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View George_SA's profile

How sharp is sharp enough?

by George_SA
posted 557 days ago


24 replies so far

View Dallas's profile

Dallas

2869 posts in 1118 days


#1 posted 557 days ago

I am the first to admit that I am not big into sharpening at this time.
I do want to say though that to begin with when I get any new or used tool that has a sharp edge that I can resharpen I do.
I don’t profess to being able to pull 9 micron shavings, but I can use my planes on end grain walnut or maple and not take sawdust but real shavings.

I use the Scary sharp method but only go to 1500g wet/dry sand paper and then use a piece of brown paper bag as the last step.

-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

View StumpyNubs's profile

StumpyNubs

6166 posts in 1431 days


#2 posted 557 days ago

It’s sharp enough if it does the job.

What I mean is, if you want to hog out a lot of wood, like with a jack plane or scrub plane, on straight grained wood, you can get buy with a moderately sharp blade.

If you want to joint an edge on a soft wood, a well sharpened blade is needed.

If you want to get a silky smooth surface with a #4 on figured grain, you need a crazy level of sharpness.

And if you want to win a Japanese planing competition making toilet paper out of a piece of soft wood- you need to spend a lifetime in a dojo learning the mysterious art of sharpening.

-- It's the best woodworking show since the invention of wood... New episodes at: http://www.stumpynubs.com

View Loren's profile

Loren

7422 posts in 2279 days


#3 posted 557 days ago

They are using Japanese style planes. Duh, right? The
planes are not as simple as they look on casual examination
and of course they are using exquisite (probably old growth)
creamy soft woods.

-- http://lawoodworking.com

View BTimmons's profile

BTimmons

2112 posts in 1116 days


#4 posted 557 days ago

Stumpy covered it pretty well regarding how sharp something needs to be for different applications.

As for the wood being planed, I think I read that it was Japanese white cedar.

-- Brian Timmons - http://www.BigTWoodworks.com

View pendledad's profile

pendledad

189 posts in 720 days


#5 posted 557 days ago

I recently watched a clip from Ask This Old House and Tom Silva said this:

I take the blade (from a plane) and let it hang by its own weight. I then let the blade rest on my thumbnail by its own weight … if it slides off, it needs a sharpening. If it sticks and won’t slide off, it is sharp enough.

I like his take on being a direct measure kind of guy. This way, he has a “feeler gauge” to see if it sharp enough for his standards.

View StumpyNubs's profile

StumpyNubs

6166 posts in 1431 days


#6 posted 557 days ago

I take the blade and slide the edge across my forehead. -If it leaves a scratch, it’s too dull. -If it leaves a cut. it needs some sharpening. -If I need stitches, It’s ready for planing. -If my brains spill out… what’s that bright light?...

-- It's the best woodworking show since the invention of wood... New episodes at: http://www.stumpynubs.com

View Dallas's profile

Dallas

2869 posts in 1118 days


#7 posted 557 days ago

Stumpy, my brain can’t spill out. My wife constantly reminds me that I have none.

-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

View George_SA's profile

George_SA

192 posts in 844 days


#8 posted 557 days ago

  1. And if you want to win a Japanese planing competition making toilet paper out of a piece of soft wood- you need to spend a lifetime in a dojo learning the mysterious art of sharpening. ####

Smile :-)

Stumpy, thanks for a good summation. As with most things in life, circumstances determine the standard that needs to be obtained.

-- There are some things that money can't buy - Manners, morals and integrity

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

3409 posts in 2591 days


#9 posted 557 days ago

Stumpy is NOT WELL. BWAHAHAHA!
I also use the fingernail test. I’m cuttin’ wood, not doin’ surgery (unless I’m careless).
I guess that I’m in the school of “form follows function”. Honing to a .000005 micron edge is fine for some but, if the plane does the job well, I’m a happy camper.
Kinda like havin’ the TS top and plane sole flat within an unobtainable thousandth of an inch.
Bill

-- bill@magraphics.us

View TravisH's profile

TravisH

221 posts in 566 days


#10 posted 557 days ago

Definitely excessive for most tasks but if my shavings were like that I would have a shop floor full of them. If I had to err I would prefer to err on the wispy toilet paper shaving side. While definitely sharper than needed many are so often to take “close enough” as an acceptable standard when doing things. Few things I built over the years that I look at and shake my head in shame.

I am a fairly new woodworker, with respect to many, and was amazed between my “sharp” planes and chisels before and after a project last year. In the past I used a some bargain stones and Smith’s diamond sharpener, a few passes and I was good (so I thought).

I purchased Hock’s book and bought a few kits to put together. I had some various sand paper in the shop and plate glass and grabbed a piece of 3 micron paper from work along with some 0.5 micron alumina slurry to play with. Once I placed the iron and set the wedge I made a few passes on some cherry. Within seconds the sound and sight of the thin lustrous shavings, dancing off the iron, were a clear indicator I was using a rasp in my other planes. I went to work sharpening all my “sharp” blades later that week. In the market for some nice stones and need to work on technique still but dont’ think I will have tools again to use.

After seeing that planning competition I really would like to make a pass or two with one of those planes but fear I might end up spending time meditating in a garden somewhere or contemplating the ripples from the stone thrown into a pond.

View pmd73's profile

pmd73

13 posts in 572 days


#11 posted 554 days ago

I’m new to this myself and am finding out that sharpening my blades can be tough,really tough.I worked last weekend on the planes themselfs,Got them to a mirror finish with the sandpaper method,but tried the sandpaper method on the blade and liked to wore my shoulder out.The hardest thing for me was holding the angle just right by hand and even from side to side.After work today,i’m going to rockler for some stones and a holder/guide.

View seriousturtle's profile

seriousturtle

93 posts in 1961 days


#12 posted 554 days ago

Like stumpy, I also use the forehead test, except I give the iron a light tap with a mallet. If I see skull, it is sharp enough…

-- ~the turtle

View Michigander's profile

Michigander

138 posts in 1050 days


#13 posted 554 days ago

pmd73, I’m new to sharpening too, just a few steps ahead of you. Don’t waste your money on anything but a Veritus Mk II holder. The cheap one sold at Woodcraft would only clamp about half of my chisels as it swueezes from the fide. The Veritas squeezes the blade across the flat. I currently sharpen using the scary sharp sandpaper method to 800 grit. Sharp enough for my skill level.
Good Luck
Michigander

View pmd73's profile

pmd73

13 posts in 572 days


#14 posted 554 days ago

Can’t put to much into a holder,is the veritus pricey.The plane bases i went to 1200 grit.The stanley looks really smooth,the other,a buck bros. looks like it has a place filled in and pitted but looks smoother.Still can’t cut with ether without a lot of effort.What’s the scary sandpaper method.Also the stanley has two adj. screws to adj. the blade and ones i see here have a lever.What difference does thet make.

View TimberFramerBob's profile

TimberFramerBob

68 posts in 554 days


#15 posted 554 days ago

In my shop we hand sharpen all our blades with wet stones starting at 1000g, then 1200, ...up to 6000g. It has a mirror finish…..scalpel sharp. We sharpen everything once a week (unless it wasn’t used). This might be a little over kill but it took me a while to understand the importance of sharp tools…...and what SHARP really was. I worked for a long tie with tools that were “sharp” to me…..then I used a truly sharp tool…..theres no such thing as too sharp IMHO.

-- ..........a man who works with his hands, his brains, and his heart.....is an artist.

View George_SA's profile

George_SA

192 posts in 844 days


#16 posted 554 days ago

My Stanley no 5 needed sharpening. I use the scary sharp method with a home made honing guide up to 1200 grit (the finest I can get in SA)

The results: Paper thin shavings :-)

Then I thought: “how would I stack up against those Japanese?”
The result in inches

and in mm

According to this conversion site that translates to about 10 microns

Well those Japanese guys beat me on length and width of shavings by quite a margin and also on thickness (not so far). On the other hand the piece of wood (which had a slight hump) was flat afterwords and ready for the cutting board I am busy making for my daughter. I am happy :-)

-- There are some things that money can't buy - Manners, morals and integrity

View 9FINGERTIM's profile

9FINGERTIM

54 posts in 571 days


#17 posted 554 days ago

insteead of using the sandpaper to sharpen the blade i use the sandpaper to smooth the wood and leave the plane in the drawer(turned on its side as we all learned in shop class)

-- TIM, FLORIDA

View GaryL's profile

GaryL

1074 posts in 1461 days


#18 posted 554 days ago

George…you need to check your conversion.
That’s 100 microns…lol….you still have some fine tuning to do.
.004” = 101.6 microns according to your link

-- Gary; Marysville, MI...Involve your children in your projects as much as possible, the return is priceless.

View George_SA's profile

George_SA

192 posts in 844 days


#19 posted 554 days ago

Lol :-) What is 1 decimal point between friends :-) Ok so they beat me quite far on the thickness score also, but my piece of wood is still straight enough for my project and I still think my Stanley no 5 is awesome :-)

-- There are some things that money can't buy - Manners, morals and integrity

View tbone's profile

tbone

256 posts in 2315 days


#20 posted 553 days ago

Old Honest Abe Lincoln is believed to have said, “If you give me six hours to chop down a tree, I’ll spend the first four hours sharpening the axe.”

-- Kinky Friedman on gay marriage: "They should have the right to be just as miserable as the rest of us."

View a1Jim's profile

a1Jim

112014 posts in 2208 days


#21 posted 553 days ago

It’s nice to have paper thin shavings coming off of your plane because it’s cool but we only need the plane sharp enough to do the job. If you only use hand tools it’s makes life a lot easier to have your tools super sharp. Have you ever noticed on the Wood Wright’s show that all of Roy Underhill’s planes and chisels seem like their cutting through butter. That’s what comes from doing a great job of sharpening. Like our projects and how we keep our shops,we all have our own standards of what works for us. The old standard for have you plane blades and chisels sharp enough were when they are sharp enough you could shave hair of your arm they are sharp enough.Another test is to see if you can easily cut the end grain on hard woods like oak or maple.

-- http://artisticwoodstudio.com Custom furniture

View Jorge G.'s profile

Jorge G.

1526 posts in 1106 days


#22 posted 553 days ago

Another test is to see if you can easily cut the end grain on hard woods like oak or maple.

I always wondered about this. So, you sharpen your chisel or plane blade carefully, you then test the sharpness on oak or maple end grain, just so you can undo all the work you spent sharpening by testing the edge… :-)

-- To surrender a dream leaves life as it is — and not as it could be.

View a1Jim's profile

a1Jim

112014 posts in 2208 days


#23 posted 553 days ago

It’s never dulled my chisels Jorge. I just make one cut on end grain I don’t shave all of the end grain off :))

-- http://artisticwoodstudio.com Custom furniture

View BRAVOGOLFTANGO's profile

BRAVOGOLFTANGO

271 posts in 634 days


#24 posted 553 days ago

StumpyNubs, that was a humorous deliverance you wrote above, so thank you. I for one like above average sharp tools but realize it does NOT require as Will Smith in the original MIB said “the best of the best of the best sir”. The main component to extravagantly sharp tools is knowledge, I’ve seen it done by hand as well as by machine.

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