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Hand honing your chisels and plane blades

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Blog entry by stefang posted 10-21-2010 10:40 PM 8997 reads 4 times favorited 14 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Introduction
I think most of us would agree that we would like to spend as little time as possible sharpening and honing our edge tools, but we do realize the need for really sharp edges to get nice clean cuts and also to maintain control of the cuts. An experienced woodworker is therefore almost always willing to do whatever it takes to get the edges he needs.

My philosophy on sharpening is focused on speed, convenience and frequent easy edge refreshment (not beer Larry). The best way I’ve found to do this is with diamond sharpening stone (mines DMT) with two grits; 600 and 1280, (if I’m seeing those small numbers on the stone clearly) one grit on each side The 600 grit is red code and the 1280 is green (unless I’m colorblind).

Here is a photo of my stone and honing accessories which are a water spray bottle which lubricates the stone while honing and a paper towel to clean off and dry the stone whenever I want.

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The purpose of this blog
I mainly want to introduce a relatively inexpense but effective honing method for those of you who want a decent edge without using an expensive machine which takes shop space or using honing guides which take a little extra time to set up. Also I want to make folks aware that unlike water stones, the diamond stone stays flat and only maintenance is to wipe it with paper towel when you’re finished to keep it clean and dry.

Most of us know that you will probably get the very best edge from water stones, finishing up with an 8000 grit. Some machines might be equal to that or close. Those of you who have a good sharping/honing machine or water stones or any other method and who are totally satisfied with them probably won’t be interested in this blog.

What results are adequate for me.
My test for sharpness is that it will shave the hair off my arm and/or take a nice shaving off the end grain end of a piece of pine. I feel that I should be able to reach this level in about 2 minutes with a tool right off the grinder and about 1/2 minuet for refreshing the edge as needed while I’m working.

The key to a good result

Following is a series of pics just to give you the idea of how to hold a chisel while honing and an idea of the results. The first photo is showing you (a real cheap) chisel fresh off my grinder. I use a Veritas grinder tool rest which gives me a super result using a white wheel. I love it! I always clamp my stone between my bench dogs.

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Next I’m showing you how to hold the chisel. I always lay the chisel on the back heel of the bevel and then raise the handle until I hear a click sound which signifies that the 25 degree bevel is now flat on the stone. Then I raise the chisel to about 30 degrees keep my wrist locked as in the pic. I then use the index and middle fingers of my left hand to keep even pressure on the edge end of the blade and to maintain the 30 degree tilt. It is very important to hold the right hand as low as possible on the chisel shank so as not work against the pressure exerted by your left hand (Lefties will have to do all this in reverse) as shown in the photo below. (I had to hold my left hand a little wrong so as not to cover up what I was trying to show.

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Here is the resulting edge after the first honing on the 600 grit and the back of the blade. It’s important to keep the blade flat against the stone while honing the back (or polishing if you will). I do about an inch or so as shown in the 2nd pic.

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The final result
Here’s a pic of the finished edge after honing on the 1280 grit. All done in about two minutes.

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You like the idea but this blog isn’t very good
I totally agree with you. To get the full story and much better photos please click on the link below. This is where I learned hand honing and I’m very glad I did. I strongly advise you to take a look at it.

http://antiquetools.com/sharp/index.html

Thanks for having a look.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.



14 comments so far

View grizzman's profile

grizzman

7034 posts in 1969 days


#1 posted 10-21-2010 10:50 PM

thanks mike…this is what i needed, as i cant afford a expensive machine and am always looking for a better way to keep things sharp…and …GOOD TO SEE YA BACK…......let the sharpening begin….....grizz

-- GRIZZMAN ...[''''']

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2135 posts in 1774 days


#2 posted 10-22-2010 11:55 AM

Mike, thanks for the blog. I do have the Work Sharp 3000. While I love the machine, I have come to realize that dependence on them is not always a good thing. Case in point, I had to sharpen a jointer plane blade and the width was more than the 2 inch limit for the machine. I couldn’t exactly tell myself that I couldn’t hone the blade until I buy the wide blade attachment, so I pulled out a honing guide I bought a couple years ago and used the sandpaper scary sharp method. Hand sharpening tips, even when one has a machine, should always be read :)

Now the only question I would have on this process is that I am assuming that you are using the bevel created by the grinder to establish the 25 degrees to lock your hands and that you lower the hands and guestimate the 30 degrees for the micro-bevel. With the grinder, you are establishing a hollow grind which you flatten on the stone and know you are there by the click you hear on the stone. A lot of introduction to the question here :) Since you upgraded the tool rest to a Veritas version that would start you out with a true angle, would you not agree that one crucial element to your process would be having a grinding process that gives you a true angle to start with? It would seem hand honing would be difficult if you didn’t have a somewhat established edge to begin with.

Thanks for posting,

David

-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

View stefang's profile

stefang

13101 posts in 1999 days


#3 posted 10-22-2010 12:26 PM

Hi David, good to hear from you. I agree with you that a good grind is essential. I have just for fun once done the primary bevel on the 600 grit side of the diamond stone which gives a flat bevel, and that works well, but that is best done with a honing guide to ensure accuracy. I woulld like to mention that I also have a Veritas MKll Honing guide which works well, but just takes too much time to use in my opinion. I get just as good a result just doing it by hand.

Personally I don’t see any advantage in a hollow grind, so for me it is just the result of using a grinding wheel. Luthiers (and many others probably) in fact prefer a flat bevel which gives much better control when using the chisel in the bevel down position, as the chisel can ride on the bevel.

As for sharpening the two planer blades my planer is equipped with, I cut two opposing slots the length of the planer blades across a piece of thick ply or two layers of MDF at the same bevel angle as on the blades, and deep enough to leave the bevels just barely proud of the surface when inserted in the slots. Next I just I just run my diamond stone over the bevels to hone them. This is very simple and gets very good and accurate results.

I have somehow avoided chipping my planer blades over the last 15 years, probably because I haven’t been using urban wood, but I assume the diamond stone would remove a chip, but I’m sure it would be a lot more work.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View mafe's profile

mafe

9550 posts in 1755 days


#4 posted 10-22-2010 01:08 PM

Hi Mike,
It’s really the way we learn, to share our experience – thank you.
I have bought a water grinder, Sheppach the cheap version, and this is for me a dream.
I used glass plates and sandpaper before with a angel jig, and this worked really good.
(My neck and arm pains forced me to go for a machine version).
Thank you Mike,
Best thoughts my friend,
Mads

-- Mad F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.

View Dennisgrosen's profile

Dennisgrosen

10850 posts in 1780 days


#5 posted 10-22-2010 03:32 PM

thank´s for the toturial Mike always a pleassure so see what you come up with :-)

take care
Dennis

View a1Jim's profile

a1Jim

112152 posts in 2242 days


#6 posted 10-22-2010 03:52 PM

A great way to start the day having Mike back ya hooo Super blog on honing. It’s good see another one of you well done helpful blogs.

-- http://artisticwoodstudio.com Custom furniture

View timberframedave's profile

timberframedave

20 posts in 1476 days


#7 posted 10-22-2010 03:56 PM

Nice work on this blog – sharp blades are a critical to good woodworking. I prefer the hollow grind when cutting deep mortises – seems to really help control the angle of the blade & chip removal. I don’t worry too much about the exact angle – it is more important to keep a sharp edge & not waste time fussing around with the sharpening tools.

View jockmike2's profile

jockmike2

10635 posts in 2912 days


#8 posted 10-22-2010 05:48 PM

THAT’S THE WAY I LEARNED MIKE, BY HAND. I BOUGHT A WORKSHARP, AND WAS TALKING WITH DICK CAIN YESTERDAY, HE BOUGHT THE 3000, AND NEITHER ONE OF US EVER USE THEM. WE STILL JUST DO IT BY HAND. I’VE GOT A WHITE STONE ON A DELTA GRINDING SYSTEM, WITH A WHITE FINE GRINDING WHEEL ON IT THAT I USE RIGHT IN FRONT OF MY LATHE, IF A TOOL GETS DULL I JUST TURN AROUND AND TOUCH IT UP AND USE SOME 4000 GRIT EMORY SAND PAPER AND A LITTLE OIL AND GET A VERY SHARP EDGE ON MY TOOLS, I DON’T EVEN SHUT THE LATHE OFF. YOU JUST CAN’T BREAK OLD TRIED AND TRUE HABITS. AND YES THEY WILL SHAVE THE HAIR OFF YOUR ARM.. I USED TO WORK FOR A BUTCHER, IS HOW I LEARNED SCARY SHARP. HE NEVER HAD A GRINDER. NICE TO HERE FROM YOU MIKE, MIKE.

-- (You just have to please the man in the Mirror) Mike from Michigan -

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

3666 posts in 1830 days


#9 posted 10-22-2010 06:12 PM

Thanks for the words of wisdom. I am soon to be done with plywood and MDF, and then I might have a use for a sharp chisel or plane. One project is finished, blog later this weekend, and soon will finish another.

Have a good one, I am finally back in the shop after the computer and work kinda waylayed me….......

Jim

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View stefang's profile

stefang

13101 posts in 1999 days


#10 posted 10-22-2010 08:11 PM

Interesting comments from all of you. Also thanks so much for welcoming me back. I have really missed being with you here on LJ. My wife has been ill and I’ve been worried about her and so I haven’t been able to think about much else for awhile. It looks like her 3rd antibiotic cure worked, but still not 100% sure, but I’m optimistic. I’m sorry about missing my buddies posts while I was away, but I will be checking out what’s been going on since I left.

I have been wanting to do this honing blog for a long time because I have found this easy to learn simple hand skill to be extremely useful, and it was only natural to share it with my friends on LJ.

Mike I too just do touch ups on my grinder for my lathe tools as I turn. I don’t hone my lathe tools except for my skew chisels which I use to get a nice finish on some pieces or to do spindle work.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Tim Dahn's profile

Tim Dahn

1471 posts in 2230 days


#11 posted 10-23-2010 12:54 AM

Hi Mike, I’m glad to see you back posting as well. I just checked my DMT stones, the green is 1200 grit. I would like to add one other thing, I have short length of thick cowhide leather about 10” by 3” wide attached to the top of a 2” long 3/4” dowel that fits in to the dog holes on my bench, it stays on the bench all the time and I hone the chisels for just a few strokes every time they are used. The leather is charged with green honing compound, keeps the chisels super sharp all the time.

-- Good judgement comes from experience and experience comes from poor judgement.

View stefang's profile

stefang

13101 posts in 1999 days


#12 posted 10-23-2010 01:35 PM

Hi Tim, and thanks for welcoming me back. I too have a leather strip. Mine is glued to a piece of ply and could be hung on the wall if I could find a space for it. I use car rubbing compound on mine as a finish up after honing. I didn’t mention this in my blog on purpose as folks new to this often ruin their nice new edges by improper and/or overzealous stropping. It isn’t absolutely essential, but I agree that it certainly further improves and edge and makes for easy touch-ups underway.

I’m glad you brought this up though. I probably should have mentioned it with a cautionary note.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Kent Shepherd's profile

Kent Shepherd

2698 posts in 1952 days


#13 posted 10-25-2010 05:11 PM

Welcome back Mike. We missed you.

Thanks for the great information. I use the same diamond stones, and have had good luck.
I had not thought of automotive rubbing compound for the strop. I may try that.

Thanks for sharing

-- She thought I hung the moon--now she just thinks I did it wrong

View Roz's profile

Roz

1660 posts in 2452 days


#14 posted 10-26-2010 06:08 AM

Nice blog, I think it is important to learn the hand methods because they inform us of proper technique and improve attentive to detail. Thanks for the information.

-- Terry Roswell, L.A. (Lower Alabama) "Life is what happens to you when you are making other plans."

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