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It's taking me too long to sharpen my plane irons

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Forum topic by JohnnyBoy1981 posted 03-28-2017 06:38 PM 2463 views 1 time favorited 51 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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JohnnyBoy1981

235 posts in 520 days


03-28-2017 06:38 PM

Topic tags/keywords: sharpen sharpening

Hi,

New to woodworking here, and very new to hand planes. I bought a couple off eBay that I’ve gotten into good working order, and I purchased a new Stanley SweetHeart with the A2 iron.

It takes me forever to get these irons sharp! I’m using some DMT Diamond bench stones, and a Veritas Mk II honing jig.

Getting the backs of the planes reliably flat has, in most cases, taken me hours. When doing the primary bevels, I get the burr on the back so I know I’m removing metal, but I can’t seem to get these things sharp in a decent amount of time to actually go work on a project!

It’s frustrating.

I did buy a DMT extra extra coarse stone in the hopes I can speed up initial bevel formation and back flattening. I also purchased an el cheapo 3000/8000 grit water stone on Amazon.

I don’t want to spend more money on sharpening stuff, but with limited free time, I was thinking about getting the Work Sharp WS3000. Something where I can just fire it up, sharpen/hone my iron and go. Maybe I’m being impatient as a novice…

Any advice on what I might be doing wrong, or what I could do differently? Some other type of equipment that might work faster for me?

Thanks,
John


51 replies so far

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile

Smitty_Cabinetshop

15443 posts in 2702 days


#1 posted 03-28-2017 06:45 PM

John, frustration in sharpening is normal, but hours is not. Maybe recap what you’re doing.

- Are you applying water to the DMTs?
- When first applied to the DMT, what are you seeing on the back of the irons? Perfect flat on the whole thing is not required; flat on the leading edge is what’s mandatory.
- Are you using the extra coarse and it’s still slow, or is that stone still on the way?
- How long does it take to get the primary bevel?
- Proceeding through the grits from there shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes.

Let us know.

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

View JayT's profile

JayT

5759 posts in 2294 days


#2 posted 03-28-2017 07:25 PM

Once you have the basic equipment, sharpening is no longer about those. Any system (oil stones, water stones, scary sharp, diamond plate or machines) can get planes and chisels sharp and all can fail to get them sharp, as well, if not used correctly. It sounds like you have enough equipment to get you going, so then it boils down to technique, process and habits.

A couple things to add to Smitty’s points.

  • Flattening backs can take a while, depending on how out they were and what grits you start on
  • Once the back is flat (at least the 1/2in or so by the cutting edge) you don’t have to do it again
  • A2 steel is a bear to sharpen, but does hold an edge for quite a while. It’s a trade-off vs O1. O1 is easier to sharpen, but you will be sharpening more often.
  • Is there someone in your area that can help. Maybe a sharpening demo at a local Woodcraft store or something?

You are definitely not alone in the frustration. At my last woodworker’s guild meeting, one of the guys brought up sharpening as something they would like to learn better and about half the group started nodding their heads. Next thing you know, I look over at the guy sitting next to me and he is writing my name down to do a sharpening presentation at next month’s meeting!

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

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Smitty_Cabinetshop

15443 posts in 2702 days


#3 posted 03-28-2017 07:30 PM

Here’s a snippet from a blog entry showing the back of my No. 78’s iron. I stopped flattening at picture time.


First step was to check the iron. I bought the plane probably more than a year ago and my sharpening skills have improved since then, so it was a natural place to start because “sharp fixes everything” and I’m going to be cutting across the grain… The back had to be flattened, but fortunately for me it was concave in the right way. A bit of work through the DMTs had it looking a bit weird, but good.

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

View Aj2's profile

Aj2

1584 posts in 1881 days


#4 posted 03-28-2017 07:48 PM

It seems like we have thousand different ways to sharpen keep trying you’ll find a setup that works for you.
Some of my projects I spend as much time sharpening as I do with the plane in my hands. But it’s a whole new side of woodworking when you build something start to finish without using sandpaper.

-- Aj

View JohnnyBoy1981's profile

JohnnyBoy1981

235 posts in 520 days


#5 posted 03-28-2017 07:49 PM

Thanks for the replies!

My current DMT stones are extra coarse (they consider it to be like a 220 grit which I never thought was coarse), a coarse, a fine, and an extra fine (1200 grit). I ordered their Extra Extra coarse which is supposed to be like a 120 grit. That will get here Friday.

I spritz water on the stones, rub them back and forth until I get a gray swarth, wipe them with an old rag, and repeat. When they stay grayish, I use a Hi Polymer eraser on the stone surface to clean them up (I saw Tommy Mack do that and it works).

All the irons have a primary bevel of about 25 degrees. Since they’re new to me, I thought I’d​ clean up the bevel and flatten the backs.

With the back, I only flatten about 1/4” back. On the corners, on all irons, I have spots that don’t look like they’ve been touched! And when I use my jig, often times a new primary bevel begins to form, and it’s often not straight either. I keep checking the jig but it all looks fine…

View JohnnyBoy1981's profile

JohnnyBoy1981

235 posts in 520 days


#6 posted 03-28-2017 09:31 PM



It seems like we have thousand different ways to sharpen keep trying you ll find a setup that works for you.
Some of my projects I spend as much time sharpening as I do with the plane in my hands. But it s a whole new side of woodworking when you build something start to finish without using sandpaper.

- Aj2

Exactly why I started looking into hand planes. I’m making a little end table out of 2×4’s (did I mention I’m a beginner?) and I sanded the top and bottom of the table top. It was noisy, dusty, time-consuming and tedious. I wondered what woodworkers did prior to sanders, and voila! Here I am!

View JayT's profile

JayT

5759 posts in 2294 days


#7 posted 03-28-2017 09:44 PM

Most of us plane lovers have a similar story. The nice part is that the first time you get everything working right, hear that “shhhhhick” of a well tuned plane, see gossamer shavings and the surface that results, you’ll be hooked.

Can you take some close up pics of the cutting edge of the irons (front and back) and post them? That may help people identify something that could going on and how to help.

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

View Woodknack's profile

Woodknack

12230 posts in 2463 days


#8 posted 03-28-2017 09:45 PM

I flatten things on 80 grit sandpaper glued to my tablesaw wing, then when it’s flat, polish to whatever level I want. My way only takes minutes.

-- Rick M, http://thewoodknack.blogspot.com/

View ErichK's profile

ErichK

80 posts in 747 days


#9 posted 03-28-2017 09:46 PM

I went through a similar path to you. I started with “scary sharp” followed by trying to use some stones, and flattening/setting bevels took FOREVER. I never really got plane irons/chisels sharp enough, because I would just give up before they were done.

SO, I grabbed a Worksharp 3000. I spent an evening sharpening my chisels and plane irons, and was done! I now have VERY sharp chisels and plane irons.

I personally have a feeling that if you start with an iron that already has a good primary bevel, you can sharpen it in 10 minutes like many seem to. However, if you’re like me and put your collection together with vintage store finds and ebay junk, setting that primary bevel would otherwise be a MASSIVE undertaking.

That said, with the Worksharp you will go through A LOT of coarse sandpaper. Setting primary bevels on some of my blades would go through the lower grits at a 1:1 ratio. Prepare to spend a ton of money on coarse paper when you’re getting started!

View ksSlim's profile

ksSlim

1281 posts in 2973 days


#10 posted 03-28-2017 10:06 PM

If you are using DMT plates, might try half water and half Simple green. This mixture prevents “rust” on the plates.
Steel particles left on the plates will appear as rust in 24 hours.

Abrasive materials are denoted differently in different country they are not the same.
DMT plates are rated in microns (1 micron = .001mm).

120 grit in the US is not the same as 120 grit in Briton or elsewhere.

-- Sawdust and shavings are therapeutic

View JohnnyBoy1981's profile

JohnnyBoy1981

235 posts in 520 days


#11 posted 03-28-2017 10:15 PM

I will try the diluted Simple Green. I noticed one of the stones had what appeared to be rust on it which I didn’t think was possible so soon.

I had also heard of a person who used Windex with his diamond stones. Same reason?

View Aj2's profile

Aj2

1584 posts in 1881 days


#12 posted 03-28-2017 10:19 PM

I would like to suggest that you don’t try to handplane a surface that has been touched with sandpaper.
Sometimes the grit from the paper will drop down in the pore.Its a hassle trying to plane wood with sand in it.And very frustrating.

-- Aj

View ColonelTravis's profile

ColonelTravis

1855 posts in 1977 days


#13 posted 03-28-2017 11:16 PM

I’ve also got an extra coarse DMT stone, use it primarily for flattening water stones. Every now and then I’ll use it on a bevel, but if a back needs a lot of work I do not start with that. It would take forever. I start with 60 grit sandpaper stuck to a piece of polished granite. Then 80 or 120, then the DMT stone, then the 1K water stone. This should not take hours, or one hour, or even half an hour.

I’m not a fan of diamond stones. The only reason I own one is for flattening. I know some people hate the work/mess of water stones but I don’t mind, and the fast sharpening makes up for it. Again, this is just me. Everyone has their system and you do what’s best for you.

When it comes to flattening backs – I hate it! Not a strong dislike. It’s a real hate. That’s why I start at 60 grit sandpaper. Get this crap over with.

Good luck, keep trying methods. You’ll get it.

View waho6o9's profile

waho6o9

8293 posts in 2660 days


#14 posted 03-28-2017 11:47 PM



Atoma plates
DMT eh, I love Atoma plates more
Japanese water stones ( a Nagura stone creates a slurry on 6K & 8K stones)
Then strop with Green honing compound and lately I’ve been finishing with a polishing compound Flexcut Gold

The results should be a razor edge in the first picture. Process should be quick.

Funny but true:
When it comes to flattening backs – I hate it! Not a strong dislike. It’s a real hate. That’s why I start at 60 grit sandpaper. Get this crap over with.
Thanks for the Laugh Colonel Travis

View rwe2156's profile

rwe2156

3034 posts in 1564 days


#15 posted 03-29-2017 12:41 AM

From reading your OP I think you should determine whether you have some blades there that are not the best quality or have been mistreated in some way. I’ve bought old Stanley planes with blades that were so warped they were basically unusable. This can be determined quite easily by observing the scratch pattern. If the bottom of the blade is convex, its a hopeless situation. I’ve heard reports of talented people using strategically placed hits with a peen hammer to correct, but I’ve never tried this.

If this is the case, you may want to give some thought to a iron/cap upgrade such as Veritas, or even WoodRiver. You will also find a thicker iron is much easier to register on the stone due to the wider bevel surface.

So on the sharpening in general, if you’re getting a burr you are on the right track. I would recommend you abandon honing on the primary bevel and hone to a secondary (or micro) bevel instead. This will do two things: decrease your honing time immensely & create a stronger edge. It is quite easy to do, just find the primary bevel and pick up a degree or so. I hollow grind all my irons and chisels I find this makes sharpening easier, too.

The most likely issue with a beginner doing freehand is technique. One of those is not locking the wrists and “un” sharpening what’s already sharp due do variations in the honing angle.

You may want to consider a simple jig (I recommend the Eclipse=type) to get you started and create some muscle memory.

You also need to keep the waterstones perfectly flat. You can use your XX coarse diamond plate for this.

Finally, I always finish my honing with 10-12 moderately firm strokes on a leather strop.

In no time at all, you’ll be doing quite well. With practice you will be able to rehone and be back to work in less than 2 minutes.

Hope this helps.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

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