Reply by shopdog

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Posted on Need some help with chisels/sharpening

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577 posts in 3508 days

#1 posted 12-21-2008 02:18 PM

It is possible to make cheap chisel scary sharp, but it won’t stay that way for long. There is no need to spend a lot of $ to get good quality chisels. Almost all of mine have been purchased from ebay, or yard sales/flea markets. I like old style socket chisels like Witherby, P,S&W, Stanley. You can still find these for $10 each…or less. The only things is, you have to be able to tune them up. It’s a great satifaction for me to turn an old beater back to a thing of beauty. Start with a good honing jig. I like/use the one from Lee Valley/Veritas (the older style…still available). It has an adjustment wheel on it that enables you to micro bevel your blades…so that once you achieve scary sharp, you can then make it scarier (sp?).
Lee Valley (not affiliated, but love their stuff) also sells sandpaper, and you can get rolls of PSA backed sandpaper in regular grits, and sheets of super fine wet/dry up to 2000, I think. I have no need for a stone. You need a very flat surface…I use 1/4” glass. When I get a beat up, but beautiful old Witherby, I start by flattening the back using 80 grit, and work my way up. You need to get it flat for 1” or so. If your chisel is pitted from rust, it’s never gonna get too scary. After I get the back flat, I move on to the bevel. I usually go for about 25˚. If it’s in bad shape, I go to the 80 grit again. If it’s just a tune up, I start with 220 grit, or finer. As I sharpen, I flip it over occasionally to remove the burr. With some patience, I end up with a blade that shines, and will easily remove the hairs on my arm (my test site). I don’t stop until the hairs jump off my arm. Sometimes they jump because they are scared of that blade.
I have a mini lathe, so I also turn my own handles…usually out of Ipe scraps that I have accumulated from my deck business.
I just finished restoring an old Witherby 3/8” mortising chisel for a woodworking buddy of mine, and gave it to him last night for Xmas…you should have seen his eyes light up.
Chisel…about $5

-- Steve--

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