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View webguy's profile

Sharpening a hand plane blade

by webguy
posted 07-24-2014 09:46 PM


38 replies so far

View WayneC's profile

WayneC

13775 posts in 4246 days


#1 posted 07-24-2014 10:01 PM

What do you mean by “no noticeable results”? Not cutting better? Sand paper not cutting the blade?

Depending on how bad the blade is you might need to start with a lower grit.

Did you start by flattening the back of the blade?

Can you take photos of both sides of the blade?

Are you sure you have a sharpness issue and not a plane tuning issue?

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View Richard H's profile

Richard H

489 posts in 1829 days


#2 posted 07-24-2014 10:05 PM

Run a sharpie line down the bevel side of the iron on the tip and run it over the sandpaper a few times to see if it’s disappearing. If you are hitting the bevel and the back is even mostly flat you should feel a burr on the back of the iron especially at 600 grit. If you are not hitting the tip increase the bevel angle a few degrees until you do.

With a Buck Bros. iron more likely than not the back of it is not flat. You can use the same sharpie trick on the back to see just how bad it is but if it’s terribly twisted or back beveled you might want to try the ruler trick where you take a thin ruler and lay the back of the iron on it so you are only flattening the very tip of the iron. I would never do that to good irons but that might be the best way to get a flat back on this guy. 600 Grit is a bit fine for major steel removal to. Maybe drop down to a rougher grit sandpaper to remove steel faster.

Also don’t forget to tune the chip breaker. They can be horribly out of flat.

View shampeon's profile

shampeon

1823 posts in 2332 days


#3 posted 07-24-2014 10:22 PM

Ok, first off, you sound like you’re just getting into hand tools, so welcome! It’s very rewarding, but, like riding a bike, takes some time to get the hang of.

Sharpening is super important. But if you don’t have the technique and procedure down, it can be very frustrating.

I would start off by getting some lower grit sandpaper. Assuming the primary bevel of the blade is in decent shape, start off with 120 grit on a very flat surface. This could be a granite tile, a piece of glass, a table saw top, or even a flat piece of very flat plywood. Put the blade in the honing guide so that the bevel rests flat against the flat surface. Now, take a marker like a Sharpie and color the bevel. Your goal is to remove all the marker ink on the bevel with the 120 grit sandpaper. This is a very important step, and sets the stage for all the other grits.

Once that is done, put on some 220 grit paper and remove all the scratches on the bevel from the 120 grit paper. At this point the bevel is set, you are simply polishing the edge by removing scratch marks. Go from 220 to 400, removing the scratches.

At this point, you should move on to flattening the back of the blade. This is very, very important, as a flat back ensures that your bevel edge stays sharp. Take your marker and draw a line on the back at the edge of the blade, and then draw a couple cross lines down an inch below the edge. Go back to your 120 grit paper and, keeping only the inch or so of blade on the sandpaper, move the blade back and forth until the marker is removed. You have to keep an even, firm pressure on the blade as you do this, and don’t rock it. It should be flat against the sandpaper for the inch you are working on.

Once the marks are gone, move on to 220, 400, 600, 1000, and 2000 grit, removing the scratch marks from the previous grit at each stage. The inch you’re working on should be a mirror at this point. If you do this right, you won’t have to flatten the back again for years.

Put the honing guide back on the blade, set it to sit flat on the bevel, and go back to 400 grit paper, then 600, 1000, and 2000. Turn the blade over and lightly swipe the back of the blade on the 2000 grit to remove the wire edge you created when you sharpened the bevel. You should now have a very, very sharp blade all the way across.

You can rehone the blade on the 2000 grit paper periodically, with a quick swipe on the back to remove the wire edge. This will keep the blade sharp. If it gets very dull, go back to 400 grit paper and sharpen the bevel up to 2000 again. A nick in the blade will require resetting the bevel with 120 grit to completely remove the nick.

-- ian | "You can't stop what's coming. It ain't all waiting on you. That's vanity."

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TheWoodenOyster

1317 posts in 2084 days


#4 posted 07-24-2014 10:41 PM

The guys above hit the nail on the head. But for sure you need to start at a lower grit.

Cheap plane blades are typically a HUGE pain to flatten the backs of. As in 2 or 3 hours with 100 grit. I might be out of line here, but my experience has been that more expensive blades such as IBC pinnacle, Lie Nielsen, and Hock all are very close to flat and don’t take long to flatten the backs of, so you could consider that, but it sounds like you are just getting into this and may not want to dish out all that cash. You could also try the ruler trick so that you don’t have to flatten acres of steel on the backside of the blade.

Now I will preach to you a little. The first few times I sharpened, I almost quit woodworking. It literally is a total freaking complete mystery the first month or two. Then you find your groove and figure out how to do it. From there, it should be easy. Stick with it. It is not an exaggeration when I say that it takes me less than 5% of the time to sharpen now as it used to. Literally. So don’t quit. Sharpness is as important as we all are saying.

-- The Wood Is Your Oyster

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waho6o9

8434 posts in 2726 days


#5 posted 07-24-2014 10:44 PM

” It literally is a total freaking complete mystery the first month or two. Then you find your groove and figure out how to do it. From there, it should be easy. Stick with it. It is not an exaggeration when I say that it takes me less than 5% of the time to sharpen now as it used to. Literally. So don’t quit. Sharpness is as important as we all are saying.”

Well stated ^ and so true it’s almost Biblical.

View Don W's profile

Don W

18969 posts in 2716 days


#6 posted 07-24-2014 11:27 PM

All excellent advice so far, and its hard to know what sharp is until you find it, BUT, are you sure the problem is sharp? You bought a plane that’s going to need some tuning (ok, not some maybe a lot) beyond making the cutter sharp. I would never recommend a Buck Bros as a first plane. Its like handing someone who’s never shot a rifle before, one with a bent barrel and saying, site this in.

-- http://timetestedtools.net - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View WayneC's profile

WayneC

13775 posts in 4246 days


#7 posted 07-24-2014 11:39 PM

I agree with Don, you may want to try a vintage plane. Something different than what you have. Perhaps a pre-WW2 Stanley #4 or a 9 1/2 or a 60 1/2 block plane depending on what you already have.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View sweetwilliam's profile

sweetwilliam

3 posts in 1551 days


#8 posted 07-25-2014 03:37 AM

The best thing you can do as a new woodworker is put that Buck Brothers on a shelf somewhere and move on to a better tool. The work it will take to get it usable will break you of the will to woodwork. If you’re going to pour that much time into a tool, at least it should be a nice vintage plane that you’ll be happy with and that will have a better chance of holding its settings.

The advice above on getting a sharp edge is spot on. Use the sharpie and see where you’re working. An edge isn’t the bevel (as I thought when I first started) but the microscopic meeting of the bevel angle and the back of the plane. That’s what you’re working. If those two planes don’t meet perfectly you don’t have a sharp edge. You’ll know it when you get it.

View bandit571's profile

bandit571

21314 posts in 2832 days


#9 posted 07-25-2014 03:55 AM

Have had that BB #5 Jack plane….not that great, but can be a good user, IF you have a weekend to tune it up.

There is a BB iron and chip breaker sitting on my bench, awaiting assignment. Parted out a Frankenplane, and the cutter part is still here. I flattened the back of that iron first. Then worked on the bevel. Back was flattened first to five a better idea of how the bevel would need work to be sharpened up. Placed into a tuned up #5, it did get see-through shavings. A $3 blade, and a spare chipbreaker…..

-- A Planer? I'M the planer, this is what I use

View webguy's profile

webguy

12 posts in 1671 days


#10 posted 07-25-2014 01:51 PM

Thanks for all the advice. I went and got some lower grit paper.Let’s see what happens. Although it amazes me that a new blade would need to go to that length to sharpen.

View Don W's profile

Don W

18969 posts in 2716 days


#11 posted 07-25-2014 02:00 PM

IMHO going lower then 2000 grit isn’t going to buy you a lot. Maybe you could explain what’s happening a little better. Even some pictures would help.

-- http://timetestedtools.net - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View Ripthorn's profile

Ripthorn

1458 posts in 3134 days


#12 posted 07-25-2014 02:05 PM

A blade in a plane like that new is more of a kit piece. They form it at the factory, but that is it, they only mill or grind it in roughly because it is faster and cheaper than actually sharpening it. It’s all about saving a few cents here and there. It should not be all that amazing in our current economy, unfortunately.

-- Brian T. - Exact science is not an exact science

View bandit571's profile

bandit571

21314 posts in 2832 days


#13 posted 07-25-2014 05:11 PM

My Buck Brothers #5

Yep, it can be made to work, as a jack plane. I just didn’t care for that style of cap iron. On those BB irons, flatten the back FIRST, then check to see IF the bevel needs to be reground. Then sharpen the bevel up.

With the way the Dungeon Shop is set up: Grinder has a jig, set to 35 degrees to the wheel, with a cup of water near by. Mainly to re-do a badly ground edge, or get rid of chipouts. Next:

Belt sander set up in a vise with the belt on top, direction of rotation is away from me. Honing guide set to 25 degrees. Hold a couple fingertips down near the bevel’s edge. When fingertips say they are getting too hot, dunk the iron in that cup of water. Next

I have a 12×12 floor tile, as smooth as I can find. Sandpaper is glued down to it. First, an oilstone sits on the coarser of the papers. Mine is two grits. Honing guide still on the iron. Hone with both grits, with a few drops of 3in1 oil. Wipe off the iron before changing to the finer grit. Next

Sandpaper is wet&dry 1000 grit, 1500 grit and 2000 grit. I do not go past 2000 grit. Nothing fancy to this set up. Might take 20 minutes to do. One tip: The back of the iron can rest on the beltsander’s belt as it is turning. Polishes the back a bit. The same with the oil stone.

Belt is either a 100 or 120 grit. Helps a bit IF it is worn down a bit. I turn the sander “On”, and lock it on. Someone else might just leave the sander off. Just takes awhile longer that ways.

-- A Planer? I'M the planer, this is what I use

View ejvc's profile

ejvc

107 posts in 2109 days


#14 posted 07-25-2014 05:46 PM

As someone who just properly sharpened her first hand plane – I totally agree with the above in terms of it just suddenly getting much easier, and for no apparent reason. You just suddenly “get it”. The sharpie trick helped me. But so did moving from sandpaper to sharpening stones.

-- Building stuff with my daughter (6). Pretty new to woodworking, I mostly sew...

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waho6o9

8434 posts in 2726 days


#15 posted 07-25-2014 06:09 PM

Stropping after sharpening stones works well and makes

for a sharp edge.

MDF + green honing compound = a good strop set up

or

Leather + green honing compound = a good strop set up

View TerryDowning's profile

TerryDowning

1099 posts in 2266 days


#16 posted 07-25-2014 06:34 PM

I have 2 of the BB irons. The BB irons are slightly thicker than vintage irons and I find that they wear quite nicely. I can’t speak to the actual plane as I have never used one of those but the irons are definitely worth while at about $3 each.

-- - Terry

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TheWoodenOyster

1317 posts in 2084 days


#17 posted 07-25-2014 07:15 PM

I agree with Terry about the blades. They aren’t Hock or anything, but they are sure worth $3. I have used mine quite a bit as a scrub blade and it works pretty well.

-- The Wood Is Your Oyster

View Don W's profile

Don W

18969 posts in 2716 days


#18 posted 07-25-2014 08:51 PM

I also agree the blades are not bad for $3. That was my primary motivation for wondering if its something else. The ones I’ve bought are reasonably flat as well. They are obviously not Hock quality, but 1/10 the cost.

-- http://timetestedtools.net - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View shampeon's profile

shampeon

1823 posts in 2332 days


#19 posted 07-25-2014 08:57 PM

I made the mistake of buying a BB jack as my first plane, but I still have it and use it as my scrub plane. The blades are not that bad at all, and a steal at $3.

Figuring out how to adjust the blade and chipbreaker is, in my opinion, the next step AFTER you get a sharp blade. Because a novice won’t be able to tell when it’s all set correctly with a dull blade.

-- ian | "You can't stop what's coming. It ain't all waiting on you. That's vanity."

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mramseyISU

551 posts in 1694 days


#20 posted 07-25-2014 09:07 PM

I’ve got a couple buck bros planes (Number 4 and 5) I’m with everybody else, the irons aren’t bad once you get them sharpened but I think the chip breakers on them are crap. They are actually a pretty good lesson on how to tune up a hand plane because everything on them needs it.

-- Trust me I'm an engineer.

View webguy's profile

webguy

12 posts in 1671 days


#21 posted 07-26-2014 01:47 AM

Some images. I used the sharpie to mark the blade. It seems that the edge on the bevel is not getting hit. My honing guide I believe is set to 25 degrees. It can’t be changed.

View bandit571's profile

bandit571

21314 posts in 2832 days


#22 posted 07-26-2014 02:00 AM

Those you can change, by sliding the iron up or down, changes the angle.

May have to re-grind the bevel a bit. Set up a rest on the grinder, set it at 25 degrees. By that, I mean, the the bevel meets the wheel of the grinder at 25 degrees.

This is mine. I bolted a piece of scrap to the grinder’s rest, set the scrap at the angle needed. A slot was ground through the scrap as I got near the angle needed. A slider was just a piece of scrap, with two clamps to hold the iron. Set the first close to 90 degrees. As in the edge of the iron is 90 degrees to the edge of the wheel. Adjust until exact, then add a second clamp. Use the clamps to slide the jig back and forth. Maintain contact, and it will give a straight edge to the iron. Start out with the depth of grinder a bit deep. As in it is a bit too long, maybe a 1/32” or so, Grinder will grind that down to a straight edge.

One could add a camber slider to this jig, as well. Just make a curved slider. Radius to match the camber wanted.

-- A Planer? I'M the planer, this is what I use

View Richard H's profile

Richard H

489 posts in 1829 days


#23 posted 07-26-2014 08:28 PM

Shorten the length between the iron and the honing guild like a 1/8” or so and try again. Once you find a angle that is hitting the tip you can write the measurement on the back of the iron with a sharpie so you can reference it next time you need it or nail a block of wood to a base the distance it’s set to make it easier to find it again. There is no harm being over 25 degrees on a iron like that. In fact if the steel isn’t top notch you might find it holds a edge better at 30 degrees or so. Don’t obsess over the exact angle it ends up being either because it really doesn’t matter. As long as you can reset the gauge to the same setting each time anything between 25 – 35 degrees won’t make a noticeable enough difference to matter. It’s the bed angle of the frog and the flatness of the back of the iron that determines how easy the iron cuts more than the bevel. The only thing you have to worry about is over 35 degrees you might start to rub the bevel on the wood which will interfere with the cut.

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LeTurbo

232 posts in 1734 days


#24 posted 07-26-2014 08:31 PM

Throw away that honing guide – they’re a bother and a waste. Just get a good balanced stance, holding the blade lightly with both hands. Now rock the blade slightly until you feel the flat, then start your forward and backward slide. Can’t feel the flat? Watch the water in front of the blade – it squeezes out when you’re at the correct angle. Seriously, you’ll get better and faster results, and you’ll feel a whole lot smarter when you get it right. It’s part of the magic around planes but really, you don’t need to be a magician.

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SCOTSMAN

5849 posts in 3734 days


#25 posted 07-26-2014 08:56 PM

I mostly sharpen my wood turning chisels and give them a quick touch up on my disc sander it works great ( so long as your blade is not needing reground) Of course.Sorry to hear about your problems.I don’t posses expensive handplanes as I can’t use them these days with the parkinsons however
I was fortunate enough many years ago to buy a machine with a sixteen inch wide by about two inches + deep horizontal oil stone complete with pump and all fitted in a cabinet with a built in sharpening holding device with all the angles built in.the cabinet has a full pull down lid.I think I showed it before on this site. I use it for chisels mostly but it does planer blades it makes an as new job on them.I didn’t pay much as the auctioneer advertised it without the pump which was inbuilt underneath and all works fine.Can you get them in the States? I hope you find a way out of your problem with success. Alistair

-- excuse my typing as I have a form of parkinsons disease

View shampeon's profile

shampeon

1823 posts in 2332 days


#26 posted 07-26-2014 09:09 PM

Back when I used a similar honing guide I used this jig to set the blade to the proper length.

One side was for chisels, the other for plane blades. I wrote the angles on the jig.

Put the blade in the guide, put the end of the blade against the fence and the guide against the edge of the plywood, then tighten down the blade. Voila. Your blade is at the proper angle.

-- ian | "You can't stop what's coming. It ain't all waiting on you. That's vanity."

View 12strings's profile

12strings

434 posts in 2533 days


#27 posted 07-28-2014 09:41 AM

I have that exact honing guide, and since you are just beginning, I would NOT throw it away. It will make your sharpening much more consistent than freehand at this stage.

You CAN change the honing angle simply by positioning the guide at different points along the blade. In fact part of your problem might be if you keep taking the blade in and out of it and it is always at a slightly different spot. If the sandpaper isn’t touching the very edge, you aren’t getting anything sharp.

Make a board something like the one shampeon posted above to help you know how much of the blade should stick out of the honing guide. otherwise you will be sharpening at a different angle each time. As others have said, the exact angle is not super important,

For a new Buck Bros blade, I generally grind the blade to the right angle on 80-100 grit paper (on granite) till i get a burr on the back-side, then move on to finer grits with the same honing guide setting, making sure to work both the bevel side, and the flat side.

-- I'm strictly hand-tool only...unless the power tool is faster and easier!

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BinghamtonEd

2298 posts in 2518 days


#28 posted 07-28-2014 12:27 PM

Webguy, I use a cheap honing guide. You’re saying that the bevel is not getting hit by the sandpaper. If you haven’t moved it since you started on your coarsest paper, that shouldn’t be. There are 3 likely reasons that I can see :
- You moved the blade in the guide at some point after establishing the bevel
- You didn’t spend enough time on the coarsest paper to establish a uniform bevel
- You’re bearing down with too much pressure on and causing a slight amount of flex on the blade/guide and forcing the tip of the bevel off the paper.

-- - The mightiest oak in the forest is just a little nut that held its ground.

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SCOTSMAN

5849 posts in 3734 days


#29 posted 07-28-2014 01:03 PM

Here is the same machine ir have it is on ebay you will understand it better when you see it and as you can see this one is very cheap too.Alistair

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/231286351111?_trksid=p2055119.m1438.l2649&ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT

-- excuse my typing as I have a form of parkinsons disease

View webguy's profile

webguy

12 posts in 1671 days


#30 posted 07-28-2014 03:21 PM

Yeah Shampeon, I’ll try the jig. I was using the guide moving the blade to different lengths, but I still am not getting that burr on the edge. I even tried with another plane blade. The sharpie marks dissappear, but no burr and it ain’t cutting any hair off my arm when I test.

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ColonelTravis

1891 posts in 2043 days


#31 posted 07-28-2014 06:06 PM

Webguy I don’t know how low of a grit you have but I’ve started at 80 many times with bad old blades, and that removes metal fast. If you don’t get a burr with 80 or 100 relatively quick you are moving the blade enough so it can never get a burr. The higher the grit the longer it can take to get a burr, especially if you skip a lot of levels. I remember times thinking – where the @#$%! is this burr? If the blade is locked and you keep at it, a burr will always, eventually appear. But that blade has to be steady.

As for shaving arm hair, it never happens for me until after my 8K stone. But I only use two stones, 1K and 8K. Maybe it shaves at 1K. I’ve seen enough blood from being careless at 8K that I don’t need to test hair any more.

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chrisstef

17683 posts in 3155 days


#32 posted 07-28-2014 06:10 PM

Im not sure it makes one lick of a difference but are you pushing and pulling the honing guide across the sandpaper? Maybe just tryin pulling it backwards toward you if that’s the case.

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

View Richard H's profile

Richard H

489 posts in 1829 days


#33 posted 07-28-2014 06:15 PM


Yeah Shampeon, I ll try the jig. I was using the guide moving the blade to different lengths, but I still am not getting that burr on the edge. I even tried with another plane blade. The sharpie marks dissappear, but no burr and it ain t cutting any hair off my arm when I test.

- webguy

If you are not getting a burr on the back of the iron either you are using to high grit sandpaper for the amount of steel that needs to be removed, the iron back is horribly out of flat and probably back beveled or you have a flat on the tip of the blade.

If you look against the edge into a good light do you see light reflecting off the tip? There should be no light reflected off the tip of the iron when it’s sharp. It took me some time to get use to it as well and what I felt was sharp really still had flats on the tip of the iron. Feeling for a burr is easier than looking for flats which is why most people go that route but the end result is the same. When the flats disappear the steel will fold over to the back and create a burr.

View JayT's profile

JayT

5892 posts in 2360 days


#34 posted 07-28-2014 06:18 PM

I have a couple jigs similar to Shampeon—one for planes and one for chisels. One side of each jig is for 25 degree angles, the other for 30. All they are is two pieces of scrap 3/4 plywood glued and screwed together—took 10 minutes to build. The measurements for overhang were on the side of the jig, so that made them easy to construct with no trigonometrical figuring involved. They make it very easy to quickly set a repeatable angle.

Don’t have a pic at the moment, but here is a Sketchup rendering.

-- In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock. Thomas Jefferson

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JayT

5892 posts in 2360 days


#35 posted 07-28-2014 06:24 PM



If you are not getting a burr on the back of the iron either you are using to high grit sandpaper for the amount of steel that needs to be removed, the iron back is horribly out of flat and probably back beveled or you have a flat on the tip of the blade.

If you look against the edge into a good light do you see light reflecting off the tip? There should be no light reflected off the tip of the iron when it s sharp.

Bingo. Looking at your previous pics, you can see where the reflection changes just before the cutting edge.

-- In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock. Thomas Jefferson

View DaleM's profile

DaleM

958 posts in 3533 days


#36 posted 07-29-2014 01:16 AM

Did you put the iron in the jig backwards and drag the tip across the sandpaper or did the back of it come that way with the small bevel on the back? You need to get rid of that first before anything else that anyone said above will work. As Jay said “Bingo”. That’s your problem. You will have to grind the bevel on the front down until that back bevel is completely gone and all you have left is a flat back all the way to the edge, then you can take all the great advice and sharpen the iron.

-- Dale Manning, Carthage, NY

View coloradotrout's profile

coloradotrout

61 posts in 2152 days


#37 posted 08-03-2014 01:52 AM

Have a look here—http://www3.telus.net/BrentBeach/Sharpen/index.html

The jig is simple. The approach about as simple. “Grinding” with the SiC stone can be time consuming and that jig is a bit more complex. I’m a believer in jigs. I just don’t see how freehand sharpening can be anywhere as close as a jig. For some, maybe, for me, a jig. This person’s logic resonates with me. I bought an ebay #5 and # 5 1/4, did the Roland Johnson sort of tune-up, and used this method to grind/sharpen the iron and it works well. I had Roland himself run the plane over some basswood at the WW shows and he thought it was good. Johnson uses the Veritas jig himself and is not a big believer in micro bevels. But after reading most of the above website, I see the logic of the microbevels. The tune-up of the plane is important. Generally—the idea is to get as much iron seated on iron as possible. That way, the entire mass of the plane is moving as a single unit, vs iron, chip breaker, frog, plane, lever cap all sort of jiggling along like a series of train cars.

I have no professional affiliation with any of these folks – and I’m a few days a year hobbiest, so take what I say with a grain of salt.

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coloradotrout

61 posts in 2152 days


#38 posted 08-03-2014 01:56 AM

PS.. I have one of those cheap metal jigs like you see a couple posts above. I did not like it. The homemade, wood one, at the URL I just posted is simpler and more accurate IMO. I hear the Veritas Mark II is very good. I’ve seen it, but I’ve also seen the price tag.

PS PS.. I made the “quickie” jig from the URL. I tapped the threads in the hardwood block. I have to believe that will last 10s if not 100s of sharpenings.

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