I’ve put off describing how i sharpen my planes, because until today, I really didn’t want to talk about it. It was a painful process. It seemed to take hours to sharpen a plane, especially the planes I typically buy. The second or third time resharpening would be almost as bad. Even though I had made some jigs and marked were things should be, they never seemed to come out the same.
That was until now. So if you want to know how to sharpen. read. And don’t just read, think as you read. Now that might sound a little condescending, but its not meant to be. I’m going to assume you are a little like me. Lets face it, if you already knew how to sharpen, and you were happy sharpening, why would you be reading this in the first place.
First, you’ve read it before and you’ll read it again, if you’re going to sharpen with a grinder, get a aluminum oxide wheel with a friable bond. I didn’t heed this information. I figured a wheel wouldn’t make that much difference. Until yesterday. Yesterday I had a stroke of good luck. First i found this little gem. I’ve been looking for a hand grinder, but this was the first one that caught my eye. First it had all the apparent parts, the tool rest, the clamp for the bench and the handle. Second all of these parts were in one piece. Third, it was pretty cheap.
Next piece of luck, I walked on to a booth in the second flee market I went to with a bunch of norton grinding wheels. I picked out 4 of the white ones that looked like they would fit my newly found grinder. How much? $2 ea. How could I go wrong.
I’m not suggesting you need a hand grinder to properly sharpen. I don’t believe that to be true, but i do beleive it may help in some cases, like mine. I’m impatient sometimes. Its harder to burn a blade spinning that sucker by hand.
So as I said, it would take me an hour, some times more to sharpen a plane iron. Here is what happened the first time I used the new grinder. Note, this really has nothing to do with the grinder, but the new white norton grinding wheel. I had picked up a couple of really nasty #6 stanleys and one of the blades had a bad rust spot at the tip for about an 1/8”. It seemed like a good one to practice on. This was the first go:
The speed to which I could now grind or regrind a bevel was astounding to me. I had to figure out where 25 degrees was on the tool rest, so I ground and checked, ground and re-checked. I was changing the angle quicker than I could ever sharpen before.
Once I got the angle right I knew I needed to be able to verify it hadn’t changed. So I made this jig to reset it back to 25 degrees in case it got moved. Eventuially I’ll make one for 30 degrees as well.
Next I hit it with my waterstone. I jigged up the bevel guide, and went straight to the 6000 grit. It literally took about a dozen swipes and here is the results:
It looks like the pictures in my “how to sharpen” book. Its amazing to me. Since this blade was out of a nasty old #6 now in an electrolysis tank, I had to try it. Down came my Stanley #6. Note for future reference this plane was one of the first ones I restored, also one of the first ones I sharpened.
I have a piece of popular board that is my test. Something about this piece, it will not plane. But with this blade it was almost acceptable. I was amazed. Now I had to see if I could reproduce these results.
Why not the blade that just came out of my #6. I decided to keep track of my time. Its 9:03. First thing I discover, I had the wrong angle on the #6. Not surprising, but I needed to change the angle about 8 – 10 degrees to get it to 25 degrees. I spun the grinder by hand, holding the iron with my fingers close enough to the blade to ensure it doesn’t get hot and put some force on the blade. Once I felt a burr on the back I was over to the waterstone, hit the back of the blade on the water stone then jigged it up. I hit about a dozen or so good strokes with the 6000 grit. One more step this time. Off to the strop. 25 reverse strokes. Its now 9:11.
8 minutes!! If I had known, I would have had a new wheel months ago. Now the test. Back to my poplar board. It still wasn’t perfect, but man what a difference. Every other piece I hit was amazing.
The second #6 had some additional work so it took a little longer. The very tip had to be ground off a little due to pitting. Before I would have done a little and left it for another day. Done a little more and left it for another day. Today, it was sharpened. I’d like to say in no time, but a whole lot faster than ever before.
So to recap
Buy the right grinding wheel
Use the right grinding wheel
don’t forget the right grinding wheel
From there i’m not sure it matters if you use fine sandpaper on granite, waterstones or oil stones. I wasn’t to impressed with my water stone. I was constantly flattening it. Now, with a dozen or so strokes per blade, me and the water stones are going to be much better friends. I am going to pick up a finer stone.
I figure I’m looking at about 4 minutes for a resharpen. I’m pretty happy. More time woodworking, less time sharpening.
Edit with additional information.
Since I wrote this I bought an 8” aluminum oxide wheel for my bench grinder. I wish I had a slower speed grinder, but it is what it is.
I can still burn a blade if I’m not reasonably careful, but It works fairly well. I like the 8” wheel because the hollow in the bevel is smaller, making for a stronger edge. I also made this bench guide similar to one in one of Krenov’s books. I simply use wedges to adjust for different angles or thicker blades.
The wedges are marked so I can get back to the place I need to be. Flat without any wedges is 25 degrees.
The slot serves two purposes, a place for your fingers to slide, and you could make a guide if you have problems keeping the blade square. I made some square cut marks for references and that’s all I need.
I also made a jig to set the guide.
I also picked up some oil stones. I like them better than water stones. They seem to stay flat longer, and as a bonus I won’t have to worry about them freezing in the winter. The other thing I like is you can find them fairly cheap at flea markets and antique shops. I’ve manage to find several now, although I typically only use the fine stone for sharpening. The coarser stones come in handy for flattening the back.
The disadvantage is you may not know what grit your working with. I just know the fine stone I have is finer than the 6000 grit water stone I bought.
I use a mixture of Diesel fuel and mineral oil in a spray bottle for with the oil stones.
-- There is nothing like the sound of a well tuned hand plane. - http://timetestedtools.wordpress.com (timetestedtools at hotmail dot c0m)