An artists perspective #2: Sharpening Straight chisels

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Blog entry by kolwdwrkr posted 02-16-2009 11:42 PM 4785 reads 1 time favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: The plan stan Part 2 of An artists perspective series no next part

To start this off I want to say that I am in no way an expert sharpener. The method I am going to describe is the way I do it with the equipment that I have. There are many methods of work, as well as different tools and jigs to make the process easier. The method I am going to share is using a sharpening wheel and water stones.
Tools needed:
Wet grinder (this tool is not necessary for sharpening. If you do not have the machine skip that step of the process)
800 grit water stone
1200 grit water stone
6000 grit water stone

The first step is to use the grinder. This step is not necessary but makes the sharpening process easier. It does 2 things. First it takes any knicks or dings out quickly and secondly it concaves the center of the bevel. Your grinder should be equiped with a guide rail and a clamp. This allows you to position the chisel on the stone at the proper bevel. In the illistration I took the guide off. I choose to do this step without the guide.
The chisel is not finished after this step. It is still rough
The next step is to flatten the back of the chisel. This aids in keeping the chisel square and helps to refine the edge. Take your 800 grit stone out of the water and place it on a stable table. I use a cookie sheet to prevent a mess. There are stone trays that you put water in. The stone stays in the tray of water. When you need the stone there is a metal support directly over the tray. I’m not sure why I’m describing it but what the heck. These are available from places like Lee Valley. Now place the chisel bevel up flat on the stone and push the chisel forward.
Now flip the chisel over and place it bevel down onto the stone heel first. Rock the chisel forward until the point contacts the stone. You now have 2 points contacting the stone. The point and the top of the bevel. If it can rock backwards or forward this means you are not holding the bevel flat on the stone. Push the chisel forward.
You can look at your chisel at this point and it should create an oval pattern on the chisel. This means you have the correct contact. Notice that the chisel is starting to have the mirror effect at the tip and the top of the bevel.
You do not need to sharpen the chisel unil the center is shiny, but it may turn out that way by the time you are finished. You are now done with the 800 grit. You need to follow the exact steps through the finer grits. The end result should give you a mirror finish and should be razor sharp.
After you are finished put some oil on the chisels. This will help prevent them from rust. Remember you just had water on them and that could lead to future problems. You do not need to oil them if you are using oil stones. My methods can still be used on oil stones as well. Now all you have to do is wait for the hairs to grow back on your arm. LOL
Depending on how often you use your chisel you should be able to keep a good edge on it for quite awhile simply by honing it from time to time. I recommend a new sharpening on new chisels and on chisels that have damage. For new chisels you only need to use 1200 and up. You will notice the chisel is factory sharp, but it does have lines on it. This means it is only machine sharpened.
As I said before, there are a lot of ways to sharpen chisels. There are jigs, different types of stones, etc that you will need to learn how to use. This is only the method I use and I use it because I can’t afford jigs or a bunch of different things. In fact I only bought the grinder recently and had to get knicks out with elbow grease and rougher stones.
I wish you luck in your sharpening endeavors. A sharp chisel will help you perform your tasks much easier. With any tool use caution. Avoid pulling the chisel toward you or towards your hands. Believe me, it hurts when it stabs you. Keep your chisels sharp by keeping their protective sleeves. If these are lost you can make a sleeve by cutting the fingers off of glooves. You can also buy a tool roll or if they came with one keep them in a box that has dividers to keep the blades from hitting one another.
As always I seek criticism positive or negative. If you feel like I am giving the wrong advice or method SAY SOMETHING! If you don’t want to post a comment here please PM me. If you need further information feel free to ask.

-- ~ Inspiring those who inspire me ~

5 comments so far

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27251 posts in 3243 days

#1 posted 02-17-2009 12:34 AM

Thanks for the info. I have tried stones but could never get the edge that I wanted on them. And, while I have a Worksharp that does give me a nice edge on my chisels and irons, I am sure that stones may improve the quality of the edge. I may try this and see what type of edge I can produce.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View Karson's profile


35032 posts in 3821 days

#2 posted 02-17-2009 02:07 AM

Thanks for the post. I’m in the process of modifying my sharpening station. I’m going to post it a later.

-- 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 cabinetmaster's profile


10874 posts in 2979 days

#3 posted 02-17-2009 02:32 AM

Thanks Keith. Some great information there.

-- Jerry--A man can never have enough tools or clamps

View woodnut's profile


393 posts in 3473 days

#4 posted 02-17-2009 04:26 AM

And were off. I am really going to enjoy this series of blogs. Thanks for taking the time to do this.

-- F.Little

View Richforever's profile


750 posts in 3141 days

#5 posted 02-18-2009 09:37 PM

Thanks for shedding some light on this sharpening stuff.

-- Rich, Seattle, WA

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