Chisel Sharpening - Another thorn from my side

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Blog entry by David Craig posted 05-25-2010 02:22 PM 7922 reads 0 times favorited 21 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Good Morning, my name is David Craig and I am a former sharpaphobiac transformed into a sharpaholic…

The art of sharpening has been very intimidating to me and it has really caused a bit of a road block to my work. No matter how many power tools you have in your collection, woodworking will ultimately lead you to a point where a chisel is in your hand and it needs to be sharp. I fiddled around with the grinder some, have purchased sharpening stones at the store, but I was really out of my element. And, instead of facing my fears, I just put the whole lot in the corner to gather dust and pretended I could go without.

Obviously that course of action hasn’t worked well for me.

Last week, I ordered the Work Sharp 3000 and a set of Narex bench chisels and mortising chisels. There are a number of tools in my shop that have brought me great joy, but the use of this one has taken me to a level of almost complete rapture. I can’t express the delight I felt when, after a couple years of disgust with my lack of ability to put a shine on a bevel, I was able to flatten and hone chisels after about 15 minutes of direction reading and equipment setup. I have spent a couple days familiarizing myself with the chisels and the sharpening process and probably have learned more in a few hours than I have in a few years. From the pic below, you can tell that I have been a little busy….

Worksharp 3000 and chisels

Wood Magazine’s March issue has a great article on chisels, the varying types, uses, and the recommended bevels. This came in handy as the Narex mortising chisels are bevel at 25 degrees in the factory. A mortise chisel should be bevel at 35-45 degrees from what I read. So one of the first items I had to take care of was to regrind the bevel on the two chisels I ordered. This would have killed me a few weeks ago, but it was a pretty easy task with the Work Sharp. There are already some excellent reviews of this in the LJ review section, so I will just highlight the things I learned so far.

1. The machine does have a limit of thickness of the chisels you can put in the sharpening slot. But, mortise chisels slide in fine if you use the left side, instead of the right side of the port.

2. You are not limited in the use of adhesive backed paper and you do not have to use the proprietary sandpaper that comes with the machine. I purchased a sanding attachment for my drill a year or so ago that required 6 inch adhesive backed paper. I was never happy with the attachment so it has been mostly unused. I have low and high grit paper that works fine for this machine. Just requires popping a hole in the center and a little trim work around the edges. When regrinding, the low grits with the machine are a little too fine but was able to do quite well with the 100 grit I had on hand.

3. I have head complaints that only a portion of the paper is used when sharpening. This is true if you use the slots but, when flattening or sharpening freehand, you have access to the whole sheet. I think I have only wasted one partial sanding disk so far. The rest have been sufficiently used up before tossing.

4. Some purists might look at the machine as one that hinders the ability to familiarize yourself with the sharpening process and become “too dependent” and limit your skill set. I am discovering that, in my case, it is quite the opposite. I have actually found that my confidence with freehand on the machine and grinder has increased as I now am familiar with what a good bevel and flat chisel is supposed to look like. I am quite confident that I would produce similar results if I had a good guide and had to use the hand sharpening “scary sharp” method. I have an old Pexto chisel that was a complete rusty mess. The rust created some small holes on the inside of the edge. I took it to the grinder and worked off the holes and have the edge almost completely restored.

Pexto Chisel

The tip will flatten out but I love the reflective surface of this, once rusted, 60 year old chisel.

I know this was a long post but, hey, I am ecstatic and there aren’t too many people in my circle who would understand why a shiny chisel would bring me this much joy.

Happy woodworking all,


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

21 comments so far

View CharlesNeil's profile


2399 posts in 3864 days

#1 posted 05-25-2010 03:13 PM

in My opinion the Worksharp , is the best sharpening tool on the market, period, especially for those who have had sharpening issues, its hard to beat…

View PurpLev's profile


8535 posts in 3642 days

#2 posted 05-25-2010 03:36 PM

welcome to the club. makes a big difference to have a cutting edge as opposed to a scratching edge. and I agree with Charles – the worksharp take all the thinking away from the sharpening process, and just gets the job done. I personally don’t own one as I use a slow grinder with a hollow ground bevel, but I’ve used similar products before (like the drill doctor for example).

congrats, and enjoy WWing!

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

View jockmike2's profile


10635 posts in 4240 days

#3 posted 05-25-2010 03:37 PM

Looking good David.

-- (You just have to please the man in the Mirror) Mike from Michigan -

View CharlieM1958's profile


16274 posts in 4212 days

#4 posted 05-25-2010 04:31 PM

David, thanks for this great read. Maybe it will push me in the direction I need to go. I have been a sharpaphobic for a long time also. I know all too well the feeling of having a set of cheap chisels and pretending that they are sharp. :-) Frankly, I’ve always felt like these guys who shave their arm hair with their chisels need to get a life, but deep down, I know I really need sharp tools.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View wallkicker's profile


107 posts in 3148 days

#5 posted 05-25-2010 04:37 PM

Nicely written and I would bet many woodworkers have gone through this . I know I have . Congrats !

View a1Jim's profile


117086 posts in 3571 days

#6 posted 05-25-2010 05:08 PM

I’ve used other methods but my worksharp makes it quick and easy to get a great sharp edge.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3109 days

#7 posted 05-25-2010 06:14 PM

congrat´s with your new toy
you will see your work come out on a higher level
looking forward to see a lot of unplugged work from you now…
I still struggel a little with my waterstones and the veritas jiig
but I realy like to do it that way, it relaxing for me , so I stick to it
just bought me self a big granit benchtop I will use when I flaten my handplanes

be safe and take care now with those scharp cheisels


View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2137 posts in 3102 days

#8 posted 05-25-2010 09:09 PM

Thanks for the comments all. I definitely feel the product was well worth the purchase. While I personally can’t tell you whether the sharpening system is the best, I do believe it is one of the most robust and easy to use. It is also one of the few in which I didn’t discover that there is a whole slew of extra accessories I would need to purchase in order to sharpen the collection of carving, turning, and bench style chisels that I currently have. I have heard mixed reviews on the wide blade attachment so I would probably get a Veritas MK II style guide and a collection of adhesive backed sandpaper to help insure I was completely set for items such as plane irons. Plus, I would not get rid of my grinder any time soon. I just never thought I would see the day where such a small investment would set me on the right track and alleviate a few years of frustration.

Dennis, it sounds like you have a great sharpening program going for you. Congrats on your granite purchase and am glad you find joy in the process also.


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

View Seeharlez's profile


83 posts in 2987 days

#9 posted 05-25-2010 09:16 PM

I’ve never used that style of sharpener but my main concern would be that the blade edge that was nearest to the outside edge of the sanding disc would be ground at a higher rate than the inner edge, because it is seeing more abbrasive and at a higher speed. Has anyone notice that or is it a non-issue? Or is there a way to address the issue?


-- Greg - Vancouver, BC

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2137 posts in 3102 days

#10 posted 05-25-2010 09:28 PM

Greg – Judging by the tool swirls I see, the chisels seem to be equally ground. There is a recommended location, whether left or right in the tool port, based on size of the chisels. I think the most important thing, for a consistent grind, is that the chisel is properly flattened on the back before sharpening the bevel. If you have an uneven surface on the back of the chisel, then it is possible to get a mixed grind on the bevel; not so much because of speed but because of a surface that is not level. Each part of the surface may be ground at a different speed, you will notice this while it is sharpening as some areas will sharpen more rapidly than others, but, when the desired level is reached, that part of the chisel is not touched any more. That is my observations at any rate. I do keep a glass of water on hand when using the lower grits to use when the chisel gets hot to the touch, especially on a re-grind of the bevel.

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

View Bob Collins's profile

Bob Collins

2511 posts in 3677 days

#11 posted 05-26-2010 02:29 AM

Great article David, sharpening chisels has always been a weak point of mine plus others. Have looked for a Work Sharp out here is Aus. with no success or even finding it equal. Shall persevere with grinder and wet stone.

-- Bob C, Australia. Your best teacher is your last mistake.

View Jimi_C's profile


507 posts in 3229 days

#12 posted 05-26-2010 04:47 AM

Sharpening is a means to an end, it’s not the end itself. Anyone who’s a sharpening purist spends too much damn time sharpening :)

-- The difference between being defeated and admitting defeat is what makes all the difference in the world - Upton Sinclair, "The Jungle"

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2137 posts in 3102 days

#13 posted 05-26-2010 12:53 PM

Thanks Bob for the comment. Based on your work, I would say that it does not suffer for lack of a work sharp :) Some folks, like Skarp has just demonstrated, have familiarized themselves with hand sharpening so early on that it is second nature. I just am not one of those people ;)

In answer to your question Skarp, the sandpaper discs that came with the unit go as fine as 3600. I might be wrong, but I think the grits between stone and paper might work on slightly different scales, so the micron size of the 3600 paper might be close to the micron size of the 8000 stone. At 15000 grit, I would think the lumber would shave itself just out of sheer intimidation ;) The unit I picked up from Woodcraft came with a leather honing wheel which should carry it the rest of the way to a very scary and well polished bevel. I haven’t gone through all the grits yet as I have a small pile of chisels that needed to be repaired and the bevel reset so it is taking some time, even with a machine. If I had to do it by hand, I would be updating this post next year.

I agree with you Jimi. I would prefer to shave wood, not body hair. Cool, sometimes, for demonstration purposes, but I tend to prefer Gillette for my shaving needs.

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

View Beginningwoodworker's profile


13345 posts in 3667 days

#14 posted 05-26-2010 02:55 PM

Congrats on your new toy.

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

4170 posts in 3158 days

#15 posted 05-26-2010 04:23 PM

When I decide I need to use My WS 3000 with all attachments, I will PM you for advice. It still sits unused, I just haven’t been using chisels enough since I bought it to need it. So it is still brand spanking new. But I am like you, as evidenced by a bunch of old chisels and plane blades that were badly sharpened, before the internet existed, and were basically ruined. I threw out the old chisels and bought new ones. So now when the new ones need sharpening I will spend a weekend just like you and learn to do it.

I bought the 3000 because I knew sharpening was not something I wanted to be a passionate thing, I needed something to get it done fast and reliably. I also use a machine for my high quality kitchen knives, and it solved that issue perfectly.

Thanks for the post, now I know who is the expert to consult for this issue….............(-:


-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

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