 400X, due to the light the rough edge appears slightly better, but it is only from the fact that we can see the rounding, or rather can’t, my scope only shows reflective surfaces, and since a radius isn’t reflective I may or may not pick it up, in this case I can’t without rotating the chisel.

This is the bottom side showing a corner (40X), notice the “frosting” on the edge? I think it is either from the slurry building on the edges, or me placing uneven pressure on the front/back strokes slightly chamfering the edges.

Here is the bottom at 100X. If you look close you can see ghosting of where I haven’t fully cleaned up the old grinding marks, even though with the naked eye it looks perfect. The speckles might be corrosion or dried on grinding agent.

Bottom of the chisel at 400X. Multiple directions of grind evident.

A side view at 40X, a fine point is evident though barely.

Factory bottom at 40X, much closer and it lost any definition of size.

Factory edge at 40X. So rough it was actually difficult to focus on it, plus the reflection was too low for any good detail.

I didn’t get the opportunity to put it onto the comparator but for measurement our machinery is only good to +/- 2 minutes, so we are within the range of the machine tolerance. I would have to send it to a metrology lab to get exact results. However I did put the face of the chisel on a profilometer which registered as 1.8 Ra. Or, .0000018 inches (Ra is the arithmetic average of the absolute values of the profile height deviations from the mean line, recorded within the evaluation length).

As I add more stones and chisels I plan on comparing them and will post results.


-- Casey, Engineer, Escanaba, MI

11 comments so far

View Blake's profile


3443 posts in 3901 days

#1 posted 01-08-2008 03:12 AM

These are great, Yooper. When you are all done, maybe you could post a side-by side comparison of the same piece (and same magnification) from before and after sharpening and different methods of sharpening.

Thanks again!

-- Happy woodworking!

View Blake's profile


3443 posts in 3901 days

#2 posted 01-08-2008 03:16 AM

Hey, just thought of something else…

When you are done with the chisels, (since you obviously are set up with the equipment) maybe you could take microscopic photographs of the surface of wood:

  • From the lumber yard
  • After being power planed
  • After being cut with a high quality table saw blade
  • After being hand planed
  • After being scraped with a card scraper
  • After being power sanded with a ROS
  • After being hand sanded
  • After Being “whetted” to raise the grain
  • After Being Oiled or finished

Just an idea! Those comparisons would be interesting, I think.

-- Happy woodworking!

View YooperCasey's profile


58 posts in 3860 days

#3 posted 01-08-2008 03:19 AM

I’ll have to see what I can come up with Blake. My scope is a specially designed metallurgical microscope and may not perform too well on most of those surfaces. I’ll have to do some experimenting and see if I can find a way to flood the area with enough light to pick up reflections.

Gimme a bit, I’m sure I can hammer something out. Glad ya like it!

-- Casey, Engineer, Escanaba, MI

View Dorje's profile


1763 posts in 4024 days

#4 posted 01-08-2008 03:31 AM

You delivered…the next installment! Thanks – this is fun.

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

View Karson's profile


35125 posts in 4427 days

#5 posted 01-08-2008 04:29 AM

Great. great. A nice comparison. And we thought it was sharp. I’ve got a little jewelers Lupe that goes to 10X and it interesting to look at the edge with it.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View Dorje's profile


1763 posts in 4024 days

#6 posted 01-08-2008 07:15 AM

That’s what I use too – a loupe at 10x…so this is pretty good stuff…40, 100, and 400x

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

View rikkor's profile


11295 posts in 3901 days

#7 posted 01-08-2008 11:52 AM

This is fascinating!

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4187 days

#8 posted 01-08-2008 01:19 PM


-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View Dekker's profile


147 posts in 3907 days

#9 posted 01-08-2008 01:49 PM

I’m impressed by the results you got. Great images.

However, and please don’t take this as a negative, aren’t we just claiming how many angels can dance on the head of a needle?

As a great accompaniment to this series of metalurigic images would be to show, after sharpening to that exquisite level, what does the tip look like after you use the chisel to carve out a 1mm deep gouge out of hard maple. As the tip gets finer and finer, doesn’t the strength of the tip get reduced, to a point of diminishing returns? After 5 minutes of use with a chisel sharpened to 4000 grit, does the tip look much different than a chisel sharpened to 3000 grit used for a similar 5 minutes?

Once again, please don’t take this as a negative. I’m not disputing that higher grit (done properly of course) will yield sharper, more accurate, easier-to-use cutting tools. I’m just wondering if you get more than 5 minutes of “better cuts” by investing an extra 1/2 hour sharpening between uses…

-- Dekker -

View YooperCasey's profile


58 posts in 3860 days

#10 posted 01-08-2008 02:14 PM

I know what you mean Dekker, I have been wondering the same thing myself. At what point is it excessive, or even detrimental? I’m trying to work out a way to get a repeatable experiment doing almost exactly that. But, what I keep coming to, is we are all different, with different habits and tendencies when it comes to sharpening and using a chisel. So what may constitute a “perfect” edge for me with the longest lasting time may work horribly for you, just based on the way you may hold the chisel or some other intangible. Which is why I am also a bit reluctant to do said tests. If anything everyone likes cool photos. :)

-- Casey, Engineer, Escanaba, MI

View jcees's profile


1060 posts in 3826 days

#11 posted 01-10-2008 04:30 AM

The fact that you are an engineer has to say something about all this. It’s okay to fret a bit when you’re starting out and lord knows I’ve done my share of experimentation with sharpening. What I propose is that you sharpen as well as you can then press the sharpened tool into service. In working different woods you’ll discover that each species and cut will prefer a different level of sharpness. End grain will prefer a shallower bevel angle and razor sharpness that will not last long, i.e. more trips to the strop/polishing stone et al. A plane iron going after curly maple will need an average bevel angle and a steeper attack angle and razor sharpness to achieve a fine shavings and little to no tearout and it won’t last long.

Consider an “acid test” for your sharpening efforts. I use two. The first is the hair on the back of my fingers; when the freshly honed blade makes the little suckers pop off, I’m done. The second is on the end grain of a chunk of Southern Yellow Pine. The alternating soft and hard rings are a true test for your ability to whet an edge. If the hard ring breaks out instead of slicing through, you need more time on the stones.

Now that said, you need to become facile at maintaining an edge once you get good at making one. Speed is important in woodworking and multiple blades at the ready are a beautiful thing when you’ve got a bunch of shavings and chips to make. In other words, I’ll do anything to keep from resharpening in mid stream. I’ll even spend the $$$ for more than one instance of a given edge tool. If I’m in the middle of cleaning out a row of dovetails the last thing I want to do is stop and sharpen the chisel. Sometimes I have to ‘cause I didn’t resharpen/hone the other chisel either. Dang it. Not a problem though, because I have learned to get the edge back in trim pretty quick.

-- When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world. -- John Muir

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