Reply by Byron

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Posted on honing using sand paper

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92 posts in 2377 days

#1 posted 11-19-2011 09:22 PM

The First project I had was to sharpen and hone all of my chisel and plane irons so they could all shave hairs off your hand. It took an extremely long time to get this process down but once I took the time to get comfortable with it I can take a dull torn up chisel or plane iron with gnarly burs to sharp in a very reasonable amount of time. The initial investment of time and money is 100% worth it.

The nature of how sandpaper works leads to rounding things over. The abrasive is not true and flat as a stone is and the build up of lose particles and inconsistencies cause this. Also you need a hard very flat surface to reference off of. This would basically mean a surface plate or true and flat machine bed. Using a stone that can be re-flattened based on your need is a much better idea. Also with sand paper it is much harder to hold a reference angle so you don’t round over the tip. The points being made about cost is also a valid one. Sand paper, over time does not end up being any cheaper.

The process I currently use is using a grinding wheel to put a hollow grind on the bevel, never letting the wheel hit the edge, or burning the edge. Next I go to an 800 grit water stone. I stay on this until I get a consistent edge, which you can check by looking for any burs or any inconsistency in the edge by holding it up to a light. This can take a few tries to get used to seeing the edge. Next I remove all the scratches from the 800 with a 1200, never hitting the back of the chisel or iron on these, ONLY the bevel edge. The back should be honed in initially using these three stones progressively until it is uniformly flat. I would never recommend using sandpaper or lapping compound. It is extremely hard to flatten a domed or crowned surface, having a slightly concave surface ensures all points are being hit evenly, this is why a hollow grind is easier to sharpen then just a flat surface. Next I go to the back of the chisel on a 8000 water stone, a 6000 works too. After I get the burr off the back I re-hone the bevel and slowly go back and forth between these surfaces progressively lessening my time on each edge. This knocks the burr back and forth between each side of the edge until it is sharp for my liking.

Make sure to never round the edge. Every instant you are not on your reference edges you round the edge and inhibit the process of getting sharp surface. Also try not to touch the burr on the edge of the blade, breaking this burr off with something other then the surface of a stone will damage the edge, although this is not that imperative I seem to notice a small difference. Starting off though it might be good to feel the burr every once in a while to know.

If the edge gets really bad place the bevel side towards you and hold almost at 90 degrees with the more acute angle facing towards you and gently pull the blade over the surface towards yourself making sure the edge stays at 90 degrees to the edge of the blade or whatever angle desired. Then grind this on a wheel until the edge has a very small visible flat and hone the edge from there. Never let the grinding wheel hit the edge that will be your final edge, this will tear up the metal and getting past that damaged steel will take a long time.

Using a plastic surface of some kind makes sharpening much cleaner and keeping a paper towel or relatively clean rag near by helps, but try not to wipe off the side of the blade you are working the burr on. But again if your taking short cuts just to keep clean there may be other steps to do rather then make sacrifices.

Sorry about the long winded post, thanks for reading

-- Byron Conn, Woodworking/Furniture Design at Rochester Institute of Technology,

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