How do you sharpen your plane irons and chisels

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Forum topic by cajunpen posted 12-13-2007 01:39 PM 6129 views 3 times favorited 30 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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14575 posts in 4088 days

12-13-2007 01:39 PM

I have the WorkSharp and when I bought it I thought that it would take care of my sharpening needs for my plane irons and chisels. It does a pretty good job and I thought that my tools were sharp. I recently bought the BUS Smoother and it was sharp out of the box. I also ordered, with the BUS, a set of 1000 & 4000 Japanese Water Stones and the Veritas angle guide. I used it on my plane irons and WOW what a difference it made – they are now razor sharp. I did find that it took about 45 minutes of steady work to establish the bevel and hone it (on each iron). I noticed that when I sharpened my chisels on the WorkSharp I set the bevel on the machine at 30 deg. and sharpened to what I thought as a good edge. Once I got the Veritas guide and the water stones I decided to re-sharpen the irons and chisels. I found that when I set the Veritas guide at the 30 deg. setting for the chisels that it set a completely new bevel. Am I doing this right, do you think that I wasted my money on the WorkSharp? How do you guys that have the WorkSharp sharpen your tools – do you just use the WS or do you also use the stones? Any input will be appreciated. I do know that my planes and chisels have never been so sharp, since I honed them on the water stones – so I guess that’s the way to go.

-- Bill - "Suit yourself and let the rest be pleased."

30 replies so far

View rikkor's profile


11295 posts in 3897 days

#1 posted 12-13-2007 01:57 PM

From “You Know You’re A Lumberjock:”

371. You buy a double wheel grinder to sharpen. Then you buy a slow speed grinder to sharpen. Then you buy glass plates and sticky sandpaper to sharpen. Then you buy Norton waterstones and Veritas jigs to sharpen. Then you buy a WorkSharp 3000 to sharpen. And you don’t feel bad about any of it. (P.S. You still have the whole kaboodle)

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4183 days

#2 posted 12-13-2007 02:09 PM

I haven’t done any sharpening .. but I always remember Dick’s comment about thinking that his tools were sharp until he bought a quality chisel that came sharp—really sharp. Sounds like you have seen a difference between what you thought was good enough and what is “really sharp”. Nothing less will do from now on so whatever you need to do to get that sharpness then that’s the way to go.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View dalec's profile


612 posts in 3911 days

#3 posted 12-13-2007 03:14 PM

I am not good at sharpening, but envy those who can get that razor-sharp edge that makes cutting tools so much more precise.

I go with Ms Debbie’s advice.


View schwingding's profile


133 posts in 3848 days

#4 posted 12-13-2007 04:19 PM

Your stones will produce a better surface than the Worksharp, as you have noticed. Typically the initial bevel is achieved with a grinder and then honed on the stones, saving some of the 45 minutes you required.

The issue you’re going to have with the waterstones is that you will need to keep them flat, as they will wear with each use. You can buy a diamond coated stone for this task.

I have a Tormek, and while it makes things fantastically sharp, a good stone will still do better. Why? Because the leather honing wheel on the Tormek deflects as the iron is put to it, which simply is not as accurate as an unmovable stone. I grind on the tormek, then hone on stones. A combo not to be beat!

Angle jigs are not all created equal. Find one and stick with it.

-- Just another woodworker

View mot's profile


4911 posts in 4058 days

#5 posted 12-13-2007 04:23 PM

Hey Cajun,

The Veritas guide sets a primary and secondary bevel. If you are at 30 degrees but have the roller set to the secondary bevel, then you’ll be doing a secondary bevel that is 1-2 degrees more. Check the instruction sheet for what you have to look for on the roller.

I use the Veritas Mk.II sharpener on all my planes and chisels, then run them across a 4000 and 8000 waterstone. If you’re enjoying the 4000 stone, grab yourself an 8000 stone for final sharpening. Then you’ll be styling!


-- You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation. (Plato)

View Alin Dobra's profile

Alin Dobra

351 posts in 3910 days

#6 posted 12-13-2007 06:54 PM

I use the Veritak Mk.II like tom. I make the primary bevel using coarse sandpaper (start at 100). The secondary bevel is established with 220 and then 600 and moving to the micro-abrasives (Lee-valley sells them here:,43072). The sandpaper is glued on glass (super flat). If I just have to touch a chisel up it takes less than a minute. I also use leather a strop while I work (just get the edge razor sharp again).

Also, what needs to be kept in mind is that “crazily sharp” is hot helping necessarily a lot unless you cut very soft materials (like cheese). The first time you hit the chisel while cutting cherry, the super sharp just got not so sharp (or microscopically broke). On other hand, sharp makes work much better. You should be able to remove small amounts of wood by paring (pushing the chisel by hand).

I virtually never use a grinder on a chisel (but I never use a stone on a bowl gouge either). I do not see much advantage in using water cooled grinder for chisels (way too slow). These systems cost too much anyway.

Since I am proficient now with the Mk. II jig, I am not considering buying a WorkSharp system. If I would I would buy extra plates and the finest sandpaper they have.


-- -- Alin Dobra, Gainesville, Florida

View Daren Nelson's profile

Daren Nelson

767 posts in 3928 days

#7 posted 12-13-2007 07:58 PM

Freehand on wet and oil stones I do not let mine get so dull that it takes even 10 minutes to hone them to a razor. I sharpen others that they have goofed all up that can take longer, I have to use several stones (grits). Some of the sharpening systems do speed up the process I guess. But really for me honing an iron/chisel is part of the woodworking experience. I can use the time sharpening to reflect on my next step on a project or whatever, quiet time in the shop.

I know many(most I think) woodworkers who would not even touch a hand plane. They threw them out and only use power planers and jointers. So if you are one of the kinda guys who likes to use a hand plane, I think hand sharpening should be part ones skill set. Just my opinion, because I personally enjoy it.

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3844 days

#8 posted 12-14-2007 01:46 AM

I have used both stones and adhesive sandpaper on glass with a honing guide to try to sharpen my irons and chisels but could never get a satisfactory edge on any of them. They would cut but I could never get a razor sharp edge. (I resisted the Tormak grinder because I tend to be cheap!!!!!). Finally out of frustration with using relatively dull tools I bought a WS3000. Out of the box I produced a mirror edge on my chisels and irons with which I could shave the hair off my arms. It took me several hours to sharpen all my irons and chisels initially because of the poor job I had previously done but now I can renew the edge in just a few minutes if the tool looses any of its edge.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View Karson's profile


35125 posts in 4423 days

#9 posted 12-14-2007 06:12 AM

See all of the different ways to sharpen and so many people happy and so many people unhappy.

What a guy to do?

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View cajunpen's profile


14575 posts in 4088 days

#10 posted 12-14-2007 09:30 AM

That is so true Karson – Like Grandpa used to say “Suit yourself and let the rest be pleased”. I do appreciate all of the input, I have kept playing with the Veritas Mark II honing guide and water stones and find that I am getting a very sharp edge on my tools. I think I will use the WorkSharp 3000 when I come across a really bad edge on a tool and use the stones and guides for keeping my edges sharp. I have learned that there is nothing like working with a sharp tool – what a different experience :-)).

-- Bill - "Suit yourself and let the rest be pleased."

View rpmurphy509's profile


288 posts in 3877 days

#11 posted 12-16-2007 04:59 AM

We have a Tormek at work I use once in a great while to reset the hollow grind on older chisels and irons.
For all other sharpening needs I was using oil stones, and just switched to some Japanese water stones.
I don’t use a guide, just do it by hand. After a while of doing it by hand the guides just seem to get in my
way and mess me up.

I also have two sets of chisels, one for fine work and paring by hand. The other gets the hammer and mallet
treatment for gross work and mortising.

Stick with a system you’re comfortable with, and before long you’ll find that even with budget tools and
sharpening, your blades will show your prowess in the cuts they make.

-- Still learning everything

View Wooder's profile


163 posts in 4208 days

#12 posted 12-16-2007 09:06 PM

1/4 float glass 12×18 with up to 2000 grit paper. Vertias holder. Waterstones and Arkie stones in drawer now..

-- Jimmy

View Harold's profile


310 posts in 3870 days

#13 posted 12-16-2007 09:40 PM

I use a simple kell guide for the plane blades if I let them go to long. For the chisels I have a 3×10 DMT 600 on one side and 1200 on the other, as Darren metioned above I will touch them more than needed, a couple minutes each day. As I work I have 6×1 hard felt wheel mounted to an old 1/2” drill charged with Dico E5. I keep them polished for a couple reasons, the edge is always very sharp and a smooth finish helps with the salt air. I polish my plane blades and chip breakers for the same reason, once alittle surface rust gets a foothold it is a real hassle to correct.

-- If knowledge is not shared, it is forgotten.

View Karson's profile


35125 posts in 4423 days

#14 posted 12-16-2007 10:31 PM

Frank Klausz uses a regular sharpening grinder with pink or white stones. It cuts a hollow grind and then hones the tip and the shoulder. After wearing it down to where the hone line is getting too big He’ll regrind a little and the start the honing all over again.

He took 3-5 minutes at the most to sharpen a chisel.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View Mark Juliana's profile

Mark Juliana

10 posts in 3836 days

#15 posted 12-17-2007 03:11 AM

I’ve thought a lot about sharpening as I own a small sharpening business as well as do woodworking. For me the important distinctions are these:

1) For most hand tools, flatten and polish the back of the blade. The cutting surface is only as good as its coarsest surface it’s a waste of time to polish the face edge of a tool if the back looks like it was sanded with 80 grit. Those scratches in the back of the blade will be present where the back meets the front (your cutting edge) and will weaken it. You’ll spend more time sharpening andy our end result will always be substandard. Flattening and polishing the back need only be done once.

2) Shaping/grinding: This is the rough work that is done on either powered grinders of some kind or very coarse stones or sand paper. This is where you create a hollow-grind (if you want one), and set the angle of the tool.

3) Sharpening: This is the process you will use most often. Using either fine stones (or your choice of system: sandpapers, diamond paste, etc). Use what you are most comfortable with. Use jigs if you like them and they help you achieve a better edge.

Optional) Stropping. If you want to strop the edge of the tool, you will create a slightly convex edge. (for chisels and plane irons—Never strop the back of the tool… you’ve spent a lot of time making the back flat, you don’t want a convex edge on the back of the blade) Many folks will tell you not to strop chisels and such because of this convex edge. To me it makes the edge sharper and I’ve detected no disadvantage in doing it—so I do.

I’ve used many different systems and here is what I’m currently using:
Grinding: Tormek and/or Baldor grinder
Stones: Shapton ceramic stones


-- mj Ashland, OR & Rockport, ME

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