Getting Started with Sharpening

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Forum topic by FaTToaD posted 06-15-2010 03:22 AM 1409 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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394 posts in 3107 days

06-15-2010 03:22 AM

Topic tags/keywords: chisel knife plane stone water stone wet stone beginner sharpening question

I stated woodworking just about 8 months ago and for the most part, I’ve used nothing but power tools. I do however have a small block plane, some other larger plane, and a few chisel. The little I’ve used them has not been very successful, but I enjoyed every minute of it. I’d like to use them more, but they need a good sharpening. I was wondering what all the lumberjocks out there thought was a good “beginner” sharping kit? I’ve got a few wet stones that have seen better days, a bench grinder, and a Lansky system for knives. I think I want a honing guide, I’m just not sure which one. I also have no idea what kind (water stones, sandpaper, etc) of abrasive I need to at least get started. I’m not looking to break the bank, so something affordable to get started. What do ya’ll suggest? Any feedback is appreciated. Thanks

-- David

7 replies so far

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3788 days

#1 posted 06-15-2010 03:37 AM

David, I would recommend that you take a look at the Worksharp systems. The 3000 will cost about $200. I struggled to get a good edge on my plane irons and chisels. The Worksharp purchase is one that I have never regretted.

If you do a search there are several reviews posted.

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

View PurpLev's profile


8534 posts in 3614 days

#2 posted 06-15-2010 03:48 AM

sounds to me like you’ve got a good start – with a grinder to set your bevel, and some wet stones – do you know what stones you have? that might help people suggest what you need to add.

to start off – since you already have some stones – and if you want to take that route – you might want to get a diamond plate to flatten those stones as they do need to be flat to be of any use.

generally speaking – you’d want a rough/soft stone, a medium stone, and a smooth/hard stone for final honing. I have the veritas MK-II honing guide which works great, but lately I’ve started honing free hand, and if you’ll dedicate learning that technique you’ll have one less thing to worry about in the long run- althouh a guide makes things simpler to start with. you can also make a guide yourself -there are some ideas on the web.

I usually finish honing with honing compound for that final mirror like edge.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View swirt's profile


2646 posts in 2938 days

#3 posted 06-15-2010 04:51 AM

I use sandpaper glued to plate glass (search “scary sharp”) It works well and probably has the lowest startup cost, though I have a feeling that over time it ends up being more expensive than a good set of water stones. SHarpening can be a bit of fun, and a sharp plane or chisel can be a great pleasure to use. ...but sometimes after spending too long on sharpening, I toy with getting a Worksharp.

Definitely get a honing jig .. the repeatability is a good thing. This month’s Fine Woodworking has a great article by a Lie Neilsen guy and shows how to make a nice sharpening station with depth jigs and stone holders.

-- Galootish log blog,

View live4ever's profile


983 posts in 2976 days

#4 posted 06-15-2010 05:23 AM

I’m a one year noob too. Here’s what worked for me with sharpening.

Initially, I tried doing scary sharp (sandpaper on plate glass). I ordered the kit from Rockler for around $30, and a basic honing guide. The system seemed to work ok, but I wasn’t satisfied. I was using WD40 as a lubricant. The system was sort of messy (the adhesive from the sandpaper stuck to the glass and was difficult to remove). The sandpaper seemed to wear out quickly, and as you know, the really fine grit paper can be hard to locate sometimes. It’s a great system, but it just didn’t feel like a good solution for ME for whatever reason.

By the way, Highland Woodworking is selling a basic honing guide for $5 as part of their Father’s Day specials. A cheap one should suffice until you decide you want to invest in something like the Veritas jig.

I recently got a 1000/6000 combination waterstone ($25). Used with a basic honing guide, it’s a really nice system. A diamond stone (another $25) would be handy to have when the waterstone needs flattening. #8000 waterstone would be even better, but for right now I’m only going to 6000. So basically, you can set up a very very good sharpening system for well under $100 with:

basic honing guide $5-15
combination waterstone (1000/6000 or 4000/8000) $25-50
fine diamond stone for flattening (also great for card scraper sharpening) $25

For my sharpening needs, which is just two plane irons and a set of Narex chisels, this system fits the bill. At some point, if I ever need to do rougher sharpening on a larger number of tools, I’ll invest in a Worksharp3000.

-- Optimists are usually disappointed. Pessimists are either right or pleasantly surprised. I tend to be a disappointed pessimist.

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2137 posts in 3074 days

#5 posted 06-15-2010 05:58 AM

This item I might be able to offer some assistance on as my experience closely reflects your own.

For starters, lack of success with chisel work. It is not advertised on most box store sets, but chisels and planes do not usually come pre-honed from these sources. They are machined and beveled which gives a feeling of sharpness when you touch them but they are nowhere even close to a sharp chisel and you recognize this once you have a truly sharp chisel in your hand. I learned much of this the hard way and gave up any kind of chisel work for awhile because of this frustration.

A Veritas MK II honing guide is mid priced, around 50 bucks, and is considered one of the best guides there is. I would start my investment there. I have the worksharp 3000, love the system, but I also have high speed steel turning chisels I sharpen and a hand system is not efficient for sharpening HSS. If all you have are plane irons and hand chisels, the Veritas will serve you well.

Adhesive backed sandpaper can be purchased in rolls from Amazon and are quite economical that way, though the initial investment is up there. You can just purchase adhesive back sandpaper in smaller quantities in the local stores though high grit paper would probably involve a trip to Harbor Freight or an auto supply store to find those. As already mentioned, diamond stones are a good investment as the material will not scrape away like other stones will. If you go the sandpaper route, purchase an abrasive cleaning stick. They run about 5-10 bucks, are rubber like blocks that you can run over sandpaper and unclogs the abrasive. You will be amazed at how much longer your paper will last with this very simple contraption. (Actually, buy one anyway for your sanders).

Fine Woodworking, as already mentioned, has a great article on sharpening in their most recent edition. Gives a good break down on a simple and cheap process. The rep is from Lie Neilsen but it is a non proprietary article, meaning that he does not promote a store bought system.

If you look into the worksharp 3000 system, you will notice that sandpaper refill packs seem expensive. These don’t have to be. You can replace the sandpaper with 6 inch adhesive discs that you can purchase at any hardware store. You just have to do a little trim work with shears and poke a hole through the center.

I hope this helps,


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

View FaTToaD's profile


394 posts in 3107 days

#6 posted 06-15-2010 06:36 AM

Wow, thanks for all the responses. I think I’m going to start with a a couple water stones and maybe a cheap guide. Unfortunately, after looking at the stones I have, they are pretty rough, and worn from years of lawnmower blades, hatchets, and axes. I may try the “scary sharp” sand paper method until i get new stones. Later on I’ll look into the worksharp system. Thanks again for the tips, I at least have a place to start.

-- David

View uffitze's profile


199 posts in 2921 days

#7 posted 06-15-2010 08:28 AM

Why not try to flatten the stones that you do have?

It can really be as easy as taking them out to the sidewalk and rubbing them on it until your stone is flat.

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